Thursday, 7 August 2014

Reflections on the Rise of ISIS

I was, and remain, profoundly opposed to the U.S/British led invasion of Iraq in 2003 - a senseless, needless war, driven by a lethal cocktail of commercial greed and overweening personal ambition. Saddam Hussein was duly overthrown, but the occupying powers had gone to war with little or no knowledge of Iraqi history and culture and were hence totally unprepared for the savage, brutal genie  they had naively let loose from the Baathist bottle. Having gone to war in the first place, they should have made a comitment to remain in Iraq for the ensuing forty to fifty years to oversee the construction of a fully-functioning pluralist democracy. But no. They didn't have the stomach to see the job they had so rashly started through to the end. They let down the Iraqi people they were supposedly so keen to liberate. In the end, they just didn't care enough.
To compound their initial error, the Western powers then, from 2011 on, gave their unconditional and shockingly undiscerning support to the 'Arab Spring', the disturbances of which seem to have resulted only in the hardening of State power in some countries (Syria, Egypt) and a chaotic bloodbath elsewhere (Libya, Syria again). ISIS (aka 'Islamic State') was born from this milieu of dissolution. It has morphed with stunning speed from a rag-tag of ex Al-Quaeda dissidents into a highly professional, frighteningly well-organised terrorist army, controlling large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and aspiring ultimately to nothing less than regional and even international hegemony.
Wherever ISIS goes it imposes its barbaric perversion of Islam on the subjugated populace. It is a savagely anti-moral force that obeys no codes of war-time conduct and disposes of its enemies with a savagery that defies the imagination, before boasting proudly of its horrific deeds on Twitter and Facebook.
Whatever the undoubted crimes of both the Israeli government and Hamas, the random brutality of ISIS surely eclipses both. Christians, the Shia, the Yezidi - all religious minorities in North Western Iraq - have been subject to indiscriminate slaughter in recent weeks. 
There were no moral grounds, in 2003, for going to war. If the campaign against Saddam had been based on morality we would have toppled him in 1988 when he gassed the Kurds. Now that there is a clear moral imperative, the sound of silence from the 'Great Powers' is deafening.
The brave and noble Kurds are on their own at the moment, holding the pass against ISIS, defending not only their homeland, but authentic Islam and the principle of civilisation itself. What help are they receiving? None. Barack Obama refuses to arm them because he fears undermining the 'central authority' in Baghdad. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! Vladimir Putin has reportedly massed 20,000 trops on the Ukrainian border. They would be better deployed, in my opinion, against ISIS in Iraq. Great Britian (which along with the U.S bears a huge responsibilty for the unfolding disaster) says and does nothing. Our Prime Minister is probably on holiday again. Only France, which of course opposed the 2003 folly, has made a suitable gesture, in offering asylum to victims of the latest ISIS advance.
This, however, is not enough. ISIS need to be stopped. Last month (July) people were mocking them for their 'delusional' boasts of ruling Spain and Austria within five years. Soon, maybe even as I write, they will have become too big, too well-entrenched and, crucially, too rich, to be rolled back.
It is said, by observers who would like to see action against ISIS, that governments and peoples at the moment are more concerned with the Gaza disaster and that ISIS are considered a relatively small scale and very local phenomenon in comparison.
'People aren't thinking about ISIS,' the argument runs, 'when they should be doing so as a matter of urgency.' I agree. But I think that there is more, unfortunately, to it than that. I think people have looked. I think they are looking. And I think they're turning away. They're pretending not to have seen what they've just seen. They're frightened by what they're seeing - subconsciously for now, perhaps - but terrified all the same, deep down inside - terrified of the intensity and fanaticism of ISIS and fully aware that we in the West can't match them in intensity. In sporting parlance, ISIS seem to 'want it' more than we do.
Decades of material prosperity in the West have muffled our awareness and inured our senses to the fragility of our civilisation. We lack the imagination, it seems, to recognise an existential threat when we see one, and we lack the will to tackle it head on and nip it in the bud. ISIS is a philosophy as well as an army - a nihilistic, death-worshipping ideology that owes more, in reality, to militantly secular Western groups such as the French Jacobins, Lenin's Bolsheviks and the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, than it does to classical Islam. As I commented above, it represents a gross perversion of the Revelation given to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) on Mount Hira and is as much of a threat to Muslims (see the ongoing and disgraceful destruction of sacred shrines in Iraq and Syria) as it is to Christians and followers of other religions (or none). Nonetheless, ISIS have chosen - tragically - to hitch their ideological wagon to Islam, and we need to wake up to and understand the nature of their twisted ultimate aim - to succeed where the armies of the Ummayad Caliphate failed at Poitiers in 732; to succeed where the Turkish siege failed at Vienna in 1683; to overrun first the Arab world, then Israel, then Turkey, then Greece, then Italy, and on and on, plunging all of us, Muslim, Christian, Jew and Atheist alike into a new and unimaginably bestial dark age.
When are we going to look, read the signs of the times, decipher the writing on the wall, and wake from our slumbers?


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