Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ISIS: A US Cultural Failure

Reporting from Belgium on the terrorist attacks, MSNBC’s Chris Jansing mentioned how impressed she was at the level of knowledge Europeans appear to have of the American political scene, wondering how great an effect Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim pronouncements could have had on the perpetrators of the Brussels bombings. That seemingly casual remark qualifies as the understatement of the year with respect to the failure of the mainstream press to inform Americans about the wider world, even as part of it appears to be finally taking some responsibility for Trump’s frightening rise.
CNN’s Sunday star, Fareed Zakaria trumpeted an hour-long special called ‘Blindsided’ that purports to show that the US should have recognized the danger posed by ISIS several years ago.  More interesting than the blame-game are excerpts from a documentary by the German reporter, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which, by the way, aired on RT weeks ago, showing daily life under ISIS and explaining that its captive populations quickly realize its a living hell.
The report recognizes that it’s not really a mystery why so many Western young people travel to join the Islamic army. Bred on violent movies, tv programs and video games, many fantasize about real violence; I would add that though largely non-religious, they may feel confusedly that something is missing from their lives, making the idea of a religious organization focusing on action appealing.
Al Baghdadi, the man who brought ISIS into being, benefitted from another American cultural failure: a lack of historical, ideological and religious literacy. He was picked up randomly early in the Iraq war and spent time in Camp Bucca where he was, according to Fareed Zakaria’s special report, ‘trusted’, allowed to teach Islam to fellow inmates (which Islam, who would have known?), released as harmless just as Al-Zawahiri, the violent head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, was on the rise.
President George W. Bush, the most ignorant of a long series of ignorant American presidents, claimed that Muslims hate us for our freedom. Fareed points out that after 9/11, the world stood with US - even Palestine’s Yasser Arafat. But not Muslims like Majid Nawaz, a Pakistani-born British citizen who says: “After 9/11, didn’t you realize that we’ve been crying too, as you bombed our cities?” “What cities?”, you ask. “Your ignorance is as great as your violence.”  
Zakaria recognizes, a bit late, that Islam has been under constant attack from the West starting with the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in the 1990’s, Palestine, Chechnya, etc.  This on-going violence inevitably made many Muslims more fanatical about their faith.  Arrested in Egypt, Nawaz realized while in jail with other Sunni extremists that ISIS would create a hell on earth. He now heads the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that “aims to challenge extremist narratives while advocating pluralistic, democratic alternatives that are consistent with universal human rights.” In other words, it seeks to persuade Muslims that human laws have a place alongside the laws of God. 
Although Zakaria blames the Iraqi Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose appointment was engineered by Iran, for the rise of the Sunni group ISIS, his conclusion, that the fight against it will be long and potentially threatening the US (he contradicts himself several times on this), he bypasses the implications staring him in the face: the US must team up, not only with Russia, vulnerable to Sunni extremism on its long southern border, it must also work with Shia Iran, ISIS’ most credible Muslim enemy.
This requires completely rethinking our foreign policy and pivoting - not to the Asian rimland to contain China - but to the Asian heartland that includes Russia, Iran and the ‘Stans’.

Ukraine, in all of this, would be irrelevant were it not for the fact that the fascist thugs of the regime we put in place are encouraging Europe’s extreme right as it fumbles over how to integrate the wave of Muslim refugees fleeing Sunni lands, as shown by today’s massive demonstrations in the heart of Brussels, headquarters of NATO, that was hit by two terrorist attacks this week. 

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