Friday 8 August 2014

On Bombing ISIS

War is politics by other, violent means. Proving the axiom right now is the arc of slaughter carving a great bloody crescent out of the Middle East. Start from the Mediterranean coast and move gradually in. The racist hysteria in Israel has found an outlet in the carefree pounding of the Gaza Strip. Civilians? Children? Collateral, Guv. Blame Hamas. Scan eastwards and we find Assad's regime just about clinging on. This secular but brutal monarchy has defended itself by any and all means at its disposal, be it torture, massacre and, arguably, chemical weapons. As despicable Israel's actions are, Assad's crimes in the Syrian civil war are far, far worse. Further east still there are the mediaevalists of ISIS, or the 'Islamic State' as they style themselves. With a little bit of help from Qatari and Saudi friends, its several thousand misfits and thugs have carved out a petty caliphate the size of Ireland. Except it's not that petty if you're on the receiving end of it. Many a fundamentalist has raised the cry "death to the infidels!" Only IS has a morality deficit large enough to operationalise it.

As we know, their lightning fast advance after the rout of the Iraqi army has put hundreds of thousands of people at risk. If you're a Christian, a Shia Muslim, a Yazidi, or lead a secular existence then your life is in danger. If you live in Northern Iraq or North East Syria, you live in a land that could bear witness to another round of genocide and religiously-motivated murder.

Unfortunately, from the comfort of Britain some care to dismiss the clear and present threat ISIS poses the people of Syria and Iraq. While the account of the USA's historic shenanigans is spot on, the official Stop the War article on Obama's decision to start bombing ISIS positions is a complacent, tedious piece. It's complacent because it sets up the persecution and massacre of the Yazidi as a lesser evil to the extension of US interests that a bombing campaign would entail. And it's tedious as the hand of Israel and the US is seen everywhere behind the rise of ISIS. For example, the US "allowed" ISIS to run riot to frighten the Iraqi government off closer ties with Tehran. That worked out well.

Does the US have a base among the Kurdish proto-state centred on Erbil? Are they arming and using them to try and keep Baghdad out of Iran's camp? Undoubtedly. After the Iraqi army melted away, are the Kurds working as the State Department's proxy fighters against ISIS? Absolutely. It doesn't matter that the US are bombing ISIS positions and airlifting supplies to stranded Yazidi to shore up the position of their regional clients. Faced with life under an American puppet or a short, dark future under genocidal zealots, I would have thought the "progressive choice" be obvious.

This isn't to say there aren't some extremely serious questions demanding answers. Why is it Qatar and Saudi Arabia, whose perverse, fundamentalist autocracy is every bit a staunch an ally of the US as Israel, have been funnelling cash to ISIS without so much as a murmur from Uncle Sam? We in the EU aren't sitting pretty either. How much oil have we been buying from ISIS?

Last month writing about Iraq, I argued that the historic debt the UK and US owes the Iraqi people for smashing up their country and embroiling it in violence that has claimed the lives of almost 200,000 people rules out military action. After all, it ended so well in Afghanistan and Libya, to name two other unhappy countries. That was before the present crisis.

Very occasionally, good reasons and real reasons coincide. This is one of them. ISIS are a barrier to American plans for Iraq. They also pose an extinction threat to anyone falling into their clutches who does not meet their standards of religious hygiene. They need to be stopped. They need to be destroyed. And, at present, there is only one way of doing that.


Robert said...

Yup. For once I am in favour of a US military intervention.

It's chilling to think that if Dave had had his way last year the RAF would have become an airforce for proto ISIS in Syria.

Robert said...

BTW you've touched on the overriding issue in the Middle East - the role of Saudi and why Uncle Sam indulges this regime. There's evidence the Saudis were involved in 9/11 possibly at the highest level. This should have been the issue the 9/11 Truth movement went after rather than all the incoherent nonsense they came up with.

Robert said...

Also point taken that the Syrian horrors put Gaza in the shade but Israel is basically taking pot shots at a defenceless ghetto that poses no real military threat whatsoever. If the Israelis were fighting a civil war with the Palestinians inside Israel with no US to protect them I fear Syrian style massacres, torture and ethnic cleansing on both sides would ensue in short order.

Assad and his people are fighting for their survival and the survival of their families. Doesn't excuse their disgusting atrocities but it does explain it.

My view is that if ISIS is the alternative to Assad in Syria we should help Assad to win the war with all possible speed. Patrick Cockburn in the Independent has described how Western support for the Syrian rebels prolonged the civil war and helped give birth to ISIS. Apparently Iraqi politicians were desperately warning that the war would spill over into Iraq but the West was more concerned with getting their regime change.

Stephen Flaunden said...

I agree with US intervention.

Ed saved us getting in to bed with the likes of IS. OK he didn't plan it as it panned out, but he still saved the day. One minute we were days from attacking Assad, then the US was going it alone, then it was all off. Ed's finest hour. All forgotten now by most.

Chris said...

How anyone can call for US military intervention after the previous military intervention basically destroyed the country and sent it into hell is beyond all rational, enlightenment thinking.

It is worse than actually supporting the original Iraq war.

ISIS are not the product of some Saudi plot but a direct consequence of imperialist lunacy. Before the Iraq war started we on the anti war left argued that it would lead to the break up of Iraq. This is what is now playing out. ISIS have been successful, not because of Saudi money but because the Sunni population have been severely oppressed.

I think the claim that Assad's recent actions is far worse than Israel is ignoring the historic plight of the palestinians, and is like comparing Cheese with Alpine skiing. Most unhelpful, especially at a time when 100% solidarity with the Palestinians is essential.

Being in New Labour is truly a corrupting experience!

Phil said...

Chris, you're being ridiculous. As the piece is at pains to point out, the Americans are not dropping food for the Yazidi and bombs on ISIS for wholesome, cuddly reasons. Yet the fact remains doing so prevents a massacre. That is all.

If wanting thousands to live as opposed to getting murdered by a bunch of zealots is "selling out", then large swathes of the far left and you could do with the "corrupting experience" of Labour Party membership. You cannot build socialism on a pile of bones.

SarahABUK said...

I've read people saying that we (or the US) can't possibly go in because we made such a mess last time and also that we must go in because we need to set things right. But both positions seem wrong/illogical. I think a case for intervention should only be made (or countered) according to whether it seems likely to help those suffering or make the situation worse.

Speedy said...

Anyone who argues against exterminating every single one of those barbaric psychopaths is a nut. These people are the SS in Belorussia in 42. With the benefit of hindsight what do we do? We kill every one of the death crazed bastards.

It is frankly shameful that we are not intervening more actively - also flying in troops to save the Christians and at least draw a line in the sand. In a sense our failure to do so simply exposes our cynicism - this is no Iraq 2, this would be a genuine moral "crusade".

We should also identify their financiers and kill every one of them in their Dubai penthouses and London hotels and keep killing them until they stop. These Salafist rich boys are mostly cowards - gut a few of them in their baths and the others will soon crawl back to their Russian prostitutes.

This needs to be stamped out now and for a generation. This is happening to real people right now - 20,000 marched against Israel today yet "Portugal" Chris who i am sure was there if only in spirit is happy to step aside and let some blood thirsty shithead cut the heads off little kids and stick them on polls because his anti-Americanism comes first.

One wonders how many people his Islamist chums will have to, literally, carve up before he accepts they are not simply misunderstood victims, and even if there may be some link between their existence and the crimes of the West, to deny them any moral agency is frankly, who'd have thought it, racist.

jimboo said...

ISIS do seem to be thugs and misfits, thousands of them foreign to the area. I have seen the messages posted by UK citizens who seem to take an extreme joy in torture and murder of fellow Muslims and people of other religions. Al Jazeera has reported that the US attack has allowed Kurdish troops to rescue around 5000 Yazidis from the mountain today, good start.

Speedy said...

Of course the actions of ISIS are designed to provoke an emotional response. The weakness of the West and the transparency of its cynicism is challenged directly by their ferocity. There is a point to barbarity as there was to "shock and awe".

On reflection, far from being "playboys" (they're probably the ones on "our" side) ISIS backers are presumably serious people with serious intentions. It is always a mistake to underestimate one's enemies, and their success (from 9/11 on the West has lost at every turn, and the Islamist's greatest success has been it often hasn't even realised) has demonstrated their determination and sophistication.

The West is immeasurably weaker today than it was pre 9/11 and most of this is down to a handful of Islamists who like the Bolsheviks have demonstrated size does not always matter.

The trouble is, like a stopped clock, there is truth in what Chris says - they exist thanks to Western ambitions, incompetence and petrodollars. Throughout its involvement the West has always followed the oil - controlled by a culture profoundly hostile to it.

Until the West weens itself off this dependency like an addict it will continue to weaken, and deservedly so. In the meantime it has to ask itself who it is because its enemies know who THEY are.

Islam is partly a response against decadence, and Salafism an extreme response. Are not the policies that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqis for next to nothing supreme decadence, or that continue to turn away from the genocide in the Congo and Sri Lanka? And yes, refuse to enforce peace on I/P? In this sense ISIS hold up a mirror.

Of course the West should act to save the minorities - ISIS calls its bluff and dares it not to, but it must also practice what it preaches. Until it does expect more of the same.

Chris said...

The West, presented so nobly in the comments above, invaded Iraq not so long ago with disastrous affects and the usual suspects are back to argue that they should do so again. Even though the situation now is a result of the previous disaster.

This takes apologism to all new levels, you guys certainly have taken apologism to levels I never thought possible.

the West should act to save minorities is possibly the most inane and naive statement I have ever seen!

howard fuller said...

With the news that mass graves of Yazhadis are now being discovered and women have been taken into slavery (just like Boko Harem) the time has come for us to argue for more intervention both humanitarian and military.

This isn't a war, this really is genocide.

If so-called socialists want to stand aside because of their so called anti-imperialism, then they are part of the problem.

howard fuller said...

This is Alex Callinicos on FB:

Alex Callinicos
8 hours ago
Silly and sometimes ill-intentioned people are asking: why doesn't the left demonstrate against ISIS? Of course ISIS is a reactionary force, but underlying this question is the old mantra: 'Something must be done.' This has been used again and again to justify Western military interventions, with uniformly disastrous consequences, most recently in Libya. What we should do in the North is to campaign against our governments, whose policies have created the conditions that have allowed ISIS to flourish.

Words fail me.

Chris said...

For fuller hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi's at the hands of the USA and Britain is not genocide but humanitarian intervention.

This individual is not against mass graves, he is all for mass graves in certain circumstances, usually when imperialist interest is involved.

If every nation agreed to give up their army to the United Nations, so all soldiers were UN soldiers, with strict terms of conduct, on that day I will accept the concept of humanitarian intervention. Who knows maybe all those dead people in Rwanda and the Central African Republic and Gaza, to name but a few, may have been saved but until that point I will assume imperialism is simply only interested in its own grubby interest.

And I will assume all those who call for imperialist intervention in the very country imperialism has just help destroy, then all I can assume is that Fuller et al are simply nothing other then outright apologists (which we know for a fact they are anyway).

And this character, who appeals to imperialism to help save the region they have destroyed, and who are directly responsible for the rise of ISIS, has the front to talk about anti imperialists being part of the problem! Orwell couldn't have made this up.

keep making up your own history boys and you will never be wrong!

Jim Denham said...

In the context of ISIS, Who can now object to use of the term "Islamo-fascist"?

Chris said...

Fuller has the gall to blame anti imperialists for deaths in Iraq! What an apologists of the highest order!

All the imperialist cheerleaders can do is cheer-lead from one calamity to another, through every disaster apologists like fuller will provide the excuses, the imperialists kill hundreds and thousands in Iraq and destroy the country. Who is to blame, not the imperialists that did it but the anti imperialists!

The imperialists play the divide and rule game, arm these Islamists in Libya and Syria, then bomb them in Iraq. Who is to blame? Our apologists have the answer anti imperialists! This is beyond all parody.

Fuller and the like are to blame for this, their servile slavish dedication to imperialism has led to disaster, and in the very nation where the disaster has been most marked, and while the disaster is fresh in the memory they yet again ask imperialism to bomb Iraq.

How many times do the US have to bomb Iraq before the apologists are satisfied?

The warnings of the anti imperialists before the Iraq war have all come true. The anti imperialists said this would be a disaster and that has been the understatement of the century.

You would think apologists like Fuller and Denham would keep quiet with embarrassment, but no, they have the front to blame it all on the anti imperialists!