On Friday November 13 President Obama appeared on Good Morning America and told America that the barbarians of Islamic State were not gaining strength. He stated that «What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave, but you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain». (By ‘systemic’ it is taken that he means «affecting a group or system, such as a body, economy, market or society as a whole».)
A few hours after he spoke, a group of Islamic State terrorists succeeded in marching across terrain and slaughtered 129 people in Paris, affecting quite a few systems.
It is a mark of the confusion in the West that political leaders can’t make up their minds what to call Islamic State, but the brand-owners (as it were) refer to themselves as supporters of the Caliphate – Islamic government – which is what they say they want to bring about.
The Obama administration refers to the thugdom as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); the Levant being the ancient word for countries around the eastern end of the Mediterranean (now Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan). But Washington omits the newest and most notable Islamic State base, which is in the shattered country of Libya, reduced to anarchic chaos by the US-NATO blitzkrieg of 2011 (during which the death of its ruler, Moammar Gaddafi, was laughingly described by Hillary Clinton as «We came; we saw; he died», which is no doubt being borne in mind by Syria’s President Assad).
The indecision in the West about what to call the enemy is but a symptom of its major operational malaise, which is the indecision about how to combat it effectively.
After the mayhem in Paris Politico magazine reported Islamic State as gloating that «eight brothers with suicide belts and assault rifles» were responsible for the slaughter, which was «a blessed attack... carried out by believers of the soldiers of the Caliphate».
Obama doesn’t grasp the influence and reach of these beasts, any more than he understands their basic philosophy (if one can use a civilised word in the context of their evil inhumanity).
It is important to examine Obama’s thinking on this, because he declares that «ISIL is not Islamic» and that «no religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It... has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way».
Passing over the facts that sectarian strife in Iraq is a direct result of the US war on that unfortunate nation and that rebels in Syria’s civil war are paid and equipped by Washington, let’s examine his contention that «no religion condones the killing of innocents». What is the meaning of the collective noun «innocents?» So far as Islam is concerned, its definition is not that of most of the western world. We consider an innocent to be a person guiltless of crime; blameless of any wrongdoing. But our delineations of crime and wrongdoing are not those of Islamic State.
As put succinctly by the analyst Graeme Wood in Atlantic magazine «The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic... the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam».
For example, in Islam, as Wood points out, «the punishment for apostasy is death». End of message. It doesn’t matter how guiltless of (non-religious) crime you may be; it doesn’t matter how many good works you may be engaged in. If you are an apostate, you deserve to be killed.
Islam is not alone, however, in requiring the sentence of death on those who abandon the mandatory religion, because the Christian Bible’s Second Book of Chronicles 15:13 is precise in that «whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman». How very Christian, to be sure.
While Christians have pointed the finger of righteousness at the evil murderers of the Islamic State, their own Biblical tenets are little different, in essence, to those of the people who Obama claims are «not Islamic».
Graeme Wood notes that «when a masked executioner [of Islamic State] says Allahu akbar [God is great] while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons». But of course he is – just as the evil killers at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris shouted Allahu akbar when slaughtering innocent people in their demented conviction that they were doing God’s work.
It’s impossible to explain – in fact, for most of us to even understand – how any people can think that way. Until we go back to the Bible, which in Deuteronomy 17 states that if there is any person who «hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded... Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die».
That sounds a bit like the Koran is supposed to – except that the Koran does not anywhere commend or even mention stoning.
So why do Muslim fanatics stone women to death if they have been considered guilty of sexual perfidy? The answer lies in the ever-ready Hadiths, academic interpretations of the Koran which Islamic fanatics can use to justify almost anything. The message for Obama is that Islamic State is Islamic – by its own scholarly definition. His continual pronouncements that it is not Islamic are regarded by IS adherents as being stupidly insulting and provide even more ammunition to justify their Caliphate campaign of barbarism.
Obama’s FBI Director, James Comey, told Congress last September that Islamic State is «committed to instilling fear and attracting recruits» and «ISIL’s widespread use of social media and growing online support intensified following the commencement of US airstrikes in Iraq».
He was absolutely right – because external support for Islamic State further intensified following US airstrikes against its bases in Syria.
We in the West do not understand the mind-working of Islamic fanatics – but what we should understand is that our present tactics to combat them are failing. Certainly we seem to kill lots of them in airstrikes. But this doesn’t stop more and more recruits joining the ranks of the loonies day by day. Airstrikes might kill a few hundred IS savages, maybe even thousands, over a few months – but it takes only half-a-dozen fanatics armed with AK-47s and wearing easily-constructed explosive suicide vests to cripple a city and affect its economy – in tourism and domestic commercial income – with major consequences for ordinary citizens.
A future attack by Islamic State maniacs could well involve the city bomb – the so-called ‘Dirty Bomb’ about which I wrote elsewhere that:
Major domestic and international threats could be presented by terrorists employing radiological dispersion devices (RDDs) which can be simply manufactured using a basic high explosive initiator and mildly radiological material obtained from non-nuclear sources such as medical facilities. The effects of detonating such a device would probably be minimal in respect of loss of life, damage to property or serious radiation contamination, but national disruption would be considerable. No matter what assurances might be given by the authorities, there would be large-scale panic.
The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said on 17 November that «We know that more attacks are being prepared, not just against France but also against other European countries... we are going to live with this terrorist threat for a long time», and he is absolutely right.
Although we don’t understand the fanatics, and imagine incorrectly that our present counter-measures can defeat them, one important thing that can be done worldwide is to prepare citizens for the worst. Get ready for the dirty bomb.