I’ve grown weary and irritated with the deep comfort with which Americans refer to the ISIS crew as “barbaric.” If ISIS forces were doing their killing by remote control with satellite assisted heat seeking missiles, or drones, or unaccounted-for and unaccountable, secretly-assigned, masked special forces with night goggles and machine guns, what would we call them?
“Barbaric” derives from the Greek word for “foreign.” Which, where they are, they ain’t. We are, however, quite so. They’re bad, yes. But the shattering of stability in the Middle East, such as it was more than a decade ago, happens to have been instigated and led by us. And the Sunni insurgencies of Iraq were created by our invasion, which isolated them and handed power to their long-oppressed and vengeful enemy. Later, while keeping that useless Shi’a government aloft, in a move only Westmoreland would have understood, we strengthened the Sunnis — remember Gen. Petraeus and his brilliant strategy of buying off the Sunni insurgent groups? Hello? What do you think he gave them? Whole truckloads of US currency — I wish I were exaggerating — disappeared during this little episode. Not to mention huge quantities of military equipment and heavy duty arms supplied by the US to Saddam Hussein while he was fighting Iran and then left where they were stored — by us, who couldn’t be bothered to clean them up. We also marched out leaving untold acres of military equipment behind because it was too troublesome and expensive to cart it out.
So, having destroyed half the country and utterly polarized its political machinery, and arming both sides as so often we do these days, we thought we were done. While Syria burned to the ground next door; and while our putative allies (Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, etc) continued our work of funding and arming ISIS and other Sunni groups, in order to paralyze the Shi’a gov’t in Iraq and keep the Iranians at bay. The degree to which the American leadership allows itself to live in fantasy land, and how it trains the ever-obedient corporate media to peddle these confused fairy tales, and the ways we keep choosing (largely by not choosing) vaguely to believe it all, are repulsive. Oh these terrible barbarians. Wherever did they come from?
Here’s what happened: we went into the nation best suited to begin and keep fueled a region-wide Sunni-Shi’a conflict, weakened its infrastructure beyond repair with a twelve-year embargo and a brutal invasion, killed and maimed and made refugees of as-yet-untallied hundreds of thousands of people, including many of our own innocent and, alas, largely ignorant young people serving in our armed forces, and then we patted ourselves on the back, promoted Petraeus, and left.
As for ISIS — it’s a tough choice, when it’s your time to go, would you prefer to be beheaded by one of those guys or blown to stinking shreds by a US drone while you’re toasting your relatives at a wedding? Which of these is barbaric again? How about this: when their murder count tops ours, maybe our air of moral superiority will feel a little more justified.