Stop All the Horror!

The religo-fascist Islamic State’s penchant for beheading opponents and innocents, and its intentional burning to death of a Jordanian pilot captured after his jet was downed is, of course, horrific, as is its slaughter of prisoners, the torture and murder of fellow Muslims and others, and its abduction and violation of women. Most recently, IS released a video showing the beheadings by its militants of 21 Egyptian Christian immigrant workers in Libya.

“Over the past several months,” according to Stratfor Feb. 12, “the Islamic State has released videos documenting the executions of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi prisoners of war. In one of the videos, the group forced prisoners to dig their own graves and to kneel on the edge before shooting them. In another video, the group paraded hundreds of prisoners through the desert to a large mass grave dug by a bulldozer, ordered them to lie down and shot them. In yet another video, prisoners were marched one by one to the edge of a dock along the Tigris River, shot with a pistol in the back of the head and thrown into the river. In January, the Islamic State released photos and videos of the group throwing men accused of being homosexual from a tall building in Mosul….”

One shakes one’s head in disbelief at such practices, particularly when the Islamic State proudly broadcasts its outrages in videos that circulate around the world. How can they carry out such medieval torments and then brag about their deeds?
We cannot ever forgive IS’s crimes, but let me broaden the context, lest we judge this most recent U.S. war in Iraq-Syria principally upon the other side’s particular cruelty, and the fact that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands may die before the Islamic State falls apart.

There is, after all, the matter of history. It is important to remember that the Islamic State is a direct outcome of the unjust and illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Feb. 8, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan acknowledged the correlation between the Iraq War and the growth of IS.

The Iraq war can be traced back to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and to the earlier U.S. involvement in that country (late 1970s-early1990s) when Washington delivered money, arms and political support to the jihadist forces attacking a left wing government in Kabul that was protected by Russian troops. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were created and emerged victorious from this U.S/Saudi/Pakistani-backed adventure.
U.S. imperialist intervention in the Middle East does not justify the Islamic State’s brutal methods, but we must never forget that this organization is an unintended consequence of Washington’s continual manipulation and aggression in the Middle East. For example, those Egyptian workers would be alive today had the U.S. and its allies not violently brought about regime-change in Libya, ushering in jihadist elements and now IS.
In judging the crimes of IS, it is useful to compare them to those of the United States. For instance, in relation to the horrific immolation of the Jordanian pilot we must never forget the Anglo-American firebombing of the German city of Dresden during World War II seventy years ago this month when 25,000 men, women and children were burned to death. (Other figures vary between 35,000 and 100,000.) America applauded the destruction of Dresden.
Later that same year in August the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that took the lives of 246,000 Japanese civilians, half immediately, half after painful lingering deaths, many suffering horrible burns. The U.S government and people cheered the nuclear bombings. (Over time it was revealed that Washington was aware Japan was preparing to surrender, possibly in a few weeks. A main reason for this massacre, thus, was to warn the Soviet Union, our essential ally throughout World War II, that Washington not only possessed such gruesome weapons but evidently would not think twice about using atomic bombs against them. Hiroshima Day is also the hidden day the Cold War started.)
Americans are appalled by the excesses of such terrorist groups as Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram and the Taliban, but are largely unconcerned to about “enemy” dead. Most of us were indifferent to the over two million North Koreans and more than four million Vietnamese and Cambodians slaughtered by U.S. carpet bombings and other methods, not to mention up to two million Iraqis killed from the 1991Gulf war, a dozen years of killer sanctions, and the 2002-2011 invasion of Iraq, recently resumed last August with a new enemy.

The terrible truth is that the U.S. has either been at war (overtly or covertly) or planning the next war without respite for 75 years. The continuing “War on Terrorism” in the Muslim Middle East led by George W. Bush and Barack Obama from September 2001 until a few more years from now, according to the White House, means that a child born when the war began may be entering college the year it ends — if it ends.
At home, hundreds of years of black slavery and segregation helped build this country economically, but our government has never compensated the black community for the unpaid labor, subjugation, torment and humiliation of those from whom today’s black Americans are descended. In our absurdly titled “post-racial” society many millions of African Americans are impacted not only by this history but by the imposed vicissitudes of everyday life: Twice the unemployment of whites, half the assets of white families, frequent defacto housing segregation, inferior schooling, inadequate social services, and police violence. Nor have we in any equivalent sense ever compensated Native Americans for the near genocide and displacement of their peoples.
Watching the horror of the Islamic state on TV is sickening. It must be stopped. But we should never justify, devalue, ignore or forget the far greater horrors that continue to be perpetrated by our own country, for they, too, are sickening and must be stopped!

Jack A. Smith is the editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter. He can be reached at Read other articles by Jack.