Once I again, I have had to read the heartbreaking story of ISIS militants throwing a gay man off the roof of a building and then stoning him to death. It seems as though I am confronted with the sickening stories of what these base animal dirtbags have done on a daily basis. Killing hostages in horrifying ways and filming it, attacking via strategically placed militants in foreign countries, taking control of land, oil, and other resources that provide a steady stream of income – it’s like something out of a movie. Not only is ISIS organized and wealthy, they are also successfully recruiting from all over the globe, and I’m disturbed by the fact that the discussions around what should be done about this threat are completely missing the mark. We have to understand that ISIS exists because of the military actions taken by western governments, and the solution to dealing with them lies within our capability to act against our status quo. In other words, understanding ISIS and how to eradicate it, requires us to look inward.
Now, Outspoken Ally is NOT a political project. The only reason I am writing about ISIS is because they are a legitimate threat to social cohesion. This is not a terrorist organization isolated to a part of the globe that most of us will never set foot on. They are recruiting in my country. They are believed to have committed murder in my country. ISIS is not exclusive to the Middle East. They are everywhere, and many of us are reluctant to say anything, because you never truly know your neighbour (for those of us who would otherwise speak up, anyway). This hesitation is understandable. We are, after all, talking about a group that has demonstrated a willingness and ability to enact devastating violence toward those who speak out against them. I am sick and tired of this, however. I’m sick of their hatred, their tactics, their savagery. I’m sick of their ignorance, their hypocrisy, and their manipulation. We are talking about a group of militants led by a man who was disowned by Osama Bin Laden, because he was too violent. We are talking about a group that makes headlines for throwing gay men from rooftops, burning people alive, and a myriad of other horrible brands of torture and killing.
Going to Iraq was a huge mistake. We may have gone with the best of intentions, but when western militaries stepped onto Iraqi soil, people took up arms to defend their land against what was perceived as an invasion. In the Middle East region, The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and yes, ISIS, were all formed in response to western military action. There is just no way around the fact that we created this monster … but … the monster is out of control, and it has to be stopped. Now hear me out, because the solution I’m about to propose is going to be one of a humanitarian nature, rather than military might.
ISIS has crossed borders into Syria, gaining control of land and resources as they go. Although they control through fear, they also employ tactics long understood by other powerful criminals – cartel leaders like the infamous Pablo Escobar, for example. The tactic is simple: provide the locals with a better quality of life – give them better homes, food, and creature comforts – and you can do whatever you want, secure in the knowledge that nobody would dare blow the whistle. In addition, you can hide important leaders and figures within your organization among them. People are terrified of ISIS, yes, but people will also protect their meal ticket. What the west has always failed to do is instil loyalty in the people of the countries they enter into. When we leave, the oppressive terror regimes remain. Give a starving person food, and their loyalty is to you; not to those who bombed the hell out of their land, built a school, said “you’re welcome,” and called it a day. It’s for this reason that we have to look at ourselves and realize that we have the capacity to take that loyalty away from ISIS. We can turn the people against them, we just have to get past our desire to retaliate to violence with violence. The only violent act I would condone in this case is to cut the head off the snake … but we can’t expect those harbouring the leader to give him up, not when he is giving them food, shelter, etc. No, we have to be better than them. We have to provide more, and make it last. We have to protect them. We created this problem with violence. ISIS rose to power as a response to our violence. It will take decades, but I believe we can fix this by correcting our violence with compassion and generosity. Without an enemy to fight, ISIS will lose purpose.
“Wait a second. Have you gone mad?!”
So at this point, a lot of you are shaking your heads and saying “no, no, no! What about religion? ISIS is a militant Islamic group, have you gone mad?! They are bent on purification, cleansing the world, imposing the Islamic state, in accordance with their religious beliefs! Even if we do what you say, they will keep striving toward their religious agenda!” This is a valid point. ISIS is a militant Islamic group, and they do claim to be doing all of this in the name of Allah. We created the situation under which they rose up, but the west is in no way responsible for their religious extremism. The religious component is a concern, it is after all responsible for the ideology that makes these assholes capture, torture, and throw gay men from tall buildings in the first place. The problem of ISIS, though, is much too big at this point. You see, we fight Christian fundamentalism because it’s worth fighting. Christianity is responsible for countless atrocities, but the ideology is still at the surface, it’s accessible and can be approached. Islamic extremism is a different animal. Islamic extremism is excessively violent, excessively political, and excessively ideological. In the case of ISIS, the tactics they use to enforce their political and ideological values have to be taken down first. The underlying belief is secondary to the reality that people are being killed very rapidly. Every day, week, month … more and more people … countless people.
We have to wake up
I’m not advocating for us to send peacekeepers in unprotected, that would be naive and just plain stupid. We need military support for this to work, but ISIS is very powerful on the ground, and airstrikes pose too great a threat to civilian life. By trusting our gut instinct (go in and thrash the hell out of them), we are needlessly losing lives; both our military and their civilians. It’s the wrong approach, but we’ve been creating and fighting enemies this way for so long that we’re convinced it’s the right way. If we could just step back and look, we might be able to see what we’ve been doing: every time we use violence against another nation, we lose. Parents lose their children, we lose our brothers and sisters. We lose human lives, and for what? To prove a point? To show we’re stronger? To prove, in some way, that we’re right? Nothing changes. We dealt with the Nazis, and I’m glad we did, but we did nothing to help abolish hate. We seized overseas oilfields, but we still face an impending fuel shortage. We threaten to sanction Russia, but we have no strategy for attacking fascism. These are real problems where we need both military support and practical solutions, but what do we do instead? We throw more and more money at developing weapons, hundreds of millions of dollars to develop new and innovative machines designed to carry out one job – KILL. We have to wake up. If you create a problem by using violence, the answer to fixing it is likely NOT more violence.
ISIS is OUR monster, the direct consequence of sending our military in to meddle in the affairs of others. We have to fix this problem we created, and the way to do that is to take away the support they depend on for survival. Gain the trust and loyalty of those who harbour them, turn their associates against them so there’s nobody left to buy their oil, starve them out. By using violence against them, we’re just angering more people already feeling disenfranchised, and growing their numbers. Violence is counterproductive to unity. Violence is counterproductive to the end goal of equality. Violence is not going to solve the ISIS problem. We created it, we can control it. We just have to be smart about it. Put the gun down. Let’s look inward and do this one right.
Too ideological? Perhaps … but I believe it.