Recipe for a Nightmare: The US Creation of ISIS, Hate Distillate

Written by Tom Ewing

Here’s how the US painstakingly created ISIS over the last 100 years and what we should do now. News commentary, analysis.

aNewDomain — A distillate of hate. Boil away all opportunities for compromise; choke off dissent, arrest all objectors – and this is what you’re left with: ISIS, aka Da’ish.

Here’s how the United States government created ISIS and how we can avoid ever doing anything like this again.

The process of creating ISIS started as far back as World War I, when we began winnowing down any voice of reason we could find in the Middle East. The process amped up wildly during the two US-Iraq wars and, by the time Al Qaeda arrived on the scene in the late 1990s, there was no going back. The US for years has co-opted, bribed, imprisoned, exiled or killed many moderate voices, which includes the very voice that could be conciliating to us now.

what-is-isis-thinking-burned-pilot-videoWhat we are left with is ISIS, a bitter distillate of frustration and rage, a rank and murderous horde that beheads captured soldiers, foreign aid workers, journalists, non-Sunnis, Kurds, Yazidis and, most recently, burns alive captured airmen and films the horrors for YouTube.

With ISIS, the writing’s on the wall. The US has no choice now, of course, but to terminate the movement and its leaders and actors completely — with all due prejudice. We’ll never find common ground, and letting them go could create a nightmare worthy of Dante.

There can be no successor movement to Isis.  We can’t afford to distill their essence further.

But there’s a lesson here.

In the future, and before we launch into another inglorious war, we need to first consider soberly whether war is the best course, just how we want to fight it, and which of the enemy leaders we plan to still allow a voice afterwards. Not leaving such voices in the first place is the reason ISIS is so maniacally out of control right now.

Why ISIS Lies in Murderous Wait

Decisions the US made yesterday have consequences for today, consequence we’re witnessing now.  That we have to deal with ISIS today is because of someone’s failure yesterday. This is why we need to watch our actions now, to make sure more of the same doesn’t lie in our future in murderous wait.

It is the ignominy and curse of our nation that, over and over, new wars always submerge unresolved questions about our old wars.

And our collective lack of self-reflection about old wars makes new wars ever more likely.

We flit from war-to-war like armored, adrenalin-fired butterflies.

It is bad enough that we don’t remember where we came from after emerging again and again from war after war. It is worse, still, the impression we create on the rest of the world of the US as a power-hungry, greedy custodian-gone-bad.

Consider. How long has it been since you last heard former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s war crimes debated? Was it in early 2001 when Christopher Hitchens published “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” and Harper’s held a symposium on the topic in Washington? As you can see from the videos I’ve included at the end of this piece, the symposium even included Kissinger aides.

The Sept. 11 attacks and the two wars that followed had the curious effect of foreclosing discussion about past wars, including Kissinger’s actions as Secretary of State during the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations.

Now that the terrorist wars launched in 2001 and afterward seem to be winding down, the Kissinger discussion has bubbled up again. Why? Because we are incapable of discussing the excesses of past wars while fighting a current war. Tunnel vision plagues us.

Politicians, to quell such talk and prevent such reflection, never fail to use the “think of our troops” card.

Too Old To Be a War Criminal?

Former presidential candidate and Vietnam POW Sen. John McCain made headlines just last week for calling anti-war protest group Code Pink “low life scum” for its protest tactics at a Kissinger appearance during a US Senate hearing.

For what it’s worth, Code Pink advocates the redirection of US resources into health care, education, and green jobs over US militarism. Not exactly the kind of agenda that merits a scum label.

But let’s dive deeper.

In Sen. McCain’s stated opinion, what made Code Pink’s protest scummy was the group’s approaching 90-year-old Kissinger during the hearing. Protesters shouted, dangled handcuffs and called for Kissinger’s trial in the US as a war criminal. Is he an old man? Of course. But going after even very old men for long ago crimes is standard policy. Germany right now is about to try the 93-year-old “bookkeeper” of Auschwitz, after all.

That’s why McCain’s anger is so strange. From his comments, it seemingly rests on a notion of politeness around the fact that Kissinger has worked in the top echelons of US government for so many years.

The list of war crimes Code Pink alleges Kissinger to be guilty of is long. They include: subverting the 1968 presidential election, extending the Vietnam War to neutral countries, overthrowing the legitimate government of Chile, aiding the Argentine junta and his greenlighting the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia.

Since the defeat of the Axis in 1945 (our supposed “good war”) — US soldiers have directly killed several million people. US-made weapons sold to and wielded by others have killed millions more.

And of course, US troops are deployed at the ready in more than 150 countries around the world, ready to get into it.

Rarely does anyone mention these facts. To do so seems impolite and weak, in today’s environment.  In American political discourse, mentioning these facts generally means that what follows will be either an anti-war diatribe or a jingoistic boo-rah celebration of American empire.

As for me, I am neither a pacifist nor an imperialist. Wars should be reserved as a last resort when vital national interests are at stake. Why? Because wars often leave a terrible residue in the minds of the vanquished, who end not to forget but to bide their time. And the leaders who come after the vanquished are often less agreeable than the defeated leaders and become less and less so over time, begetting an angrier and angrier distillate, like the one we’re seeing in ISIS now.

Are we always wrong to fight a war? Of course not. In short, I’d say yes to the Korean War, no to the Vietnam War, no to the Bay of Pigs, yes to the Cuban Missile Crisis, no to invasion of the Dominican Republic, no to Lebanon (1958), no to Grenada, no to the Gulf of Sidra incident, no to Panama, no the first Gulf War (on the terms in which it was fought), no the second Gulf War, and yes to the war in Afghanistan.

And no, the “No’s” above are in no way an assertion that the US was on the wrong side, just that, in each of those cases, there was a workable and viable alternative available that was short of killing people. Alternatives we never took.

Some of our wars wouldn’t have been fought if we hadn’t fought other wars or supported a particularly onerous henchman, e.g., the first and second Gulf Wars. And for sure the US has enemies and competitors.

But we’ve purposely or accidentally created many of them in the dozens of wars, police actions, and occupations we’ve led around the world in the years since 1945.

And in most cases, we’ve never considered or cared about the ill effects of creating enemies over a long period of time.

On the dias with Kissinger last week were former secretaries of state Madeline Albright and George Schultz. They should address this question: To what extent should we consider the future when we go to war, create an enemy or suppress a people?

I’d love to hear their answers.

The Saddam Hussein Bungle

Just look at Iraq. The US and the UK have intervened in Iraqi domestic affairs since World War I. The US cajoled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein into tilting away from the Soviet Union to the US less than a year prior to the revolution in Iran that ended US hegemony over that neighboring country.  The US supported Iraq’s war against Iran that inflicted nearly a million casualties on Iran and more than $600 billion in other losses.

Not a great start for an Iran freed from US domination (which might have been the big idea).

Hussein infamously bungled signals from the US about the invading Kuwait, leading to the first Gulf War which inflicted more than 100,000 casualties on the Iraqis and led to the country’s decades long isolation. The US eventually invaded Iraq again under President Bush, inflicting another 500,000 casualties and bringing intense destruction to the country.

More importantly, the governing US authorities essentially treated the Iraqis as criminals in their own country and effectively removed leaders of all stripes from any conversations that could have led to a resolution with a legitimate voice.

The US so completely botched the post-invasion process that one wonders if it wasn’t an intentional process for breeding new enemies.

So, who’s left in Iraq? For its part, the current Iraqi government in Baghdad seems essentially moribund as its leadership has had to satisfy the twin goals of being acceptable to the US while also being acceptable to the Iraqi people. You can’t serve two kings, as they say.

We can talk to the Kurds, but beyond guaranteeing their independence there might not be much for us to do with them anyway. They’ll soon be setting up Kurdistan, anyway.

So who else is left?

The bitter truth is that the loudest voices are the rancid distillate of nearly 100 years of intervention. Most recently, this group comprised the “insurgents” in Iraq, led more or less by Al-Qaeda. And a bitter eight-year insurgency now has created an even more caustic distillate – ISIS.

Of course, they have to be dealt with – quickly and with finality.

The residue of all the wars we’ve fought since 1945 resembles historian Max Hastings’ description of the Allies at the end of World War Two. He said:

Allied victory did not bring universal peace, prosperity, justice, or freedom. It brought merely a portion of those things to some fraction of those who took part. All that seems certain is that Allied victory saved the world from a much, much worse fate that would have followed the triumph of Germany and Japan. With this knowledge, seekers after virtue and truth must be content.”

And so it must go.

For aNewDomain, I’m Tom Ewing.

Cover image: by LifeOfMike (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

YouTube videos: Ramiro Howard YouTube Channel