ISIS

ISIS Is A Country, Whether We Want To Admit It Or Not

On June 12, the state of Florida experienced something it hadn’t since the Civil War: an attack on its soil by a person fighting for a foreign country.

Although most people consider ISIS to be a terrorist organization (which, in my humble opinion may affect how people view the War on Terror and cause them to not take it seriously as they don’t believe we are fighting another country), the level of organization and consolidation of its rule in the territory it occupies indicates that it is in fact much more than that.

First off, let’s take a look at one of the definitions of a state (the only reason I’m using the word “country” is to make this article easier to read for Americans who are so used to calling nation-states “countries” and American provinces “states”), as provided by Merriam-Webster:

a :  a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory; especially :  one that is sovereign

b :  the political organization of such a body of people

c :  a government or politically organized society having a particular character <a policestate> <the welfare state>”

Now, let’s see how ISIS meets the qualifications of the definition set out in Merriam-Webster.

Is ISIS a politically organized body?

Yes.

At the top of its leadership is the caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Just below him is the Shura Council, the Sharia Council, and independent religious scholars who determine how to govern occupied territory and lay out military strategy.

In addition, there exist councils on finance, media, military affairs, provincial affairs, religious affairs, and security and intelligence.

Does ISIS occupy a definite territory?

For the most part, yes.

The fact that it occupies territory is a no-brainer, but if you google maps of ISIS at various points in time, you can see that its borders have been very fluid.

Nonetheless, it has managed to hold onto significant swaths of territory for years, long enough to be able to organize that territory into regional provinces that are ruled by governors and are locations to which ISIS military commanders are assigned.

So, there you go. ISIS is de facto a country.

It may not be de jure a country, as it is not recognized as such by any country or international institution, but that shouldn’t stop the United States from weighing what is in front of the faces of its policy makers and accept reality.

Whether you like it or not, ISIS is a country, and it is capable of taking actions that are done by countries, such as govern a territory, wage war, and mint a currency.

It is time to start treating ISIS as what it is, for the sake of ensuring that a war that has come to Florida’s (and of course, America’s) soil is waged correctly and efficiently, for the sake of saving lives of Americans and many others around the globe.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Vice News/ Youtube (Screenshot)

What The Heck Is Turkmenistan Up To? (Spoiler Alert: We Should Care)

On March 28th, Eurasia Net, reported that Turkmenistan launched large unannounced exercises “in the dead of night”.

These movements consisted of: Land, Air, Naval, Air Defense, and Special Operations forces.

But what the heck were they doing with all of that firepower?

The Turkmen Military is largely a land based force based on the Soviet Model, as evidenced by utilization of the “Motor Rifle Division”, of which there are four, as well as breaking aid defense into its own branch.

As such, training and morale tend to be low, but utilization of massive amounts of artillery, T-72s, the infamous ZSU-23-4 “Shilka, and other highlights of the 1980s make up for the doctrinal rut Turkmenistan finds itself in.

After all, a country that has a holiday to celebrate its neutrality is not likely to pick a fight.

One can rule out a show of force to intimidate a state actor.

Turkmenistan, unlike Kyrgyzstan  and Uzbekistan, is largely devoid of conflict with its neighbors.  It has friendly ties with both Russia and China, and provides the United States with an air corridor to Afghanistan, which makes deterring one of these actors unlikely.

The move could possibly be an attempt to reassert claims over the Caspian Sea, the dispute over these maritime borders with Azerbaijan, Iran, and Kazakhstan have been largely diplomatic in nature.  It seems unlikely this is a shift to more bellicose policy regarding control of the Caspian Sea, as the Turkmen navy is composed of a few coastal defense craft.

It is conceivable that this exercise is not a demonstration of power against a state aggressor, but rather a demonstration to both Turkmen and Turkmenistan’s concerned neighbors, of Ashgabat’s border defense capacity.

Recent skirmishes have occurred along Turkmenistan’s Afghan border, including several Taliban militants being stuck being Turkmen and Afghan forces.

This is not an isolated incident, and Ashgabat has responded with the construction of fixed fortifications along the border.

Of perhaps greater concern than Turkmenistan’s formerly cordial neighbors, is the developing Islamic State (IS) affiliate in Afghanistan.

While there are only 1-3,000 IS fighters in Afghanistan, the appearance of weakness along the border may draw the attention of Moscow, who would understandably be concerned.

Thus, it seems likely that this show of force by Turkmenistan is a message to Moscow of Ashgabat’s ability to rapidly mobilize against a Iraq/Syria style IS takeover.

Is is not clear if Moscow will be convinced by this display, who has historically assisted Ashgabat in border control.

In any event, we should pay attention to what happens in Turkmenistan in the coming months.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Photo Credit: Gilad Rom/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Clusterfuck: How Bush And Obama Both Created ISIS

Last week witnessed yet another guerilla attack on a European capital, as bombs went off in the Brussels airport and subway, murdering and injuring hundreds.

Events like these expose the silliness of most of our squabbles, as the true members of civil society shine through while a handful of mad(mostly)men demonstrate for all of us the true downside of mankind.

Anger is what nature provides us with in these situations because it forces us to assign blame, thus highlighting the failures of the present as a warning to future generations, and there is plenty of criticism to go around.

Taking a look back at the evolution of ISIS is instructive of the catastrophic failures of US foreign policy, as it took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.

The Bush Administration

George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq served as the catalyst for the creation of ISIS, at least in the form that we know it as know.

Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but one of the “advantages” of a dictator (from a wonkish macro perspective) is that the brutality of dictatorships tends to keep some semblance of order in these intentionally fractured societies.

ISIS did not have the means, nor the capability to become what it is today so long as Saddam was in power.

However, simply removing Saddam was not enough to facilitate the rise of ISIS.

It took a series of cataclysmic blunders across two Presidencies that fostered the environment from which this murderous death cult would emerge.

The first of many gigantic mistakes after the initial invasion came from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney’s commitment to a “light footprint” in Iraq following the initial invasion.

David Kilcullen, an Australian counter-terrorism strategist who arrived in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2005 called it “Ground Zero for the greatest strategic screw up since Hitler’s invasion of Russia.”

By not providing American troops with enough support to maintain the peace, Rumsfeld ensured that a power vacuum would be created in one of the most violent areas on the planet, right on the border of our regional nemesis.

American pilots during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003. Photo Credit: US NAVY

American pilots during the early days of the Iraq war in 2003. Photo Credit: US NAVY

The United States sent 127,000 troops to manage a divided population of 33 million in a country that is larger than California (California has about 126,000 police officers, fire fighters, and EMT’s to serve its 38 million citizens).

According to US Central Command’s OPLAN 1003-98, it was estimated that the army would need at least 385,000 soldiers to accomplish its goals in Iraq. The administration gave them a third of that.

Providing our troops with insufficient support in a war torn country was bad enough, but the Bush White House exponentially compounded that problem with its next two calamitous mistakes.

If you had to point to any singular event that is responsible for the rise of ISIS, disbanding the Iraqi army after the invasion would be it.

The US military had hoped to weed out Saddam loyalists and keep it mostly intact, but the administration eschewed that difficult task in favor of simply scrapping the army altogether.

As a result, from May 23, 2003 to September 6, 2006, the security of all of Iraq was the sole responsibility of the United States of America.

Major Robert S. Weiler from the United States Marine Corps summarized the contradiction at the heart of this clusterfuck:

“The decision was a product of colliding priorities. The Secretary of Defense wanted a small occupation force that commanders knew was imprudent, the military planners adapted by planning to use the Iraqi Army to make up for coalition short falls, and the Coalition Provisional Authority wanted to dissolve all things Baathist or resembling Saddam even if it was the only mechanism allowing the country to function.”

Seemingly overnight, 250,000 young men and their weapons and talents of war were thrown out on the street, and a huge chunk of them wound up joining the initial version of ISIS: al-Qaeda in Iraq.

This choice makes Rumsfeld and Cheney’s decision to use 127,000 US soldiers to keep the peace even more befuddling, and that is before you even get to the fact that around 80% of Iraqis reported a dislike for the American occupation. It was a plan that literally defied logic.

Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority overseeing all this, defended his momentous decision by stating that the Iraqi army could not be trusted by the populace, as the Baathists loyal to Saddam had too much power, and the Sunni’s were accepted as a sunk cost; there was no expectation that they would remain loyal to the state during the American occupation.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (R), talk to reporters at the Baghdad Forum, Dec. 14, 2003, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer (R), talk to reporters at the Baghdad Forum, Dec. 14, 2003, about the capture of Saddam Hussein. Bremer made the terrible decision to disband the Iraqi army. Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

But instead of trying to bridge the gap between the CPA and Sunni leaders, Bremer accelerated the process of alienation and installed Nouri al-Maliki as Iraqi Prime Minister; a devout Shiite who was raised with contempt for Sunni’s.

Maliki joined the Dawa party as a young man, which aimed to create a Shiite nation-state in Iraq by any means necessary.

Saddam arrested and executed many members of the Dawa party, including some of Maliki’s family members, which only further exacerbated the sectarian tensions boiling inside of Iraq’s future Prime Minister.

The idea that much of the Iraqi Army would remain steadfastly loyal to Saddam seemed like a specious argument anyway, because Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor wrote in “COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,” that Saddam refused to let his army enter Baghdad out of fears of a coup.

In 2007, the Combat Studies Institute published “Warfare in the Age of NonState Actors: Implications for the U.S. Army,” and it detailed the absurdity of Bremer and the CPA’s decision:

“Taking away the jobs and weapons in which so many men have depended for so long, and giving them an equivalent civilian occupation in a peacetime (something even highly educated US military personnel find challenging), is a delicate and absolutely vital challenge which has little room for error. To simply disband them is extremely dangerous”

Nouri al-Maliki provided the final push to facilitate the creation of ISIS, as he fired countless Sunni commanders during his 8 year tenure as Prime Minister.

These seasoned military men were out of a job with no prospects provided by the new regime, and al-Qaeda’s new branch in Iraq (AQI) was more than happy to welcome them into their ranks.

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Nouri al-Maliki (R) fired countless Sunni commanders during his time as Prime Minister of Iraq. Photo Credit: Al Jazeera English/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There was no shortage of candidates available for any position in this new army, as some estimates put the unemployment rate as high as 60% in Iraq after the CPA disbanded the military.

The US government basically helped create an enemy from scratch for its army to fight during the Sunni uprising, which carried out scores of bombings across Iraq between 2003 and 2011, resulting in roughly half a million civilian casualties.

Sasnak Joshi, a Senior Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute highlights the central issue at hand:

“It’s less important in terms of the contribution to manpower, or sheer heft or size, and more important in terms of the specific skills, connections, linkages and technical expertise that the Baathists bring to the table.”

In 2014, Adnan al-Asani, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, told Al Arabiya that half of ISIS’s top military commanders: Haji Bakr, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi and Abu Ahmad al-Alwani, were all former high-ranking members of Sadaam’s party.

This map from Mother Jones of a divided Iraq from 2007 further depicts the folly of coalescing behind one faction, as any group that obtained absolute power would be seen as a threat to the rest of the populace:

Photo Credit: Mother Jones Magazine

Photo Credit: Mother Jones Magazine

Iraq is basically a fake country constructed by colonial powers; it’s really three countries cobbled into one, and a modern day colonial power came in, smashed everything, and sparked a civil war.

The History of ISIS

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is effectively the father of ISIS.

Not only did his actions lead to the creation of ISIS, but the group embodies his spirit; a spirit that was deemed too extreme by Osama freaking bin-Laden. Zarqawi was a fighter who came up through organized crime, not “finding religion” until later in life, yet he thoroughly enjoyed rape, murder, and torture no matter what ideology he presently subscribed to.

Zarqawi became radicalized in prison during the 1980’s, and upon his release in 1988, he traveled to the Peshwar region of Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets.

By 1992, he had returned to Jordan to create Bayat al-Imam, which was the first iteration of ISIS.

Zarqawi was locked up for 15 years by King Hussein of Jordan, where he was subsequently mentored by Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, and the duo expanded the influence of their newfound Jihadist organization both inside the prison and within the outside world.

Upon Zarqawi’s release from jail in 1999, he visited Osama bin Laden, who was alarmed at his extremist views, but nonetheless was convinced to give him seed funding for his new organization, which was set up in Herat, 355 miles away from bin Laden’s base in Kandahar.

Photo Credit: Maureen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the father of ISIS spent years in a Jordanian prison during the reign of King Hussein (L) where he became more radicalized. Current King of Jordan Abdullah II (R) is shown with his father in this public propaganda photo. Photo Credit: Maureen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

By the time the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Zarqawi had assembled an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 men, the organization now being known as al-Tawhid wal-Jihad.

Zarqawi soon left Afghanistan to set up camp in Iran, and when some of his operatives were arrested in Europe in 2002, Zarqawi became a much more prominent figure in counterterrorism agencies across the globe.

He spent the next couple years hiding out in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq all while expanding his army, culminating in an agreement with al-Qaeda’s security chief, Seif al-Adel, to move the group into Iraq.

Zarqawi spent most of his time in Iraq in the “Sunni triangle,” gaining new recruits and setting up bases.

By the time the US invaded in 2003, Zarqawi had effectively assembled a Sunni nation-state to combat the invasion.

His strategy was based on four central tactics that we still see ISIS use today:

  1. Isolate American forces by targeting international coalition partners (ie: the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad).
  2. Attack civilians there to help (ie: the May 2004 beheading of Nicholas Berg, thought to be carried out by Zarqawi himself).
  3. Spark a sectarian war by attacking Shiite targets (ie: the December 2004 attack against Shiite leader Sayyid Muhammad al-Hakim at a funeral in the holy city of Najaf)
  4. Deter Iraqi cooperation by targeting politicians, recruiting centers, and police stations (too many examples to count).

The invasion of Iraq served as one of the greatest recruiting boons Jihad has ever seen (second only to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict), as an influx of foreign fighters from all over the globe entered Iraq to fight with Zarqawi and the rest of the Sunni insurgency against the US army.

After the bloody battle that took Fallujah in 2004, the insurgency began to pass out leaflets demanding full compliance with their version of Islamic Law, even going so far as to list the names of “offenders” who were marked for public execution. By October 2004, Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed the group al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

The Sunni insurgency boycotted the 2005 Iraqi elections, which proved to be a disastrous decision, as they were left out of the redrafting of the new Constitution.

Zarqawi continued to attack Shiites, further dampening popular support for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The final straw came in November of 2005 as AQI bombed a wedding party, killing 60 people, most of them Muslims.

al-Qaeda began to distance themselves from AQI, as it along with other Sunni terrorist groups were absorbed into a larger Mujahedeen Shura Council from which Zarqawi was excluded.

His brutality and aggression had simply become too much for a terrorist organization that was obsessed with developing popular support from Muslims of all backgrounds. The United States killed Zarqawi in an airstrike on June 7th, 2006, but by then, his ideology had already poisoned an entire generation of fighters.

The 20,000 troop “surge” of 2007 is largely credited as the key event to break the stalemate in Iraq, but the surge would not have had the impact it did if it were not for Sahwa, more commonly known as the Sunni Awakening. Frustrated with the lack of progress by AQI, Sunni tribesmen began to use AQI’s tactics against them, killing many of their senior leaders and intimidating many more to leave the movement.

This was so successful, that by 2009, more than 100,000 Sunni tribesmen were working in cooperation with the United States army against AQI. Not only had they either killed or captured well over half of the organization, but the flow of foreign fighters entering Iraq went from around 120 per month to just a handful.

The Obama Administration

However, an opportunity to reassert themselves emerged when Barack Obama continued the Bush Administration’s misguided “small footprint” strategy by ratifying the US-Iraq Status of Force’s Agreement that Bush had negotiated, which promised a full withdrawal of all US troops by December 31, 2011.

On December 18th of that year, the last US boot left the ground in Iraq, leaving a fractured and vulnerable country with no national force capable of holding all of its disparate parts together.

With AQI seemingly confined to an existence as a regional pest, the Iraqi election of 2010 served as a major event which breathed life back into the movement.

After the populace had elected a more moderate, even pro-American Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in 2010, the United States still continued to back the increasingly unpopular Nouri al-Maliki and his allies in parliament while pursuing conflicting goals, as Joe Biden told top US officials

I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement]

As yet another power vacuum was being created by American intransigence in Iraq, next door in Syria, an even larger problem was emerging. The Iranian backed dictator, Bashar al-Assad, was facing a serious challenge to his rule, as the Arab Spring spilled into Syria’s streets.

American Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq in 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Forces Iraq/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

American Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq in 2011. Photo Credit: U.S. Forces Iraq/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Assad and his Alawite support (who are minorities in Syria) were being challenged on all sides, and his strategy to stay in power is to build up the more extremist segments of the revolution while brutally massacring the moderates, thus presenting the West with a stark choice for the future of Syria: him or ISIS.

Obama massively compounded the problem when he stated that Assad using chemical weapons would be a “red line,” for the United States.

Once it was discovered that Assad did gas his own people, the President did nothing militarily, effectively letting the rest of the world know that he did not have the will to commit to a war with a relatively small regime like Assad’s even if he implied it, making his future proclamations on this conflict ring completely hollow.

Additionally, it let Assad (and by extension, Iran) know that they had full control over this situation.

While the United States debated what to do, the former Iraqi officers and Sunni Jihadists who had comprised AQI began to unite with Syrian factions, and captured Raqqa in 2013, declaring it the capital of the Caliphate the following year.

Still paralyzed by indecision, the United States watched as this new iteration of AQI claimed town after town, reaching a breaking point in 2014 as ISIS took over Mosul, Iraq’s 2nd largest city.

Five months prior to this event, Obama dismissed ISIS as a “JV team,” further demonstrating the administration’s miscalculation of this virus rapidly spreading across the globe. By the time a serious military campaign was launched, ISIS had already established a nation state.

Conclusion

Long story short: a decade-plus of foreign policy adventurism and fecklessness from two Presidents combined with the psychotic brutality of a charismatic Jihadist culminated in the establishment of a functional Caliphate in 2014.

Since its establishment, the US State Department estimates that upwards of 25,000 foreign fighters have flocked to these hinterlands formerly known as Syria and Iraq.

Even though they have demonstrated the capability to export their ideology and tactical skillset across the globe, there are still many signs that ISIS is on the decline.

In January, the US military estimated that ISIS has lost 40% of its territory in Iraq and 20% in Syria. In that same month, ISIS announced a 50% pay cut for everyone on the payroll.

Additionally, there have been many reports of protests in ISIS controlled territory, as we are seeing the same dissatisfaction that many Iraqi Sunni’s felt after the initial opposition to the US occupation.

If we have learned anything from this quagmire, it is contained in this sobering quote from Syrian Businessman Raja Sidawi:

“I am sorry for America. You are stuck. You have become a country of the Middle East. America will never change Iraq, but Iraq will change America.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Barney Moss/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

With ISIS, The West Is At War With Brazen Thuggery And Not Islam

Look at the coverage of most mainstream news outlets in the wake of the recent Brussels terrorist attacks and you’ll hear the words “Islamic extremists” or “radical Islam” multiple times.

The importance of terminology to define ISIS has been critically analyzed by professionals since the group eclipsed al-Qaeda as the foremost terror threat to the West in 2013.

The mainstream media has made ISIS synonymous with Islam without further investigation into who exactly is deemed a prime candidate for ISIS recruitment.

The brothers linked to the Brussels attacks were well known to the Belgian police for their long rap sheets of organized crime, not only because of their religious beliefs.

Seasoned criminals, the brothers were never linked to any terrorist cell or vocalized Islamic aggression prior to the Paris attacks.

Multiple media reports depict the attackers as young criminals initially looking for an illegal outlet that eventually found them emerged to deep in the terror cell, much like previous attackers whose criminal history has been recently brought to light.

Thus, the question being posed is if Islamic extremists or radical criminals accurately depict ISIS’ target recruit.

Examining ISIS methodology, one will find that Western society is directly targeted as being the reason the Middle East has endured suffering in the past.

To combat the years of self-described oppression they will commit brutal mass killings under the “convert or die” mentality in an attempt to create a worldwide Islamic State.

In juxtaposition to the religious backings behind the gruesome terrorist attacks, many Islamic leaders and followers alike have urgently condemned ISIS.

To understand that ISIS represents the Islamization of radicalism and not the radicalization of Islam, is to gain a greater understanding of whom ISIS is and why terminology matters.

The Obama administration has taken a definitive stand against defining ISIS as religious warriors for Islam.

“The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” President Obama said last year when urging countries to view the terrorist group as rampant militants and to reject the idea this is a clash of civilizations.

ISIS is a youth revolt that attracts criminals and thugs the world over, and not just very religious Muslims. Photo Credit: rachaelvoorhees/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

ISIS is a youth revolt that attracts criminals and thugs the world over, and not just very religious Muslims. Photo Credit: rachaelvoorhees/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

To further these sentiments CIA director, John Brennan talks about ISIS members in a interesting way:

“Most — many — of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct.”

Falsely personifying ISIS members not only does a disservice to Muslims but it also feeds into the doctrine of the terrorist organization.

The more the West ostracizes Islam as a whole, the more power ISIS gains in recruiting young people in need of a purpose, and who want to watch the world burn.

Lately, waves of young Muslims have joined ISIS in search of a place of refuge in what analysts call a youth revolution.

The characterization of ISIS members as Islamic extremists walks a dangerous line between stigmatizing Islam as a religion and fueling the recruiting tactics of the terrorists.

Shifting the terminology widens the public’s knowledge on ISIS as an organization and demeans the terrorist organization’s underlining schemes of correlating Islam with their gruesome acts of violence.

We should consider it.

RISE NEWS  is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: marc cornelis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Could Libya Be The Next Syria?

The Islamic State group and al Qaeda are aggressively expanding to the politically unstable North African country of Libya, according to a report Wednesday by a U.S.-based security consulting firm. Since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011, Libya has been a hotbed for civil war and extremism, with training facilities and recruitment drives springing up… Read More

Is Indonesia About To Enter A New Era Of Domestic Terrorism?

Last Thursday, Jakarta was rocked by its first major attack by religiously inspired Islamic militants since the Ritz Carlton bombings of 2009. Lasting more than three hours, the grim attacks – in which seven people, including five assailants, died – may not have been as devastating as the previous bombings that hit the capital in the… Read More

Here’s A Shock, ISIS Is Corrupt As Hell

The strain of governing is weighing down the Islamic State group, a new report in the Financial Times states. The FT reports that the terrorist group, which is commonly referred to as ISIS, is having trouble stamping out the institutional corruption that was endemic under previous regimes in the territory it controls. “You’d have a front-line… Read More

French Political Leader Tweets Photo Of ISIS Beheading Of American Journalist

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen removed a picture of an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) group from her Twitter account Wednesday after the graphic image sparked widespread condemnation, including from the victim’s family. The image of James Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012 and executed by his IS group captors… Read More

Millennial Intelligencer- A Country in Flames: Syrian Army Armed with Russian Thermobaric Weapons

Syria is on fire.

Confirmed sightings have been made in the country of both RPO-A “Bumblebees” and TOS-1 “Burratinos”.

Both of these platforms utilize thermobaric warheads, which disperse their fuel when approaching their target and ignite, creating large fireballs.

The Syrian Army has become infamous for its utilization of “barrel bombs” in the four year civil war. The inherent inaccuracy of the crude platform has lead to an abhorrent number of civilians being incinerated by the al-Assad Regime.

Despite Russian claims to the contrary, barrel bombings still occur, and with an alarming frequency. The Syrian Network for Human Rights claims that since the beginning of the Russian intervention into Syria, 120 people, including children, have been killed.

Thus the provision of the shoulder carried RPO to the Syrian army is alarming. The mission of the platform is primarily to destroy light skinned targets (i.e. infantry, cars) or clear out indoor spaces with either the six to seven meter fire ball, or the ensuing overpressure.

This will prove vital to Syrian Army forces in urban settings when fighting either FSA units or ISIS.

WATCH: Video showing force of American designed thermobaric warheads

Meanwhile, the Russians have been moving in both 2S19 Msta and TOS-1.

The former is a former of self propelled artillery with conventional 152 mm shells. The latter, is a T-72 chassis with an attached Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL), equipped to fire 24 220 mm thermobaric warheads at one time.

While the “Burratino” can be used against population centers, the more likely target will be forests, or other concealment in which FSA units are hiding. These artillery pieces have been deployed to the Latakia region, implying that the Russians intend to assist a Syrian Army operation in that part of the country.

Nonetheless, the platform presents another potential means of horrific death for the Syrian people, and makes the possibility of removing al-Assad more remote.

(The ongoing civil war in Syria is a nightmare for the people of Syria. UNICEF has a specially earmarked page for Syrian children and mothers, should you feel the urge to help.)

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Cover Photo Credit: Freedom House/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

On American Violence: Is It Guns, Terrorism Or Our Culture?

America. Opening a history book about the United States will take you on a journey through violence. Period paintings, drawings, and certainly texts of many varieties from the mid to late 1700’s all speak to the core belief that the colonists had in using firearms and violence to get themselves out from under the control of the British Crown.

And they did. The visceral effect of the Declaration of Independence on the people and the codifying force of the subsequent Constitution on this new republic had an affect on people who had no desire to be oppressed, unfairly taxed, abused or maligned.

In fact, the Constitution was amended to reflect the deeply held belief that guns belonged in the hands of every person – to be ready to repel invaders, keep the peace and protect themselves from anything that might try to intrude upon the basic freedoms that these visionaries embedded in to these lawful constructs.

Could it be that our fascination with guns is so deeply rooted in our psyche as Americans, because of the anti-colonial and refugee mindset of our founding fathers; through today, where (as the Constitution implies), we must always be at the ready to defend ourselves, and our nation?

For the aforementioned reasons, but also as history has unfolded, to help us protect our national interests, or impose them on others for our own gain? The Civil War. The Mexican – American War. The expansion of western settlement through the slaughter, forced relocation and internment of Native Americans. Those events are from our earliest history, and depict our collective dependence on firearms to both maintain our thirst for freedom, and to simultaneously fuel our growing thirst for territory and power.

The ‘carry forward’ from this long and storied history is that our reliance upon guns is now permanently rooted into our culture. Throughout the world, the US has always had a reputation for being unnecessarily violent, particularly where guns are concerned. But are these perceptions grounded in reality, or is this belief based solely on cultural differences?

It is literally inarguable that a firearm by itself is not the causation of our more recent mass shooting epidemic. ‘Guns don’t kill people – people kill people’. Much like a knife, stick, brick or rock by itself is not usually responsible for the death of a person, guns by themselves are incapable of killing or causing grievous bodily harm.

Someone must take that implement or weapon and pull the trigger. The access to weapons for those who would endeavor to harm others is at the core of the argument of so called ‘gun control’ efforts. That however requires deeper exploration.

There are studies, statistics and opinions all over the map, but suffice to say, there is no clear benefit to gun bans, or stricter gun control measures in modern society, as is plainly visible in these statistics. So what gives? Why the argument that banning guns, or enacting even tougher gun control measures like a ban on certain magazine capacities, or styles of weapons would have any significant impact on curbing mass shootings?

Waiting lists and months long processes to obtain even the most basic of services, such as initial and even secondary evaluations to facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment; leaves a great many people falling through the very large cracks.

The truth is – it wouldn’t. Those bent on destruction or murder will get guns by other means than legally purchasing them. There is in fact sufficient evidence to demonstrate that many of the violent gun related crimes that have us persistently discussing ‘gun control’ are in fact committed with stolen guns.

To even suggest a ban on guns would facilitate an instrument by which the government would then be compelled to confiscate them. Outside of the obvious constitutional implications, that in and of itself would undoubtedly lead to legal challenges, mass protests, and perhaps even armed insurrection (or as some would say ‘a revolution’).

The fact is that the 2nd Amendment was constructed by the “Founding Fathers” as an instrument to facilitate not only the protection and defense of one’s self against attack or tyranny, but also to enable the Country as a whole to protect itself from potential invaders.

Photo Credit: Valerie Everett/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Valerie Everett/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

According to historical documents examined by the author (and widely available in the public domain), the Constitution -and specifically the 2nd Amendment; was articulated in this way to give “We The People” the ability to ward off an overreaching government with designs on the degradation or eradication of basic civil liberties. We are who and what we are as a Nation because of the wisdom of these documents and founding principles.

I would go so far as to speculate that any would be foreign invaders would have to take in to account the might of not only our military prowess, but also the plain fact that Americans are armed to the teeth as they draw up their battle plans. It’s also worthy mentioning that the Supreme Court has routinely upheld the right of the individual to ‘keep and bear arms’.

Are guns really the problem here?

While our understanding of the human mind, and the ability to more effectively treat mental health issues has vastly expanded in the last 30 years, the trend in access to effective mental health treatment, particularly where the poor, homeless and our military veterans are concerned has left huge gaps in the effective delivery of those services. There aren’t enough qualified practitioners to treat the vast numbers of people who require access to those services.

Waiting lists and months long processes to obtain even the most basic of services, such as initial and even secondary evaluations to facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment; leaves a great many people falling through the very large cracks.

Struggling to navigate the already arduous landscape that is their daily life. And yet, while over 60% of those who have carried out “mass shootings” since 1970 have had significant mental health diagnoses and presentation, there is also no clear means by which to associate mental health with mass shootings.

Why? Because those with pronounced mental health issues are already supposed to be incapable of purchasing firearms legally. It’s the law. Yet these killers still obtained access to weapons and killed a great many people.

‘Mass shootings’ has become a household term, but why? Why at this point in time? Perhaps these are symptoms of a society that has fallen into a moral slump. A society that’s obsessed with instant gratification via fast food, lightning fast information, electronic pacification and communications tools. Are these things responsible for an overall decay in the fabric of the principles upon which our great nation was built? Do we suffer from a fog of what reality is and was up until this latest technological revolution began?

But looking at the numbers from these sources alone – of 330 terrorist attacks in the United States, since our founding – only 34 are attributed to Islamic terrorism.

The disconnection between our ability to effectively interact with each other, particularly for those who are disenfranchised, maligned, bullied, teased or are otherwise already mentally unstable – could very well be fueling this epidemic. Life has become so virtual – so cold and distant from our humanity, in comparison to the childhood of Gen X’ers for example.

There is no clear answer or solution to the ‘gun problem’. Accordingly, the solution to mass shootings is not nearly so clear as the likes of the New York Times or New York Daily News would surmise in their recent opinion pieces. We don’t have a gun problem, we have a people problem.

This brings us to the topic of terrorism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” See also Title 22 of the United States Code. Based on those definitions, it is hard to imagine that 102 terrorist acts have been committed on US soil since 9/11. 9/11 itself was three separate acts, at three locations – the Twin Towers (or World Trade Center), the Pentagon, and the plane crash in Somerset County, PA.

225 terror attacks took place, again using this definition, prior to 9/11. While some may be familiar, like the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, I’d never heard of bombings at the LA Times Building, Morgan Bank in NYC, or Chicago’s Haymarket square – which cumulatively killed 71 and injured 380 people. These attacks occurred between 1886 and 1920.

Digging further down in to these numbers, I wanted to examine how many of these attacks were related to “Islamic terrorism”. Those two words are played over and over again on TV, radio, and seen in print and social media all day, every day. The inference is that if we don’t call a possible radical Islamist, or jihad related attack “Islamic terrorism”, then we’re somehow lacking in patriotism, or un-American.

But looking at the numbers from these sources alone – of 330 terrorist attacks in the United States, since our founding – only 34 are attributed to Islamic terrorism.

About 10%, this is true both before, and after 9/11. There are other numbers on this, but drawing off this data set, there is a bigger picture here, both as it relates to our terrorism problem, but also the political maneuvering going in to convincing us who we should fear.

Okay, so what can you do? Care about each other. Pay attention to each other. If you see that someone is in distress – say something. If you see the warning signs of a person who is unraveling before your eyes – do something about it, vs. ignoring the raw humanity of the person is crisis in front of you. The American Psychological Association published a list of things the any of us can do to help prevent violence from occurring. In fact, there are violence prevention experts in many major cities that teach companies, schools and organizations how to empower their HR, security and even ‘rank and file’ personnel to help interdict and prevent violence in those environments. (Felix Nater of Nater Associates comes to mind).

Basic takeaways? Guns aren’t going away. Violence is human nature. Terrorism is violence and weapons combined. The whole ‘if you see something, say something’ campaign really works. There’s a list I saw recently that scared the hell out of me. A list of terror plots that have been disrupted, since 9/11. Again, many of these weren’t familiar to me.

What if someone had called and reported the unstable behavior of any of a number of the mass shooters in our recent times? Could these atrocities have been avoided? I’d suggest that the answer to that question is yes.

Scrutiny, law enforcement investigation and even something as simple as accessing advanced mental health or counseling services could have served to prevent at least some of this violence. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.

Cover Photo: Peretz Partensky/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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