The question mark that is the ISLAMIC STATE – ISIS

September 28, 2015

‘You want to know HOW and WHY ISIS is so successful in marketing it’s blend of terrorism. Well I can tell you there is nothing to know about ISIS…I don’t mean it to be a wide sweeping denigrating statement when I say….there is nothing!

I just mean – I have not be able to find anything that resembles such a thing as a school of thought or even a morsel of a state of mind that can supply a coherent understanding that perpetuates the movement. To me, it remains a truly a classical enigma.

Mind you I speak and write fluent Arabic. Granted with a Sudanese accent where the Jin is hyphenated which requires one to make a sound as if one is preparing to spit before certain words can be verbalize….but my point is I have the basis to know….and what disturbs me…is I do not know. Nor do I have the basis to know and this bafflement has the power to disturb – so when I say I don’t know anything about ISIS…or even what ideology, philosophy or beliefs perpetuate the movement…along with why or how it has managed to be the most successful terrorist organization in the history of mankind. I just don’t mean…I don’t know…it’s not an expression in the singular or personal sense…that is to say I don’t believe anyone in the world knows either. If they whoever they may be ranging from Mossad, CIA, M-15 and the Mickey Mouse club can supply coherent answers to the questions that I have just raised, then I would gladly eat my shoe with ketchup….but the fact of the matter no one knows beyond labeling them as an ultra violent insurgency group which is just code for ‘we know fuck all about them!’

It’s not like the rich tapestry of the Intifida where one can dwell into the history text stretching all the way back to the gilded Ottomon struggle and beyond to the crusades to draw whole disquisitions to reference Nasser, Sadat or Arafat to derive a graspable raison….to supply a coherent explanation why these people do what they do….to say, ‘aha, this is what they are fighting for!’

Not even the founder of ISIS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi knows what ISIS stands for, which has to be exceedingly peculiar when one considers how a movement that no one seems to know very much about beyond spouting a few anti western cliches can somehow exert such a destructive influence over the minds of so many young Muslims.

To date, twenty or so countries, have groups that claim to be part of IS. Many explanations have been forwarded as to how and why ISIS continues to exert such a disproportionate gravitational pull on the minds of young seemingly ordinary Muslims – the British say, it’s a failure to osmotically integrate the Muslim community into the Western ideal what life is all about. The French continue to insist it’s a backlash against trying to hard to integrate them. As for the Americans, they are none the wiser. My point is it’s horses for courses galore here!

So how did ISIS manage to successfully brand itself as the Lady Gaga of the terrorist genre. Fresh CIA analyst are often told by their lecturers, much of it has to do with how the US mismanaged the post Sadam period which led to the wholesale defranchisement and alienation of the Sunni’s. While the Shia’s assume the reins of power in post Sadam Iraq which only heightened the feelings of resentment in the Sunni community.

What is seldom mentioned is – there were many other piss offed Sunni insurgent movements which were far better funded and organized and most importantly diametrically different from ISIS, who would have been better place to exploit the collective resentment of the Sunnis.

For example, the remnants of the Baathists – had a wider tribal network and appeal to the masses. Most importantly they had a virtual monopoly on the skill of arms needed to prosecute a guerrilla campaign against the coalition forces. Even the fringe groups, such as Al Fadheyeen commanded much more respect and competence trust in the local post Sadam community. In 2011, the Free Syrian Army, which comprised of disgruntled former officers of the Assad regime, was a much more stable platform of leadership in Syria along with the extremist militia Jabhat-al-Nusra, who could leverage on a wide tribal network.

Perhaps there is a measure of truth in one version of popular reality that theorizes – these insurgents did not and could not consolidate their hold on power simply because they lacked funding from the Saudi and UAE intelligence services who much preferred to deal with the devil they’ve always known – al Qeada.

There is only one problem with that version of how things could have panned out….if only they backed the right horse – ISIS is not al Qeada. In the food chain of the terrorist world – al Qeada is like the Savoy Hotel or the Cafe Royale. There is sublime elegance to their ideology that is able to fuse the Arabic diaspora…struggle….Hadith…to the prevailing geo politics of our time that can only provoke derision for everything ISIS stands for. Al Qeada has a pedigree lineage that harks back to the glory days of the Mujahiddeens who jihaded against the evil soviet invasion of Afghanistan – it is the fabled library of Alexandria on why war must be waged against the Western Hemisphere. ISIS on the other hand is Hotel 81 with the roaches complete. There is no elegance…no intellectual rigor that can possibly appeal to the intelligentsia of the ustazhi and mullah class – hence Zarqawi and his total absence of ideologues and intellectualism inspired nothing except derision from the ranks of the al Qeada apparatchiks.

It’s interesting to note when Bin Laden was holed up in his cave in Tora Bora. He spent most of his time narrating his world view very much like a mythical guru to his followers – while all Zarqawi and his retinue seem to be interested in was very little else besides sawing off heads of westerners, posting them on Youtube while dabbling in pimping out sheltered Muslim girls in the West by offering them free one way tickets to visit ISIS.

Till to date, no coherent explanation has emerged from any known quarter as to how a once shambolic outfit comprising of wannabes has been able to successfully market themselves as the savior of the Muslim world…has been able to win ground against superior western funded proxy forces….and create the mesmerizing machinery of allure that continues to rapture the hearts and minds of so many aspiring young Muslims thru out the world… I said in the very beginning of this post….ISIS is truly an enigma…perhaps one that even goes beyond every known definition of that western cliche, an ‘unknown quantity’…and that by it’s own obscurantist merits surely has the power to disturb.’

(I have to stop now, but I will con’t again when I return from the field)


‘So far the war on terrorism has been focussed only on interdicting threats. By this I mean, if I type certain words like, Al Fadheyeen. Then somewhere in the greater geography of the digital atlas – that would send a clandestine program yelping like a distressed sheep dog that alerts a server in Langley Virginia and abracadabra…next thing you know someone in a faceless cubicle has been assigned to my blog…now how is this person?

Well if I had to plumb, it’s probably a someone who has a passable degree from the school of oriental studies who once did a forgettable dissertation on the analects of Sufism and probably believes Osama Bin Laden is just a confused CEO who commutes to work in a donkey and happens to live in a cave.

That if you must know is precisely the attitude that accounts for why islamic radicalism continues to proliferate thru out the world as it does – that is to say since time in memorial, the western attitude towards the islamic inspired insurgency movement has been top heavy on counter insurgency and woefully short on rebutting the operable school of thoughts and states of mind that fuels radicalism – as I said, so far it’s a game of cat and mouse and not really one where any cerebral component features to demolish the ideology of ISIS.

I will give you an illustration of this mentioned ‘lack.’ George Bush proclaims everyone craves democracy, that at least was his rallying cry in Gulf war 2. True. But what he didn’t reckon on was the version of democracy favored by the Iraqi’s was closer to an Iranian theoracy than anything he had ever envisioned – it’s certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with democracy in the Western conception and even less to do with secularism.

Here we have an almost comic rendering of what appears to be a highly complex problem with deep historical roots – it would not be wrong to say much of what comprised American policy in the Middle East during the Bush era amounted to a grand simplification that nourished islamic insurgency rather than palliate many of the fears and anxieties of the Arab psyche.

Bear in mind during Sadam’s reign – the borders of Syria and Iraq were relatively stable. Secular Arab nationalism albeit even with the obscurantist bent of the Batthist which didn’t always make sense to most Arabs did nonetheless create unifying conditions where the fractious divide between religious sects, tribal enmity etc etc was nominal as what managed to unite the religious lacunaes of Yezidhis, Shabaks, Kaka’is, Shias, Sunnis, Sufis and Christians was more than what could have divided them — my point is what cannot and should not be elided from the geo political accounting is these Balkanized groups for the most part in the Arab world did once upon a time live alongside one another in relative peace and harmony.

I stress this point only because much of what’s typically written about the Arab world these days is presentist and seems almost bent on eliding the social and cultural conditions BEFORE radicalism took hold.

Even the likes of Bin Laden found it ideologically uphill to successfully sow the seeds of Islamic radicalism in the Arab world before Gulf war 2.

Bin laden himself admitted this – he was constantly lamenting about the collective ambivalence of his target audience – the Arabs…he mentioned they were more interested in chasing the same materialistic empire of vapidness and nihilism as the Kaffirs who he meant to snuff out.

Wonder no more why the crèche of the prototypal Al Qeada movement as we know it today only acquired a distinctive outline in the West and not in the Arab world – in centrally heated ‘personal improvement’ talks sanctioned by the madrashas of New York, Birmingham and the affluent suburbs of Cairo – it remained largely a toffee nose elitist equivalent of the Mensa club that for the most part specifically excluded and alienated the average Muslim and appealed paradoxically much more to the Anglophile Arab – as to understand it first required the rigor of intellectualism. Compare this with the rise of the mullahs in Iran pre Pahvali period, when it was largely driven by the bazaaris who were petty traders peddling cottage loomed carpets and trinkets – what’s interesting to note – is from it’s very inception, Al Qeada has always been a beauracratic, hierarchical top down oligarchy, while the later was a grass root fueled movement.

Paradoxically, the rough outlines and tenets of Al Qeada as the West knows it today did not emerge from the Arab consciousness – when two commercial jetliners ploughed into the World Trade Center. The entire Arab world were spellbound and no one has ever heard of Osama Bin Laden before!

Rather Al Qaeda was first spotlighted and accorded prominence by Muslim academics in the West such as the late Edward Said just after the US embassy bombing in Lebanon in the 80’s – Prof Said had a penchant for satirizing the prevailing western attitude towards the Arab and Islamic world, in very corseted terms of what he termed, ‘imperialism’ ‘subjugation’ and ‘subterfuge’ – academia in the West being academia in the West remained wholly sympathetic and polite to Said’s seminal dichotomy of often framing the Arab struggle in terms of orientalism versus Christianity plus bits of the Jewish lobby and Halliburton. I strongly suspect no one worth his salt ever dared take issue with Said’s hyperbole simply because it’s desirable in the West for an academic to embody the ethos of an eighteen century aristocratic flanuer who regularly talks about things that he knows so little about providing he can regularly get his material published in the Atlantic – however, despite Said’s outward patina as the new age Omar Sharif of Muslim intellectualism – here was finally a heavy weight who could throw heavy punches as well as any Western thinker, the antithesis of Lawrence of Arabia – however, he was in every sense just a clever poseur who capitalized on the collective ignorance of the West when it came to the complication of power and politics in the Arab and Muslim world. Said first mention of al Qaeda was oblique as it was fatal to what I have always considered to be the one factor that militates against West understanding of Al Qeada. As since it all discussions concerning al Qeada along with its various splinter groups came encrusted with Said’s personal mythology the Arab and Western conflict could and must only be seen the context of an imperialistic struggle between orientalism and the western mind and very little else – this short sighted stereotyping had the effect of stifling all further attempts by the West to better understand the root causes for the rise of subsequent islamic insurgent movements such as ISIS along with setting into motion what I can only describe as an irreconcilable hubris that only exacerbates Arab anger against the west. But I digress!

Coming back to the point, today it’s no longer valid to refer to ISIS as a terrorist organization any longer – if anything it’s morphed into a prototypal version of the PLO circa 1985 or maybe closer to Hezbollah since it’s already dabbling in statecraft by running public services along with rent seeking in the territories it has seized presumably to bankroll it’s grand raison of world domination that no one can still figure out.

But the question still stands – is ISIS, al Qaeda? Or is Al Qaeda, ISIS. Or maybe Al Qaeda is just Al Qaeda and ISIS is just ISIS. Asking these sort of questions may smack of splitting hairs – but my point from the very beginning of this rambling post that seems to go everywhere only to return to where we started from merely to serves to illustrate poignantly how not knowing…for whatever reason accounts for why it’s so impossibly difficult for the West to defeat ISIS (or is it Al Qaeda) by formulating a counter ideology very much in the way democracy once defeated fascism and communism and that has to be problematic.’

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