The Terror Next Time: The Daesh Story is Not Ending
Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, has been reduced to rubble. It has been finally conquered, snatched back from the notorious group, Daesh, after months of merciless bombardment by the U.S.-led war coalition, and a massive ground war. But “victory” can hardly be the term assigned to this moment. Mosul, once Iraq’s cultural jewel and model of co-existence, is now a “city of corpses,” as described by a foreign journalist who walked through the ruins, while shielding his nose from a foul smell. “You’ve probably heard of thousands killed, the civilian suffering,” Murad Gazdiev said. “What you likely haven’t heard of is the smell. It’s nauseating, repulsive, and it’s everywhere—the smell of rotting bodies.” Actually, the “smell of rotting bodies” can be found everywhere that Daesh has been defeated. The group that once declared a Caliphate—an Islamic state—in Iraq and Syria in 2014, and was left to freely expand in all directions, is now being hurriedly vanquished. Such a fact leaves one wondering how a small group, itself a spawn of other equally notorious groups, could have declared, expanded and sustained a “state” for years, in a region rife with foreign armies, militias and the world’s most powerful intelligences?
But should such a question be rendered irrelevant now, considering that Daesh is finally being routed, in most violent and decisive methods? This is what almost everyone seems to agree on; even political and military rivals are openly united over this very objective. Aside from the city of Mosul in Iraq, Daesh has also been defeated in its stronghold in the city of Raqqa, in the east of Syria. Those who astonishingly survived the battles of Mosul and Raqqa are now holed in Deir ez-Zor, which promises to be their last major battle. In fact, the war on Daesh is already moving to areas outside large population centers where the militant group had sought safe haven. Yet, Daesh militants are being flushed out of these regions as well, for example, in the western Qalamoun region on the Syria-Lebanon border. Even the open desert is no longer safe. The Badiya Desert, extending from central Syria to the borders of Iraq and Jordan, is now witnessing heavy fighting, centered in the town of Sukhnah. Brett McGurk, U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, recently returned to the U.S. after spending a few days in the region. He talked to CBS television network with palpable confidence: “Daesh forces are fighting for their life, block-by-block,” he said, reporting that the militant group had lost roughly 78 percent of areas it formerly controlled in Iraq since its peak in 2014, and about 58 percent of its territories in Syria. Expectedly, U.S. officials and media are mostly emphasizing military gains they attribute to U.S.-led forces and ignore all others, while Russian-led allies are doing just the opposite. Aside from the numerous humanitarian tragedies associated with these victories, none of the parties involved have taken any responsibility for the rise of Daesh, in the first place. They have to, and not only as a matter of moral accountability. Without understanding and confronting the reasons behind the rise of Daesh, one is certain that the fall of Daesh will spawn yet another group with an equally nefarious, despairing, and violent vision.
Those in mainstream media who have attempted to deconstruct the roots of Daesh, unwisely confront its ideological influences without paying the slightest heed to the political reality from which the group was incepted. Whether Daesh, Al-Qaeda or any other, such groups are typically born and reborn in places suffering from the same, chronic ailment: a weak central government, foreign invasion, military occupation, and state terror. Terrorism is the by-product of brutality and humiliation, regardless of the source, but is most pronounced when that source is a foreign one. If these factors are not genuinely addressed, there can be no end to terrorism. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Daesh thrived, in countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya and regions like the Sinai Desert. Moreover, many of those who answered Daesh’s call emerged from communities that suffered the cruelty of Arab regimes The reason that many refuse to acknowledge such a fact is that an admission of guilt would make many responsible for the very creation of the terrorism they claim to fight.
Those who are content in blaming Islam, a religion that was one of the main contributing factors to the European cultural renaissance, are not simply ignorant; many are guided by sinister agendas, but their mindless notion of blaming religion is as stupid as George W. Bush’s ill-defined war on terror. Wholesale, uninformed judgments can only prolong conflict. Moreover, generalized notions prevent us from confronting specific, and clearly obvious links, for example, between Al-Qaeda’s advent in Iraq and the U.S. invasion of that country; between the rise of the sectarian-brand of al-Qaeda under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the sectarian division of that country under U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and his allies in the Shia-led government in Baghdad. It should have been clear from the start that Daesh, as notoriously violent as it is, was one of the symptoms, not the cause.
After all, Daesh is only 3 years old. Foreign occupation and war in the region predates its inception by many years. Although we were told by Daesh itself and also by media pundits that Daesh is here to stay, it turned out that the group is but a passing phase in a long, ugly montage, rife with violence and bereft of both morality and the intellectual courage to examine the true roots of violence. It is likely that the victory over Daesh is short-lived. The group will surely develop a new warfare strategy or will further mutate. History has taught us that much. It is also likely that those who are proudly taking credit for systematically and efficiently annihilating the group—along with whole cities—will not pause for a moment to think of what they must do differently to prevent a new Daesh from taking form. Strangely, the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIS seems to have access to the firepower needed to turn cities into rubble, but not the wisdom to understand that unchecked violence inspires nothing but violence; and that state terror, foreign, interventions, and collective humiliation of entire nations are the necessary ingredients to restart the bloodbath all over again.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California. Visit his website: www.ramzybaroud.net.