Why ISIS murders (& Pushed to his death for being gay)

February 05, 2015

Pushed to his death for being gay


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1. Crowds are watching his burning over and over on big-size screens
2. UN: Islamic State selling, crucifying, burying children alive in Iraq
3. IS continues to throw people they claim are gay, blind-folded, off Syrian skyscrapers
4. In Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, foreign fighters dominate
5. Islamic State legitimizes child rape
6. ISIS ranks grow as fast as U.S. bombs can wipe them out
7. Syrian comedy group fights ISIS with humor
8. “Why ISIS murdered Kenji Goto” (By George Packer, New Yorker, Feb. 4, 2015)
9. “When moderate Muslims speak, they’re ignored” (By Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Feb. 3, 2015)
10. “The Unreality of Obama’s Realpolitik” (By Josef Joffe, Wall St Journal, Feb. 3, 2015)

[Notes below by Tom Gross]

I attach below an interesting piece (“Why ISIS murdered Kenji Goto”) by George Packer which is, unfortunately, spot on and worth reading. It is followed by two other pieces related to Isis.

In the final piece, the German writer Josef Joffe points out that “revolutionary powers, driven by the consuming faith of being on the right side of history, cannot be appeased. How do you compromise with Allah or, earlier, with the worldly God of communism? How, indeed, could Protestants and Catholics strike a deal in the religious mayhem of the 16th and 17th centuries? They fought each other to exhaustion.”

Before that, are a few extracts from articles I have read and other links of interest.



The Associated Press reports:

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, Islamic State fighters are gleefully playing footage of the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh on big-screen televisions, according to Syrian activists in the city. Residents are watching it again and again.

Tom Gross adds: For those who have not seen it, the slickly produced 22-minute video shows the Jordanian combat pilot dressed in an orange jumpsuit and locked in a metal cage. His clothing is doused with flammable chemicals.

A group of Islamic State terrorists stand around the cage while the chemicals are set alight, watching as flames engulf al-Kasasbeh and he falls to the ground.

Masked fighters then heap bricks and other debris over the cage, which a bulldozer then flattens.

The video features high-end graphics and translations in multiple languages. It was likely made by someone with experience of professional video production, I would guess by a person or persons who gained such skills in Western Europe.



Reuters reports (Feb. 4, 2015):


Islamic State militants are selling abducted Iraqi children at markets as sex slaves, and killing other youth, including by crucifixion or burying them alive, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said Wednesday.

‘We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities,’ committee expert Renate Winter said. ‘The scope of the problem is huge.’

Children from the Yazidi sect or Christian communities, but also Shi’ites and Sunnis, have been victims, she said.

In addition to those being killed by Islamic state, a large number of children have been killed or badly wounded during air strikes or shelling by Iraqi security forces, while others had died of “dehydration, starvation and heat”, the committee said.



ISIS continues to throw people they claim are gay off the highest tower block they can find, following the Koranic command for “sinners” to be “thrown from the highest point in the city”.

In this case the victim was thrown off the top of a seven-storey building in the Syrian city of Tal Abyad, near Raqqa. When he survived the fall, a crowd completed his execution by stoning him.

Story and photos here.



The Wall Street Journal reports:

“In Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, a Syrian city on the banks of the Euphrates, few Syrians hold positions of power these days. Running the show, residents say, are the thousands of foreigners who have converged there to establish an Islamic utopia they believe will soon conquer the planet.”



From Britain’s Channel 4 News.



The Daily Beast reports:

Four thousand foreign fighters have joined ISIS since the allied airstrikes began, U.S. intelligence officials say. That’s nearly as many combatants as coalition forces claimed to have killed.

Moreover, the tally doesn’t count the thousands of local Iraqi and Syrian combatants who’ve joined the conflict.

“The numbers are not moving in our favor,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) said last week, after a secret briefing with Gen. John Allen, presidential envoy in the campaign against ISIS.

The Washington Post gives a higher number of new foreign recruits to ISIS, together with this chart, showing that fighters joining ISIS have come from as far afield as Ukraine, Ireland, Finland and New Zealand.

See also: Islamic State Executes Three of Its Chinese Militants

At least 300 Chinese citizens have joined Islamic State. Three that tried to leave have been executed, Reuters reported.



Video here.



Why ISIS Murdered Kenji Goto
By George Packer
The New Yorker
February 4, 2015

Why did ISIS execute a second Japanese hostage? Before the beheading of the journalist Kenji Goto, Japan didn’t think that it was even in a fight with the Islamic State. All Japan had done was contribute a couple of hundred million dollars in humanitarian aid to countries fighting ISIS. Then the man who has come to be known as Jihadi John, the executioner with the London accent seen in several of the group’s videos, threatened death to every Japanese person on the planet as he prepared to slaughter Goto. As a result, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo told the Times, “The cruelty of the Islamic State has made Japan see a harsh new reality. … We now realize we face the same dangers as other countries do.” People in Japan are now calling Kenji Goto’s murder their 9/11.

Why did ISIS allow its negotiations with Jordan to collapse? Jordan’s 9/11 occurred on November 9, 2005, when Iraqi suicide bombers blew up fifty-seven people in three Amman hotels, including twenty-seven members of a wedding party. One of the wedding-bombing team was a newly married woman named Sajida al-Rishawi, whose vest failed to detonate, and who is currently held in a Jordanian prison under a death sentence. The failure of the talks – a potential deal might have involved trading Goto and/or the Jordanian Air Force pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, an ISIS captive, for Rishawi – has apparently turned public opinion in Jordan, which is fertile ground for infiltration by the Islamic State, against ISIS. For its trouble the Islamic State got no cash and no Sajida al-Rishawi, only worldwide revulsion. (Update: The barbaric burning alive of Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh by ISIS makes no tactical sense. Nor does the release, Tuesday, of a video of his death. It will only enrage Jordanians. The Islamic State did it, the organization stated, to gladden the hearts of “believers” – as a morale booster.)

Meanwhile, the group is running out of high-profile hostages whom it can use to threaten, extort, and terrify the world. (The hundreds of Syrian journalists and activists who disappeared in ISIS territory, the hundreds or thousands of Yazidi women taken into sexual slavery, the tens or hundreds of thousands of ordinary Syrians and Iraqis living against their will under the Islamic State’s control – none of them, unfortunately, have much influence over international opinion.) So what’s the strategy behind the beheadings, other than to lengthen the list of countries that now talk about “their” 9/11? Why would ISIS want to make more enemies than it already has?

Why, for that matter, would ISIS send thousands of its men to besiege Kobani, a strategically unimportant Kurdish town on the Turkish-Syrian border where more than a thousand ISIS fighters, including many foreigners, perished after months of street fighting and American air raids? The Kurds, having secured a bitter victory, regard the destroyed city, with justified pride, as their Stalingrad. (Based on the pictures, the comparison does not seem like a stretch.) The world owes the people of Kobani a debt, and in the coming years the battle might be seen as a crucial milestone on the road to Kurdish nationhood. But why would ISIS throw away a large fraction of its fighting force there?

Is the larger aim to control all the lands in the Tigris and Euphrates river basin? If so, why do Islamic State spokesmen have a habit of declaring war against millions of citizens of various far-flung countries – Japan, France – on YouTube and Twitter?

It’s natural to ask these questions. We want to understand the Islamic State’s thinking, to anticipate its next moves, to assess its relative strength. But ISIS keeps on defying ordinary questions. The Islamic State doesn’t behave according to recognizable cost-benefit analyses. It doesn’t cut its losses or scale down its ambitions. The very name of the self-proclaimed caliphate strikes most people, not least other Muslims, as ridiculous, if not delusional. But it’s the vaulting ambition of an actual Islamic State that inspires ISIS recruits. The group uses surprise and shock to achieve goals that are more readily grasped by the apocalyptic imagination than by military or political theory. The capture of Mosul last June shocked the Iraqi and U.S. governments; for a while, ISIS seemed to believe that it could even take Baghdad. The genocidal attack on the Yazidis of Sinjar, in August, shocked the conscience. The videotaped beheadings that began at the same time shocked the West. Last week’s decapitation shocked Japan. Sooner or later, it seems, everyone will have a turn. And yet, if the group thinks that it will intimidate countries into keeping out of or leaving the anti-ISIS coalition, its tactics have so far been a failure.

In the end, it isn’t very useful to hold ISIS to the expectations and standards of other violent groups. Even Al Qaeda admonished Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of the Islamic State’s predecessor organization, Al Qaeda in Iraq, for his nasty habit of beheading hostages on camera. Why not a bullet to the back of the head, Ayman al-Zawahiri helpfully suggested from his hideout in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border? But Zarqawi knew what he was doing, and he kept on, though he’s been vastly outperformed by his successors in ISIS. The point isn’t to use the right level of violence to achieve limited goals. The violence is the point, and the worse the better. The Islamic State doesn’t leave thousands of corpses in its wake as a means to an end. Slaughter is its goal – slaughter in the name of higher purification. Mass executions are proof of the Islamic State’s profound commitment to its vision.

There’s an undeniable attraction in this horror for a number of young people around the Middle East, North Africa, and even Europe and America, who want to leave behind the comfort and safety of normal life for the exaltation of the caliphate. The level of its violence hasn’t discouraged new recruits – the numbers keep growing, because extreme violence is part of what makes ISIS so compelling. Last year, Vice News shot a documentary in the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, and what was striking in the footage was the happiness on the faces of ISIS followers. They revelled in the solidarity of a common cause undertaken at great personal risk. They are idealists – that’s what makes them so dangerous.

In this sense, ISIS is less like a conventional authoritarian or totalitarian state than like a mass death cult. Most such cults attract few followers and pose limited threats; the danger is mostly to themselves. But there are examples in modern history of whole societies falling under the influence and control of a mechanism whose aim is to dictate every aspect of life after an image of absolute virtue, and in doing so to produce a mountain of corpses. ISIS doesn’t behave like a regional insurgency or a global terrorist network, though it has elements of both. It joins the death cult to an army and a rudimentary state. It presents itself as the avant-garde of a mass movement, like the Khmer Rouge. The Islamic State resembles certain modern regimes driven by murderous ideologies, but it is also something new – as new as YouTube – and this makes it even harder to understand.

One thing we’ve learned from the history of such regimes is that they can be stronger and more enduring than rational analysis would predict. The other thing is that they rarely end in self-destruction. They usually have to be destroyed by others.



When Moderate Muslims Speak, They’re Ignored
By Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun
February 3, 2015

(Tarek Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.)

Kenji Goto, a fellow journalist, died Saturday.

Another innocent man beheaded by those among my co-religionists who wish to rule the world and to annihilate all non-Muslims. This in order to pave the way for an end-of-times apocalypse.

Many Muslim heads hung in shame as Goto’s head rolled into a barren desert ditch, while western politicians and media refused to call the Islamic State jihad what it is - a jihad.
Similarly, the now-familiar masked man who kills for the camera and who beheaded Goto, was referred to by most media not as a “jihadi terrorist of the Islamic State” (which is who and what he is), but rather as “a militant with a British accent”.

At the official level, the Obama White House announced it will host a Feb. 18 “summit” to counter what it referred to as “violent extremism.” Note the choice of words again. Not “jihadi terrorism,” but the much more vague “violent extremism.”

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a former U.S. Navy Lt. Commander, told me by not naming “jihadi terrorism” and “Islamism” for what they are, the White House has paid heed to Islamists within the administration who still exert influence over it.

In contrast to those who refuse to call jihadi terrorism what it is, over 20 Muslim leaders recently took out a remarkable full-page advertisement in the New York Times to denounce ISIS and Islamism.

In the ad, headlined: What Can Muslims Do To Reclaim Their ‘Beautiful Religion’? they wrote: “Neither jihadism nor Islamism permit the equality of all humans irrespective of their race or religion and should therefore be rejected. Our denial and our relative silence must stop.”

The American signatories, led by Dr. Jasser, also had the support of former Danish MP Naser Khedar; former Pakistan ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani, now a professor at Boston University; Toronto Sun columnist Farzana Hassan; Canadian Muslims Raheel Raza and Munir Pervaiz and Britain’s leading Muslim warrior against Islamism, Majed Nawaz.

They declared, “It is the duty of ... Muslims to actively and vigorously affirm and promote universal human rights, including gender equality and freedom of conscience. If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then the quest for an Islamic state cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful Creator.”

In a stirring challenge to ordinary Muslims, their New York Times ad went on to say: “We must also recognize and loudly proclaim that the quest for any and all ‘Islamic State(s)’ has no place in modern times. Theocracy, particularly Islamism, is a proven failure. The path to justice and reform is through liberty.”

Instead of engaging with these progressive Muslims and supporting their call for reform, not only did the White House ignore them, but every media outlet I saw other than Fox News did as well.

As if to reinforce the blindfold the Obama administration wears on these matters, we also learned from Eric Schultz, the White House deputy press secretary, that the the U.S. government no longer considers the Taliban as a “jihadi terrorist” group, but rather as an “armed insurgency”.

If this is how America fights its war against the Islamic State, ISIS will win, but not before many more innocents like Kenji Goto die.



The Unreality of Obama’s Realpolitik
With the president unwilling to project U.S. might, Iran and other bad actors rush to exploit the power vacuum.
By Josef Joffe
Feb. 3, 2015


When historians look back on President Obama’s foreign policy, it likely will be defined by two shibboleths: “leading from behind” and “we don’t have a strategy yet.” Great powers lead from the front, and they don’t formulate strategy on the fly. They must have a strategy beforehand, one based on power and purpose that tells challengers what to expect. Nowhere is this truer than with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a rival power playing for the highest stakes: nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.

The retort from Mr. Obama , if he ever laid out a Middle East strategy, might go like this: “Iran is No. 1 in the region, and we need its help against Islamic State and sundry Sunni terror groups. Save for a massive assault with all its incalculable consequences, we cannot denuclearize Iran; we can only slow its march toward the bomb and guard against a rapid breakout. Rising powers must be accommodated for the sake of peace and cooperation. So let’s be good realpolitikers, especially since it’s time for a little nation-building at home.”

Realism in foreign policy is the first rule, but what’s missing in Mr. Obama’s vocabulary? Words such as “balance,” “order,” “containment” and “alliance-cohesion” – the bread and butter of realism. The dearth of such ideas in this administration is striking. But the problem goes deeper. Iran is not a “normal” would-be great power, amenable to a grand bargain where I give and you give and we both cooperate as we compete.

Realists should understand the difference between a “revisionist” and a “revolutionary” power. Revisionists (“I want more”) can be accommodated; revolutionaries (“I want it all”) cannot. Revisionists want to rearrange the pieces on the chessboard, revolutionaries want to overturn the table in the name of the true faith, be it secular or divine.

Napoleon was a revolutionary. He went all the way to Moscow and Cairo to bring down princes and potentates under the banner of “democracy.” The early Soviet Union changed the banner to “communism” but behaved similarly. Hitler wanted to crush Europe’s nation-states in favor of the German “master race.” All of them had to be defeated – or, in the nuclear age, contained for decades on end.

Iran is a two-headed creature, combining both R’s. As revisionist, it seeks to unseat the U.S. in the region, targeting Lebanon and Syria with proxies like Hezbollah, or directly with its expeditionary Guard forces. It reaches for nuclear weapons to cow the U.S., Israel and the rest. As revolutionary, the regime in Tehran subverts its neighbors in the name of the one and only true God, seeking to impose Shiite supremacy from Beirut to Baghdad. Shiite Houthi forces just grabbed power in Yemen. The Shiites shall reign where Shiites live.

The point is that revolutionary powers, driven by the consuming faith of being on the right side of history, cannot be appeased. How do you compromise with Allah or, earlier, with the worldly God of communism? How, indeed, could Protestants and Catholics strike a deal in the religious mayhem of the 16th and 17th centuries? They fought each other to exhaustion.

Faith warriors have to be vanquished or contained, as in George Kennan’s immortal words at the dawn of the Cold War: “unceasing pressure” until “the breakup or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” It worked without war, but it took 40 years. The first sinner against Kennan’s realism was George W. Bush when he went to war against Saddam, removing the single most important bulwark against Iran and liberating Shiite power throughout Iraq.

Mr. Obama, what irony, is going one worse. He has been counting on diplomacy to stop the Iranian bomb, but he has reaped stalemate. Unwilling to commit serious force against Islamic State, he is allowing the Iranians to brag that they are doing America’s work in Syria and Iraq. Riyadh, Amman and Jerusalem are neither amused nor assured. The Russians, who have their “advisers” helping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, are eagerly watching for signs of American weakness, not just in the Middle East but also in Eastern Europe.

OK, life is horrifyingly complicated in the Middle East, and sometimes the “good guys” must sup with the devil, as the West did when it linked up with Stalin against Hitler in 1941. But this dusty analogy holds a lesson: Keep your powder dry, and your troops ready, as the U.S. failed to do after V-E Day in the spring of 1945. Soviet armies stayed in Germany while Stalin subjugated Eastern Europe and proceeded to subvert Greece, Turkey, France and Italy.

The point is that Mr. Obama is confusing revolutionary Iran with a reasonable revisionist power. President Hasan Rouhani may be reasonable; his boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is not. For him, the “Great Satan” is indispensable as a cosmic enemy who legitimizes Islamic rule. As the U.S. tacitly collaborates with Iran on Islamic State and al-Nusra, Tehran keeps pushing its pawns forward while egging on Shiite revolutionaries all over the Middle East – damn Western sanctions, no matter how hard they bite.

To borrow from Forrest Gump: Power is as power does. Iran knows this. Aside from a few exceptions like the killing of bin Laden and the timid reinsertion of American might in Iraq, the supposed realist Mr. Obama does not.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.