originally posted at People Before Profit
The killing of 129 people in Paris by ISIS was a barbaric atrocity that must be condemned by all. It was a vile act motivated by a hateful sectarian view of the world where the people of different nationalities who congregated in Paris were defined as living in a world of ‘adultery and vice’. Only religious fanatics who were motivated by such a terrible political vision could carry out the murders in such a cold-blooded and calculating fashion.
The only way to overcome this terrorist threat is to understand the context it grew out of.
In 2003, the world’s anti-war movement warned that the US intervention in Iraq would create a humanitarian disaster and create a sectarian nightmare. Unfortunately, these predictions have been borne out.
ISIS grew out of a Sunni sectarian reaction to the sectarian policies being deployed by the Maliki government in Iraq. It emerged out of a combination of ex-Ba’athist generals who formerly backed Saddam Hussein and jihadist elements who thrived on the resentments of populations like those in Fallujah who had been subjected to terrible US bombardment.
ISIS is not a product of a Muslim culture – it is rather the bitter fruit of an imperialist intervention which stoked up sectarian divisions. Understanding this is key to knowing how to respond.
The knee-jerk reaction of the big Western powers plus their Russian bedfellows is to push for even more bombing of Syria. They want retribution to show that their rule must never be threatened.
But Syria is already the most bombed country on the planet. The US is spending €8 million a day on bombing Syria and Russia is spending €4 million a day. On top of that a variety of regional powers are funnelling in money and military equipment to various forces to carve out their ‘sphere of infuence’ within the country. The US ally, Saudi Arabia, has given vast military resources to Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Conquest, a command structure for jihadist groups in Syria that includes Jabhat al-Nusra. Iran, by contrast is arming and supporting the Assad regime.
Yet despite this horrific militarisation, there has been no stopping the growth of ISIS. The terrible reality is that more aerial bombardment leads to the inevitable massacres of civilians. Airwars, a coalition of independent investigative journalists has claimed that 459 civilians have been killed, including 100 children. These killings have created fertile ground for recruitment to ISIS.
Attempts, therefore, by the imperialist powers to use the Paris terror attacks to step up their aerial bombardment of Syria is not just plain wrong – it is totally counter-productive. The more bombs that are dropped on cities like Raqqa, the more ordinary civilians are killed. And just like the people who died in Paris, their lives matter too.
The extreme right are also trying to use the bombings to target refugees fleeing from Syria. They de-humanise the refugees by denying that they share the exact same feelings as the people in Paris – but have only experienced more bombings and murder.
Sections of the media have taken up this refrain by claiming that there are ‘fears’ about the refugees because they may contain ISIS infiltrators. But the attackers of Paris were as likely to come from Belgium as anywhere else and no one has called for its borders to be closed. The plain reality is that it is easier for ISIS to send attackers into Europe with false passports on regular flights than it is to walk thousands of miles in arduous conditions.
The real hope of defeating ISIS lies in a revival of the Arab revolution. When that was in full flight, sectarian forces were pushed back and tyrants were terrified. It was precisely this latter fear that led Saudi Arabia to divert the revolt in Syria itself into a sectarian conflict. They shared that aim with Syria’s tyrant, Bashir Assad.
ISIS grew out of a bitter despair that arose from the aftermath of the Iraq war. If we want to defeat them, we should oppose more aerial bombardment and support the wider progressive movement for freedom and change throughout the Arab world.