By Sal Bommarito
The ISIS crisis is proving to be more deadly in its early stages than anyone imagined. The United Nations has documented a rash of brutal activity perpetrated by the ISIS fighters and those who are opposing them. The devastation and cruelty is horrifying. The U.N. estimates that, conservatively, 5,500 Iraqis have been killed since the Islamic State began its reign of terror. A New York Times article is the source for much of this essay.
A discussion about the carnage in Iraq can be put into perspective by examining the profile of a typical ISIS fighter. Almost all are male. A typical fighter is a devout follower of the most radical arm of the Sunni sect. He is probably young and grew up in Iraq or one of its neighboring countries. It should be noted that a growing number volunteers from many far off places have joined ISIS. He places little value on life; death was commonplace in his past. He is probably not well educated and comes from a poor family. He has very little hope of improving his social status. Generally, he is an unhappy person who has had to struggle his whole life to survive. He has been encouraged and brainwashed by radical Islamic clerics or their minions about the benefits of jihad. He has very little respect for women and believes that death for the cause is honorable.
The most egregious behavioral trait of ISIS fighters is their ability to murder, rape and pillage without conscience; this relates back to the value of the life issue mentioned earlier. With the intent of establishing a new, and much more radical Islamic state, ISIS fighters are slaughtering all who are not radical Sunnis. These include Shiites, the largest religious group in Iraq, Kurds, more tolerant Sunnis and all non-Islamic Iraqis, religious and ethnic cleansing if you will.
Among those in the aforementioned are “hundreds of minority Yazdis slaughtered en mass.” The U.N. highlights “the extremist’s campaign of physical and sexual violence against women and children.” Women are being captured and sold as sex slaves to ISIS recruits, and children are becoming soldiers.
The U.N. report also comments on the tactics of pro-Iraqi forces and said “Iraqi government forces and militias associated with them have also committed ‘gross violations’ of international law, abducting civilians and hanging their bodies from lampposts. . ., summarily killing captured [ISIS] fighters and launching airstrikes that resulted in ‘significant’ civilian deaths. . .” All of these incidents have shocked the world and caused civilized people to wonder about the basic humanity in the Middle East.
Other human rights violations and war crimes include multiple mass killings, the slaughter of 1,500 soldiers and security forces captured at a military base and numerous bodies left on the roadside. The violations go on and on in the Times article.
The venom the combatants have for each other is a very important issue. A “civilized war” may be a pipe dream, but Iraqi fighters on both sides have taken the brutality of war to a new extreme. The current situation foretells of future violence that will linger long after the ISIS confrontation. Reprisals will continue, as those who were abused will return the favor, similar to what Shiites have done to Sunnis since the fall of Saddam Hussein. It is the way of Iraq, as the competing sects try to dominate each other.
Some say that a residual U.S. force may have discouraged the emergence of ISIS. This is doubtful. Iraqis want to fight. The centuries old feud will continue long after the bombing ends. All the money and blood shed by the U.S. and its allies will be for naught. Iraq is a human hell with little chance to become part of the civilized world, so long as sectarian violence and an inability to share power continues.