Confession of an American Soldier: I Helped Create ISIS

Confession of an American Soldier: I Helped Create ISIS

“They remember the West’s role in the eight year war between Iraq and Iran; they remember Clinton’s sanctions in the 1990s, policies which resulted in the deaths of well over 500,000 people, largely women and children”.


AFTER 14 years of War on Terror the West is great at fomenting barbarism and creating failed states.

For the last several years, people around the world have asked, “Where did ISIS come from?” Explanations vary, but largely focus on geopolitical (U.S. hegemony), religious (Sunni-Shia), ideological (Wahhabism) or ecological (climate refugees) origins. Many commentators and even former military officials correctly suggest that the war in Iraq is primarily responsible for unleashing the forces we now know as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, etc. Here, hopefully I can add some useful reflections and anecdotes.

Mesopotamian Nightmares

When I was stationed in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 2003-2005, I didn’t know what the repercussions of the war would be, but I knew there would be a reckoning. That retribution, otherwise known as blowback, is currently being experienced around the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, France, Tunisia, California, and so on), with no end in sight.

Back then, I routinely saw and participated in obscenities. Of course, the wickedness of the war was never properly recognized in the West. Without question, antiwar organizations attempted to articulate the horrors of the war in Iraq, but the mainstream media, academia and political-corporate forces in the West never allowed for a serious examination of the greatest war crime of the 21st century.

As we patrolled the vast region of Iraq’s Al-Anbar Province, throwing MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) trash out of our vehicles, I never contemplated how we would be remembered in history books; I simply wanted to make some extra room in my HUMVEE. Years later, sitting in a Western Civilization history course at university, listening to my professor talk about the cradle of civilization, I thought of MRE garbage on the floor of the Mesopotamian desert.

Examining recent events in Syria and Iraq, I can’t help but think of the small kids my fellow marines would pelt with Skittles from those MRE packages. Candies weren’t the only objects thrown at the children: water bottles filled with urine, rocks, debris, and various other items were thrown as well. I often wonder how many members of ISIS and various other terrorist organizations recall such events?

Moreover, I think about the hundreds of prisoners we took captive and tortured in makeshift detention facilities staffed by teenagers from Tennessee, New York and Oregon. I never had the misfortune of working in the detention facility, but I remember the stories. I vividly remember the marines telling me about punching, slapping, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and head-butting Iraqis. I remember the tales of sexual torture: forcing Iraqi men to perform sexual acts on each other while marines held knives against their testicles, sometimes sodomizing them with batons.

However, before those abominations could take place, those of us in infantry units had the pleasure of rounding up Iraqis during night raids, zip-tying their hands, black-bagging their heads and throwing them in the back of HUMVEEs and trucks while their wives and kids collapsed to their knees and wailed. Sometimes, we would pick them up during the day. Most of the time they wouldn’t resist. Some of them would hold hands while marines would butt-stroke the prisoners in the face. Once they arrived at the detention facility, they would be held for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Their families were never notified. And when they were released, we would drive them from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the middle of the desert and release them several miles from their homes.

After we cut their zip-ties and took the black bags off their heads, several of our more deranged marines would fire rounds from their AR-15s into their air or ground, scaring the recently released captives. Always for laughs. Most Iraqis would run, still crying from their long ordeal at the detention facility, hoping some level of freedom awaited them on the outside. Who knows how long they survived. After all, no one cared. We do know of one former U.S. prisoner who survived: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

Amazingly, the ability to dehumanize the Iraqi people reached a crescendo after the bullets and explosions concluded, as many marines spent their spare time taking pictures of the dead, often mutilating their corpses for fun or poking their bloated bodies with sticks for some cheap laughs. Because iPhones weren’t available at the time, several marines came to Iraq with digital cameras. Those cameras contain an untold history of the war in Iraq, a history the West hopes the world forgets. That history and those cameras also contain footage of wanton massacres and numerous other war crimes, realities the Iraqis don’t have the pleasure of forgetting.

Unfortunately, I could recall countless horrific anecdotes from my time in Iraq. Innocent people were not only routinely rounded-up, tortured and imprisoned, they were also incinerated by the hundreds of thousands, some studies suggest by the millions.

Only the Iraqis understand the pure evil that’s been waged on their nation. They remember the West’s role in the eight year war between Iraq and Iran; they remember Clinton’s sanctions in the 1990s, policies which resulted in the deaths of well over 500,000 people, largely women and children. Then, 2003 came and the West finished the job. Today, Iraq is an utterly devastated nation. The people are poisoned and maimed, and the natural environment is toxic from bombs laced with depleted uranium. After fourteen years of the War on Terror, one thing is clear: the West is great at fomenting barbarism and creating failed states.

Living with Ghosts

The warm and glassy eyes of young Iraqi children perpetually haunt me, as they should. The faces of those I’ve killed, or at least those whose bodies were close enough to examine, will never escape my thoughts. My nightmares and daily reflections remind me of where ISIS comes from and why, exactly, they hate us. That hate, understandable yet regrettable, will be directed at the West for years and decades to come. How could it be otherwise?

Again, the scale of destruction the West has inflicted in the Middle East is absolutely unimaginable to the vast majority of people living in the developed world. This point can never be overstated as Westerners consistently and naively ask, “Why do they hate us?”

In the end, wars, revolutions and counterrevolutions take place and subsequent generations live with the results: civilizations, societies, cultures, nations and individuals survive or perish. That’s how history works. In the future, how the West deals with terrorism will largely depend on whether or not the West continues their terroristic behavior. The obvious way to prevent future ISIS-style organizations from forming is to oppose Western militarism in all its dreadful forms: CIA coups, proxy wars, drone strikes, counterinsurgency campaigns, economic warfare, etc.

Meanwhile, those of us who directly participated in the genocidal military campaign in Iraq will live with the ghosts of war.

Vincent Emanuele is a writer, radio journalist and activist. He lives in Michigan City, Indiana and can be reached at


Shared by Dr. Syed Ehtisham

Countdown to Kristallnacht

Shared by Azeem Farooki

Countdown to Kristallnacht

by Akbar Ahmed

It was a cold night in November 1938. Hard men with hatred in their hearts and bats in their hands set about smashing shops belonging to Jews. At the end of the night, some 267 synagogues were destroyed, the windows of 7,500 Jewish-owned businesses were shattered and several Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. At least 91 Jews were killed in the mayhem. Up to 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Glass from smashed storefront windows lay strewn across the streets. That night of infamy is notorious in history as Kristallnacht—the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Kristallnacht was a turning point on the path to the concentration camps and the Holocaust, at the end of which 6 million Jews would be killed, creating what has been acknowledged as one of the most murderous episodes in history.

Today, we appear to be heading that way again—this time with Muslims instead of Jews.

Kristallnacht was justified by the Nazis as a response to the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Jewish man. Similarly, much of the current level of Islamophobia appears justified to many Americans because of the terrible and tragic killings by Muslims in San Bernardino and Paris. The San Bernardino killings were particularly horrific because they were likely committed by an American-born citizen and his wife. It was a double betrayal—of their own Islamic faith, a religion of peace, and of their host country, which had accepted them and given them the American dream.

The classic pattern from the fascist playbook has been: first abuse and demonize the minority community, then isolate it, then suggest violence and finally encourage and indulge in violence. We may not have, thankfully, reached the last stage, but we certainly are into the second and perhaps moving to the third stage. Here’s why.

Donald Trump, the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party, has been focused on projecting Muslims in an extremely negative manner, with each of his statements more extreme than the last. When a man at one of Trump’s speeches said, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims … When can we get rid of them?” Trump merely replied, “We’re going to be looking at that and many other things.” Last month, Trump said he was open to keeping a database of American Muslims or making them carry special ID cards that listed their religion. He talked of shutting down American mosques because “bad things are happening.” He vowed, “We’re going to have to do things we never did before,” things “that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy.” A few days ago, he suddenly said that he would ban all Muslims from entering the United States—a statement that caused a furor both in the United States and abroad, with even the British prime minister, who would normally not comment on an American election, objecting to Trump.

Trump was exemplifying and enhancing the already existing Islamophobia in the U.S., which had been fed by well-known Islamophobic figures like Frank Gaffney. Yet Trump used Gaffney’s dubious research to justify his policy of banning all Muslims from the U.S. The poll Trump cited was published by the Center for Security Policy, the think tank created by Gaffney, who is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks U.S. hate groups, as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” The SPLC notes that Center for Security Policy reports serve “to reinforce Gaffney’s delusions” about a Muslim takeover of the United States.

The results of widespread American Islamophobia are tragic and apparent in the daily news. The list is long and I will only present some random examples from the past few weeks: Muslims have been physically attacked and abused with frightening frequency, even in schools and universities. A Moroccan taxi driver was asked by his passenger if he was a “Pakistani guy” and then shot. Mosques have been attacked and fired on, as have Muslim homes. Mosques and families have received phone calls promising that Muslims, including children and old people, “will be killed.” Armed “militias” with masks on their faces have turned up outside an Islamic center. Heads of pigs have been thrown into mosques in defiance of the Muslim ritual prohibition of the animal. A disturbing amount of women and children live in abject fear and are reluctant to leave their homes. Recently, a man walked into a New York store and ferociously beat the Muslim owner, who had to be hospitalized, shouting, “I want to kill Muslims.”

To all this backlash the director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations commented, “The community is turning to us for protection, for safety, for guidance. We haven’t been sleeping.” He went on to draw a direct comparison between Trump and Hitler, adding, “I don’t say this lightly.”

The Obama administration appears ineffective in checking the Islamophobia and the opposition, which is now embodied by Trump, is fueling the fire. Trump has now raised the stakes so dramatically that all it needs is a match thrown into the powder keg to blow it sky high.

While I am not suggesting that Trump is another Hitler or even has Hitlerian sensibilities, there are some interesting similarities between the two. Trump, according to his former wife, is fascinated with Hitler and reportedly kept a book of his speeches by his bedside. Both Trump and Hitler are master opportunists who respond cunningly and swiftly to their political and social environment. Both identify passionately with the nation, tending to fuse their personality with that of the nation. Both are charismatic figures who appear to mesmerize their followers. The power of both rests on their public speeches and the hysteria generated in the gatherings. Both are vague on facts and on their promises to make the nation “great again.” They have emerged in a time of economic crisis, political uncertainty and widespread fear in society. Both harp on the theme that the nation has been humiliated and that they will restore its honor. Both are political outsiders and mocked by the establishment—note the critics making fun of the hairstyles of both, with Hitler providing additional opportunity with his mustache.

Both Hitler and Trump have found that by keeping the focus of animosity on one unpopular minority as the source of all the ills of society, they can unite people and claim leadership when people are desperately looking for “strong leadership.” Both are capable of cynically exploiting the mood against the minority and dialing it up or down based on what they think the audience would like to hear. Both blame the minority for threatening the equilibrium in society—Hitler blamed the Jews for betraying Germany after the First World War and often cited the fictitious and anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and Trump blames the Muslims for being terrorist sympathizers who want to harm the United States. Both make up lies to promote their bigotry—Hitler constantly cooked up facts about the Jews and Trump has been challenged on statements like claiming that he watched thousands of Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey.

However much the similarities, there are differences: While Hitler was obsessed with the Jews—“Mein Kampf” is replete with anti-Semitism, as was his last will in the bunker just before he shot himself—Trump has had good relations with Muslims and often does business with them (only last year he was in Dubai promoting his new investments and praising the local leaders).

But I am arguing that Trump does not seem to understand the dangers in the kind of rhetoric that he is using. While we may be a long way away from Kristallnacht, it is worthwhile to point out the signposts on Germany’s path to that fateful night. If Trump does become president, and there are two big ifs for that to happen—he has to get the party nomination and then actually win the presidency—the discussion in this article will no longer be theoretical. Trump has taken the first tiny dangerous steps towards unleashing forces that could trigger large-scale violence against the Muslim community.

Thankfully, many Americans have responded to Trump in the true spirit of their pluralist identity. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have unequivocally criticized him. More significantly, the other Republican candidates who have also been making Islamophobic comments nonetheless felt it was necessary to condemn Trump—Jeb Bush called his suggestion to ban all Muslims “unhinged” and Lindsey Graham told Trump to “go to hell.”

The United States of 2015 is not the Germany of 1938. It is important to keep in mind that these are two very different societies at different points in their history. Besides, the United States has a very strong base of pluralist identity coming out of the vision of the Founding Fathers and embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. It is this idea of America that will effectively stop men like Trump from taking their hateful message, which challenges the very pluralism that lies at the heart of American identity, to its logical conclusion. The American pluralist vision must be defended as much from the so-called Islamic State abroad as from the Trumps of the U.S., and in this battle, in the most profound way possible, Muslims need to be key allies.

As any social scientist worth their salt will confirm, there is the principle of cause and effect in society. It means that if something is done, then it invariably leads to something else. In our case, the demonization and persecution of the Jews in Germany led ultimately to the tragedy of the Holocaust. That is why we need to understand the consequences of demonizing and persecuting the Muslim community today. There are lessons to be learned from Kristallnacht.

Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and has just released the film “Journey into Europe” which accompanies the book of the same title (Brookings Institution Press, Forthcoming). He conducted a major film and book project on Islam in America, both called “Journey into America.”


Ghalib’s Birth Anniversary

December 27 is Mirza Ghalib’s birth anniversary. To pay homage to Mirza Ghalib, the greatest ghazal-go in history I have attempted to say a ghazal in his style.

غزل عالَم  شگفتہ ہو کہ  میں آفت رسیدہ  ہوں          اس دشتِ بےسپرمیں جوں صیدِجریدہ ہوں
ڈرتا رہا  میں  راندہ ء رضواں  کے نیش سے           ہاے  ستم  تو دیکھ  کہ  مردم گزیدہ  ہوں
آ  عندلیب  مل   کے   کریں   نالہ   زاریاں           میں  بھی تو باغبانِ چمن سے  رنجیدہ  ہوں
ہے  میری  کوتہ دستی کہ  انکے بلند بخت             اس  بیدلی و شرم  سے  ہی آب دیدہ  ہوں
تو ہی بتا میں کیسے تیرے در کا نام  لوں            ہراک سمجھ رہا ہے کہ مجنوں شوریدہ ہوں
اشرف یہاں تو  بات  بھی کرنی  ہے  نا روا      چپ  رہ اسی گماں میں  زبان ِ بُریدہ         ہوں                                      (اشرف)

History of Knowledge-Explosions — Part II

Shared by Mirza Iqbal Ashraf:

History of Knowledge-Explosions — Part II

Post Greek Period of Knowledge


ABSTRACT: There have been two “Knowledge-Explosions.” In between these two periods of knowledge-explosions, there was a period of progression of knowledge, contributed partly by the Romans, but conspicuously developed by the Muslim philosophers, and scientists which made an enduring effect upon Western thinkers. The modern world is indebted to the Muslims not only for the revival of Classical Greek knowledge, but also to their own contribution to social and general sciences which helped in bringing about the European Renaissance. However, contribution by the Romans in laying the foundation of “philosophy of humanism” is a unique achievement which arose first with Cicero (106-43 BCE) and was developed by the thinkers of the Italian Renaissance in the 14th century. The Romans were proud of their “love of law.” For them their ancient customs and traditions codified into a unified law was the lifeblood of their empire. Throughout their empire, from England to Black Sea and from Spain to Egypt, one law ruled all men. … They, instead of promoting philosophy and science, were more interested in building roads to connect every region of their empire. They used arches not only for temples and amphitheaters but also for bridges and aqueducts which made possible to bring water from faraway mountains. … This does not mean that the Romans did not play their part in preserving Greek knowledge. They did translate Greek philosophy, plays, and many literary works of the classical Greek authors and thinkers into Latin. … However, the Romans were more concerned about establishing a strong state than promoting philosophical and scientific knowledge. But they spread the educational ideas of the Greeks and translated their know-how in the fields of ceramics, metallurgy, alchemy and many more themes into Latin. But they lacked interest in science and technology and thus did not contribute to any useful scientific invention and technological innovation. ~ MIRZA ASHRAF.

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