BAGHDAD — When American forces raided a home near Falluja during the turbulent 2004 offensive against the Iraqi Sunni insurgency, they got the hard-core militants they had been looking for. They also picked up an apparent hanger-on, an Iraqi man in his early 30s whom they knew nothing about.
The Americans duly registered his name as they processed him and the others at the Camp Bucca detention center: Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry.
That once-peripheral figure has become known to the world now as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the architect of its violent campaign to redraw the map of the Middle East.(snip)
At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS’ military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq.So at least the New York Times admits that the current fiasco is the direct result of American intervention rather than the standard propaganda, that a new group of terrorists just sprang up, fully-formed, for the sole reason that they just "hate us for our freedoms."
But then the piece veers off into "it was just a failure of intelligence" territory rather than it was a gross failure of intellect and human decency at the very highest levels story. It's quite telling that it was the private spy agency known as Stratfor -- not the CIA -- which apparently first raised the red flag on the ISIS precursors, and quite telling that it was Wikileaks that revealed how clueless and cavalier the US government was about all the blowback the US government was creating.
Baghdadi is portrayed as a cross between John Gotti (he gave street parties and built schools in between extortion raids on the Iraq citizenry) and a Che Guevara-like character "warmed over for jihadists." A Pentagon official even expresses grudging admiration for him, given his slick propaganda skills and racketeering campaign worthy of any billionaire Wall Street banker.
He sounds like a neoliberal folk hero in the making. Created of free-marketers, by free-marketers, for free-marketers.
And then the story veers off into the standard Obama vs. Hillary personality piece shallowness. The Beltway is all abuzz over a simmering feud now boiling over into potboiler territory.
According to The Atlantic, Hillary is making fun of Barry's snooty "Don't Do Stupid Shit" foreign policy. That is patently unfair, since his shitbombs are actually quite well-aimed and open-ended. Hillary blames his failure to arm Syrian rebels for the current crisis, forgetting that the arms dealers of America have already provided all the firepower necessary for the current crisis. And even worse, she's all "hepped up" about war. And it appears that she will run unopposed for the presidency. The Republicans are absolutely crazy about her.
So bombs away.... in the name of humanity, religion, Mom, apple pie and oligarchy.
Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Charles Blow hilariously blames disengaged American people instead of the misinforming media for an epidemic of public ignorance about ISIS and the wars:
More Americans need to be more engaged, because these conflicts are complicated. There are no easy answers. Sometimes there will be no clear choices between good guys and bad guys but only choices among lesser demons. Sometimes conflicts are a swirl of history, ambition, grievance, vengeance and egos. Sometimes actors can only see righteousness in their wrong. Sometimes nobility and savagery coexist.
Huh?But if America, as the world’s last remaining superpower, is to faithfully play a role — if we must play that role — as a check against tyranny and terror in the world, its citizenry must be up to the task of discernment.
My published response:
If Americans aren't the most engaged people on world issues, then neither are our elected leaders the most transparent. Far from it.
Jill Abramson, former NYT executive editor, called the current White House the most secretive she's encountered in all her years in journalism.
More whistleblowers have been prosecuted under Obama than in any prior administration. CIA analyst John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on torture, is rotting in prison, while the actual torturers (aka "patriots) are protected. A long-awaited Senate report on CIA torture is now on indefinite hold, because White House censorship has been so intense as to render it practically meaningless.
Reporters Without Borders has ranked the US a dismal 46th in its most recent annual press freedoms survey, representing a 14-point plummet in just one year. Another survey, by PEN, reveals that most American journalists now self-censor out of fear that the government is reading their emails and listening to their phone calls.
So not only do we have to be more engaged, we have to be more vigilant. This, of course, is easier said than done, especially when people are more worried about which Peter they'll have to rob to pay which Paul every month than what ISIS is.
And this ignorance naturally suits the bellicose gatekeepers and their propaganda merchants just fine.
To my busy friends, I recommend Polk winner Robert Parry's Consortium News for some of the best, clearest investigative journalism on the wars.