Have you seen this speech, delivered by John Kerry the day before Paris? It just builds and builds and suggests, to me, at least, that the Obama Administration has long been fully engaged with respect to Syria and ISIS, and acting as many of us would want it to. It’s hard for me not to contrast his analysis with that of, say, Donald Trump, or most of the others on yesterday’s Morning Joe.
One of you who has seen it, Paul Abrams, writes: “Extraordinary speech and details. Shows a prudent, coordinated strategy that is shrinking the land ISIS holds.”
Find 40 minutes, somehow, to watch. It is enlightening. Even — at least in the context of what a nightmare this all is — a little encouraging.
And then there’s this long piece, “Confessions of an ISIS Spy,” the money quote from which, for our purposes today is:
. . . In September of last year, at the apogee of ISIS’s foreign recruitment surge, he says the influx of foreigners amazed even those welcoming them in. “We had like 3,000 foreign fighters who arrived every day to join ISIS. I mean, every day. And now we don’t have even like 50 or 60.” . . .
A great deal still to be concerned about. (And “not even 50 a day” is still way more than zero.) But down from 3,000? It’s a data point I had not known, and, again, perhaps a little encouraging.
Parvez Sharma (A Sinner in Mecca): “You quote Quartz.com: ‘The Saudi foreign ministry called for global cooperation to “root out this dangerous and destructive plague.”’ But Saudi Arabia’s lip service for ‘global cooperation’ to root out this ‘plague’ only furthers the hypocrisy of the house of al-Saud. The plague really is Wahabi and Salafi Islam — and the Saudis are the ones that export it around the world and teach it to their children. The biggest threat to Islam in my opinion is Saudi Arabia’s religious pact with the Wahabis. The monarchy stays in power only if it allows the Wahabis to dictate the Sharia law of the land. And for the Wahabis, early indoctrination into their destructive ideology is key. The ideology of ISIS comes directly from them. The idea of an expansionist Islam won through carnage is a Saudi Wahabi idea. King Salman wants to present a more progressive face of the monarchy; but as far as Saudi national behavior and morality enforcement are concerned, there is nothing progressive. Let’s not forget that this is a regime that condones beheadings in public on a regular basis. Why does it do that? Because the Wahabi — al-Saud pact still stands.”
Chris Brown: “I believe strongly that the discussion of the problem of the terrorist death cult which you refer to as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham) should not involve the confusing red herring of the ‘literal’ interpretation of Islam [that you reference]. The literal interpretation of nearly any religious text can be used and almost certainly has been used as a pretext for violence. . . . I have known many Muslims in my 39 years, but I have only met one who did not respect the lives of non-Muslims. He was a young male doctor, originally from Jordan. We had a strikingly unpleasant conversation one day in which he told another doctor, a Hindu woman, ‘Your people worship rocks, so they deserve to die.’ (Fortunately he ran into some visa problems and was deported. Good job, American government!) . . . But I am not scared that my Muslim friends want to kill my wife (also Hindu, at least in theory) any more than I am concerned that Andrew Tobias or his more observant Jewish friends might wish to kill my wife. Judaism also contains commandments to exterminate idol worship. . . . Nearly any religion can and has been used as a pretext for killing. Catholics, protestants, Muslims, Hindus (who recently lynched a Muslim man for eating beef), Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists have all killed in the name of religious violence. . . . We are not in a fight against the world’s 1.6 billion Muslim people. If we were, we’d all be personally ducking bullets and shooting at other people daily instead of going to work. We are fighting against a small, fascist, ultra-orthodox death cult that has embraced a literal and militaristic version of Islam which is far to the right of the caliphates of a thousand years ago (in which science, the economy, and culture flourished, by the way). These people who are decapitating and randomly shooting and killing/raping girls who go to school and blowing up great cultural and artistic sites, have nothing to do with mainstream Islam . . . There were Muslims killed in Paris and Muslims killed in Beiruit by the death cult. Adel Termos, the hero who saved dozens of lives when he tackled a suicide bomber last week, was a Muslim. . . . The Muslims who have suffered from this repugnant death cult have given them an appropriate name, Daesh, which is an acronym loosely constructed from the Arabic for ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham). It is fitting because it sounds somewhat like ‘daes’ which means ‘one who crushes something underfoot’ and also ‘dahes or ‘one who sows discord.’ The terrorists do not like to be called Daesh. For a while, perhaps the U.S. government was not inclined to use the term, because the Bashar al-Assad regime was using it. But the French have been using it consistently since late 2014, and it is the best descriptor we have for this evil. Let us support humanity by reminding ourselves and the world each time we speak of this evil that we are speaking of a death cult, not the second-most common religion on earth.”
☞ Daesh is, in fact, the term Secretary Kerry uses throughout his speech, to which I commend you again.