ISIS to US: We’ll drown you in Blood; beheads US Journalist, Holds Tikrit

By Juan Cole

The Iraqi military made a push on Tikrit north of Baghdad on Tuesday, but had to call off their campaign when they ran into minefields, booby-trapped buildings, sniping and artillery and mortar fire on the part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now styles itself the “Islamic State” (IS). It took the Sunni Muslim stronghold, birth place of Saddam Hussein, last July. The IS appears to have used its two months of dominance in the city to do extensive defensive works, with the mining proving an effective deterrent along with professional use of medium weaponry.

Meanwhile, a video briefly surfaced purporting to show the IS beheading an American journalist, James Foley, a freelancer for GlobalPost who had been missing in Syria for two years. In the video the IS threatened to drown the United States in blood if its aerial bombardment of IS positions continued.

The Iraqi military advanced toward Tikrit from the west this time, rather than, as with last month, the south. The claimed to have killed 23 IS fighters and to have taken some small suburbs of the city, but that they had to call off their campaign Tuesday afternoon is eloquent as to their failure. They included forces from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and Shiite volunteer militias, all supported by the Iraqi Air Force. Unlike with the Kurds fighting to take back the Mosul Dam from IS in the north, there is no report of close air support from the US.

One of the Iraqi military’s goals was to relieve the village of Amirli, which is inhabited by Turkmen Shiites and had been under siege from IS in Tikrit. IS as a hyper-Sunni terrorist organization despises Shiite Muslims and has carried out mass executions against them.

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, controversy swirled over rumors that a political figure was willing pay $5 mn. for a cabinet seat. As long as there is that level of corruption, it is hard for the government to ask its grunts for loyalty and willingness to sacrifice their lives for this state.

CCTV: “Iraqi military clashes with militants in Tikrit”


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21 Responses

  1. Virtually forcing Iraqis to step up and fight their own fight. And it is beginning to work too. This is bordering on brilliant, Mr. President.

    • Fully agree. Anybody who can’t see huge the difference between the way Obama is managing the military and the way Bush did it is just not looking very hard.

      • I guess there are a whole lot of people who are maybe less invested in Obama the Chess Player’s aura who see very little difference between the military-industrial-congressional monstrosity under the Bush League, and how the cancer continues to grow under the Obama administration. Still a huge empire, the money, our hard-work-created wealth, continues to generate a giant sucking sound as it floods into the sluiceways of Infinite Threat Creation And Response Weaponized Military. Context?

        “President Obama is Not Actually Cutting Military Spending, But He Should ,” link to

        In slightly older news, “War spending surges in President Obama’s budget,” link to

        And a whole lot more. You really think Obama, that one guy with all that is on his plate, and given the massive power of the Complex, has anything but the slightest effect on “managing the military?” Got any support for that feeling? That whole “War is nothing but a racket” thing is kind of unarguably still in place and in full play…

  2. “… draftees were made to kill dogs and vultures by biting their throats and twisting off their heads, and had to watch as soldiers tortured and killed suspected dissidents – tearing out their fingernails, cutting off their heads, chopping their bodies to pieces and playing with the dismembered arms for fun.” —Noam Chomsky describing a deserter’s account of the training received by CIA-backed Salvadoran death squads link to

    • Thanks for the link, Loic. And people are concerned about IS and its virulence, with no thought of the genesis and propagation of violent repression in the sacred name of democracy… The question is, how can humans be brought to stand down from that kind of viciousness, in favor of behaviors that might extend, not shorten, our collective time on this planet, and reduce the pain and horror. Any answers to that? Anyone? or do enough of a majority of us humans glory in the gory misery we enable or employ?

      • As long as ignorance and nationalism walk hand in hand with militarism America will have all the answers.

    • The USA aided Pol Pot as a bulwark against Vietnam, the USA trained Bin Laden to fight the former Soviet Union when they invaded Afghanistan, the USA helped Saddam Husein when he was fighting Iran, in each case massive instability was the result and in each case the USA’s empowered allies later turned against the USA. Each war has been horrendously expensive and therein we find the explanation; when money is expended it is also received, the Mideast conflict cost the USA’s taxpayers 2 trillion, most people stop right there and never ask themselves “who made the two trillion?” The people who received this money have profited off the betrayal of these chosen allies turned enemies. It looks to me like the USA is promoting instability as a means of fleecing the taxpayers to the benefit of the corporations that are contracted to supply the military, the more conflict the more opportunity for profit, The USA seems to be manufacturing its own enemies to keep the profits of its military vendors at an all time high. The idea is if the USA can keep foreigners fighting each other they won’t have the where with all to fight the USA, but that strategy means that they won’t have the where with all to TRADE ether, so the USA is impoverishing the world to keep the American taxpayer generous but without trade the USA can not maintain its dominance, by destroying others the USA is destroying itself.

  3. “As long as there is that level of corruption, it is hard for the government to ask its grunts for loyalty and willingness to sacrifice their lives for this state.”

    Intentional or accidental irony here, when considering how the US Imperial political structure actually operates, in clanging dissonance with our endlessly and fraudulently invoked Grand Founding Principles? Good thing we don’t have a conscript military any more, and grunts become increasingly irrelevant in the High-Tech Battlespace. Some folks think conscription and a Great National Military and Police Force will cure “the problem” in Iraq — here’s how the thinking goes (right in line with US military and “security” doctrine):

    “The creation of an Iraqi military that mandates conscription, drawing equally from all religions, ethnicities, and creeds, will offer Iraq’s fragmented society an institution around which to rally and will appeal to the traits of honor and loyalty that are so valued in Arab culture.

    This is not to say that such a policy would be unilaterally well-received or that it would instantaneously unify Iraqi society; such a process would certainly take months, years, or even generations to complete. Nevertheless, as the Israeli example demonstrates, the creation of a military in which participation constitutes a rite of passage for every citizen awards the institution a palpable influence—a capacity to take what appear to be disparate and contentious individuals and mold them into a force with congruent goals and values. ” link to The article at least goes on to lay out the many problems with creating a likely praetorian military like Israel’s and Egypt’s and our own.

    So “our” Western policies have sown the dragons’ teeth, weakening Ordinary People and their institutions and raising up well-versed warriors with great Gunmen skill sets just needing, maybe like the liquid-metal Terminator guy, a little depression in which to coalesce, to do what heavily armed warriors have always done, giving gangster demagogues the tools to write themselves into the lists of history’s Horde leaders…

  4. If al-Maliki’s replacement feels sufficiently threatened by IS and asks/pleads for US military assistance, Washington will have another sockpuppet on its team.

    • Making a video of James Foley’s murder with a British citizen was meant to send a message to the west. Hundreds of British citizens are fighting with ISIS. They can come and go as they please.

    • I believe that in his remarks today, Obama has clearly declared the position that IS must be eliminated. That can only mean one thing, one more Middle East windmill to tilt at until public and political fatigue set to

      Seems that our presumption that Iraqi regulars will willingly and enthusiastically kill Iraqi irregulars, to support central government that barely represents any interests of the Iraqi people, should be vetted by the psychology community. What would motivate a Sunni conscript to make war on Sunni IS at the behest of Shiite leaders and the US President? It is quite possible that the beheading of an American reporter is not the most atrocious event they know of.

      • ISIS isn’t just about Iraq or Syria. Now they are fighting in northern Lebanon as well. Robert Fisk wrote about ISIS in Lebanon a couple of weeks ago.

        ISIS reminds me of a giant blob in a 1950s horror flick. When they are stopped going one direction, the blob changes course and attacks along other fronts. From Syria to Mosul south towards Samarra and Baghdad. Then, they go east to Irbil with attacks in northern Lebanon.

        U.S. politicians will try and control the blob’s damage until they find a way to defeat it.

    • You wonder what al-Abadi’s hoped-for scope of hegemony is, in terms of territory and population under “government.” To the default “national boundaries” per the current Google Earth mapping? To the Greater Iraq that Saddam aspired to? To a defense perimeter around some petro facilities, the necessary water supplies, and a couple of urban complexes, something like the landscape in “Mad Max”? And how does that jibe with what our loving Deep State has in mind, with all the little potent sneaky subtle obscure conniving greedy paws that tug and pull at the policies and power levers for the sole benefit of their irreconcilable particularized “interests?”

  5. With the new PM, there maybe more US strikes on behalf of the national Iraqi govt and cooperation with them. Al-Maliki’s exit allows for a rebranding, pending the new PM’s success with Iraqi Sunnis, that its not being done on Al Maliki’s Shia agenda or sectarian grounds against Sunnis.

    The US is not the only global nation they threaten to drown in blood. The Malaysian government claimed to have cracked down on some ambitious Sunni radicals who took inspiration from IS and plotted to bomb and takeover parts of South East Asia to create a caliphate.

  6. My last comment, a bit over the top, was refused for publication here. This was my point.
    Have you others noticed how ISIS is portrayed by the MSM and politicians as the most vicious, richest, best armed, best organized, and well…the greatest threat to all of the world since the Russian commies? It sounds like psycho-ops by the establishment to get the American people to want all-out war in America’s favorite playground: Asia. Anybody else wonder about this? (Compare the apparently false claims that Iraqis were killing Kuwaiti babies when America was contemplating going after Saddam in Iraq War I)

    • It might be a psycho-ops, but ISIS is well financed, well organized and well armed. They have taken control of large parts of both Syria and Iraq. They’ve gone toe-to-toe with Maliki’s army and the pesh merga. They did murder James Foley and made a five minute tape of the slaughter. More Americans might be killed in the same barbaric manner.

      When ISIS makes a video of them cutting the head off an American, they are sending a message. Having an ISIS member with an British accent in the video is also significant because at least 200 hundred Brits are fighting with ISIS in the Middle East.

      They could also return to England with little problem.

      ISIS uses well thought out sophisticated techniques.

      But the richest, best armed and best organized prize goes to the United States. What other country could fight multiple wars for over TEN YEARS and have a lot more left in the tank?

      Escalation seems to be the next step for both sides.

  7. Perhaps someone can explain why the Middle East is of such great particular significance to the United States when it seems not to be so anywhere else I can think of? The Brits gave up on it in the late 40s on the ground of bankruptcy They don’t repent that decision today? Isn’t that a valid precedent?.

    Why can’t we, especially as we have no critical need for controlling the region’s oil? The Europeans are getting on with their lives despite a little lip service now and then. The Chinese are nowhere near ready yet to take over from us on the global hegemony front.

    Here, in my view, on a largely academic blog, it seems to resolve itself to a single question, why there is there no systematic, reasoned debate on the nature of the American interest there. We could certainly get our teeth into that. Yet we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. In short we can not do it.

  8. The IS appears to have clear objectives and has made no secret of them. It has also clearly annunciated the extent and reasons for its opposition to US foreign policy, and was quite clear about why they would and did execute Mr Foley, by a method which, albeit with greater panache, is fundamental to the judicial system of the US Saudi ally. Whether one likes it or not, it would appear US foreign policy lies behind the eruption of this group as it did its precursor al Qa’ida. There is an ever clearer division in our world between those variously committed to US foreign policy and those opposed to it, of which the IS is at one extreme end and the US military complex at the other, with increasingly populated middle ground between them.

    Because the US insists that it is right and everyone else is wrong most of our world faces escalating bloodshed, debilitating levels of insecurity and numbing daily scenes of death and destruction, while the serious issues facing the world are delegated to interminable debate.

    Any mechanism to deal with this needs to be above the divisions and have the authority to put the interests of all mankind first. Such a mechanism exists in the UN but is ineffective due to the veto power exercised by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a power designed for a quite different age and now arguably the greatest impediment to any solution to the innumerable divisions that plague us. At the DOS Daily Press Briefing on August 19, the spokesperson, replying to a question whether there were any circumstance in which the U.S. would not veto a resolution calling for Israel to be investigated for war crimes, replied that she could not envision a scenario in which the US would not veto such a resolution.* There I think we have it in a nutshell. The late and somewhat lamented Muammar Gaddafi often expressed the view that the UN needs reformation, and if that could be accomplished we might all sleep more quietly.

    * link to

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