Why Aren’t Americans Celebrating fall of ISIL State? It is a bogeyman

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Other people are celebrating the defeat of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) on the battlefield and its destruction as a territorial state.

Russia issued an announcement last week that ISIL has been wiped out in Syria.

Iraqi prime minister Haydar al-Abadi said Saturday that Iraq had been completely liberated from the terrorists.

In the US, there has been no victory parade, no official statement, nothing.

Given how much hysteria there was about ISIL in 2014, it is puzzling that its defeat has not been bigger news in the United States. I had all along held that ISIL as a state is a flash in the pan. (Any small handful of people nowadays can get hold of C4 and blow things up, so ISIL isn’t likely dead as a terrorist group. But it doesn’t hold territory.)

The reason the US public doesn’t commemorate this victory is that Daesh, and Muslim extremism more generally, have become a bogeyman, driving American nightmares, fears and foreign policy. This is not to say that ISIL isn’t a real threat. Those people are meaner than rattlesnakes. Nor that the US cannot suffer from a terrorism attack. It can. But the discourse of Daesh or ISIL is not rational. Their state can collapse and it isn’t a big deal here because there will be a new ISIL, since it is key to US policy making now.

In many ways, ISIL has replaced the hysteria about Communism in the Cold War era. Dick Nixon first won a congressional seat by making people in his district afraid that the Communists were going to take over. There weren’t more than 100,000 Communists in the United States, and after Khrushchev’s speech revealing Stalin’s crimes, the number fell to 50,000. They weren’t going to take over California’s 12th district, from which Nixon ran. They weren’t trying to overthrow the US government, as the FBI falsely charged. They were law abiding citizens who exercised their first amendment rights to join a political party. There was nothing illegal or threatening about them except that they didn’t think corporations should own human beings. As for Khrushchev, the US press maintained that he threatened “we will bury you.” What he actually said was that Soviet Communism would still be here when capitalism had gone to its grave.

Inside the United States, Communism functioned as a bogeyman, with right wing politicians using it to scare people and to try to convince them to give up their constitutional rights. This bogeyman was so successful that decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, right wing politicians in the South were still calling Barack Obama a socialist in hopes of smearing him as a pinko.

In this century, Muslim extremism has replaced Communism as the bogeyman. More people in America die from falling off a ladder than from terrorism tied to the Middle East, and the biggest purveyor of terrorism is the nativist hard right.

The “war on terror,” like the “war on poverty” or the “war on drugs,” has become a plot device for politics, not a rational policy. The US public is not interested in the details. A Bogeyman is bad no matter the details.

The US public has almost no interest in Afghanistan, and very little in Iraq. The passing of Daesh/ISIL from the scene means nothing to them, because it is the eternal, ideal type of the Muslim extremist that now validates power. It doesn’t matter that *Muslims* mobilized to defeat the phony “caliphate.” Trump claimed credit for the victory all by himself.

So Daesh is defeated. It doesn’t register. Bogeymen are forever. Trump is using this one to keep out brown skinned foreigners of all descriptions.

If we celebrated our win, we might have to start acting like rational human beings.



Related video:

CBC News: “ISIS defeated in Iraq, officials say”

Posted in Featured,Iraq | 17 Responses | Print |

17 Responses

  1. The real goal of the Pentagon / CIA, at the start of their campaign, was not to defeat Isis, but instead to drive them from Iraq and eastern Syria toward government forces of Al-Assad to facilitate regime change. But the success of the Russian involvement changed their goal from Isis driven regime change to Kurdish driven partitioning of Syria.
    The defeat of Isis is not something the Pentagon / CIA chiefs are celebrating and the way the USA mainstream media is in tune with the governments narrative they are not celebrating either.

  2. I don’t think most people regarded ISIS as a state in its own right because the territory they captured and held for a while wasn’t recognized by anyone. I would suggest that for most of the American public and certainly we British, ISIS were regarded for what they were; terrorists who held ordinary citizens captive thus, making clearing theses murderers out of the areas they held very difficult. Whilst there has been a lot of hysteria in the US about this phenomenon, in reality, there have been few if any attacks in the US that can be directly blamed on ISIS. As for the demise of the bogey man of communism, I would suggest that its alive and well but has taken the form of Russia gate instead. Numerous surveys and polls have shown that there is 70% and more of American people who see Russia as a direct threat to the USA. Whether its Russia, communism, ISIS or whoever, there seems to be a need in the psyche of the American people (and most certainly in the minds of the military industrial war business), for a bogey man. When parents don’t want their kids to go to certain places they tell the that, “the bogey man will get them” if they do. The trillions of dollars spent on the military are justified in exactly the same way. The benefit of ISIS and the war on terror, is that it is on going and pretty much permanent. As you say, professor, ISIS will re-group and morph into something else and will be used in war games elsewhere and become the catalyst for something much bigger.

  3. Trump told us we would get tired of winning.

    Maybe we’ve become accustomed to the notion that “winning” in the Middle East, is more like passing the baton in a relay race. After ISIL what is next? Arabs fighting Kurds, more Sunni vs Shiite blood letting, or maybe a military strongman taking over Iraq as a rightful reward for defeating ISIL.

  4. Good points all. There is also the uncomfortable reality that it was primarily actors like Russia, Iran, the SAA, and the Hashd al-Shaabi that defeated ISIS, rather than “the greatest military in the world.”

  5. In the immortal words of Trump: ‘We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning’. We are sick of winning. How many times in the last 16 years have we heard from some politician or general that we are wining in the middle east? There is no credibility gap: there is no credibility!

    We are at the point of:
    Defeated ISIL, so what!
    Killed bin Laden, so what!
    Defeated the Taliban, so what!
    Defeated Saddam Hussein, so what!

    As Trump said, we are sick of it all. There will be no parade!

    Without the snark: we are indeed sick of it all. Time to go home.

  6. Very good perspective Professor Cole, I enjoyed it. I am also glad you cleared up the Khrushchev ‘we will bury you’ quite.

    This short article of yours Professor Cole should be shouted from the roof tops, so as every American could learn from your wisdom.

    David Swanson wrote a rather long article describing of how the U.S. has gone to war in the past.

    link to washingtonsblog.com

    We Americans need to change the way we do business with the rest of this world. Amazingly we Americans could have an easy time of doing this, if only we would bargain with our Soft Diplomacy side. It isn’t as though we don’t have a lot of other things, other than war, we could do this type of negotiating with, so why not?

    • I am so god-damned sick of so-called leftists trying to call America the bad guy in World War 2 and make arguments for isolationism during the global rampage of fascism.

      I guess the way to find out which of these Astroturfers are real leftists and not libertarian saboteurs is to ask them if they think the world would have been better off with Nazi eradication of the Soviet Union. Since the real leftists segue to making the Soviets the heroes of the Cold War.

      But what they all have in common is their desire to eradicate FDR and the New Deal and the memory of postwar America. I am grimly satisfied that many of these same bastards are lining up to make excuses for Trump and his followers, on the grounds that (a) Trump is better than Clinton because the world is so horrible and he’s innocent in that, and (b) because the growing evidence of aid to Trump by their hero Putin has to be ideologically rationalized.

      Why am I grimly satisfied? Because the argument of these libertarians-in-pacifist clothing is that America could have “negotiated” with a Nazi Empire, or peaceful resistance would have defeated the Nazis from within, like the author of the linked article. They will find out the hard way that peaceful means will fail against Trump and his fascists at home, and against the rise of fascism all over the world. There will be no outside from which to organize resistance. Or maybe they will reveal themselves when the shooting does start, and they are standing with the Trumpites with guns aimed at us, justifying themselves by braying that, ultimately, world peace requires that we submit to a world divided between corrupt racist theocrats and their pet corporations.

      When the real revolution of all their allies’ victims comes, they won’t be able to sneak back over the line. The victims of Trump and Putin and Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed and Modi won’t be moved by our 20th century historical debates; they won’t be White, they won’t be Marxists, they won’t be capitalists. They will be hungry and murderous.

      • Super390 I hear you, but I took Swanson’s article as a description of how countries, and the U.S. need circumstances to allow happen as a pretext to war.

        I personally think that FDR was no doubt one of the most important presidents America has ever had. I too get upset that the Republican mantra is ‘FDR is Dead’. This is a sorry attitude to be displayed, especially at a time when America could use a revival of the citizen friendly FDR policies.

        Looking back on WWII, I think it was probably a good thing in the way that America played the cards it played, because otherwise the U.S. may have found themselves fighting an enemy on both shores of this American continent, and with that America could have been ravished, for a lack of a better description of the destruction that would have occurred.

        What we citizens should be aware of though, is that our knee jerking reactions to ‘false flags’ should be met more with deep skepticism, if nothing more.

        Sorry didn’t mean to upset you super390, I guess I read Swanson’s article from a different perspective. I’m not advocating or promoting anything, I just thought Swanson’s article had some truly interesting historical elements to it, and that you readers would find worth the read.

      • Bad gyus in World War 2 – well, for instance in Czechoslovakia the US entered the game only after the country was mostly liberated and only to bomb infrastructure or large factories (Plzeň, Bratislava). Thanks for this kind of liberation, took us a couple extra years to get it all fixed.
        Get on with it and stop labeling facts as leftist stuff.

  7. Of course you’re right, speaking of the role of ISIL. But, IRAN is the true boogeyman de jour we can expect to hear more of, in terms of an enemy toward which people can be manipulated into action and politicians can consolidate power. The obvious evidence being the frequent and willful mis-translation of Iranian political leadership.

    But, this is all just politics, and reflects the relative skill with which perceptions can be managed to manipulate the masses. For example, whenever Netanyahu pops up on the news, if he cannot be muted fast enough, one is torn between nausea and admiration for the boldness of his duplicity and chutzpah.

    What I’ve come to appreciate over time is how profoundly contemptuous he is the US (the same could be said of other Israel political leaders you can easily observe, notably Michael Oren), and how accurate this assumption evidently is. This appreciation has finally found its way into domestic US politics, thanks to the pioneering insights and successes of D. J. Trump.

    Trump has now provided the GOP an object lesson for domestic US politics the Israelis learned long ago. I suspect it was fully internalized by Israel with the US response to the rather rash attack they made on the US Liberty during the 6-day war.

    I was about to end with a link to the wikipedia article of the Liberty incident, but was greeted by a revised page now slanted toward Israel’s “just a terrible misunderstanding” narrative. The points here now being the power of persistence of vision as well as the strategy of NOT giving people credit for doing their homework.

    This is becoming a bit OT, but an important point that stands to be made is that it is not that tough to take the minimal effort needed to review multiple biased perspectives on any event or issue that can be interpreted on that basis, making it then quite possible to triangulate on the often slimy, underlying truth.

    So, to offset the now corrupted wikipedia article, check out this Al Jazeera documentary:

    link to aljazeera.com

  8. The loss of the ISIL bogeyman is the reason that the idiot Trump & company are pushing so hard to make Iran the new bogeyman. The US military-industrial-security complex must have a current enemy to continue bleeding the taxpayers.
    In a happy coincidence, this fits right in with the current myths of the Saudi and Israel Lobbies. So our craven politicians get a hat trick – pleasing their three main master/benefacors at the same time.

    • I disagree. Iran was always their bogeyman. That goes back even to the Neocons a dozen years ago. It goes back to the Project for a New American Century spelling out that overthrowing both the Iraqi and Iranian government would give Washington domination over the world oil industry. The right-wing agents planted all around media and government in those days are still pushing the myth derived from that agenda, but one after the other they’ve all capitulated to Trump’s takeover of their party.

      If anything, the impression I got in the middle of the Bush Junior era was that Washington was cajoling the Saudis to hate Iran more. Maybe some young princeling back then bought in and waited to climb up the ladder of succession.

      • I agree, but to put a finer point on it, Iran has by and large avoided playing into their hands. The meddling they do do, like in Yemen, is probably by what, a few dozen advisors, if that? So, a more accommodating foe was needed.

        But this is a deep game being played in the ME, evidenced by the dance we now see between Iran and KSA, and KSA and Israel. In this mix the US is only managing to play the role of a rich, clueless sap.

  9. One difference, though, is that today’s wars aren’t just about seizing and maintaining territory. They are about the ability to prevent peace and to keep besieged nations from participating in global business because of a lack of local security.

    Even though ISIL no longer controls regions of Iraq, there are still daily car bombings and general lawlessness. If Islamic state fighters can continue to make daily life insecure, Iraq will struggle to provide for its citizens.

    Developers need a certain level of security before they will build international projects. The Hyatt Regency Sulaymaniyah was supposed to open in 2017; as far as I can tell, that project has been stalled by violence.

    I will celebrate when I stop reading news like this bombing that happened on Friday, Dec. 9th:
    link to iraqinews.com

  10. If the US declared “Mission Accomplished”, people might ask what those thousands of troops are doing in Iraq and Syria.

  11. Making a song and dance about the defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria might provoke the domestic expectation that the US can now pack up and leave which wouldn’t do at all.

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