A War of Terror and Hate: How the US Will Make the Most Out of the ISIS Threat It Helped Create
A War of Terror and Hate: How the US Will Make the Most Out of the ISIS Threat It Helped Create
By Staff Editorial / socialistworker.org

The U.S. war on ISIS in the Middle East has rehabilitated the "war on terror" at home.

IT'S THE 21st-century version of the old military recruiting poster: Uncle Sam wants you...to hate Muslim "extremists" and trust him to go to war again.

That's the message of the propaganda onslaught for the latest chapter in the never-ending "war on terror," coming from Democratic and Republican political leaders alike and parroted by the media.

The U.S. military is once again dropping bombs on Iraq--and now Syria, a newcomer to the list of targets--in a war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The hypocrisies have multiplied with each air strike. ISIS arose as a direct consequence of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the disaster that imperialism caused in the Middle East. Washington's celebrated Arab allies in the assault on ISIS are authoritarian regimes every bit as barbaric and oppressive as ISIS. The sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni, officially decried in Washington, is being further aggravated.

This new stage of the "war on terror" will only make the chaos and violence worse. But the reactionaries of ISIS, with their barbaric beheadings of hostages and violence directed at religious and ethnic minorities, are so abhorrent that the masters of the U.S. empire find themselves in an unfamiliar position, at least in the recent past: Their new war is broadly popular, at least for now.

The U.S. political and military elite has a golden opportunity to rehabilitate the image of imperialism, tarnished by its failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, the lies and deceptions spun as excuses for war, and the trail of massacres and atrocities stretching around the world.

The commanders and cheerleaders of imperialism are counting on outrage at ISIS to overcome people's questioning of the "war on terror" based on a decade of grim experience. This makes it all the more important for those individuals and organizations who don't buy the propaganda to raise their voices and say the truth.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

EVERY WAR overseas is accompanied by a war at home. During the U.S. "war on terror," the brunt of that war at home has fallen on Arab Americans and Muslims--and suspicion and bigotry is being wound up again as the war on ISIS takes off.

There was a particularly awful example last week following workplace violence at a food processing plant in Moore, Okla. After he was fired from the Vaughn Foods facility, Alton Nolen went to another building and began attacking workers at random. He beheaded one of his victims before he was shot.

The killing was horrific--not just the gruesome beheading, but the fact that Nolen lashed out at fellow employees who had nothing to do with his firing. But of course, the manner of the murder immediately focused attention on Nolen, who was revealed to have recently converted to Islam.

Professional Islamophobe Pam Geller, whose group has funded racist subway and bus ads in cities across the U.S., immediately proclaimed on her website, "The Islamic ritual slaughter of beheading has moved past Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Philippines and into the streets of London and now the American workplace."

Such a message is an incitement to treat all Muslims, or anyone who might "look Muslim," as a potential terrorist--even though there is zero evidence to connect this crazed act in Oklahoma with either ISIS half a world away or with Islam itself, as even the FBI declared in a statement.

This is just the latest example in a wave of scaremongering about ISIS terrorism supposedly reaching U.S. shores.

Earlier this month, a Colorado teenager named Shannon Conley pled guilty to a reduced terrorism charge. The young woman, a recent convert to Islam, reportedly engaged in an online relationship with a man claiming to be an ISIS fighter--and planned to travel to meet him, when she was stopped and arrested last April. Her case is one of several that kindled a mini-media frenzy about ISIS supposedly preying on love-struck "schoolgirl jihadis."

All this fits a very old pattern of imperial scapegoating: the hunting of an "enemy within" to justify war without. Just as Communists and immigrants and radical Black activists once were, Muslims and Arab Americans are the shadowy menace--and everyone is suspect.

Racial and religious profiling is the rule in the "heightened security" apparatus constructed since the September 11 attacks. After all the untold billions spent in the name of protecting U.S. citizens from "terrorism," the main "success stories" in the domestic front of the "war on terror" are examples of racist scapegoating and entrapment of the most vulnerable.

One example: The case of the "Newburgh Four," who were accused planning to attack New York synagogues. The "plot" was largely suggested by an FBI informant, and none of the four ever had access to weapons, except those helpfully supplied by the FBI. Yet they were convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison each.

Miscarriages of justice like this are so grotesque that it's hard to believe anyone bought the wild accusations. But U.S. history shows that fear-mongering has been a constant and often effective tool of the American ruling class.

"Evidence-wise, we had them beat," David Williams, one of the Newburgh Four, explained to the Village Voice. "We got convicted on feelings. They [the prosecutors] started talking about 9/11...and we got convicted on that. Once you put 'terrorist' in front of anything, it's like being charged with rape or child molestation. Once a jury hears that you're accused of a certain type of crime, you're already guilty."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ACCORDING TO Obama and other political leaders, ISIS represents a unique threat. "There can be no reasoning--no negotiation--with this brand of evil," he said in a speech to the United Nations. But this sort of demonization--conjuring up special "brands of evil"--has a long precedent in U.S. history.

Back in the early days of U.S. imperialism, politicians and the media invented crude provocations to justify intervention in the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, where American forces carried out the wholesale slaughter of indigenous populations. All this was done, according to President William McKinley, "not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employments, and in their personal and religious rights."

More recently, Iraq's Saddam Hussein became the villain of the moment, accused of harboring weapons of mass destruction and employing torture chambers against dissidents. When the U.S. wanted to go to war on Iraq, he was portrayed as a vile dictator, called the "new Hitler" and denounced for invading "poor little Kuwait," where his soldiers pulled infants from hospital incubators, according to a completely false story that circulated during the first Gulf War in 1991.

But only a few years before, Saddam had been a valued ally, who the U.S. increasingly backed in the murderous war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s. That's why there's sucha chummy photo of Donald Rumsfeld meeting with Saddam in Baghdad in 1983 on behalf of the Reagan administration. And those chemical weapons that Saddam was later condemned for possessing? It turns out that Rumsfeld may have helped Iraq obtain them.

Back then, the U.S. had no problem with Saddam's torture chambers--and, of course, after Bush Jr.'s invasion finally toppled the ally-turned-enemy, the U.S. made use of them. The U.S. didn't object to the methods of the "Butcher of Baghdad" until he disobeyed his U.S. masters with the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. That's when the U.S. government, with control of Middle East oil foremost in mind, turned on its former ally.

No U.S. politicians have appeared in photo ops with ISIS leaders. But there are connections to Washington that deserve to be examined so long as Obama is talking about ISIS and its particular "brand of evil."

The U.S. made use of the radical Islamists who represent ISIS's political ancestors back in the 1980s as a proxy army against the USSR after it invaded Afghanistan. The al-Qaeda network once headed by Osama bin Laden gained its first military experience in the U.S.-financed mujahedeen, which Ronald Reagan celebrated as "courageous freedom fighters."

More recently, U.S.-backed Arab regimes--the very ones now participating in the U.S.-led war on ISIS--provided financial and material support to hard-line fundamentalist groupings in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, as a Sunni counterweight against the growing strength of the so-called "Shia Crescent" led by Iran.

ISIS is utterly reactionary, committed to an oppressive vision of undemocratic rule over Sunnis and non-Sunnis alike. It is certainly no opponent of imperialism. "It went almost unnoticed that the self-obsessed, religion-crazed group issued not a word of condemnation of Israel or of solidarity with the Gazans during the recent Israeli assault," wrote Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann. Opposition to Israel, the main ally of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, doesn't seem to be part of the ISIS agenda.

But the actual facts about ISIS--its origins, its reactionary politics, its real aims--don't matter to the Obama administration.

In ISIS, the U.S. has found a perfect enemy, one that can be exploited to repair and rebuild support for the empire. In addition to providing the perfect foil for the U.S. to carry out new interventions, the ISIS threat will be used as justification for bolstering the surveillance state--a badly needed boost for Big Brother after the revelations of government spying from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Scapegoating serves a further purpose beyond the wars at home and abroad--of shifting attention from the crimes that affect the lives of working people around the country every day: poverty, unemployment, the disastrous health care system. Opposing U.S. imperialism is an integral part of fighting for the social priorities we need at home.

Everyone who cares about social justice, no matter what the issue--racism and police violence, immigrant rights, labor, ecological justice--must see how this attack on Muslims and Arab Americans is connected to their own struggle, and stand strong against the rehabilitation of the "war on terror" at home and abroad.

3.8 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 10,927 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
Free Trade Explained In An Excellent Comic
Michael Goodwin, Illustrated by Dan E. Burr · 7,132 views today · The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are the latest in a long line...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 5,669 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 5,346 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Inside the Invisible Government: John Pilger on War, Propaganda, Clinton and Trump
John Pilger · 4,989 views today · The American journalist, Edward Bernays, is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psycho-analysis, it was...
Open Up - Have the Difficult But Important Conversations With Loved Ones
5 min · 3,894 views today · “The biggest casualty of humanity is the lack of communication, it’s the thing that breaks most relationships. It just feels so much better to talk and get it out.” There is...
Who I'm Voting For...
3 min · 3,829 views today · Prince Ea announces who he's voting for. It's probably not who you think.
Democracy in the Digital Era
Birgitta Jonsdottir · 3,135 views today · Our current democratic models are crumbling and outdated. We need to make something more real and meaningful. Activist and politician Birgitta Jónsdóttir points to how it might...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 2,086 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,521 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 1,379 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 1,052 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 1,030 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
#Hypernormalisation - Why Heathrow Plan Is Proof We Exist in a Catastrophic Fantasyland
Matthew Adams · 927 views today · The British government recently gave the green light for Heathrow airport’s third runway. It was heralded by its supporters as a vital boost for jobs and growth – and proof...
'Maritime Graveyard': 2016 Deadliest Year Ever for Refugees Crossing Mediterranean
Deirdre Fulton · 903 views today · "From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiraled to one in 88," says UNHCR spokesman
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 756 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 689 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 568 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 424 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 394 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
A War of Terror and Hate: How the US Will Make the Most Out of the ISIS Threat It Helped Create