The news today has been filled with stories regarding the video released by the group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) wherein a man named LT Muath al-Kasaesbeh, a pilot in the Jordanian air force, is soaked in gasoline and burned alive as ISIS militants watch and cheer. LT al-Kasaesbeh was shot down during a bombing mission over Syria in December and until now the Jordanian government had been in talks with ISIS leaders to swap several prisoners in return for al-Kasaesbeh.
For many people this video, though horrible, represents nothing new about the situation in the Middle East. People in that neck of the woods have been killing each other for about as long as anyone can remember and in equally horrific fashion. However this particular video holds special significance in that it demonstrates the resolve of ISIS; but more so it shows us who these so-called people really are. The reason this is so significant as compared to the countless horrors being committed in several other parts of the world is because ISIS, unlike some other terror groups, has the money, manpower and weapons to be a serious threat to the stability and safety of several nations, and to the economic and political interests of several more.
ISIS is essentially a rogue Army operating purely on violence and fear. Imagine if during the Iraq war the 100,000 US Army Soldiers deployed there suddenly decided to break away from all law and government, declare war on the entire world, and work singularly toward a goal of total domination through mass murder. That is basically what is happening in Iraq and Syria right now. ISIS forces are estimated to be somewhere around 100,000 strong (as high as 200,000 in some estimates), they have modern weapons and equipment stolen from the Iraqi Army, they possess hundreds of millions of dollars stolen from Iraqi banks, and they control several oil refineries which they use to make additional money. They have one goal (so we’re to believe), the complete domination of the entire Middle East region so that they might create a new Islamic caliphate based on their own version of Islam and Sharia law. Which brings me back to the video.
The man in the video, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, is almost assuredly a Sunni Muslim since about 92% of Jordanians are Sunnis (of course we can’t be entirely sure but it’s a very safe bet). ISIS is comprised exclusively of Sunnis. Knowing the deeply intense divisions, the hated, the animosity, the absolute disgust between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the fact that ISIS militants would kill this man (most likely a fellow Sunni) rather than trade him to recover some of their own people speaks volumes of their resolve and of their intent. And they didn’t just kill him; they put him in a cage, soaked him in gasoline, left a trail of gasoline leading to the cage so he could watch the flames creep toward him, burned him alive, and then buried his body while still in the cage. Rather than exploit the diplomatic value of their hostage to help their “cause”, they thought it more fun kill him in the most horrific manner they could conjure.
I’m reminded of a story (you may know it) from the movie The Dark Knight. Alfred is telling Bruce Wayne about a bandit he was chasing once. The bandit was robbing people and then throwing away the spoils on the side of the road. As Alfred said he was just doing it “for sport”. ISIS is a lot like this fictional bandit. We think they’re doing this for some grand political goal, their vision of a Muslim utopia spanning the Middle East, but are they really? What are they doing with the territory they’ve taken? How are they treating the people they’ve conquered? They claim they’re doing this for Sunni Muslims, to create a better world for them, but they never actually do anything to help “their people”. They murder, they loot, they plunder, they rape, but has anyone ever seen a video of ISIS fighters building a school or a hospital? Has anyone seen them housing or feeding the countless millions of displaced Muslims scattered across the Levant? If they really wanted to create this “better world” for their Sunni Muslim people they’d be doing it wherever they could to build trust and credibility with the people. The truth is they don’t really care about any of that. They have no desire to form a new country and run a government that cares for the people. They have no desire to create a better world or to restore Muslims to the glory of centuries past. That’s nothing but fodder for the cameras and recruiting videos. The real truth is far more terrifying. The real truth is that they’re doing it simply because they can. As Alfred said, some men just want to watch the world burn.
You see when you have no end goal, no time tables, no allegiances, no responsibilities to anyone but yourself then you no longer have anything to lose. When you have nothing to lose you have no reason to negotiate, to compromise or even to pause for a single second to consider the millions of lives you’ve destroyed. This is why ISIS is able to sacrifice their people, their resources, their diplomatic advantages, their everything seemingly without care. The truth behind ISIS is that there is no goal, there is only violence for the sake of violence. This is what the governments of the world don’t understand. There is no reasoning with these animals. No amount of negotiation or compromise will ever be enough to slick their desire for violence. No amount of land, or money, or power will ever satisfy them. Force must be met with force. To destroy them is the only solution.
It’s ironic, almost laughable really, that the only people with enough courage to stand toe to toe with these monsters and fight them are the same people that have been marginalized, murdered and spat on by the rest of the Muslim world for 150 years. Who are those people? Why the Kurds of course, and right now they’re about the only thing standing between ISIS and the mass murder of millions. Groups like ISIS are murdering innocent people by the millions around the world. Nigeria, Sudan, Myanmar, Yemen, Mali, Libya, so on and so forth. For all our power, wealth, influence and talk of decency, righteousness, and the protection of the innocent where is America during all this? At home of course, it’s Tuesday night The Big Bang Theory is on.