• Otter Views: March Comes in Like Apocalypse

    As this traditionally stormy month opened, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was rehearsing his Tuesday speech to Congress. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland, readying the Obama administration’s last desperate push for a possible nuclear deal with Iran.

    Also this week, the Islamic State caliphate continued beheading or enslaving all who resist conversion to its fundamentalist form of Islam. Disaffected European and North American youths, some still in high school, flocked to Syria to join up.

    Jubilant after their own orgy of beheadings on a Mediterranean beach, ISIS affiliates in Libya vowed to conquer Rome next. ISIS also promised to slaughter mall shoppers in Britain, Minnesota and Canada. The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, prepared to cut off paychecks for 30,000 homeland security personnel as an immigration policy protest.

    Never a dull moment.

    America has seen stranger times, but the past fortnight has left my head spinning like one of Iran’s 9,000 – or is it 12,000? – uranium enrichment centrifuges. For the U.S. and its diplomatic partners, what to do about Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program is a Rubik’s Cube as puzzling as the one North Korea presents. No matter which way you twist, there’s no obvious solution.

    While North Korea has lately done plenty of saber-rattling and missile-firing, its potential targets are as random as the vintages in Dear Leader’s wine cellar. But Iran’s Ayatollah has been very specific about his intent to erase Israel from the Middle East. Hence, Netanyahu’s election-eve address to Congress.

    Among the talking points that filtered out before Wednesday’s speech was the Israeli prime minister’s sardonic take on the ongoing Homeland Security funding imbroglio: “You here in America are concerned about security; in Israel we are concerned about survival.”

    In Netanyahu’s view, negotiating with Iran is a fool’s bargain and a fatal one. Thus, every torturous month the Obama administration spends trying to put Iran’s nuclear enrichment program on “pause” brings Israel a month closer to the Ayatollah’s promised Armageddon.

    With tacit or explicit U.S. backing, Israel has launched preemptive strikes against its enemies’ nuclear facilities in the past (bombing in Syria; “Stuxnet” in Iran). The Obama administration’s current reliance on diplomacy has angered Israeli and Congressional hawks who advocate bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities and, if necessary, going to war there.

    In pushing for a martial solution, Netanyahu and his U.S. supporters find themselves in unlikely company. ISIS also wants the west to invade, but for different reasons. In the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly, writer Graeme Wood gives a long, thorough explication of “What ISIS Really Wants.” And that, basically, is a glorious, apocalyptic war to the death with all infidels.

    “The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself,” Wood writes. “The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide . . . . and would bolster recruitment.”

    The Islamic State’s desired apocalypse is preordained by the Koran, Wood writes, and by prophetic narratives embedded in Sunni belief. “The armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria,” he paraphrases, “and Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.”

    While other extremist Islamic groups seek revenge, prestige or geopolitical advantage, Wood continues, ISIS is determined to bring about the end of the world. So long as its warriors obey the Prophet and cleave to Shariah law, he writes, this end justifies all means: conquest, rape, slavery, torture and murder.

    An extreme reading of the Islamic doctrine of “takfir” or excommunication justifies the slaughter of apostates (those whose perceived behavior flaunts some aspect of Koranic Shariah law). This in turn commits ISIS to “purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people,” including all 200 million Shiites.

    Slavery, rape and forced marriage are also justified under the caliphate’s reading of Islamic law. Wood cites an article in the Islamic State magazine Dabiq wherein Islamic scholars debate whether the Kurdish Yazidi people ISIS overran are lapsed Muslims, and thus to be decapitated, or simply “pagans,” and thus suitable for enslavement and concubinage.

    The departure for Syria and Iraq of young western ISIS converts has baffled their home nations, but in one sense it’s not surprising. To alienated Muslim teens, taking up the “sacred requirement” of establishing a 21st century caliphate and thereby hastening the apocalypse must seem an empowering, exciting and ennobling quest; a video game for keeps.

    The appeal to bedrock sociopaths is even simpler: behead, rape, maim, pillage and repeat. And if you are martyred, blue-eyed virgins will pleasure you in heaven.

    Hmmm. Sounds like a plan.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on March 6, 2015

    Topics: Otter Views

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