The Islamic State (IS), also known as the ISIS and ISIL, has taken responsibility for the horrendous terrorist attacks on Paris that murdered 129 innocent people and injured hundreds more. The criminal act has been rightly condemned by world’s leader, ranging from President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and even Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah. The attacks have rightly outraged ordinary people everywhere. There is a feeling of solidarity with the people of France everywhere, and there should be. But, the solidarity and sympathy appear to be selective.
The day before the Paris attacks, the IS took responsibility for carrying out another horrendous terrorist bombing, this time in the Shiite neighborhood of Beirut that killed at least 43 people and wounded hundreds.
The day before the Beirut attacks suicide bombing by the IS killed at least 26 people in Baghdad. From August through November the IS carried out a series of other terrorist attacks in Baghdad. The August attacks murdered killed at least 80 people; The September attacks killed at least 13 people, while the October bombing took the lives of at least 24 innocent people. Thus, 143 Iraqis have lost their lives at the hands of the IS over the past three months.
What has been the world’s, and in particular’ the West’s reaction to the carnage in Beirut and Baghdad? Nothing; no sympathy with the Lebanese and Iraqi people was expressed. No message of solidarity was sent, and no demonstrations or gatherings took place outside Lebanon’s and Iraq’s diplomatic missions anywhere in the Western world. The world was silent, as it has been about similar terrorist attacks over the past few months have killed a large number of innocent Muslims around the world.
Why is it that Western governments and people said almost nothing about the IS crimes in Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Islamic world, which has in fact been happening on a regular basis for over two years now, while expect everyone to condemn the Paris attack, and in fact hold that as a measure of how strongly anti-terrorism is a nation and its people? Muslim people everywhere condemned the Paris attacks using the strongest language. Will Christians and Jews condemn the Beirut and Baghdad attacks? Do not hold your breath; it will not be coming. The double standards of the West and the Christians and Jews, and their selective grief and outrage, cannot be more glaring.
In fact, the Paris attacks have given new excuses to warmongers and Islamophobes in the U.S. to attack the President and Muslims – not that the President himself has not contributed to the bloodshed in the Middle East and North Africa; he has mightily. Appearing as moral impostors, they are calling for new wars against Muslim nations in the Middle East, and spreading Islamophobia and prejudice against Muslims in the United States.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said that US should block Middle East refugees after Paris Attacks. It did not occur to him the refuges are trying to escape the same IS and its terror. Donald Trump declared that he “would bomb the sh.. out of ISIS” if he were the president, and called for more arms for the people to “defend themselves.” After his moronic statement that the nuclear deal with Iran “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven,” Mike Huckabee made another idiotic proposal, calling on President Obama to cancel the deal. This is while Iran is an archenemy of the IS and has been fighting with it in Iraq and Syria. In their race to take advantage of the human catastrophe for their own political ambitions, other Republican candidates have made tough-sounding calls for more actions in the Middle East.
Right-wing Eli Lake of Bloomberg View, who has been ranting against Iran for years, called for authorization of US war in Syria, as if we are not already involved there. Demonizing Syrian refugees, Newt Gingrich tweeted, “Now can we have a serious debate about millions of Syrian refugees and how many terrorists will be in the crowd.” Ann Coulter implied that Muslims of the US should be deported. Matt Drudge warned that “Muslims on track to exceed Jewish population in US.” Jeb Bush suggested that Syrian Christians should be taken in as refugees, implying a faith-based approach that would exclude Muslims. The list can go on and on, but the point has been made. Over 1.6 billion Muslims are collectively held responsible for the action of at most a few thousands.
The right-wing pundits, politicians, and Islamophobes hide two important facts:
One, the IS is the heir to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a creature of the US invasion of that country in 2003. It emerged in 2004 and gained experience battling US forces. When NATO, including France at the forefront, bombed Libya to topple Muammar Gaddafi, its fighters took part in the fighting there along other radical Islamic groups that were supported by the CIA, and the French and other Western intelligence agencies. When the war broke out in Syria, the IS along other radical groups were funded and armed by US allies in the region, namely, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, as acknowledged by Vice President Joe Biden and top American generals. The IS weaponry is mostly Western made. In short, this is a terrorist monster that is the result of US invasion of Iraq.
But, the harder truth is that declassified documents clearly indicate that the West supported transformation of the al-Qaeda in Iraq to the IS, as a way of countering Iran, toppling Bashar al-Assad in Syria and weakening the Lebanese Hezbollah. The document by Defense Intelligence Agency predicted, and essentially welcomed, the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaeda-controlled Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. It identified al-Qaeda in Iraq – the present IS – and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” and stated that “Western countries, the [Persian] Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.
In June the trial of Bherlin Gildo, a Swedish national who had been accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear that the British intelligence and security forces had in fact aided the terrorist group that that Gildo had been accused of working with.
The second fact is that spreading prejudice against Muslims and Islamophobia, and starting more wars against Muslims only benefits the IS, al-Qaeda, and similar radical terrorist groups. We should not forget the context in which the terrorist attacks take place: It is invading Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing Libya (which Cameron and then French President Nikolas Sarkozy called “choosing democracy”), funding and arming the so-called opposition in Syria, killing innocent people by drones in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, supporting the worst dictatorial regimes such as Saudi Arabia’s, and suppressing peaceful opposition in Bahrain. Even when moderate Muslims, such as Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, win democratic elections, the West supports military coups that overthrow their elected government. This is not ancient history. We need to remind ourselves this history each time there is a new attack in the West.
Sharif and Said Kouachi, the two Paris-born brothers that were responsible for the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, had been radicalized by U.S. invasion of Iraq and torture of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison, not by secular dictatorship of Assad in Syria, and not by the Shiite Iran. The most ridiculous aspect of the aftermath of those attacks was the leaders of some of the worst Arab dictatorial regimes, including Saudi Arabia, as well as Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel whose policy toward Palestinians has contributed much to the radicalization of young Muslims, attending the solidarity march in Paris.
Let us hope that the West will not trade the French blood with Muslims’ blood elsewhere. Let us hope that France will not react the way the United States did after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Let us call on President Obama to act on his own words after he spoke about the Paris carnage: He spoke about “humanity and the universal values that we share.” If he really believes in it, he should oppose bloodbaths, not just in Paris and other Western cities, but also in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, and many other Islamic nations where the U.S. and its allies have been killing innocent Muslims in the name of the “global war on terrorism.” I am not holding my breath though. The President has shown that he is as much of a war president as anyone.