Belfast Telegraph

Unending 'war on terror' goes down another blind alley

By Eamonn McCann

Here we go, here we go, here we go. Again. On Wednesday last week, Barack Obama launched the latest phase in the "war on terror".

"With our friends and allies... we will degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as Isis," he announced. "These terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape and force women into marriage. These terrorists could pose a growing threat ... to the United States."

Isis poses a threat to a number of countries in the Middle East, most obviously to Iraq and Syria. But threatening the US does not seem to be part of its agenda. The group's stated reasons for murdering innocent Westerners and distributing film of their savagery is that the US has deployed forces 6,000 miles from its own shores to bomb the areas under their control (it has gone largely unmentioned that hundreds, maybe thousands, of Iraqis, too, have been shot, beheaded or buried alive by Isis. Not that that diminishes the horror of the murders of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines and the threat to murder Alan Henning. It just means that not all the horror has been highlighted).

Isis say that their killing of Westerners is designed to deter the US from continuing and the UK from joining in the attacks on their positions – not to give a foretaste of attacks on Washington or London. Many may feel that we are dealing here with such an evil outfit that it matters little what explanation is offered for seeking to blast them into oblivion. This, of course, was the view taken by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in relation to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 – which ought to remind us that there was no jihadist group operating in Iraq back then. Saddam would have put down any jihadists who raised their heads – possibly by chopping the same heads off.

The jihadists have proliferated in Iraq since. No serious analyst questions that the major factor in this dramatic change of circumstance was the US/UK invasion and occupation.

Now Obama, who, during his 2008 campaign for the Presidency, made much of the fact that he hadn't voted for the invasion of Iraq, is now insisting that it would be an act of national apostasy to oppose a repeat of the exercise.

Obama is stretching it a bit to suggest that Isis "are unique in their brutality" in executing prisoners, killing children and enslaving, raping and forcing women into marriage. What may be unique to Isis is the eagerness to advertise such brutality to the world. No film of the regular beheading of prisoners in Saudi Arabia appears online. But the anguish of the victims as their necks are bared for the swish of the sword must be as unspeakably horrible as the suffering of the Westerners done to death by Isis.

There's no chance, however, of the US bombing Riyadh to end this evil. The Saudi dictatorship is top of the list of regional allies the US needs onside for blitzing Isis. Last week the Obama administration distributed pictures of Secretary of State John Kerry in comfortable conversation with the leader of the Saudi beheaders, King Abdullah. The caption told that the pair were discussing what role Saudi Arabia might play in supporting US attacks on the Isis beheaders.

To complete this cat's cradle of contradiction and double-talk, a majority of the 9/11 terrorists whose action triggered the "war on terror" were Saudis. And oil-rich Saudi citizens are major contributors to the jihadists' coffers, as are citizens of Qatar, another member of Obama's coalition of the willing.

Iran, however, which lost more lives than any other nation in battling Saddam and which is already in the field combating Isis is, according to Obama, unacceptable as part of the proposed US-led coalition. It seems the Israelis won't hear of Iranian involvement.

That's the same Israel which has recently slaughtered more than 2,000 people, including many children, in its drive to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

Isis, incidentally, for the time being at least, and maybe in the long-term, appears to have no plans for threatening Israel, either. 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.

You would have to have a heart of stone not to have been appalled and distressed by the pictures of decent people who had nothing but kindness in their hearts for the Iraqi people being decapitated by pitiless zealots. But it cannot be on account of this that Obama wants to go to war. Nor on account of an Isis threat to the US.

What then?

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