Can you Tell Who the Bad Guys are Now?
You would have thought that Barack Obama and David Cameron, the nominal leaders of the free world, would have had it all figured out by now.
Obama, in the sixth year of his presidency and Cameron in his fourth as prime minister, have both nevertheless been loath to identify the growing menace that threatens the survival of the West.
During the recent war in Gaza, Obama -- and to a lesser degree Cameron -- were prepared to lend diplomatic cover to a terrorist organization whose own acts of depravity -- over the course of not one month, but twenty years -- vitiated against all civilized norms.
As counter-revolutionary fervor gripped the people of Iran in June, 2009 and significant civilian protests presented a direct threat to the Iranian regime the two -- even if Cameron was still only an opposition leader -- failed to appreciate the historic importance of the Green Movement and allowed it to sink from view in an enveloping fog of vacillation and diplomatic paralysis.
As Bashar al-Assad in Syria tortured and gassed his own people, both surrendered any opportunity to assist a nascent liberal opposition which was quickly snuffed out and replaced by hardline extremists.
Now confronted with the rolling juggernaut that is ISIS in Northern Iraq, the two seem to have finally stirred from their moral torpor and recognized that there are forces in the world with which they must contend if their governments are to retain any semblance of credibility.
The ISIS phenomenon has stunned the world. Much like the Mongol hordes that swept out of the Central Asian Steppe in the 13th Century, this is a force which seems to have emerged from nowhere -- anti-modern, highly focused in its objectives and brutal in its execution while paying no attention to the niceties of the rules of war. Brutal decapitations of Iraqi civilians, the rape of women, their sale in slave markets, the burial of live victims, the starvation of villagers into submission -- this is not even terrorism, or Assad-like murder of Syrian citizens, but Genghis Khan reincarnated in the 21st Century.
So far, it has swept everything before it, conquering two of Iraq's largest cities, and mercilessly killing anything standing on two legs that does not conform to its standards of religious observance. It represents the gravest threat to stability in a notoriously unstable region of the world.
But because ISIS does not want nor need television credentials nor exposure, and does not have a spokesman nor any kind of specific political identity, Western leaders have been flummoxed as to how to contend with the group and its acts of unrelenting barbarism.
Yet we in the West would be wrong to think that we have seen nothing like it at all on our own soil.
On October 12th, 2000 two Israeli reservists wandered by mistake into Ramallah on the West Bank. They were taken into custody by the Palestinian police to a local police office where they were brutally tortured -- their eyes gouged out, their genitals dismembered and their bodies mutilated -- before they were released to a Palestinian mob waiting in the street below. There they were torn to pieces -- and so brutally disfigured that dental records were required to identify their bodies. Most of the torture was captured on tape.
Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh's slaying on the streets of Amsterdam on November 2, 2004 was yet another example of ISIS-style Islamic justice in action. After shooting Van Gogh several times, his assailant Mouhammed Bouyeri completed the execution by attempting to behead the dead man and failing that, plunged a knife into his chest leaving a note threatening the life of Dutch parliamentarian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
British citizens received a stark example of ISIS-styled execution on May 22nd, 2013 when Lee Rigby, an off-duty British soldier, was accosted and then almost decapitated on a London street by a pair of British Muslims. After having completed their gruesome act, one declared: "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," apparently referring to British military efforts in Afghanistan.
The upshot is this: ISIS is not only in Northern Iraq and the Middle East. It is a living, breathing monster, lurking in our Western cities, watching and waiting. In Iraq it traffics under a new moniker that is determined to have us regard it as a singular phenomenon; but in the rest of the world it operates quite nicely utilizing its ancient and highly recognizable ideological branding: jihad.
Yet why, when Israelis have repeatedly peeled back the mask on the face of this monster, are our Western leaders so slow to react and unwilling to call it for what it is? As we watched film last week of desperate Yazhidis on Singal Mountain in Northern Iraq fighting for their lives and heard the gruesome tales of their tormentors' atrocities, Cameron at least doubled down and declared that "if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain." And yet both he and Obama continue to equivocate on connecting the dots linking what is happening there to the battles in Gaza, the disappearance of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria and the slaughter three years ago in Mumbai.
There is a terrible force loose in the world of which ISIS is only one manifestation. Our leaders' tendency to identify the bad guys only when no suave, telegenic spokesman is available to present terrorist demands in our media, freezes our entire citizenry in a state of cognitive dissonance and fails to prepare them for a devastating ISIS-like attack when it really does occur on the streets of our own cities.