Monday, February 16, 2015

Senator Murphy’s Worms

US Senator Chris Murphy might have said simply that the US invasion of Iraq in March, 2003 radicalized enemies of “the Great Satan” – that’s us. At best, this was a half-truth. There is some discussion afoot as to whether George Bush’s largely successful overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime during a three month war radicalized ISIS. Perhaps ISIS has been radicalized by something else.

Some people, staring at Mr. Murphy from across the political barricades,  assert that the premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq following the war was the precipitating event that gave birth to ISIS’ largely successful advance from Syria to northern Iraq. ISIS, according to this reading of events, simply exploited a military and political weakness issued from President Barack Obama’s “lead from behind” Middle East strategy: When the cat’s away, Islamic terrorists will play. The propriety of the war to dislodge Saddam Hussein has become an
 political briar patch so thick and thorny that it might be wise for reporters to hang over the event the sign posted by Dante on the gates of Hell: “Surrender all hope, ye who enter here.”

Mr. Murphy, seeking to instruct his brethren in the Senate, grabbed hold of a questionable analogy – the “flat worm” simile. Behind the simile stood a man, new to the Senate, the self-proclaimed Moses of the modern progressive movement, who accounted for the rise of ISIS by pointing to Bush’s war in Iraq.

The flat worm, Mr. Murphy said, has an amazing ability to reproduce itself after it has been cut in half.  When Mr. Bush sent US forces to Iraq to rid the country of a man that had in the past used chemical weapons (WMDs) against the Kurds – then and now friendly to the United States – he cut the flat worm in half: That worm has now reproduced itself throughout the Middle East. Elsewhere, Mr. Murphy has warned his colleagues that military solutions to problems in the Middle East are to be avoided, lest the cut worms multiply.

 It should be said here that Mr. Murphy was NOT suggesting Islam itself was wormy; some followers of the prophet, blessings be upon him, do not take kindly to implicit insults.

Applying the Murphy rule to later events, the Senator would have been bound to oppose the assassination of Osama bin Laden, a flat worm of major proportions. Mr. Obama rode the assassination of Mr. bin Laden into office, apparently without giving proper thought to Mr. Murphy’s flat worm thesis.

The proposition “Bush is responsible for the rise of ISIS” is a near perfect example of the Post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this") fallacy. The proposition falls to earth because it fails to take account of succeeding causal events. Chanticleer crows and the sun rises; therefore the crowing has caused the sun to rise. Actually, we know that the sun, a stationary body, only appears to rise; but even if it did rise, Chanticleer’s crowing cannot be the precipitating cause of the apparent rise. Not only is Mr. Murphy’s politically expedient proposition wrong-headed; it leads to a strategic polity that cannot be useful, based as it is on a false premise that seriously distorts the principal motivation of ISIS, which is theo-political.

ISIS recently has beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts, Christians previously kidnapped in Libya. The Islamic State’s Al Hayat Media released a gruesome video record of the decapitations, “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross,” along with a statement: “All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together. The sea you have hidden Sheikh Usama Bin Laden's body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.” The Islamic State released In November an infomercial-like video tracing its origins to bin Laden. The connection is vital because it is theo-political.

Doctrinally – theo-politically – ISIS identifies with and embraces the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” The forefathers , an illuminating piece in The Atlantic points out, “are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, culture, family life, even dentistry.”

The Atlantic, which one of Mr. Murphy’s comrades in the progressive movement should recommend to him, is not a conservative publication. “What ISIS Really Wants is a masterful presentation. ISIS is prophetic, apocalyptic, patient, and borderless – because the caliphate necessary to its survival as a theo-political force is simply the place in northern Iraq in which the caliph resides and calls to himself armies of faithful believers. The Caliphate is “not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation.” We already know that ISIS “rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.” 

And we – with the possible exception of Mr. Murphy – know what has to be done to defeat it. It must be driven out of northern Iraq and destroyed in such a way that ISIS itself will know it has been destroyed. It cannot be diplomacized to death.   

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