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Sunday, April 16, 2017

ISIS—Tactics that don't help their cause—the politics of terrorism

By សតិវអតុ
ISIS (Islamic State) is one of many political groups have been designated as a terrorist group by the US Government. Some groups who have this designation do stage acts that could realistically be called terrorism. I would include the random killing of civilians and attacks that have no military value as real terrorism. ISIS and al-Qaeda fit that definition. As an example al Qaeda tries to leave bombs in public places that will kill lots of civilians. That includes women, children and just about anyone who happens to be in a public place that is under attack. The 9/11 attack is such an example. There was no military objectives to bringing down the twin towers. Property was destroyed and lots of lives were taken. The objectives were important to the economic vitality to the US nation state, so there were economic advantages to destroying the twin towers, but not military. The people killed were mostly civilians. The act was terrifying and terrifying people should be a determination as to whether an action is terrorism or just an act of war.
But the US government and its lackeys in the press also use that label for anyone that has used military means against the US status quo. One example is the New People’s Army of the Philippines. It is a guerrilla army. It attacks the Philippine government's military. Most of the intended targets are military. And yet they are designated a terrorist group by the US government. It would seem that the label of terrorism does not mean they try to terrorize innocent civilians, but because they are acting against US foreign power by attacking a US ally. The label has almost nothing to do with actual terrorism. And that is the main problem with the so called “war on terrorism.” It is not really about terrorism.
However both the New People’s Army and ISIS are para-military armies at odds with the US and its allies. That is the one thing the two groups have in common and maybe that is the only thing they have in common. One group is Maoist—the other is Islamic. They both are organized as an army and yet one engages in attacks on civilians, going for a large kill count and the other avoids such displays of random violence. 
So that brings up an interesting debate. If an army of any kind decides to use hit and run tactics, as ISIS does, is it terrorism and is it an affective tool? To look at ISIS, we have to wonder what they believe they get out of attacking large numbers of civilian people. They attack people who may or may not have anything with their conflict between the US, its allies and them. What can they achieve? It is really hard to get first hand accounts of what ISIS really wants to achieve, because the US government has pushed the group's websites so far underground that a person has to really know how to access them. The US often hacks and then shuts down ISIS websites. They are often in Arabic and that makes it hard for many of us to read and understand them. The US is all for freedom of speech when it is a dissident of some country like Cuba. But when it comes to US adversaries, this country is against such freedom of speech.
According to CNN:

"ISIS makes no secret of its ultimate ambition: A global caliphate secured through a global war. To that end it speaks of "remaining and expanding" its existing hold over much of Iraq and Syria. It aims to replace existing, man-made borders, to overcome what it sees as the Shiite "crescent" that has emerged across the Middle East, to take its war -- Islam's war -- to Europe and America, and ultimately to lead Muslims toward an apocalyptic battle against the "disbelievers."

However it is hard to get an actual account of strategy from ISIS itself. One such publications, Dabiq, is a pro-ISIS magazine. They tend to talk of meting out justice against those who: 

"one would expect the cross-worshipers and democratic pagans of the West to pause and contemplate the reasons behind the animosity and enmity held by Muslims for Westerners and even take heed and consider repentance by abandoning their infidelity and accepting Islam."

But there seems to be a lack of real strategy for changing Western society away from the status quo and towards the establishment of an Islamic State in the world. Past leftist and nationalist organizations, such as the Red Army Faction in Germany or the various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) did attack civilians at times. At times they seem to be using the so called "propaganda of the dead," a tactic made famous by Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian Anarchist theoretician. In that theory, acts of violence and attacks on the targeted society are both military and propaganda at the same time. There was also the tactics of Focalism, a very similar tactic to propaganda of the dead. "Che" Guevara  was believed to be a focoist.  
But more often such groups sought out targets that would not include common civilians. They often targeted political leaders or military targets.
A women from Italy once told me that a lot of people in Europe did not fear such groups as the Red Brigades because they didn't usually target civilians. They usually targeted leaders. By avoiding common civilians these groups had a better chance at carrying out their war against the government without drawing hatred from the common civilians.
And that brings us to the tactics of ISIS. Most people don't like being afraid that someone will randomly kill them when they least expect it. So such acts are not drawing in support by the common people. Some people have joined them after reading their websites. They are good enough at propaganda to draw in new recruits with written propaganda. But it is hard to see what they really gain by attacking public places were, in many cases, people have gone out to enjoy themselves. What political statement really comes from shooting up a nightclub, such as Pulse Club in Orlando Florida. It was a gay nightclub and ISIS probably doesn't approve of being gay. But most of the targets have no military value at all. They just scare people. As for meting out justice, people aren't that likely to become Moslems just to avoid that kind of justice.
What would make a lot more sense would be to assassinate leaders in this society. Attacks on the Pentagon would be especially helpful. Certain elected leaders would also make good targets. A lot of people would not really care if ISIS attacked those who are actually responsible for the wars in the Middle east. Some people might even favor the attacks.
As a leftist I don't recommend attacking US officials right now. They have the upper hand and would probably catch us and shut down our political organizations. Maoists don't believe in fighting battles we can't win. So unless we can get the upper hand, we won't be assassinating government or military officials. Some of us might take part in the Black Block tactics, but that is as far as we will go right now. If we ever change our minds, we will surely have no interest in randomly killing the civilians around us. That would more likely lose us support rather than build it.
If ISIS were serious about winning their war they would also abandon such random killing of civilians and attack those who are directly taking part in fighting a war against them. But I don't expect that anytime soon. 

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