By Scott Taylor
Now that Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL) forces have been all but completely defeated in Syria and Iraq, fears have risen in the West as to what will happen to all those foreign fighters who took up arms to assist the Daesh evildoers.
With their self-proclaimed caliphate having been pounded into a mound of rubble by the U.S.-led allied air force, it is wildly feared that the foreign Daesh volunteers will return to their native or adopted Western countries wherein they will continue to wage a deadly campaign of terrorism.
Canadian authorities estimate that there are as many as 250 individuals connected to Daesh who also have some form of official link to Canada. It is believed that, of that number, roughly 60 Daesh-affiliated individuals have already returned to Canadian soil over the past two years.
Fanning the flames of fear has been the Conservative Party with its claims that the Trudeau Liberals are soft on terrorists and, as a result, we are all in mortal danger. According to the Conservatives, dozens of Daesh already walk among us, hundreds more are poised to return to Canada, and all Justin Trudeau can do is make available counselling to reform these would-be evildoers.
At the root of their argument is Trudeau’s statement that “we have methods of de-emphasizing or de-programming people who want to do harm to our society.” Taken in isolation, Trudeau’s words do sound very naïve particularly when one is talking about former members of Daesh.
However, Trudeau also mentioned the more practical steps being taken by Canadian security forces regarding these individuals, which include increased surveillance, the issuing of peace bonds, and the revoking of passports.
These measures are still not harsh enough to placate the truly frightened tub-thumpers who herald British Secretary of Defence Gavin Williamson’s directive to “kill British ISIS fighters.” Without offering up any specific legal jurisdiction, which would authorize such extrajudicial executions, Williamson vowed to hunt down those Britons who left the UK to fight for Daesh.
Critics were quick to point out that Williamson’s tough guy comments are far easier said than done once you factor in the complex legal ramifications of such assassinations, but his rhetoric proved to be a widely popular sentiment in both the UK and Canada.
Part of this phenomenon can be attributed to the wildly successful PR machine of Daesh itself. In the early days of 2014, when Daesh first burst onto the scene in Syria and Iraq, its leaders were able to magnify the group’s evilness through widespread distributions of videos on the Internet. Mass beheadings, deaths by fire and threats to come and kill us in our beds, all professionally edited for maximum drama, turned the spectre of Daesh into something far larger than life. They became the epitome of terrorism, in that the infinitesimally tiny threat they posed to us in the West became an irrational source of fear. Daesh became the fictional bogeyman.
Western media played into Daesh’s hands by labelling everything they did as terrorism, which in turn made every member of Daesh a terrorist. The fact is that as Daesh fought to establish and then defend its self-proclaimed caliphate, its members fought as conventional military forces: they used conventional weapons such as small arms, military vehicles and artillery, and they fought from clearly identified defensive positions. They may have fought with fanatical resistance, but in terms of training and equipment, they were at best a third-rate guerrilla army.
Those Canadians and other Western volunteers who misguidedly chose to support Daesh’s skewered Islamic teachings would not have been trained to become some sort of super terrorists; they would have instead been given rudimentary training in basic infantry weapons and tactics.
Their crime is to have violated Canada’s 1937 Foreign Enlistment Act, which prohibits Canadian citizens from volunteering to fight in foreign wars against friendly nations.
To let our misplaced fear of Daesh cloud our judgment to the point that we would condone automatic death sentences for all these individuals only serves to illustrate just how effective the Daesh terrorism campaign has been.