Daily headlines are in a two-way tie between the Ebola virus and the ISIS caliphate as to what frightens western audiences the most. The perfect storm would erupt if a U.S. intelligence source even hinted that ISIS had somehow weaponized Ebola.
The level of fear generated among Canadians by ISIS was illustrated last week in the public sentiment expressed toward the 600 Royal Canadian Air Force personnel departing for Kuwait. In response to media reports that the advance team was flying out of CFB Trenton, readers’ comments were alarmingly vulgar to the point of blatant bigotry.
In addition to those wishing our troops Godspeed and a safe return, a number of posters urged our flyboys to show no mercy in their mission. While encouraging our air force to “bomb them all to hell” could be meant to mean all weapon-carrying ISIS fighters, the suggestion that our military personnel should “stuff bacon in the mouths of dead ISIS fighters” (to prevent their assent to heaven, presumably) was pure anti-Muslim nonsense. That comment sparked like-minded suggestions that it “should be only Canadian bacon,” and that our soldiers should “dip their bullets in pig fat.”
While it is true that ISIS represents an extreme element of fanatical Sunni Muslim Wahabists, such Muslim-bashing rhetoric from the Canadian public is clearly misguided as our air force personnel deploy into a very complex equation in this new battle for Iraq.
First of all, our forward bases will be in Kuwait, an Islamic state where strict laws are enforced against alcohol consumption, adultery and pork consumption. When our CF-18s begin launching their air strikes, it will undoubtedly be in support of either the Kurdish militia, the remnants of the Iraqi security forces or Shiite militia. These disparate factions are presently the only “boots on the ground” fighting against ISIS. All of these groups are Muslim, whether they are Shiite or Sunni, and the vast majority of them are fundamentalists rather than the moderate secular followers of Islam.
Like the ISIS fighters, these Kurds and Shiite Arabs describe themselves as waging a religious jihad in defence of their faith. The comic book banter about pig fat and Canadian bacon shows that, while the Canadian public is fearful of those our air force will be fighting against, they also have no clue who our military is fighting with.
We are not alone in this ignorance. A recent U.S. newscast profiled an American volunteer from Indiana who made his way to Syria to fight against ISIS. His motivation was that he was tired of sitting by idly as ISIS battled the Kurds in the town of Kobani.
“We have got to stop these Muslims,” the volunteer told the reporter as two Muslim Kurdish fighters flanked him, awkwardly looking at their shoes.
Not to be outdone, the Dutch media recently reported that at least three bikers had volunteered to fight with the Kurds. It was noted that all three were members of a notorious motorcycle gang, and that they all had prior military service. One can only imagine the culture clash of three hardcore bikers amidst the devout Muslim fighters outside besieged Kobani. You just know that will not end well.
As for ISIS and their never-ending stream of video threats, I think they may have finally lost their edge. One of the most recent clips shows a group of four foreign volunteers – one German, one French, one English speaker of unknown origin and one who sits in mute defiance. While three take turns to denounce western leaders as filth and vow to defeat the coalition forces, this particular clip is more funny than frightening for the simple reason that they are not wearing ski masks.
Instead, it is clearly evident that these “volunteers” are simply a gaggle of misfits in need of some physical fitness training and rudimentary dental work. Posing with their Kalashnikov assault rifles, they vow to one day fly the black flag of their caliphate over the White House. They also proclaim that they welcome death in pursuit of their quest.
In that regard, I’m sure the Royal Canadian Air Force will be happy to assist.