ISIS threat isn't 'black hat vs. white hat' simple

I have made this point many times before, but as hysteria seems to be taking hold in regards to the so-called “ISIS crisis,” I feel that it needs to be repeated.

The objective of terrorism is to generate fear that is far disproportionate to any real threat to our safety. Therefore, it is fair to say that the masterminds behind ISIS have so far achieved that objective, and they have the all too willfully duped Western media to thank for spreading that fear. Like the Hollywood blockbuster film “Jaws” once made otherwise logical citizens afraid to go into their backyard swimming pools, ISIS has now seized upon the horror of human beheadings to invoke an irrational fear among North Americans.

From a personal perspective, I can attest that the prospect of being decapitated is extremely frightening. Just over ten years ago, I was held captive in Iraq for five days by al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists. As an accused spy, I was beaten, tortured, threatened to be shot and, on two occasions, sentenced to die by beheading. In both cases, I had several hours in which to contemplate that frightening fate. I tried to focus on how long the pain might last before blood loss from my brain would bring a welcome blackness. I also asked that I be executed ahead of a fellow condemned captive, an Iraqi UN worker, because I did not think I could retain any composure if forced to witness his execution.

All of these memories come flooding back each time ISIS beheads another Western prisoner. However, when ISIS releases a video of a masked man in black, brandishing a knife, warning Canadians and other Western “non-believers” to feel afraid “even in your bedrooms,” I am merely annoyed.

What upsets me is not the fact that this masked clown would make such a threat, but that our media would broadcast it, and pundits would then add their gravitas to it to frighten the masses. To date, there has been no ISIS attack in Canada, no al-Qaeda attack in Canada, and other than the thwarted VIA Rail plot and the arrest of the “Toronto 18” (aka the gang that couldn’t shoot straight), we have been untouched at home in the War on Terror.

Despite this fact, in response to ISIS threats and beheadings, the majority of Canadians now support taking military action — including airstrikes. No one, however, is examining the complex ethnic and religious divisions within the failed state of Iraq, which created the vacuum into which ISIS was born. To do so would mean looking forward at a commitment to a lengthy nation  building process, which the U.S. failed miserably at during an 11-year occupation.

ISIS is merely a symptom that has emerged as a result of President al-Maliki’s policies to marginalize the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq. To simply bomb ISIS fighters without rectifying the Sunni ostracization will only create more martyrs and intensify existing hatred. Instead of explaining this and examining the possible options, prompted by the U.S. population’s fear of ISIS, President Obama has ordered an air campaign against the militants. To placate those who fear an anti-American backlash, Obama was also pushed to include a number of key Middle East allies.

Now, in the simplified world of black hats and white hats, we know that ISIS is bad because they enforce strict Islamic fundamentalist rules and use decapitation to enforce their law. Oddly enough, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both been hailed as staunch allies in Obama’s new fight, and yet, both of these nations enforce strict codes of Islamic conduct and both use decapitation for violations such as adultery or conversion to Christianity. Just last month, eight people were beheaded in Saudi Arabia — four of which were members of the same family — convicted of “receiving drugs.”

The fear of ISIS and their beheading bogeymen has also forced the U.S. into a strange alliance with Iran. The necessity of combating the common ISIS threat has meant that the U.S. is now turning a blind eye to Iranian arms shipments into Iraq to equip the Shiite militia. It has also resulted in U.S. military advisers co-operating with Iranian counterparts in Baghdad to bolster the remnants of the American-trained and equipped Iraqi forces. Even embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has benefited from the U.S. crisis, as he is now seen as the lesser of two evils.

In the initial airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, Americans deny cooperating with Assad but admit that his military was kept informed. Thus, no Syrian air defence engaged U.S. warplanes. Technically, the U.S. can claim that they are not allied with Assad, but in reality, they are coordinating attacks against a mutual enemy. To think, just months ago, Western leaders — including Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird — were painting Assad as the threat to world security and actively supported his opponents. Yes… those were the same Assad opponents that morphed into ISIS.