‘Exterminate’ Islamic State—even if that means, setting fire on the entire Middle East?

Yesterday the Americans bombed targets near Raqqa in Syria, in which the first civilian casualties were made as well, among them three children. More will follow. Yesterday too Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet over Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. From one you get to the other. 
Whilst the letters to the editor boxes overflow with calls to ‘exterminate’ IS(IS), we should better listen to Pope Francis who on a commemoration of the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, hundred years ago, warned that the world has possibly already slipped into a Third World War. 

And the Netherlands? We are joining in with four F-16s, it seems we can’t get enough of it.

It does not need a military-strategic genius to understand that the many local conflicts in the Middle East are becoming entangled to an ever greater degree. The pope on several occasions has called for the ending of wars—in the cases of Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine, and the different armed conflicts in Africa. Now he has underlined the failing to end these conflicts is beginning to add up to one overarching conflict, in fact a new world war that has run out of control.

The cause of all these conflicts is first of all the profound economic and social crisis in the world, which is only being aggravated by violent interventions. And since ‘we’, the West led by the United States, dressed up as ‘the international community’, are the only ones entitled to intervention under the banner of ‘responsibility to protect’, R2P (which we invented ourselves), country after country is pushed further into the abyss. In the end it also goes back to the fateful decision to interpret the attacks of 9/11 as a ‘declaration of war’ and start a war without a clear adversary and hence without end—making the wildest dreams of the military-industrial complex come true.

That is the context in which the call to root out IS(IS) root and branch, must be judged.

In this respect it is a secondary issue that as Patrick Cockburn has explained, we are dealing with Muslim equivalent of the Khmer Rouge—the Khmer Rouge too incidentally came to power after American bombing had brought down king Sihanouk of Cambodia.

Neither does it really matter that three hostages have been beheaded in the most cruel way—the US and Great Britain through their invasion of Iraq in 2003 (supported by the Netherlands among others) have caused the deaths of an estimated 700,000 people and made 3 million refugees. Is an American pilot who slaughters a group of strolling journalists from the air, less cruel? (Even disregarding the fact that the soldier who made this public, Bradley/Chelsea Manning, has been locked up for several decades). Or the fact that Israel can murder thousands at will and is torturing Palestinian children?

IS(IS) is a creation of the West and its allies in the region—the most reactionary monarchies the Arab world has on offer.

The only sensible thing that the West, including our own country, should do, is to try to lower the level of violence and start negotiations to save the people further horrors.

Instead Obama is going to spend half a billion dollars to arm and train 5,400 fighters in Saudi Arabia to bring even more violence to Syria, and have them fight both IS(IS) and Assad. So more war, even greater risks—and we are there to participate.

Kees van der Pijl

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