Bombing IS Into Existence

Bombing IS Into ExistenceBombing IS Into Existence

The arrival of the Islamic State onto the global stage in the summer of 2014 with its invasion of northern Iraq, leading to the group’s declaration of a ‘caliphate’ from eastern Syria and across a now non-existent Syrian-Iraqi border, induced panic not only in the region but throughout the world.

Their advances and sudden growth continue to be the sort of crisis that forces us to confront the truth that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. In this regard, we cannot avoid comparisons and similarities between Syria/Iraq today and Cambodia in the 1970s, when similar conditions of chaos and carnage, inflicted on the people of Cambodia as a result of the extension of the war in Vietnam by the US with a mass bombing campaign that many consider to have been an act of genocide, led to the country’s takeover by the Khmer Rouge.

In 1973 the US dropped more bombs on Cambodia in just a few weeks than it dropped on Japan in the World War II. This small country across the Republic of Vietnam’s western border, with in 1973 a population of between 7 to 8 million people, found itself on the receiving end of the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. The number of people killed by the US bombing campaign has never been verified, but it’s thought to have been in the region of 500,000. It was a crime against humanity to rank with any since the WWII.

The Khmer Rouge at the time was a marginal Maoist cult in Cambodia. They had no base of support to speak of and their influence was near non-existent. The mass bombing of the country, the destruction and chaos it wrought, changed that, John Wight wrote for CounterPunch.

 Death Cult

By 1975 this death cult had managed to take over the country, whereupon they immediately embarked upon one of the most brutal and barbaric campaigns of genocidal violence the world has seen.

With the objective of taking the country back to ‘year zero,’ they forcibly depopulated Cambodian cities and towns, sending people into the country to work on the land in communes. In the process thousands died from disease and starvation, others were worked to death, while thousands more were tortured and executed.

Teachers, doctors, lawyers, people who’d been educated, Buddhist monks, non Cambodians, all were slaughtered in the Khmer Rouge’s campaign to “purify” the country of anything which did not conform to their twisted worldview. It gave rise to the creation of a network of slave labor camps and torture centers throughout the country, in which brutality knew no bounds. By the end of their reign, a third of Cambodia’s population had perished.

The brutal rule of Khmer Rouge lasted until 1979, when the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam entered the country to liberate its people.  Washington’s response to Cambodia’s liberation was the imposition of economic sanctions on its new government, an act of nauseating cruelty against a beleaguered people whose only crime was that they’d been liberated by a country, Vietnam, that had refused to accept its colonial status and thrown off the yoke of US imperialism.

 West-Fueled IS

In 2015 the parallels between Cambodia and the Middle East are undeniable. The conditions, as mentioned, out of which IS has emerged and proliferated were created by the West’s destabilizing presence in the region, with the objective of controlling the huge natural resources located there.

The war in Iraq in 2003 devastated the country and opened up its sectarian fissures, while the uprising to topple long-ruling autocrat Muammar Gaddafi led directly to the eruption of extremism and, along with it, Libya’s descent into lawlessness and fragmentation.

After Libya came Syria, where currently IS constitutes the dominant faction. IS militants are people with no political program that can be negotiated with, offering the region nothing apart from an abyss of sectarian violence and bloodletting, which is why their defeat and destruction must be treated as non-negotiable.

But, alarmingly, the destruction of IS shows no evidence of taking place anytime soon. If anything, the group has increased its strength and scope in recent weeks, despite the US-led airstrikes that were introduced with the stated objective of degrading their power and stemming their advance.

The key to understanding the phenomenon of IS has to start with the appreciation of the weakened state of Washington when it comes to its ability to enforce its writ across the globe compared to 2003.

The emergence of Russia as a counterweight to western hegemony, along with China’s increasing global economic footprint, and with it the assertion of territorial claims in the South and East China Seas, has combined with the blowback from the failed occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq to leave the US less confident of its power and strength to act unilaterally.

 Global Problem

What is clear at this point is that IS is not just Syria’s or Iraq’s problem. It has morphed into a problem for the whole region, and by extension the world. Every success IS enjoys attracts more support from disaffected young Muslims in the West and elsehwere, and it is now viewed as a competitor with its former backers in Riyadh when it comes to who commands the most influence and moral authority over the Sunni umma. In other words Wahhabism, legitimized by Washington and its allies in their close and reprehensible relationship with the Saudis, has given birth to a bastard child in the shape of the Middle East’s version of the Khmer Rouge.

Just as with Southeast Asia in the 1970s, in 2015 the world is suffering at the hands of men in expensive suits, sitting in Western capitals, who view the world as a chessboard, with countries and peoples reduced to chess pieces on that board to be moved around and removed at their whim and fancy.