Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BLACK JUNE - I.S.I.S. "Selfies" of head trophies should not surprise anyone

When Shakespeare summed up human failings, he could be devastating. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." That was not written to flatter us, but  rather to confirm that we are all beasts, and many of us monstrous beasts.  I thought of this recently as I examined a dozen atrocity photos shared I.S.I.S. warriors in  Syria, who were not content with executing captives, but felt the need to go further. They decided to cut off their heads and make a display of the gory trophies.  

A selfie from Syria  I.S.I.S.  fighters as headhunters
An I.S.I.S.  selfie posted on TWITTER.  Head-hunting shots flatter the beast.
He was born in the Netherlands, but his heart burned for an ISIL homeland.
The idea here is the killing of the "near enemy" or impure Muslims. The
killing of the "distant enemy" we impure Westerners, can wait for now.

Consider the two men in the photos, one a passport holder from the Netherlands and the other from Australia.  Don't let the beards fool you.  Not long ago these fellows were living on our side of the divide, sitting in a food court at some generic shopping mall, cheap baseball caps on their heads, munching on junk food.  You would not have given them a second glance, and they found that infuriating.  With these photos they spit in your salad, do they not?   2013 was declared the Year of the Selfie, so what did thousands of angry Muslim youth do? They flew to a war zone beyond American military supervision, where they could trump one of the most odious forms of narcissist Western expressionism - the Selfie.  (Even the Obama's employ the SELFIE gimmick without any hint of irony.) Now we have the head-hunting selfie. Bravo fellows!

Australian ISIS head trophy hunter
The Australian press made a big deal out of the fact
that this immigrant, Mohamed Elomar, abused their passport, 
not to mention Aussie hospitality.   It's easy to be offended,  and 
many are these days, but harder to act. 

There is nothing new in this of course.  My ancestors were warrior Celts of the West European forests and river valleys. They were tribesmen who took heads whenever they felt the urge to publicize their fearsome courage.  They also successfully resisted the military power of the Roman Empire - less so the cultural intrusions which they considered a spiritual pollution.  The declaration of a new I.S.I.L. "caliphate" in territories which were reallocated by the Imperial British and the Imperial French, is a startling new reality.  The wheel of history is turning.  We will get used to radical Islam, or we won't. The Americans are the premier war fighters on this planet, but they have instinctively recoiled from this new radicalized form of warfare because the modern G.I. is not ruthless enough to put the blade to the throat, as our ancestors did.  

  In the Hollywood war fantasy - ALIENS -  the enemy is a creature which cannot be negotiated with, and is too lethal to co-exist with humans. Corporal Hicks, the sturdy Colonial Marine decides on Armageddon. "We'll nuke 'em from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."  Real life solutions are a bit trickier.  We cannot ever nuke our home world. Nuclear warheads are not an option for all the obvious reasons, and in the end will not even save Israel.  But where is that antibiotic, the magic bullet,  capable of flushing the homicidal beasts who infect our pluralistic societies?   

Celtic head hunter, the warrior hero, c180 B.C.
A reconstruction of broken limestone statuary excavated in France -
a Celt hero figure, circa 300 BC,  displays  head trophies for all eternity.
Roman Legionnaires smashed it to bits, fearing its power to incite resistance.

If you are interested in the significance of head trophies, there is a mass of archaeological evidence and art history which documents its function.  The only thing at all humorous about the atrocities we have seen committed (recently) in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, (and even more so in Mexico) is that the bearded beasts really think they have invented something new, when in fact they are reverting to something very ancient.  Head hunting has never completely disappeared from our world, any more than have cannibalism or even the plague.  As disgusting as the war-porn has become, it could get worse. So far at least we haven't witnessed full-reversion to the bloody ape, although recent African conflicts drew us very close indeed.  The Neanderthal would crack the human skull open to access the sweet brain. So far the Islamic Jihadists have refrained, but consumption of human flesh was witnessed in at least three recent war zones in sub-Saharan Africa.  The beasts are stirring.

severed head  c300 BC, in stone, Celtic head hunting tradition
A stone head  grasped by the hand of a Chieftain.  In a fusion of sorts,
the Greco - Roman form of expression (sculpture in stone) was used to
immortalize Celt values -  the Hero-Warrior displaying his trophies.

What is really ironic about the Islamic use of the ancient head-hunting motif, is that it has kindled interest in comparable Celtic symbolism in Western Europe, particularly in those countries where the hyper-vigilant police jump on any display of Nazi regalia, even when it appears in non-authentic, stylized form.  There is a huge European sub--culture now collecting, re-interpreting and sharing pagan symbolism, and much of it informs their political idealism.  For some, aggressive images on a T-shirt or a banner are a manifesto, and the sword or gun pose is too cliche.  A severed head, held high, is an arresting image which cannot be ignored. One can safely predict that when the next European war breaks out, possibly in the 'balkanized' Balkans, the display of head trophies will finally return to European warfare... shared of course on Facebook and Twitter.

Severed heads of British bankers - protest on London Bridge, 2009
A gruesome form of protest which doesn't turn a single head.
These head trophies were models of living British bank executives.
Would this be a "hate crime" in Canada, or deemed legitimate protest?
Bring me the head of JUSTIN TRUDEAU - and please be creative.

Celtic Headhunter, Thomas Gunn Miniatures, Wiltshire
The Celt Headhunter - Thomas Gunn Miniatures, Wiltshire (U.K)


Taliban Hunting Club,  U.S. manufactured patch
This design  is not unit specific.  It is manufactured in Nevada 
and  sold online as a "morale boosting" item.  I am not 
aware of any instance where American personnel defied Army
authority and  took a trophy,  either in Afghanistan or Pakistan.  

U.S. Army publication - VISUAL PROPAGANDA  AND EXTREMISM, July  2014

The very latest U.S. Army publication on "visual propaganda".
Not a single mention of the thousands of colour photos of
severed heads which flooded onto the Internet in 2014.

Addendum: Pixilated Postcards from the Beastly Press

Seven year old Australian boy displays head - ISIS Recruits 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Black June - JOINT BASE BALAD rendered an embarrassing relic of thwarted U.S. Military Power.

Control tower, Joint Base Balad
The control tower at Joint Base Balad.

The construction of Joint Base Balad, with its rebuilt runways and advanced electronic systems, coupled the sprawling Army logistical support facility known as LSA Anaconda, cost the American taxpayers an undisclosed fortune. Balad's reinforced runways are capable of receiving the giant C5 Galaxy transports, its hardened shelters are refurbished to receive the newly built Iraqi F16s, its base perimeter was the most secure in the Iraq-  and all of that was ABANDONED because the Obama White House suddenly lost interest in a profitless war which reeked too much like America's defeat in Viet Nam.

Town of Balad, Iraq is all that is stopping ISIL sweep into Baghdad
Can it really be true?  Balad, a small city astride a great highway,
is all that is stopping the ISIL sweep into Baghdad.  That is what a 
Shiite militia commander told the Los Angeles Times,  just a week ago.

The Balad - Baghdad Highway, which the American army truckers called MAIN SUPPLY ROUTE TAMPA,  has been raided by ISIL guerillas continuously for six weeks. ISIS/ISIL swept into Balad at least twice and then withdrew. Until very recently, when visited by the British BBC and the Los Angeles Times, we had only very sketchy reports of pinprick attacks along the asphalt corridor. In and around the Shiite controlled city, a tribal enclave which is an agricultural centre hosting a population of some 100,000, newly armed militiamen have concentrated and dug in, with some heavy weapons support from the Iraqi national army. But regular  army officers are not in command at Balad.  The Shiite militia commander has described his pattern of strong points as "the front line" in the defence of Baghdad.  But of course Balad is not Normandy. There are plenty of exit ramps on the Iraqi freeways.  The Muslim road warriors do have options. The President of Iraq has fewer.

Highway outside the wire defenses - Joint Base Balad, Iraq
This was the scene in 2010 as the principal American units pulled
out of JOINT BASE BALAD, leaving only small detachments of USAF
and CIA personnel to contribute to the covert Drone strike operations.
At the top of the photo - empty trailers wait under the overpass to
go into JBB to load military vehicles.  At the bottom, loaded transports
emerge from the base.  Not the tubular concrete gun tower. Many of
these highway fortifications have already been blasted by ISIL.

Camp Anaconda - section of defensive perimeter. Joint Base Balad
Tower 32 at LSA Anaconda - just one spot in a miles-long
defensive perimeter comprised of towers, razor-wire, mines, 
gun pits and irrigation canals.  It is still intact and functioning.


JOINT BASE BALAD  is still there, but no American journalists have entered the base in 2014.  Worse, we have no explanation for the White House's massive re-investment in the superbase. In America it seems they still have mountains of money to burn.  Until the bug-out in June, several hundred employees of American corporations were beavering away, prepping J.B.B. to receive Apache attack helicopters, Iraqi  F16s and a squadron of CIA assassination drones. It was a highly secretive American outpost.  Yes,  Iraqi oil was paying for the new gunships and fighter aircraft, but the American taxpayer was footing the bill for everything else. Almost a billion new dollars to refit a base which had already squandered billions. And since the CIA budget is black, we do not know how many UAVs were in the pipeline for delivery to Joint Base Balad. There is no reason for ISIL/ISIS commanders to waste resources on attacking the hardened base. Base personnel are bottled up and chewing their fingernails. It is now clear,  after more than a month of cringing silence, that the White House is not going to need the super-base, because the U.S. cavalry will not be going in to the rescue the Iraqi armed forces. The Muslim Road Warriors will ultimately break through at the city of Balad, and finish their campaign with a rush on the Shiite capital - Baghdad.

Hardened shelter for F-16 aircraft - Joint Base Balad

We are still waiting for the "Last Battle", the decisive event which allows the experts to declare a turning point in history. The final edit of the Wiki-page. How long will it be before we witness the FALL OF BAGHDAD?  Weeks? Months?   As a concerned Canadian, trying to make sense of "Great Power Thinking",  I have to rely on journalism for much of my factual information. More and more I feel like a sucker.  Didn't we all try to make sense of events in Iraq when the ISIS assault exploded as a news story?  I found it disgusting to see how quickly the interest of "news editors" evaporated in less than two weeks.  It really is a testament to the disproportionate influence American news production has on  the worldwide information flow. The noise from New York is near deafening. By now there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. service personnel who know that their government is lying to them, on an hourly basis, but I'll wager they are no more equipped to discover what has been happening at Balad, and on the highways of Iraq than I am.  Remember that sickening video, edited like a cat food commercial,  which documented ISIS death squads roaming Iraqi highways? It was presented to us as "news"  and according to whacky Wolf Blitzer, evidence that ISIS was a "band of terrorists".   CNN and other American infotainment producers insisted the ghastly video was proof that ISIS was "scarier" than Hezbollah. Remember the "scarier than scary" narrative of Iraq during Black June 2014?  We now know that ALL of that video was shot before the ISIS offensive in June, and had nothing to do with ISIS battlefield tactics. Now we also find that Hezbollah fighters  are at Balad, in the front line defending Baghdad and the Maliki government.   Hell just got hotter.

ISIS death squad video on LIVELEAK

What was simply stunning to witness, was how quickly the Obama government distanced itself from the hapless antics of the Iraqi puppet government.  The U.S. news media fell almost totally silent, as if the only thing worth reporting was White House blathering.  During the first days of the BLACK JUNE offensive, as the ISIS/ISIL "road warriors" blitzed along the network of Iraqi national highways, CNN (ever the mouthpiece of the White House) was totally devoted to covering the Iraqi military collapse. But as soon as Obama media flaks signalled that Iraq was cut loose,  CNN stopped covering the guerrilla war at all, and found other subjects for its "panel of experts" to chew on.  Americans hate to chew on defeat,  don't they?

The Fall of Iraq - the easiest victory in history
Assessing the Black June successes of ISIS, the
U.S. Statement sees historical parallels. The Crusades!
Need we  go further back than World War Two ?

The day after I posted my last blog (June 25) on the possible utility of Joint Base Balad to American military ambitions in the region,   I was parked at a shopping mall with a bottle of water and a good read  - John Williams "FRANCE  - SUMMER 1940". As I read the introduction written by Sir Basil Liddell Hart, "The easiest victory in history",  my thoughts turned to the possibility that that we are witnessing an even easier victory. A victory made possible not by any equivalence to German military innovation, but spawned by the reality American political arrogance.  The history purest will object, insisting that there are no direct parallels between France in 1940 and Iraq of 2014.  Perhaps.  It is true that ISIS commanders deployed columns of pickup-truck borne fighters, not columns of light panzers and waves of Stukas. And while the Iraqi  government was not dependant on any "Maginot Line" or superiority in tank forces, it WAS dependant on something even more daunting in this world -  it expected backup from its powerful U.S. military ally.   But rescue was denied.

If you think my historical analogy is half-baked, consider the opinion of a "Senior State Department Official" who accompanied John Kerry to Amman, Jordan.  In an important press briefing on June 22, 2014, (archived on the State Department web-server)  he reflected on the reasons for the unprecedented rout of the Iraqi military in the face of ISIS thrust south out of Syria.  "I'm not an historian, but if you read histories of the crusades... there's some historic parallels maybe..." (extract below).

U.S. State Department, Amman briefing June 22, 2014

American political thinking in mid-June is made clear, as Iraqi towns were falling in sequence to ISIS/ISIL.  "So we immediately faced some things we had to do.  We wanted to look for a circuit breaker to try to break that kind of domino from on and on."  Rather badly stated, don't you think?  But it is interesting to see the metaphor of a "circuit breaker" used to explain the evacuation of civilian contractors from Balad Airbase, rather than its reinforcement.  One cannot help wondering, what were the private thoughts of experts at the Pentagon, forced to accept throwing away a strategic asset which cost so much in  U.S. blood and dollars.

Instead of rescuing his putative ally, America's "Commander in Chief" bobbed and bleated on about how "undemocratic" and "sectarian" the Malaki government is.  Sure Malaki won the most votes, said Obama,  but he is undeserving of further American support because he doesn't invite opponents into a "Unity Government".  That's pretty rich coming from a De-moo-crat President, in the dis-united states of america.  Are there more than 20 countries in the entire world which could hope to meet the worn-out American notions of governance?   What the Americans seem incapable of understanding is that the entire world of nations is getting sick-to-death of lectures about democracy, American style.  The perfected form of American democracy is failing and we all see it clearly.  The United States, a two-party state, corrupt, heavily policed and polarized, is  now failing to provide the level of progress and safety for its citizens that even the Chinese people are coming to expect.  Chinese governance, a one party state, is beginning to look healthier and less frightening than the Orwellian police-state that the American warlords are hell bent on perfecting.  

A full century after World War 1resulted in the carving up of Ottoman lands, we are finally going to have to accept allowing the peoples of the Middle East to draft their own borders and make their own laws.   It will be messy and painful but the region must be allowed to determine its own natural balances.  The Americans have retreated from Iraq.  It's time they retreated from the entire region. They have troubles enough at home.

The Times has taken plenty of crap in recent years, largely due to the impression it gives off -  that it is "establishment media" ... "uber-liberal"...  "White House mouthpiece" and more. But sometimes we have to acknowledge the N.Y.T.'s efforts. Such was the case with the July 9th piece "On the Road to Samarra, Glimpses of Iraq's New Fractured Reality".  The by-line is Alissa J. Rubin,  a journalist who boldly entered bullet and mortar bomb pocked side-streets of Balad. Ms. Rubin took the time to determine the loyalties of the non-descript combatants, and reported with confidence that it is controlled by Kataib Hezbollah, "a militia trained and funded by Iran".  The Iraqi army at Balad is assisting Hezbollah fighters, and have set up a training camp in the centre of town.  Rather ironic that.   American trained Iraqi army officers are now training Hezbollah militiamen, who are being armed by Iran.    What she left unreported was activity inside Joint Base Balad.  Ms. Rubin had to drive past Balad Airbase to  get to Balad City, and pass it again in the return to Baghdad. Wasn't she curious?