US Democrats Cultivated the Barbarism of ISIS

The Islamic State didn’t emerge out of nowhere, writes Jonathan Cook. It was entirely a creation of two decades of U.S. interference in the Middle East.

By JonathanCook

There is something profoundly deceitful in the Democratic Party and corporate media’s framing of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria.

One does not need to like Trump or ignore the dangers posed to the Kurds, at least in the short term, by the sudden departure of U.S. forces from northern Syria to understand that the coverage is being crafted in such a way as to entirely overlook the bigger picture.

The problem is neatly illustrated in this line from a report by The Guardian newspaper of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent meeting with Trump, who is described as having had a “meltdown.” Explaining why she and other senior Democrats stormed out, the paper writes that “it became clear the president had no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East.”

Hang on a minute! Let’s pull back a little, and not pretend – as the media and Democratic party leadership wish us to do — that the last 20 years did not actually happen. Many of us lived through those events. Our memories are not so short.

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Islamic State, or ISIS didn’t emerge out of nowhere. It was entirely a creation of two decades of U.S. interference in the Middle East. And I’m not even referring to the mountains of evidence that U.S. officials backed their Saudi allies in directly funding and arming ISIS — just as their predecessors in Washington, in their enthusiasm to oust the Soviets from the region, assisted the jihadists who went on to become al-Qaeda.

No, I’m talking about the fact that in destroying three key Arab states — Iraq, Libya and Syria — that refused to submit to the joint regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia and Israel, Washington’s local client states, the U.S. created a giant void of governance at the heart of the Middle East. They knew that that void would be filled soon enough by religious extremists like Islamic State – and they didn’t care.
Overthrow, Not Regime Change

You don’t have to be a Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar Assad apologist to accept this point. You don’t even have to be concerned that these “humanitarian” wars violated each state’s integrity and sovereignty, and are therefore defined in international law as “the supreme war crime.”

The bigger picture — the one no one appears to want us thinking about — is that the U.S. intentionally sought to destroy these states with no obvious plan for the day after. As I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations,” these haven’t so much been regime-change wars as nation-state dismantling operations — what I have termed overthrow wars.

The logic was a horrifying hybrid of two schools of thought that meshed neatly in the psychopathic foreign policy goals embodied in the ideology of neoconservatism — the so-called Washington consensus since 9/11.

The first was Israel’s long-standing approach to the Palestinians. By constantly devastating any emerging Palestinian institution or social structures, Israel produced a divide-and-rule model on steroids, creating a leaderless, ravaged, enfeebled society that sucked out all the local population’s energy. That strategy proved very appealing to the neoconservatives, who saw it as one they could export to non-compliant states in the region.

The second was the Chicago school’s “Shock Doctrine,” as explained in Naomi Klein’s book of that name. The chaotic campaign of destruction, the psychological trauma and the sense of dislocation created by these overthrow wars were supposed to engender a far more malleable population that would be ripe for a U.S.-controlled “color revolution.”

The recalcitrant states would be made an example of, broken apart, asset-stripped of their resources and eventually remade as new dependent markets for U.S. goods. That was what former President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton really meant when they talked about building a New Middle East and exporting democracy.

Even judged by the vile aims of its proponents, the Shock Doctrine has been a half-century story of dismal economic failure everywhere it has been attempted – from Augusto Pinochet’s Chile to Boris Yeltsin’s Russia. But let us not credit the architects of this policy with any kind of acumen for learning from past errors. As Bush’s Senior advisor Karl Rove explained to a journalist whom he rebuked for being part of the so-called reality-based community: “We’re an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality.”

Birth of Islamic State

The barely veiled aim of the attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria was to destroy the institutions and structures that held these societies together, however imperfectly. Though no one likes to mention it nowadays, these states — deeply authoritarian though they were — were also secular, and had well-developed welfare states that ensured high rates of literacy and some of the region’s finest public health services.

One can argue about the initial causes of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that erupted in Syria in 2011. Did it start as a popular struggle for liberation from the Assad government’s authoritarianism? Or was it a sectarian insurgency by those who wished to replace Shia minority rule with Sunni majority rule? Or was it driven by something else: as a largely economic protest by an under-class suffering from food shortages as climate change led to repeated crop failures? Or are all these factors relevant to some degree?

Given how closed a society Syria was and is, and how difficult it therefore is to weigh the evidence in ways that are likely to prove convincing to those not already persuaded, let us set that issue aside. Anyway, it is irrelevant to the bigger picture I want to address.

The indisputable fact is that Washington and its Gulf allies wished to exploit this initial unrest as an opportunity to create a void in Syria — just as they had earlier done in Iraq, where there were no uprisings, nor even the WMDs the U.S. promised would be found and that served as the pretext for Bush’s campaign of Shock and Awe.

The limited uprisings in Syria quickly turned into a much larger and far more vicious war because the Gulf states, with U.S. backing, flooded the country with proxy fighters and arms in an effort to overthrow Assad and thereby weaken Iranian and Shia influence in the region. The events in Syria and earlier in Iraq gradually transformed the Sunni religious extremists of al-Qaeda into the even more barbaric, more nihilistic extremists of Islamic State.

Dark US Vanity Project

After Rove and Cheney had had their fill playing around with reality, nature got on with honoring the maxim that it always abhors a vacuum. Islamic State filled the vacuum Washington’s policy had engineered.

The clue, after all, was in the name. With the U.S. and Gulf states using oil money to wage a proxy war against Assad, ISIS saw its chance to establish a state inspired by a variety of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist dogma. ISIS needed territory for their planned state, and the Saudis and U.S. obliged by destroying Syria.

This barbarian army, one that murdered other religious groups as infidels and killed fellow Sunnis who refused to bow before their absolute rule, became the west’s chief allies in Syria. Directly and covertly, we gave them money and weapons to begin building their state on parts of Syria.

Again, let us ignore the fact that the U.S. in helping to destroy a sovereign nation, committed the supreme war crime, one that in a rightly ordered world would ensure every senior Washington official faces their own Nuremberg Trial. Let us ignore too for the moment that the U.S., consciously through its actions, brought to life a monster that sowed death and destruction everywhere it went.

The fact is that at the moment Assad called in Russia to help him survive, the battle the U.S. and the Gulf states were waging through Islamic State and other proxies was lost. It was only a matter of time before Assad would reassert his rule.

From that point onwards, every single person who was killed and every single Syrian made homeless — and there were hundreds of thousands of them — suffered their terrible fate for no possible gain in U.S. policy goals. A vastly destructive overthrow war became instead something darker still: a neoconservative vanity project that ravaged countless Syrian lives.

Giant Red Herring

Trump now appears to be ending part of that policy. He may be doing so for the wrong reasons. But very belatedly — and possibly only temporarily — he is seeking to close a small chapter in a horrifying story of Western-sponsored barbarism in the Middle East, one intimately tied to Islamic State.

What of the supposed concerns of Pelosi and the Democratic Party under whose watch the barbarism in Syria took place? They should have no credibility on the matter to begin with.

But their claims that Trump has “no plan to deal with a potential revival of ISIS in the Middle East” is a giant red herring they are viciously slapping us in the face with in the hope the spray of seawater blinds us.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention, San Francisco. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

First, Washington sowed the seeds of Islamic State by engineering a vacuum in Syria that ISIS — or something very like it — was inevitably going to fill. Then, it allowed those seeds to flourish by assisting its Gulf allies in showering fighters in Syria with money and arms that came with only one string attached — a commitment to Sunni jihadist ideology inspired by Saudi Wahhabism.

ISIS was made in Washington as much as it was in Riyadh. For that reason, the only certain strategy for preventing the revival of Islamic State is preventing the U.S. and the Gulf states from interfering in Syria again.

With the Syrian army in charge of Syrian territory, there will be no vacuum for ISIS to fill. Its state-building rationale is now unrealizable, at least in Syria. It will continue to wither, as it would have done years before if the U.S. and its Gulf allies had not fueled it in a proxy war they knew could not be won.
Doomed Great Game

The same lesson can be drawn by looking at the experience of the Syrian Kurds. The Rojava fiefdom they managed to carve out in northern Syria during the war survived till now only because of continuing U.S. military support. With a U.S. departure, and the Kurds too weak to maintain their improvised statelet, a vacuum was again created that this time has risked sucking in the Turkish army, which fears a base for Kurdish nationalism on its doorstep.

The Syrian Kurds’ predicament is simple: face a takeover by Turkey or seek Assad’s protection to foil Turkish ambition. The best hope for the Kurds looks to be the Syrian army’s return, filling the vacuum and regaining a chance of long-term stability.

That could have been the case for all of Syria many tens of thousands of deaths ago. Whatever the corporate media suggest, those deaths were lost not in a failed heroic battle for freedom, which, even if it was an early aspiration for some fighters, quickly became a goal that was impossible for them to realize. No, those deaths were entirely pointless. They were sacrificed by a Western military-industrial complex in a U.S.-Saudi Great Game that dragged on for many years after everyone knew it was doomed.

Nancy Pelosi’s purported worries about ISIS reviving because of Trump’s Syria withdrawal are simply crocodile fears. If she is really so worried about Islamic State, then why did she and other senior Democrats stand silently by as the U.S. under President Barack Obama spent years spawning, cultivating and financing ISIS to destroy Syria, a state that was best placed to serve as a bulwark against the head-chopping extremists?

Pelosi and the Democratic leadership’s bad faith — and that of the corporate media — are revealed in their ongoing efforts to silence and smear Tulsi Gabbard, the party’s only candidate for the presidential nomination who has pointed out the harsh political realities in Syria, and tried to expose their years of lies.

Pelosi and most of the Democratic leadership don’t care about Syria, or its population’s welfare. They don’t care about Assad, or ISIS They care only about the maintenance and expansion of American power — and the personal wealth and influence it continues to bestow on them.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth.

This article is from his blog Jonathan 

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14 comments for “US Democrats Cultivated the Barbarism of ISIS

  1. realtime
    October 27, 2019 at 14:50

    My thoughts:
    In 2007 General Wesley Clark, and presidential candidate, appeared on Democracy Now and said that 10 days after 9/11 he overheard plans being made by the Bush administration and a saw a memo. And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

    It is clear that Bush neocons planned the Syrian war and Obama carried out the plans. Isis did not exist at the time and was created by the Iraq War.

  2. Stephen M
    October 27, 2019 at 10:25

    “One can argue about the initial causes of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that erupted in Syria in 2011. Did it start as a popular struggle for liberation from the Assad government’s authoritarianism? Or was it a sectarian insurgency by those who wished to replace Shia minority rule with Sunni majority rule? Or was it driven by something else: as a largely economic protest by an under-class suffering from food shortages as climate change led to repeated crop failures? Or are all these factors relevant to some degree?”

    Another option was that it was a foreign backed proxy war. That the violent elements drove the legitimate opposition off the streets. That the violence was initiated, not by the government, but by the proxies. That weapons and support for the violent factions poured in from foreign sources prior to the armed insurrection. That the violent factions have no legitimacy, have terrorized the population, and are almost universally detested by the civilian population. That Assad is looked upon as the protector of the civilian population, of civil society and of pluralistic and secular values, and as such is wildly popular, as reflected in the 2014 election results — a competitive, multi-party election monitored by election observers from around the globe.

    • Stephen M
      October 28, 2019 at 02:13

      I think I may have more or less (other than the comment about Assad) restated what the author said in this article in my comment above. But what I was trying to get at was that more than Washington and its Gulf allies exploiting the unrest, they instigated it — at least in terms of the violent aspects.

      In Tim Anderson’s book The Dirty War on Syria he explains how there were competing narratives about the early events surrounding the violent uprising. The Western version claimed “there was ‘indiscriminate’ violence from Syrian security forces to repress
      political rallies and that the ‘rebels’ grew out of a secular political reform movement.” The testimony we get from independent witnesses, however, such as Father Frans Van der Lugt, cited by Anderson, tells a different story — that there were armed men who “infiltrated the early political reform demonstrations to shoot at both police and civilians.” And that “this violence came from sectarian Islamists.” Another quote cited from a professor Jeremy Salt, from October 2011 — “The claim that armed opposition to the government has begun only recently is a complete lie. The killings of soldiers, police and civilians, often in the most brutal circumstances, have been going on virtually since the beginning.”

      Anderson goes on to tell of shipments of arms from Saudi Arabia to the al-Omari mosque in Deraa (where the violence first began), and the interception of a large shipment of arms at the southern Tanaf crossing, prior to the armed insurrection. Anderson cites confirmation from foreign journalists. In an article critical of the Syrian government, the British Daily Mail also happened to show “pictures of guns, AK47 rifles and hand grenades that security forces had recovered after storming the al-Omari mosque.” Media from neighboring countries also provide confirmation of anti-government violence from the early days — mid-March 2011. Also cited, Michel Chossudovsky– ‘The deployment of armed forces including tanks in Daraa [was] directed against an organised armed insurrection, which has been active in the border city since March17-18.’

      Another independent source, the UN, also provides further evidence that the violence was not a one-sided affair — “The United Nations…estimated from several sources that, by early 2012, there were more than 5,000 casualties, and that deaths in the first year of conflict included 478 police and 2,091 from the military and security forces (OHCHR 2012; Narwani 2014). That is, more than half the casualties in the first year were those of the Syrian security forces. That independent calculation was not reflected in western media.”

      Western journalists and NGOs still tried to maintain the narrative that Syrian security forces were massacring “unarmed protestors” well into 2012 — and beyond –and that the Syrian people ‘had no choice’ but to take up arms, and that the ‘protest movement’ had been ‘overwhelmingly peaceful until September 2011.’ But as Anderson tells it, “The evidence cited above shows that this story was quite false. In fact, the political reform movement had been driven off the streets by Salafi-Islamist gunmen, over the course of March and April.” (2011)

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    October 26, 2019 at 12:20

    Is it any wonder that the white race is so despised in so many parts of the world? The US is not fighting terrorism, it is creating it.

  4. Dao Gen
    October 26, 2019 at 11:17

    This is a very good article. I learned a lot from it. Thank you. However, I would like to ask you, Mr. Cook, are you aware that Syria promulgated a more democratic constitution in 2012 in response to the demos in 2011? They also had a democratic election for both president and parliament in 2014 in which two candidates opposed Bashar Assad. This election was observed by hundreds of foreign observers, including five observers from the US. Is this not worthy of mention in any description of the Syrian government? Also, Assad is not a dictator. The Ba’ath Socialist Party might sometimes be a bit dictatorial, but Assad is not a brutal strongman capable of personifying the whole complex structure of the secular Syrian government. As you mention, Syria has many social services that Bernie Sanders can only dream about, and minorities are said to be better protected in Syria than anywhere else in the Middle East, except perhaps Lebanon. In fact, how many Middle Eastern countries could be considered more democratic than Syria? Not many, and none of them are allies of the US. I hope you will be able to visit Syria in the future. It is time to go beyond the standard cliches about the Syrian government and contemporary Syrian society. We need many more nuanced explorations and on-the-spot research, since the generalizations now in circulation simply aren’t able to do the job. We are still in the Classic Comic Book phase of our understanding of the Syrian government and Syrian political life.

  5. October 26, 2019 at 02:50

    As a progressive Dem my desire to see a Trump victory in ’16 and soon ’20 was 2 fold:

    End the false wars of Bush and Obama

    End the present day Democrat Party and form a New Democrat Party that is principled and based on the rule of law!

    With the new criminal investigation I will be able to see both my wishes!

  6. Rabbit
    October 25, 2019 at 15:27

    Mr Cook is completely right.
    I’ve been following the Syria situation closely since the beginning and am proud to have been one of the first, if not the first to predict Assad’s survival. The problem being that Democrats are essentially war mongers who being utterly divorced from reality failed to gauge the reaction their policies would bring not only in the ME but here at home. One didn’t have to be a genius to know Assad would fight to the very end. One didn’t have to be a genius to know citizens who lost their jobs, homes and freedoms would hold a grudge against the Democrats who made them impoverished and homeless.
    Trump, vile as he is, is Obama’s legacy, the fruit of Democrat war waging abroad and at home. War making on the working class, spying, attacks on civil liberties and lying as a business model. Discredited and blaming others for their mistakes. Against the wars when Bush was president then embracing them when Obama was president. Pro Hillary, one of the worst war criminals who walks the streets a free woman, holding her up as someone to be emulated.
    Democrats are worse than the Republicans because Repugs tell you to your face they will hurt you but Dems pretend to be for you and then screw you making Repug wet dreams come true. I haven’t been a registered Dem since Clinton made it clear that Dem goals were the same as Repugs but their means of achieving them were morally bankrupt and dishonest.
    What needs to happen is for all of the war criminals to be punished be they Republicans or Democrats. When our lives are in the hands of people who would drone weddings or assassinate a child US citizen (Anwar al-Awlaki) then we are all at risk and will be until the criminals are brought to justice.

  7. Eduardo Cohen
    October 25, 2019 at 14:12

    I have been suggesting to everyone I can for some time that we stop using the term ‘regime-change war.’ It actually becomes a form of war propaganda. If we think about it, we might realize that nations allied with the US and NATO have ‘GOVERNMENTS’ while nations that the US and NATO are targeting for destabilization and/or overthrow have ‘REGIMES’. Once we start using the term ‘regime’ when talking about Syria, Iraq, Venezuela, Nicaragua etc we have incorporated US/NATO war propaganda into our speech and are thus supporting the propaganda of overthrowing sovereign governments. Someone who can reach her, please tell Representative Tulsi Gabbard – who I now have mad respect for.

  8. dfnslblty
    October 25, 2019 at 13:33

    Mr Cook,
    potus has no “oil free” plan and it’s not a small chapter in the ME story.
    Please explain your intent in vilifying the Dems at this juncture; its timing diminishes impeachment.

    • Eduardo Cohen
      October 25, 2019 at 14:37

      The Dems are vilifying themselves via their McCarthyist anti-Russian hysteria, their willingness to blame Vladimir Putin for their own corrupt incompetence in 2016 and thus make an enemy of a nuclear power we should be nurturing a positive relationship with. Those were Democrats who destroyed Libya, a nation that had the highest quality of life in all Africa and that posed no threat to the US. And Dems who started and stoke the war in Syria that has caused so much death and destruction. Trump had nothing to do with any of that. And their obsession with impeaching Trump, as disgusting as he is, could wind up helping him get reelected. The Dem Party leadership is a reactionary pro-war force in Washington that will destroy its own party rather than admit its mistakes and reform itself. And stop blaming Russia. If Russia had actually hacked the Democrats in 2016, the FBI would have seized the DNC’s main server and held it as evidence, DUH! Those who were responsible for sabotaging our electoral process were led by Deborah Wasserman-Shultz and Hillary Clinton. And I can’t believe that you would pollute a discussion as important as the one excellently laid out by Jonathan Cook with this Clintonite poison. Down with the Clintons. Up with Tulsi and Bernie. Move forward Democrats. The Clintons, Gore and Biden et al are all war criminals who have caused the deaths of thousands.

    • DH Fabian
      October 25, 2019 at 18:27

      The purpose of the long, $30 million Mueller investigation was to find evidence supporting the Democrats’ allegations that Russian interfered with the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. This evidence was needed in order to move forward with the impeachment process. There wasn’t any, because it never happened in the first place. It was a lie created in hopes of overturning the 2016 election.

    • ML
      October 25, 2019 at 20:04

      Dfnslblty, I was going to respond to you, but Mr. Eduardo Cohen said it perfectly. All I have left for you is this: please wake up and smell the establishment Democrat bs. Keep reading Consortium News, the best news site on the net and if you aren’t irredeemably brainwashed, shy a few million brain cells, co-opted, or just plain recalcitrantly stubborn, you will begin to think critically! And for the record, I am no longer a Democrat, but rather, an independent-minded voter who votes her conscience. (And no, as if I should have to explain, and lord knows I’ve had to – I am not, nor would I ever vote for the current criminal defiling the Oval Office.

  9. druid
    October 25, 2019 at 12:57

    The Yinon Plan – cause destruction and chaos in all states neighbouring or opposing Israel. They’ve succeeded brilliantly. Nothing has gone wrong, except in Syria. Iran is their long-term goal now.

    • I C Moore
      October 26, 2019 at 23:57

      druid, you have precisely described the nub of the matter. Readers/thinkers, google ODED YINON
      (translated from Hebrew to English by Israeli, Israel Shahak), the Zionist master plan to shatter the entire Middle East into ethnic or religious “Bantustan”- type enclaves so that Israel can control the entire area. Biden and Trump both support this objective, along with most Dems and Repubs. We need a
      THIRD PARTY – not owned by the Zionists who now control our government.

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