By Wes Annac, Editor-in-Chief, Culture of Awareness
I wrote the following for the 213th issue of the Weekly Awareness Guide, a weekly guide offered on the Culture of Awareness for $11.11 a month.
Warning: Some of the contents of this segment are graphic. Reader discretion advised.
If you kick a man, don’t expect him to stay down. Expect him to get up and defend himself. Most people won’t tolerate abuse no matter whom the abuser is, where the abuser lives or what culture they represent.
As is the case with western intervention in the middle east, aggression toward the abuser’s culture is often the result of the abuse rather than blind hatred with no sensible motivation. The anti-American sentiment championed by groups like ISIS didn’t spring up overnight for no reason.
If the U.S. didn’t antagonize the middle east with military might, the cultural differences between us would never be responsible for extremist groups like ISIS bent on the destruction of western society, which to them, represents the way of life of those who’ve killed and tortured their people.
Why Would Anyone Hate the U.S.?
Some speculate ISIS is a creation of the CIA, but let’s assume for the sake of this segment that, as the media tells us, it’s a group with genuine middle eastern roots bent on causing havoc for the west – or just causing havoc.
What would cause such hatred against the U.S.? Surely the invasion of Iraq and the falling out from it wouldn’t have caused hard feelings? Unsurprisingly, there was more going on at the time than the American people were told. There probably still is.
Also unsurprising is that some of it may have led to the creation of ISIS.
Abuse endured by prisoners of war, combined with an open environment for recruitment in Iraqi prisons and the U.S. overstepping its bounds in Iraq in countless ways, could’ve directly led to the group’s formation.
If true, this proves that ISIS was preventable. However, we all know that when it comes to war or terrorism, the U.S. is uninterested in prevention.
ISIS Leader Spent Time in a Prison Notorious for Torture
Citing The Intercept, Darius Shahtahmasebi reports that it’s been confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, current ISIS leader, was a prisoner in the Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 (1).
Abu Ghraib became notorious that same year for the cruel and inhuman abuse of prisoners on the part of the U.S. that was exposed there (1).
The abuse included kicking prisoners; punching them; slapping them; jumping on them; and taking photographs and videos of them naked while, in some cases, forcing them into sexual positions (1).
One prisoner was forced to stand naked on top of a box with a sandbag on his head and wires attached to his toes, fingers and penis that stimulated electric torture (1). This is dark stuff, and in the face of this information it’s easier to imagine why people would be infuriated enough with the west to want to attack us.
The Intercept reports that the cruel treatment of prisoners combined with the ease with which radical leaders could approach and convert less radical prisoners turned Abu Ghraib into a “jihadi university” (1).
It’d be easy to recruit someone who was moderate before suffering human rights injustices in prison that blinded them with rage. If approached by a radical leader, their rage combined with the desire for freedom (which they may feel the group can offer at the time) could hook them.
Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca: Terrorist Manufacturing Camps
Camp Bucca was another prison facility known for being a haven for recruitment into extremist groups (1).
Mitchell Gray, a former Camp Bucca guard, noted that the hatred he could see in the eyes of the prisoners was unlike anything you’d see in an ordinary citizen (1). According to Gray, the prisoners looked like they’d kill him and his fellow guards “in a heartbeat” if they could (1).
This attitude was most likely caused by abuse endured by the prisoners, which could turn them into extremists with a personal grudge against the powers that be and the western society they seem to represent.
High-Ranking Iraqi Military Officials Joined ISIS
Baghdadi was believed to have maintained a relationship with other jihadists in Abu Ghraib, as well as Iraqi military officials who went on to maintain high ranks in ISIS (1).
One such former high-ranking member of the Iraqi military was Haji Bakr, a former colonel for Saddam Hussein who’s now believed to be the “mastermind” behind the ISIS infrastructure (1).
Bakr lost his position in the Iraqi military following Saddam’s fall (1). He wasn’t the only one.
According to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, Baathist Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri al-Takriti was one of Saddam’s top military commanders before the latter fell from power (1).
Along with 250,000 other Baathists, Takriti was fired from the Iraqi military when the Bush administration gave Paul Bremer control over the occupation of Iraq (1).
This was an effective purge of Iraqi soldiers from the Arab Socialist Baath Party, and it resulted in widespread Baathist hatred for the U.S.
The abuse endured by prisoners, along with the clearly political Iraqi military purge, Baghdadi’s time in Abu Ghraib and the jailing of former Iraqi military officials now a part of ISIS, all provide a definitive link between the west’s war crimes and the radical group’s creation.
No More Apathy; This Has to Change
If recruitment was as easy in Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and other places as we’re led to believe, then the key to crippling extremist groups and stopping new ones from forming could very well be to stop torturing these people and hold accountable those responsible.
The U.S. is known around the world for being a bully that uses military might to secure territories necessary for the advancement of its agendas while convincing its citizens to be good patriots and support it unconditionally.
Most people in other countries aren’t surprised to hear that our media barely reports the atrocious human rights abuses committed across the globe by our government and military. But if you want to know what Kim and Kanye are up to, our media has you covered.
Even when we do hear about human rights violations, most of us are apathetic about it simply because it’s not happening to us or our family.
If we stay silent, one day it will happen to us. Then we might understand what it’s like to feel such seething rage toward an entity you never see until it strikes, leaving you powerless to save yourself – much less your loved ones.
All those people defending their homes
from these bombs, and these tanks, and these guns.
Seen their brother and sister shot down,
Seen their mother and their father…gone.
Seen their future go from bad to worse,
Seen their last resort become their first.
And we act like they don’t hurt,
Like they don’t hurt. – SOJA
We Have No Idea
With the exception of American soldiers, we in the west have no idea how it’d feel to be a victim of war.
We witness fictitious violence in the media, but we lack the empathy to connect with the idea of losing a son or daughter in an airstrike on our home against some group that already antagonizes the local community.
We couldn’t fathom living in a war zone or being a political prisoner, but this is a terrible and tragic reality for countless people. Despite the disempowering consensus that the common man is too insignificant to make a change, we in the west can speak up and do something about all of this.
Whether or not we do anything will speak volumes about our collective compassion, but I have faith in the human race and I know we can do the right thing. We just have to be willing to stand up for the basic respect all human beings deserve.
This could prevent the rise of extremist groups and assure we can take the next step toward peace or, at the very least, a lessening of the aggression felt across the planet.
(1) Darius Shahtahmasebi, “ISIS Leader Was in US Custody When He Likely Created the Terror Group”, Anti Media, August 29, 2016 – http://theantimedia.org/isis-leader-us-custody/