I am against war. I am against conflict. I have spent my life reaching out to those at the extremes and to work for peace.
With a heavy heart, placing my life in the hands of my Creator, in humility and sorrow, I arrive at a place where I am left to contemplate - is it now time to take the war to ISIS?
Before all else, let us first place things in their correct context.
Western intervention in the Middle East has lead to this. We in the West, have to take our medicine and stop the denials. There is overwhelming evidence relating to the funding, arming and support for ISIS and its precursors at the hands of Western governments. This is a thing that there is no point in arguing. It is a historic matter that has been superseded by events – however, there is no peace without justice, and without this acknowledgement, the great fear is that Western governments will continue to live under the misguided and misplaced belief that their (our) exceptionalism is justified. It isn’t.
The destruction of the Middle East is no new game. The Berlin Congress in 1878 saw the Western powers come together to divide-up the territories of the Middle East and Africa, amongst themselves. It mattered not that people of antiquity lived in those territories, in relative peace. And so hell was brought to these places, and undoubtedly, whilst the benefits of modernity came to places, tyrants were installed and supported, native populations wiped-out, tribes and ethnic groups were studied, categorised and pitted one against another, to destruction. It has been a straight line to today.
Almost 150 years of war and a reign of terror has gripped Africa and the Middle East. In a war torn society, the political, economic and social infrastructure is ripped asunder. Enlightenment is born out of peace but neither survives. Nations destroyed by war give birth to hardened hearts, brutality and harshness. As to the question of who opened the door to this strife and destruction, this rests at the feet of Western powers. Through WW1, WW2, whilst in Britain and Europe a new normalcy returned, US and European lead wars continued to scorch the rest of the world. A century and half of constant, non-stop war. Between Russia and the West, there has been no respite. None. Moral relativists will turn to Kosovo, Bosnia (whilst glossing over the fact UN peacekeepers disarmed the Muslims in the hills around Sarajevo, who were then slaughtered once rounded-up in UN compounds) and a plethora of other successful peace-keeping missions to justify exceptionalism. It’s a failed model. The ideology that the nation state has emerged to create a peaceful secular society; that democracy is being implemented around the world; the idea that benevolence rather than self-interest is the driver for intervention; that the $1 of economic aid to Africa should be revered, whilst Western governments and interests receive $13 in return from Africa is swept under the proverbial rug.
Slaughter is barbaric. In Pakistan, drones have wiped out more than 3,200 human beings. Those drone strikes are at best 1.76% accurate. They are a better tool for wiping out innocent people, then a suicide bomber. Air strikes, marginally more accurate than drones, behead people. They incinerate children. So let’s not for a moment pretend that war waged by the West is somehow, clean. It is merely sanitised and distilled through the filters of our minds, and by broadcasters in the West who are complicit in the charade. The industrialised mass slaughter of people, of innocent families, is as much a filthy grotesquery as it has ever been. These people are being slaughtered in the most inhumane of ways - not that there ever is a humane method of massacre - the whole debate would be ridiculous if it was not so heartbreaking. Muslim lives have never been so cheap as in the hands of Western nations and their monsters. In fact, Muslims might only hope for Western nations to employ the Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) Rules of War. In European countries, whilst Muslims face a civil rights crisis, in Muslim majority nations, one by one, Western governments chase their own Frankenstein monsters across the globe, devastating the nations in their wake. And the people. Those mutilated and destroyed people, who neither asked for nor wanted Frankenstein, nor his monsters. They have families, children, hopes dreams and fears. What then of their dreams, crushed beneath our feet and ground into the dirt beneath the tracks of tanks. Incinerated by drone.
Before we even consider ISIS, we have a moral and spiritual responsibility, one to humanity, to acknowledge our demons. We have a responsibility and duty to purge our intentions. It is time for some genuine absolution. We must stop the hypocrisy of Western military engagement and not imagine for a moment that Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the illegality of that war, the ethnic cleansing, war crimes and destruction of Fallujah, of Guantanamo; let us not pretend that these things are lost in the annals of time, or are somehow goods now paid for by the brutality of ISIS.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made it absolutely clear, in the soundest traditions, in the best sources, that torture and killing by fire is strictly prohibited. It is a truly sub-human savagery which carries with it only one sad, yet vital message and a legacy to the memory of Mu'ath Al Kassasbeh – that these people who carry out these acts are not from Islam. They have nothing to do with Islam. They are opposed to Islam. They do not represent, nor do they stand for, Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) has described these people in no uncertain terms: “Khawarij”. He has condemned them, they are merciless barbarians, and in fact the Prophet (pbuh) stated 1400 years ago that these black-clothed Khawarij, under a black flag, will leave Islam like "an arrow shot from a bow".
Now that much is clear, two things crystallise. Firstly, ISIS must be dealt with. Secondly, to stop this metastasizing, any action must have no roots in the West. Save for reparations to rebuild Iraq, Western governments should have no involvement other than to never again set foot in the region to usurp the will of the people, to never again sponsor a coup d’état, to withdraw and allow self-governance and self-determination of those people. Like a watermark across policy papers, we must never forget that democracy has not been the West’s key global export - it has been conflict to facilitate self-interest. A time will come when this changes, when a spiritual revolution will take hold in Western nations but that time, albeit coming-up over the horizon, is not now. It is a thing which has seen elite interests driving the flow of funds upwards, the greatest shifts in the history of humanity; a precursor to a great shift in consciousness to come.
ISIS will not be defeated in this generation without troops on the ground. It is time to see a pan-Arab coalition of Muslim majority nations lead by Turkey and Saudi Arabia grasping the nettle. Middle Eastern nations who have been supplying funds, support and arms to ISIS must stop with immediate effect. Arab boots will need to be on the ground, under unified pan-Arab air support, to cut away the cancer from the body. That which is left will need to be treated and allowed to heal. There are political realities which also need to be addressed. Assad’s position at the head of a weakened Syria is a strategic imperative for both Israel and Iran, as much as it is for the US/NATO/EU axis powers. Understandably, those axis powers see him preferable to Sunni rule, which is why European nations have done as much as they can, without showing ostensible support, to provide air cover for Assad by air-striking his enemies and arresting and prosecuting those that go to fight against him. It is certainly not a vanilla policy. However, after 250,000 deaths and the displacement of 3 million Syrians to neighbouring nations and 6 million internally, Assad's position is entirely untenable and there will be be no new reality in Syria which sees him remain in-situ.
Then we face the question of Israel but this is largely an issue playing itself out. Never has there been such a lack of support for Israel in the US and Europe; this converges with the demographic reality that the Israel of today will not be the Israel of tomorrow. This 100 year old colonial project is finally on its last legs - what the new settlement looks like, we do not know but until then, Netanyahu and the hard right in Likud are a powder keg in the region. They are spoiling for a fight and to re-exert their waning influence. They are amongst a number of interests that would have Iran and the Saudis embroiled in a sectarian conflict which would inevitably draw-in (as it stands) Shia controlled Iraq, Alawite controlled Syria, ISIS controlled Levant territories and broader regional players. There is an argument that to avoid this war of global proportions, the lesser of the two evils is to allow ISIS to prevail. It will see fewer lives lost and a lower level of net destruction. That, in fact, will be a compelling argument for many. On balance, I do not see it as being the right one.
The questions that will need to be addressed by regional protagonists, after the removal of ISIS, will be the implementation of full, fair and observed democratic elections. Any new political settlement will necessarily need to include the involvement of the remaining factions - the lesser of the extremes now include, bizarrely, Al Qaeda who to the denial and chagrin of the West, may now be embroiled in a double-game. This is the new normal that an aggressively reconstituted NATO 2,0 will have to accept. It sees former proscribed terrorist organisation the PKK, now morphing into an EU and CIA backed secular PKK/YPG to act as a counter against Islamist forces. Any post conflict push for real democracy will have to be representative, proportionate and we will have to live with the governments that are elected. There can be no return to fomenting the military junta of Sisi in Egypt to overthrow a democratically elected party, nor of sponsoring Fatah to fight Hamas. It will have to be come-what-may because an uneasy peace with uneasy neighbours has to be preferable to what we see today.
People have a fundamental inalienable right to self-determination. We have been screaming this from the rooftops for the Palestinians. Regions need to be returned to a state of peace, of education, of self-control of resources. Direct democracy. Decentralised and localised power. For Muslim majority countries this might signal a return to the highly successful system of "wilayyat" or localised authorities with local councils, without the need for a supra-structure or government-industrial complex. I'm not sure we are asking for anything different in the West right now. Ultimately, peace requires a just settlement but gut wrenchingly, there is a time and place for fighting, even for those of us who extol the virtues of peace. Although we might hate it, it seems that this time may soon be upon us.
Kennedy said that mankind will need to put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.
God forgive us.