Osama bin Laden is the reason we're fighting ISIS today and the reason we've wage two wars in the Middle East. His vision for chaos in the region was clearly stated even before he murdered 3,000 Americans and long before we entered Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. Our national amnesia fueled by the righteous indignation of watching Americans murdered on ISIS video plays right into the trap bin Laden set on 9/11 and mires us further into the sectarian and religious quagmire in Iraq and Syria. Actually, to be completely accurate, bin Laden's terror and maniacal visions were only half of the problem. The other half rests with America's penchant for being lured into never-ending counterinsurgency wars against an enemy who wears tennis shoes, hides in apartment buildings, drives pickup trucks with gun turrets, and makes horrifying videos to frighten the average American household into blindly accepting a forever war. After 4,486 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and 2,347 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, close to 1 million U.S. soldiers wounded in both wars, and a cost that will easily exceed $6 trillion, the last thing American soldiers and their families need is an electorate who willingly accepts perpetual war. Mind you, this blind acceptance is coupled with the fact that according to Forbes, over 900,000 Americans have had their lives altered fighting terror in the Middle East:
All that can be said with any certainty is that as of last December more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the monthly rate of new patients to these facilities as of the end of 2012 was around 10,000.
While two beheading videos have made the majority of Americans completely forget about the human sacrifice and financial costs of two wars, it's important to remember the words of the person responsible for this mess.
ISIS is an extension of bin Laden's original plan to fan the flames of Shia/Sunni power struggles and rivalries, his belief that guerrilla and insurgent forces can defeat superpowers, and the terrorist's belief in the gullibility and naivete of the West. A Frontline interview in 1998 highlights bin Laden's foreshadowing of ISIS, the failures of two presidents, and the belief that "terror" will outlast the ambitions of any superpower:
Those who threw atomic bombs and used the weapons of mass destruction against Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the Americans...
In today's wars, there are no morals, and it is clear that mankind has descended to the lowest degrees of decadence and oppression...
There is a lesson here. The Soviet Union entered Afghanistan late in December of '79. The flag of the Soviet Union was folded once and for all on the 25th of December just 10 years later. It was thrown in the waste basket. Gone was the Soviet union forever...
We expect for the ruler of Riyadh the same fate as the Shah of Iran...
After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared.
With every drone strike that kills an innocent civilian in Yemen, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, bin Laden's propaganda of equating Nagasaki with his terrorism is legitimized. Also, his evaluation of today's wars having "no morality" is eerily reminiscent of how Americans could care less about civilian casualties after drone strikes, or even the killing of American citizens abroad if deemed necessary.
His cherry-picking of history is obvious since he blatantly forgets to state that Reagan helped fund and arm the mujaheddin against the Soviets, however the USSR losing this war is all a part of bin Laden's ideology. We've fallen hook, line and sinker for his overall strategy of weakening America through perpetual war. The superpower is no longer a superpower if it fights a war against sheepherders, tribes, or insurgents. In fact, his terrorist propaganda and manipulation of Islam is warranted by us "bringing the fight" to him and other terrorists in the Middle East. Furthermore, drone strikes and other endeavors that cause civilian deaths (thus weakening our moral position in this fight) justify not only his vision of terrorism in the Middle East, but also furthers the notion that America is the new Soviet Union.
To ISIS, al Qaeda, and radical insurgents everywhere, we are the new Soviet Union and the Middle East is one giant Afghanistan of the 1980's.
Is this analysis only hyperbole written by an author who wants this country to care more about its veterans and soldiers than the outrage elicited from an ISIS beheading video?
The answer lies in who we're fighting today. According to a Vox article, ISIS used to have a different name:
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) used to have a different name: al Qaeda in Iraq.
...The US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, described the group in 2010 as down but "fundamentally the same." In 2011, the group rebooted.
So, even though they've split, we're still fighting remnants of al Qaeda and an enemy that simply regroups and fights under a different brand name.
Finally, I am all for arming every single enemy of ISIS, from the Kurds to the Iraqi Shia and moderate Sunni forces who fight against ISIS, to rebels in Syria. We should have done this for years. I'm all for funding their enemies on the ground and giving these forces the weapons needed (like Reagan with the mujaheddin) to defeat ISIS. However, a never-ending American fight against "terror" is exactly what bin Laden always wanted and exactly what ISIS needs to legitimize its propaganda and recruiting. If we're serious about defeating this group, we should address the needs of the Kurdish forces, who in a recent CNN article stated they're in dire need of funding and weapons:
...Brig. Gen. Hazhar Ismail at the Peshmerga Ministry in Irbil told CNN.
He complained that the Peshmerga's budget, weapons and training must go through the central government in Baghdad and claimed that the Peshmerga "have not received one dollar from Iraq, even though Parliament has approved funds."
No amount of American bombing campaigns is going to help defeat ISIS if the Peshmerga's "budget, weapons, and training" must go through the dysfunctional central government in Baghdad.
Also, the United States can't solve the Sunni/Shia rivalry through military might. According to The New York Times, before killing and slaughtering prisoners, ISIS asks questions of captive Iraqi forces to differentiate between Sunni and Shia:
Whether a person is a Shiite or a Sunni Muslim in Iraq can now be, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
As the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized vast territories in western and northern Iraq, there have been frequent accounts of fighters' capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shiites are singled out for execution.
What is your name?
Where do you live?
How do you pray?
What kind of music do you listen to?
The wrong answers to those questions will get you killed because ISIS, and bin Laden as well as al Qaeda, used the Shia/Sunni rivalry to terrorize local populations and gain support from local Sunni populations. Those Iraqi forces you hear about abandoning their equipment and fleeing from ISIS fighters do so because they are not only a part of a different sect, but also because the Iraqi government isn't as important as your religious background in this sectarian and regional war.
The battle against ISIS and other terrorists should be waged by Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian rebel, and regional armies intent on stopping its conquest. American soldiers have done enough and sacrificed enough in this fight. The longer President Obama, Congress, and the American people allow themselves to be lured into perpetual war, against an enemy that relishes this conflict, we end up falling even further into bin Laden's trap. My latest Jerusalem Post article and my recent Times of Israel piece, in addition to all my other posts in The Huffington Post and elsewhere all highlight my viewpoint that America has done enough and this fight should no longer entail our soldiers, military, or further American sacrifice.