09/06/2013 12:18 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2013

Boy, Are We Naive

Reactions have run strongly against our support for the Syrian rebels following the release of a video showing casual rebels preparing to execute seven captured government soldiers. "What kind of people are we backing?", liberals ask, gnashing their teeth. What would they guess happens to captives heretofore? Perhaps they thought the rebels have set up camps for prisoners?

One answer often given is that these "bad guys" (a term thrown around by John Kerry and Congresspeople) are Al-Qaeda and other religious extremists. But, according to the Times, the video "joins a growing body of evidence of an increasingly criminal environment populated by gangs of highwaymen, kidnappers and killers." I don't even believe that. I think it is the usual operation of sectarian religious politics in Muslim countries. More basically, it is the way soldiers of all kinds often fight (we know American soldiers have committed atrocities, and in all likelihood those atrocities we have discovered are only the tip of the iceberg).

The rebel leader who ordered the executions -- and who shot the first captive -- is Abdul Samad Issa. Issa is not Al-Qaeda or an ordinary criminal. The aide who smuggled the film of the executions out of Syria said Issa was motivated by one thing, as represented by a poem he recited at the killings: revenge. Issa's father was reputedly killed by Syrian strongman Assad for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and, his former aide reports, Issa's goal is "the extermination of Alawites -- the minority Islamic sect to which the Assad family belongs."

Speaking of which, do you recall how we fought for a decade and spent trillions to remove that murderous tyrant, Saddam Hussein? Here are the first four headlines that greet me when I search the New York Times Website for "Iraq sectarian violence":

August 28, 2013

Deadly Blasts Stoke Fears of Sectarian Strife in Iraq It was the latest in a series of terrorist attacks that have raised new fears that Iraq is returning to the bloody sectarian violence that nearly tore ...

August 17, 2013

Sectarian Attacks Return With a Roar to Iraq, Rattling a Capital
The drastic surge in violence from car bombs and security sweeps ...Across the country, the sectarianism that almost tore Iraq apart after the ...

April 24, 2013
Rising Violence in Iraq Spurs Fears of New Sectarian War Soldiers fired from the air on Sunni gunmen hiding in a village, seeming to mark a new phase for a conflict that poses a challenge to the ...

April 6, 2010
Baghdad Bombing Streak Stokes Fear of New Round of Sectarian Violence Bombings in Iraq raise fears of resurgent violence.

Then there's this:

September 5
Across a Border, Iraqis See Replays of Past and Fears for Future

BAGHDAD -- Abu Mohaned spent Tuesday night washing the bodies of victims of that evening's car bombs, preparing them for burial. When a couple of roadside bombs went off the next day, he did the same thing.

When he is not here, tending to the dead, he says, he is in Syria fighting to defend the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Both duties, he says, are in many respects part of the same fight -- burying Shiites killed in sectarian fighting in Iraq, and blocking radical Sunnis from taking control of Syria.

Do you see a trend here? Let me put the question to you another way: Do you expect the next headline concerning sectarian differences in Iraq and/or Syria to read, "Islamic factions decide to reject violence and to support and to love their fellow citizens?"

No? I don't see why not.

Stanton is lecturing at the New School in New York on Thursday, September 19, 2013, at 7PM: "What will replace the 12 steps?" Register: