ISIS, the Attacks in Paris, and the Left

The attacks in Paris have justifiably shocked the world. Now, as a product of this extreme violence we are about to see further military escalation in Western Asia by the world’s imperialist powers. A few weeks prior there were attacks on a peace demonstration in Turkey, after that an attack in Beirut, after that a Russian airliner was destroyed, and within the last couple of days a bomb scare in Germany. Russian, French, American, German, UK, take your pick of which imperial power will be commencing, expanding, and/or intensifying their military action against ISIS. For the average citizen of any given nation such action will undoubtedly be seen as legitimate, even necessary, to prevent further bloodshed domestically. However, so much of the historical context of this conflict is absent from the general discussion that just how terrible a mistake this escalation is, and will certainly be, is invisible.

In order to comprehend the reality of the situation we must examine the post World War Two history of Western Asia and the subsequent  interventionism of the imperial powers. During the Cold War governments were established in countries such as Iraq and Syria that were essentially vassal states of European imperialism, England and France respectively. These secular, totalitarian, military dictatorships violently suppressed all internal opposition and created the circumstances for vast appropriation of wealth by the internal regime and the external imperialism, whichever form it specifically took. The national ruling class fought amongst themselves for control over the social surplus that was not to be exported to the international ruling class and used every mechanism available to them to snuff out any potential internal dissent or dissident activity. The constant pressure brought to bear on the working classes of these countries can not be overstated.

As a result of this international interventionism propping up governments based on international ideology the only place left for opposition forces to turn was Islam, the religious organizations. These organizations were also bitterly suppressed, but they still provided an framework for solidarity and resistance that was native to the region and native to the specific nation. Not only that but they also provided much in the way of social and economic programs that were recognized by the populace to improve the lives of the people living therein. Western political ideology and institutions were seen as either failed experiments or blatant tools of oppression. Taking these facts at face value it is not too difficult to understand exactly why an organization such as ISIS has emerged. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks the government of Iraq was demolished and replaced on an ad hoc basis, its institutions dominated by Shia Muslims, it Sunni Muslim and Kurdish Muslim populations denied any substantial role in the management of their own society.

This pattern only worsened once American military forces pulled out of the country as a result of a 2008 Status of Forces Agreement signed under President George W. Bush. Sunni’s took to the streets in protest of their disenfranchisement only to be met by bullets and bombs. With nowhere else to turn the old Baathist officer corp. aligned itself with ISIS. The Arab Spring provided the spark to this conflict as a great variety of opposition groups, some democratic, others Salafi/Wahhabi militias forming in Syria after the development of the Arab Spring commenced an insurgent campaign against the Shia dominated Iraqi government, a government that is also quite clearly a proxy state for another Shia dominated Muslim country, Iran. The entire region has become the perfect illustration for the irrational imperatives of 21st capitalist imperialism, unstable, highly contradictory, and spreading uncontrollably.

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