Column: ISIS is about brutality, not piety
Whither the Islamic State? That's a real double-edged question: Where is the group otherwise known as ISIS headed, and can the United States and other civilized nations make it shrivel up and die? The group is and has taken off like a bat out of hell, gobbling up territory and becoming a virtual murder machine.
President Barack Obama's speech on his plan to try to eliminate the ISIS threat could not have come soon enough for him and the Democrats. Obama's perceived hesitancy in responding to ISIS's threat has decimated the Democrats Party's numbers on national security. And ISIS's nearly gleeful beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff had a huge impact on Americans: a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found Americans paid more attention to those stories than any other over the past five years.
How fearful and/or angry are Americans? An ABC News/Washington Post poll found 71 percent of Americans want air strikes against ISIS, 65 percent want expanded strikes and 74 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats want the strikes. Only 38 percent approved of Obama's performance in foreign policy, an 8 point drop. Being the guy who got Osama bin Laden doesn't do you much good if you're now the guy whose name is becoming linked with the Democratic Party's biggest modern failure as President, Jimmy Carter.
But it isn't just the issue of bombing, striking back, and even protecting the American homeland. The bottom line is that ISIS is unlike anything the world has seen since the Nazis. And in terms of their mercilessness and sheer pride in butchering men, women and children, they are even outdoing the Nazis.
Yes, the Nazis killed WAY many more. But just give ISIS time and opportunity and perhaps they'd compete. The big difference been the Nazis and ISIS is that Nazis tried to hide (or at least publicly downplay) their inhumanity. Even today, Neo-Nazis angrily email those writing about the Holocaust, insisting Adolf Hitler would never do such a thing and that photos of Nazi executions and numbers of Jew killed are doctored. History shows the Nazis didn't want word to get out about their "final solution" to the Jewish "problem," and that Hitler ordered that the murders of Jewish innocents not be referred to directly in any documentation.
But, as some analysts increasingly note, ISIS members seem to be getting off on their power as they talk before their helpless, terrified victims in front of a camera. A depressing look at Google Images and videos under "ISIS" shows its members proudly being photographed holding bloody heads, and emotionless ISIS soldiers mowing down rows and rows of tied-up prisoners. Reports describe how fathers and their preteen sons are executed or young boys are taken out alone and shot. One of the most disturbing videos shows a clad-in-black ISIS executioner standing behind young woman and strangling her with a metal cord as a crowd watches. She violated some ISIS rules.
There is no mercy, so, yes, you can imagine what would happen if an ISIS team went into U.S. mall or what would happen to a city if the group obtained a nuclear weapon. ISIS's enemies are all who don't adopt its specific brand of Islam. But unlike the Nazis, ISIS wants to get images of its murder and barbarism out to the world. When Twitter began shutting down ISIS linked accounts, ISIS threatened Twitter employees in San Francisco and Europe with assassination.
So what is ISIS? A movement? A real nation state? A group defiling the image of law-abiding Muslims who wouldn't dream of chopping someone's head off? A group acting out the most Orthodox instructions from Muhammad? A group totally distorting what Muhammad really meant or wanted? The debate over this and more will continue as Obama begins to implement his anti-ISIS policy and seeks to build an effective international coalition.
In truth, ISIS is a death-cult that celebrates and tries to glorify brutality. They've become the world's biggest, unapologetic producer and marketer of real "snuff" videos.
That isn't exactly found in the Koran.
Joe Gandelman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.