Since ISIS has claimed responsibility for the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris the question has again come up in the US media who exactly is responsible for ISIS. Answers are being provided on three levels. First, there are dummies who simply blame ISIS on Islam. Although undeniably there are strong inhumane, intolerant, violent and misogynistic elements in Islam the large majority of Muslims in the world is not involved in terrorism, so apparently religion alone is not enough. Second, there are those who blame the emergence of ISIS on Dubya and Cheney. As an immediate explanation this makes a lot of sense. Without the invasion of Iraq on false premises in 2003, the subsequent disbanding of the Baath Party and the Iraqi army, and the installation of a Shiite-friendly anti-Sunni government in Baghdad, there probably would never have been Al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor of ISIS. Republicans have tried to shift the blame to Obama, claiming that everything was going according to plan in Iraq until he halted the surge and started pulling US troops out, but that fantasy has been effectively debunked.
And then there is a third explanation that puts the ultimate blame with the ruling cliques in the Muslim world who promote an ultra-conservative branch of Islam, Wahhabism, finance radical clerics and madrassas, are consumed by anti-Shiite paranoia, and keep Sunni populations in the Middle East uneducated and dependent. In July 2013 the European Parliament identified Wahhabism as the main source of global terrorism, and although Obama still has some peculiar difficulty calling radical Islamic terrorists for what they are, the US Government concurs with that opinion. But that creates a problem. The main promoters and sponsors of Wahhabism are the Saudis, who are among America’s best customers when it comes to purchasing military equipment, and are also considered one of the US’s best ‘friends’ in the Middle East, second only to Israel. It would appear that when your second best friend is responsible for the existence of your worst enemy it is time to either reconsider the friendship, or, if US business interests are more important than fighting terrorism, accept part of the responsibility for ISIS.
The idea that the US is partly to blame for ISIS through its support for the Saudi rulers was forcefully brought forward by author and former talk show host Dylan Ratigan on last night’s Bill Maher Show, and it contains bad and good news. The bad: it undermines the US authority to speak critically of and act effectively against ISIS. The good: it identifies the ultimate source of ISIS’s relative strength and gives the US more than military tools to fight it.
It is almost too absurd for words that King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the number one sponsor of Islamic terrorism in the world, is received with full protocol at the White House by Obama, and that John Kerry cannot stop lavishing praise on the Saudis for their ‘constructive role’ in the Middle East. What is he hoping for, that miraculously his words one day will come true?
Barack Obama is right that putting US boots back on the ground in the Middle East will only make the mess in Syria and Iraq bigger, but there is no excuse for not putting maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on the sponsors of terrorism who are our ‘allies.’