Last week a friend of my nephew’s shared a Facebook post from a woman near my hometown in Michigan. According to her, her husband, a soldier, had stopped for gas at a Mobil station in Holly, the town just east of Fenton, where I grew up.
The soldier was wearing his uniform, and according to the story the ‘Arab’ manager looked him up and down and declared that he would sell him no gas.
There was an outcry. People vowed to boycott. A protest was planned.
My almost infallible bullshit detector started squawking. This sounded extremely unlikely. First, most Middle Eastern businessmen in the US are Christian, not Muslim. Second, it is unlikely that an American Muslim would do this. It took only a few minutes googling to learn, from a response by a man who manages a restaurant in the station, that in fact the pumps were malfunctioning. The manager is Indian, not Arab, and his English is not so great. The soldier, filtering everything through his prejudices, reacted angrily to the perceived snub.
The station had been receiving threats, and the protest did in fact take place, with some of the protesters carrying guns.
Another story featured spray painted messages about the Koran defacing Christian churches. Yet another featured a supposed photo of a sign outside a mosque, taunting America and threatening destruction.
Again, the bullshitometer squawked. It is highly unlikely that a minority, one which is perceived with hostility by a large number of Americans, would draw negative attention to itself at a time like this. The spray paint incident was no doubt carried out by Islamophobes . The sign was obviously photoshopped.
Plus, real jihadists are sneaky.
We live in a moment when War Fever is high. The very real outrages of ISIS feed the frenzy, though I do not know why, if the beheading of two Americans is cause for war, the killing of over 500 children in Gaza does not provoke calls to attack Israel.
ISIS is indeed an alarming phenomenon, too brutal even for Al Qaeda, with greater organization and resources than any previous group of Islamist militants. But people who are sowing fear that soon the jihadists will be beheading Christians in Des Moines are fools. ISIS may be inspire homegrown American militants to violence, but it in itself is no threat to the security of the United States. If it even succeeds in its immediate goals it will be a small state surrounded by enemies, Muslim, Jewish and Christian. Its plans for extension include taking the sacred city of Mecca and destroying the shrines there.
We will see how that goes over with the Muslim world. The ‘caliphate’ has indeed united Muslims worldwide, but they are united against it.
The papers recovered after Osama bin Ladin’s assassination reveal a man racked by doubt. He had come to see that Al Queda’s brutality, its indifference to civilian casualties, and its killing of other Muslims had created a backlash. He feared that militants would go too far, declaring a caliphate, bound to be seen as a threat by virtually every other Muslim organization in the world.
And that is in fact what has happened. ISIS, in spite of the chaos they are perpetrating, is doomed.
But to the neoconservative war criminals who are whipping up the war frenzy, ISIS is a gift. Nothing rouses the mob like tales of atrocities, even if the worst of these (beheading children) are proven to be false. But the neocons are so deeply enmeshed in a false narrative that they have no credibility. ISIS rose not because of some flawed Obama strategy but as the direct fruit of long term American policy. Most of its members, I would wager, have personal grievances – dead family, bombed-out homes, mistreatment at the hands of Americans- at the root of their transformation into militants.
I would like to see a catalogue of American atrocities in Iraq, but I don’t hold my breath.
This is one case where I hate to have been right. I said, when Bush & Co decided to attack Iraq in 2003, that this action would beget a long cycle of violence. I was not alone in this analysis; John Paul said the same.
Now over ten years later, we are seeing the fruit of that violence reach a new level of brutality. And Islamophobic propaganda, most of it clearly phony, is all over the internet. Some Catholics, to their shame, are posting memes of Crusaders, apparently having learned nothing from history.
I have lived through this sort of thing before, watching the gullible, who are legion, being whipped into fury by atrocities real and imagined, stories demonizing Muslims at large, as if a billion extremely disorganized people act in accord (most of the victims of Al Queda and ISIS are in fact Muslim). People are being manipulated by the masters of war, the partisans of Empire.
The drums of war are pounding.
I am not marching.