ISIS and Izzat al-Douri
On June 10 2014, ISIS forces invaded Mosul a city of 2 million inhabitants in one day. It was so easy that the following day they were moving on the Tikrit, which they also took in one day.
The news was reported breathlessly in corporate media outlets. There were just 800 ISIS fighters and they were so terrifying that when they confronted the Iraqi army, some 30,000 troops simply ran away. The narrative was closer to the tone of Game of Thrones: black-clad hashishin were unstoppable barbarians.
I am no Anthony Cordesman or any kind of military expert but at the time I remember scratching my head and asking the obvious question: How can 800 idiots from the suburbs or Paris, Istanbul, London or Cairo can invade a city of 2 million?
If you click the links I provided to established news outlets, including the BBC, you will see that they all credited ISIS for this extraordinary exploit.
So I began looking around the Web. Within days I knew that the victory belonged to Saddam's elite army units commanded by Saddam's number two, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the infamous King of Clubs.
ISIS boys were there in their black uniforms to appear in their slick video clips and to tweet scary messages. But the heavy lifting was done by the Naqshibandi Army.
In early July, I posted my findings along with al-Douri's picture. It is one of my most widely-read posts.
In the following months, I kept asking how ISIS militants could wage war on several fronts, execute complicated tank maneuvers in complete darkness and use all kinds of weaponry with exceptional skill.
No mainstream media outlet seemed interested in those questions. The narrative of "the monstrous and terrifying other" remained firmly in place.
Fast forward to last week.
Apparently Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was killed in action at the ripe old age of 72. When the BBC reported the news this is what they said:
Douri's Naqshbandi Order is the main Baathist insurgent group. Despite its secular roots, it is believed to have played a key role in a major offensive by Islamic State last year.
IS seized swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq, in an effort to establish an Islamic "caliphate".No kidding, was my reaction.
I understood what that short paragraph meant because I knew the background. But if you were someone who was fed the scary and confusing media narrative about ISIS, how could you make sense of this? What exactly is "a key role in a major offensive."
What role and what offensive? Can you be more obtuse?
Moreover, why didn't the BBC try to explain this clearly contradictory statement? Why would a secular Baathist help a terrorist Jihadi organization win major military victories? It makes absolutely no sense.
As far as I know, no mainstream media outlet ever tried to answer that question.
This is what Adam Curtis was referring to.
The news media simply report often contradictory items without ever attempting to link them causally or to provide a causal framework.
And we feel fear and upset but have no understanding.
This is what Michael Moore was talking about in Bowling for Columbine.
Just a day after I posted this here is what got published.
Alongside or within IS’ aim to devise a "pure" Islamic society is a Baathist plan to run a meticulously calculating state able to monopolize power, control territory and eradicate potential threats through brutality and terror. Baathist influences are evident in the nature of IS terror operations — extensive security and spy networks, hierarchical bureaucracies, battlefield tactics and elaborate financial and logistical networks — similar to those used by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his Baathist circles for 35 years in Iraq.
While the presence and strength of former Baathist officers in IS appears contradictory it reflects the influence of the Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshbandi (JRTN), a group of Saddam’s former officers and Sunni Arab tribes that formed in reaction to the post-2003 Iraqi order.Moreover,
Baathist influence continued in ISIS and IS, even if the group's character changed over time. By late 2014, 18 of 19 members of the IS cabinet were Sunni Arab Iraqis with one Iraqi Turcoman, and included former Baathist military officers, former Baathist security officers or Sunni Arab tribes from western Iraq. High-level IS commanders also represent former high-ranking Baathist officers in Iraq as well as Syria. Confiscated documents of former Iraqi Baathist officer "Haji Bakr," an IS leader recently killed in Aleppo, indicate his detailed plans to create a caliphate based on meticulously calculated spy and security networks (although no Quran could be found in the house).
Please tell me that ISIS is a genuine Salafist organization and has nothing to do with intelligence agencies and simply aims to re-create the conditions of Rashidun Caliphs.