A Few Thoughts on ISIS

19Sep14

Like many Americans, I have strong thoughts about ISIS and Islamic terrorism. Unlike most Americans, I have extensive experience living and working with Muslims. As a United Nations police officer in Kosovo I lived on the civilian economy, worked with local Albanian Muslim police and spent most of my off-duty time socializing with locals instead of Americans or other internationals. As a soldier in Afghanistan I went on many missions with Afghan National Army soldiers, and put my life in their hands many times. I often visited their compound and was at times the only American around Afghan soldiers. I never felt threatened, and I’d feel no fear going on missions with those particular Afghan soldiers again.

I know for a fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, nor do they all support terror. I also know that Islamic terrorism is a huge threat. But as we prepare to go to war (or something like it) with ISIS, I see our nation’s leaders bending over backward to not admit what’s blindingly obvious to just about everyone in the entire world.

“The Islamic State is not Islamic.”

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Yes it is.

A certain world leader who shall remain nameless recently claimed ISIS isn’t Islamic. John Kerry recently said, “ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing do with Islam.” I guess that explains why ISIS declared its territory is the new Islamic Caliphate. Since, you know, an Islamic empire founded by devout Muslims with the sole purpose of spreading Islam has nothing to do with Islam. And I guess thousands of Muslims from all over the world are joining ISIS because it’s not Islamic.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/isis-declares-new-islamist-caliphate-1404065263

This reminds me of another very stupid argument. In recent years I’ve heard supposedly intelligent people declare that Muslim suicide bombers blow themselves up because they’re poor, or feel powerless, or their honor has been impugned. But they don’t detonate their suicide bombs for Islam.

The suicide bombers themselves offer a counterpoint. They often make martyrdom videos before blowing themselves up. In those videos, they bluntly state they’re doing it for Islam. Watch this American suicide bomber’s video below, then try to tell yourself, “That had nothing to do with Islam.”

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4375.htm

Suicide bombers say they’re doing it for Islam. ISIS fighters say they’re murdering people for Islam. Gosh darn it, this certainly seems to be evidence that those suicide bombers and ISIS are Islamic. I’d categorize the “This terrorism has nothing to do with Islam” crowd as having more college degrees than brain cells. It’s pretty ridiculous for non-Muslim Americans to hear thousands of people proudly proclaim “I’m Muslim and I’m blowing myself up for Islam!”, then turn around and say, “They don’t really mean it.”

I know, I know. Those terrorists aren’t “real” Muslims, because murder is against the rules and real Muslims wouldn’t do such a thing. And Jesus preached peace and forgiveness, so Crusaders who committed atrocities weren’t real Christians. Killing is a sin, so American troops who kill in war aren’t really Christians either. Priests take a vow of celibacy, so the Catholic priests who sexually abused children weren’t really Catholic. Catholic Croatians who told Serbian Orthodox prisoners “convert or be killed,” then killed them anyway, weren’t really Catholic. The Serbian paramilitaries who committed the Srebrenica Massacre weren’t “real” Orthodox Christians, because real Orthodox Christians would never murder anyone.

Let’s face it: breaking a religious rule doesn’t mean you aren’t part of that religion. The Westboro Baptist Church fanatics are flaming douches, but they are in fact Christians. ISIS members are evil, murderous pieces of warthog crap who somehow assumed human form, but they are in fact Muslim.

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If we acknowledge their religious beliefs, that doesn’t mean we have to believe all Muslims are like ISIS. The Srebrenica murderers and child-molesting priests were Christian, but I don’t think my Christian parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, coworkers and fellow soldiers are murderers or child molesters. Admitting the obvious – that ISIS is Islamic – doesn’t require us to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

I’ve had many Muslim friends. I’ve trusted some of them with my life. One of my Italian coworkers in Kosovo said, “My Albanian police officers would die before letting me get hurt.” The officers I worked with were the same way; yes they were Muslim, no they weren’t terrorists, and they protected me even though I was a non-Muslim American. After 9/11 quite a few Albanian Muslims asked me how they could join the U.S. military and fight Al Qaeda, because they were so angry we’d been attacked.

We’ve been in Kosovo since 1999, and haven’t lost a single American soldier or police officer to an attack by an Albanian Muslim. Albanian Muslims were proud of their religion, yet even they called Al Qaeda what they were: Islamic terrorists. I’m sure they’d use the same term to describe ISIS. (And as moderate and Western as Albanian Muslims are, even they have problems with Islamic extremism; dozens of Albanian ISIS fighters were recently arrested in Kosovo, and 16 have been killed in Syria and Iraq.)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-schwartz/isis-and-the-kosovar-alba_b_5670061.html

As ISIS carries out more atrocities and gains more power, our leadership still argues over how to define them. Yet ISIS has no problem defining itself. ISIS screams “We’re Muslims!”, our leadership responds with “No you’re not.” That response might be an unnecessary trick calculated to convince Muslim allies we’re not against their religion. Or, and this is scary, our leaders could actually believe it. They might be sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “I don’t care what you say, I know what you believe better than you do.” They may be refusing to see the truth staring them right in the face: some Muslims hate us, some Muslims want to kill us all, some Muslims declared war on us and don’t care that we haven’t declared war back.

The truth is, ISIS is in fact composed of devoutly Muslim terrorists, carrying out brutal attacks in the name of their religion. And the truth is, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Muslims support ISIS. Why can’t we just say that?

Refusing to acknowledge obvious truth isn’t just stupid. It’s stupid and weak. Many of us war on terror vets suspect this “war” with ISIS, if it really happens, will be fought with one hand tied behind our collective backs. But if our leadership continually refuses to even admit who our enemies are, then we’ll fight with one eye closed as well.

A brief note on the executions of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines

After James Foley’s execution video was released, several people criticized Foley’s apparent lack of resistance to his impending murder. A few comments I read, mostly from combat veterans, said Foley should have done something rather than just give up. He should have run, kicked, bitten, or at least called his executioner a mother****er before dying. Understandably, those of us trained to fight to the last expect anyone facing certain death to resist in some way. In the video, Foley, to me, looked like he knew what was coming. So why didn’t he resist?

imagesSGMIFG41

The truth is, resisting could have made things worse. In the novel Treblinka by Jean Francois Steiner, a Nazi camp guard stands on a platform in a yard and calls prisoners’ names. If a prisoner heard his name, he had to sprint to the platform, stripping off his clothes as he ran. The camp guard’s goal was to have the prisoners assembled and naked within seconds of being called. That way they could be led to the gas chamber in an orderly manner, and nobody would have to take time stripping the bodies afterward.

Why would the prisoners cooperate, if they knew they were going to die anyway? Because, in Steiner’s fictional account, if they cooperated they would die a relatively quick and painless death in the gas chamber. If they didn’t cooperate, they’d be brutally murdered after hours of torture.

Foley may have faced a similar dilemma: cooperate and die a painful but relatively quick death by decapitation, or resist and endure a long, gruesome and horribly painful death. Death was the foregone and inescapable conclusion; I can understand if he chose the less horrible death, and don’t blame him for it.

And there’s another possibility. Foley may have been told, “If you resist, we won’t just kill you. We’ll kill the other prisoners too.” It’s a tactic used by many criminals: “If you fight back I’ll kill your wife. I’ll kill your children.” Foley could have accepted his horrible fate, in the hope that others might live. This is pure conjecture on my part, and we’ll likely never know the exact circumstances surrounding any of the executions. But neither Foley, Sotloff nor Haines were known to be cowards. There was probably a good reason they didn’t resist.

If they cooperated with their murderers in order to give their friends a tiny bit of hope for survival, then we didn’t see James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines die as cowards. What we actually saw were the last, brave acts of very brave men.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Line-Valley-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B00HW1MA2G/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=09XSSHABSWPC3FM8K6P4
http://www.amazon.com/Proof-Our-Resolve-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B0099XMR1E/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0S6AGHBTJZ6JH99D56X7

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64 Responses to “A Few Thoughts on ISIS”

  1. 1 Nathalie Leclercq

    Reblogged this on leclercqblog and commented:
    This is an interesting blog post by Chris Hernandez on the importance of calling things what they are instead of trying to put a spin on everything that scares us.

  2. 2 Juli Adcock

    Hi Chris, excellent and thoughtful as always. One little quibble though. I will not speak for Islam, however I can clarify something with Christianity. Bear with me, an analogy is forthcoming. Take a group of men who have learned Marine jargon, physically trained and even wearing Marine uniforms, but have not signed on that dotted line, nor gone through what it takes to earn their way into becoming a Marine. The group of men talk like Marines, look like Marines, but that doesn’t make them Marines.
    It is the same with Christianity, hence so much confusion. Many people, like Westboro for example have read the Bible, speak the Christian jargon, sit in pews and so on, but they have not signed on the dotted line so to speak, nor have they had a change of heart and minds. Of course, in this instance, only God could truly know a person’s heart and given earthly imperfection, people can still stray(just as Marines who shame their uniforms).
    I see the leadership of ISIS and others of their ilk as much like Westboro in that these barbaric, depraved bits of humanity are using religious trappings as a tool to further their political ends. That they have convinced and manipulated fervent believers brings home the point that there is no limit to self delusion.

    • Excellent points, Juli. Thank you for making them.

      This behavior—whether in Christian Crusaders or Muslim Extremists—shows that we humans will take even those things we claim to believe are sacred and use them for material gain, political control, or misguided thirst for retribution.

    • Juli,

      I see some flaws in your comparison. Marines enter a contract, and must attain and maintain specific standards. Adherents to most religions are under no such restraints. There is no requirement other than that religion’s “profession of faith”. I grew up Catholic, and knew people who had broken literally every single rule but the one about not having other gods. Liars, thieves, adulterers, one neighbor who claimed to have committed multiple murderers, the whole gamut. They weren’t kicked out of any church, and as far as I know they considered themselves Catholic. I also remember seeing an art exhibit at a hospital, of images of the virgin Mary drawn by prisoners at a county jail. And I wondered, did it occur to anyone that there’s an element of hypocrisy in having a bunch of criminals displaying their faith?

      I’m not accusing Christianity of being the only religion like that. Islam doesn’t exactly have a track record of excommunicating followers for committing a crime, no matter how horrible. I don’t recall hearing an uproar from the Muslim world about the 9/11 hijackers not being Muslim.

      I also don’t see anyone falsely using their religion to achieve political ends. In my opinion, religion is all about money, power and control over people. But it’s not because the people at the top are cynically manipulating clueless followers. If that was the case, it could only be true for one generation; eventually the cynical manipulators at the top would die off, to be replaced by true believers. It’s not realistic to believe that every believer who rises to a leadership position of a religion suddenly discovers the entire thing is a farce, but chooses to pretend it’s real in order to keep others under control. The fact is, the leaders of ISIS truly believe in what they’re doing. The “foot soldiers” of ISIS truly believe in what they’re doing. It’s not cynical manipulators at the top tricking followers into carrying out their political goals, it’s fervent true believers all acting together to achieve what they believe their god wants.

      I get your view on this, but I don’t see how we can decide whether or not someone else is a “real” believer. And what WE think about their faith really makes no difference. What THEY think about their faith is all that counts.

  3. Jesus gave a rather logical dissertation on judging something or someone by the fruits they produced. He famously commented that: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    In other words, we will be judged not on what we say, but on what we do.

    Let’s say I go into Micky D’s and see someone who’s a professing vegetarian chowing down on a Big Mac, I might think that he was a backsliding vegetarian or wasn’t really a vegetarian at all, but I don’t think it would be just to think, instead, that because he eats meat and says he’s a vegetarian that all vegetarians eat meat, or are hypocrites, or that vegetarianism is bogus, or that it condones or even encourages the eating of meat.

    When Christ said that Christians would be distinguished by their love for their fellow human beings—even their enemies—He was setting a standard. As individuals we may fall short of that standard, but when we countenance breakages of that principle at the institutional and systemic level (as with the Crusaders and the Westboro Baptists, or ISIS), we have abandoned that standard and created one of our own. I submit that when we do this, we also abandon the right to call ourselves by the name associated with a standard we have systematically violated.

    Christ makes it crystal clear that if those who follow Him fail to obey the commandment to love, they are “cut off” from Him like a dead, withered vine. What you or I think of Christians or Muslims or anyone else who hates and promotes violence, in that context, is irrelevant. Held against the standard established by the Prophet, Himself, those people are something else. Just as my Big Mac-scarfing friend is not a vegetarian.

    Muhammad, too, had much to say about the nature of a true believer: “Hast thou observed him who belieth religion? That is he who repelleth the orphan, and urgeth not the feeding of the needy. Ah, woe unto worshippers who are heedless of their prayer; who would be seen (at worship) yet refuse small kindnesses!” — Qur’an, Surih 107:1-7

    Like Christ, He also warns of allowing our human desires to get in the way of obedience to the principles of faith: “O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do.” — Surih 5:9

    I would suggest that whether we westerners decide that ISIS is Islamic, the Prophets they claim to venerate would not regard them as such. To Christ, they are “cut off”; to Muhammad they belie religion.

    In the case of ISIS (and other extremist groups) the genesis of their desire for revenge is not religious, but political. It has less to do with ancient sectarian wars and more to do with more recent colonialism and the arbitrary division of their lands in ways that suited the western powers involved.

    Muslim institutions world-wide are disowning ISIS, just as the have disowned al-Qaeda and other violent groups.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/09/term-islamic-state-is-slur-on-our-faith-say-leading-muslims/

    My question is: what benefit is derived from insisting to our Muslim friends and allies that ISIS is, too, Islamic regardless of how much they belie their faith? What does anyone gain by us laying the atrocities of ISIS at the feet of Islam and the rest of the Muslim world?

    • Maya,

      I don’t see that as a valid comparison. Vegetarianism is all about action, religion is about belief + action. And in almost every religion, belief trumps action. Most religions have built-in methods for atonement for those who fail to adhere to required actions, or carry out prohibited actions. Catholicism has confession, Christianity in general has the strong emphasis on forgiveness. How many Christians have you known who systematically sin? I’ve known many. None were excommunicated from the church. I doubt they considered themselves non-Christians.

      To your second point about the root causes of ISIS being colonialism and western division of their land, I’d disagree with that as well. Wahabism began long before western colonialism, and Tamiyyah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Taymiyyah) preached jihad against nonbelievers and false believers in the 14th century. Islamic extremism isn’t new, and wasn’t created in response to western actions.

      And just to clarify, I wasn’t laying ISIS’ actions at the feet of the rest of the Muslim world. I was saying ISIS members are in fact Muslims, and to deny that obvious truth is illogical and weak.

      But it’s nice to hear from you again, Maya. 🙂

      • Therein lies part of the problem, and it’s why I left the churches I had grown up in. Christian doctrine had become about belief, when what Christ called for was action. Faith without works, as the apostle James noted, is dead.

        “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works,” he added.

        I also disagree with something you said to Juli, that believers do not enter into a contract or covenant. But we do and we fool only ourselves if we believe that breaking that covenant is without consequence. The condition the world is in is the consequence.

        The scriptures of the faith I have followed my entire adult life, stresses the importance of that covenant and makes the point that the world will not progress until the teachings of God—specifically those about the way we treat each other—”are brought into reality and action”.

        In early Christianity, this was a striking enough principle, that it caused a great deal of friction with the Romans who were not used to the idea of having a set standard of behavior. Vegetarianism is about a behavior and, according to Christ, if not the Church fathers, Christianity (and Judaism, and Islam, and Buddhism and any other faith that sets forth principles such as the Golden Rule) is also about behavior. If you set any store by the words of Christ, it’s inescapable.

        Are there a lot of people who are believers in name only? Certainly. But only God ultimately knows how grievous their sins are and what their interior landscape is like.

        Wahhabism may have existed previously, but this particular manifestation of extremism is catalyzed in great part by the political divisions and forced inclusions that colonial forces, including the US force on the population at the end of the two world wars. The boundaries of Iraq and Iran were not set by the people who lived there. The boundaries did not take into account tribal and religious alliances or divisions. Yes, there is an historical continuum, but without the political intrusion of external forces, things would likely have been much different.

  4. 8 thehaggis

    I’ve always pictured the religious extremists/hardliners as having a literal interpretation of their religion and it’s teachings. Modern Christians and Muslims (and others) know that to follow their religions’ book to the letter is untenable in a modern society. As with the Christianity during the dark ages, so is ISIS trying to make it’s own dark age of theocracy. Imho, just a front for greed and power, by an well organised, opportunistic group of thugs with a flair for draping themselves in the trappings of the local religion and making it a holy purpose.

    • Haggis,

      I get your point, but as I explained in a previous comment, it’s not logical to believe the leaders of a religion don’t truly believe in that religion. That’s an untenable state for any religion. As the leaders died off, they’d be replaced by younger “true believers”. Those true believers, raised in the faith, wouldn’t suddenly abandon their beliefs when they rose to the top. I do agree that most religions are well-organized and opportunistic, but that doesn’t mean the thugs running them aren’t true believers.

  5. 11 boatguy

    First: Chris I found your blog via someone posting an article on Facebook and have been following it ever since. Love your writing and the insight you bring to current affairs, as well as your ‘on-the-job’ police and deployment stories. I usually find myself either laughing out loud, or in a few cases shaking with fury that some of these people actually exist.

    Having said that, you did something in this article that I see quite a bit, and really annoys me as a Christian. Whenever the argument begins about Islamic terrorists, someone (usually a liberal, but I’m not making an accusation) has to bring up what the Catholic church did during the Crusades. Not defending Christian history, but that was how many centuries ago? The Crusades ended, Islamic aggression has continued. Comparing ancient history to current events is apples and oranges.

    True, he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. But I think the Church has learned its lesson. Our national leaders, however, seem to be ignoring the history of Islamic terror and are actually becoming apologists.

    Makes no sense.

    • boatguy,

      Aha, but I wasn’t comparing modern Islam with ancient Christianity and giving Islam a pass. I was making the point that the Crusaders, who did some bad stuff, were in fact Christian. Modern Muslim extremists, who are doing some bad stuff, are in fact Muslims. As far as the Crusades go, I actually have the opposite view you think I do. The Crusades were actually (or at least in part) a response to Muslim conquest of Christian lands. Jews and Christians were in the “holy land” long before Muslims occupied it, and Muslims invaded Christian Spain almost 400 years before the first crusade. Christians crusaders acted like believers of every other religion at that time, and Christianity has “grown up”, so to speak. When modern Christians committed atrocities in the Balkans, the rest of the Christian world rose up in protest and eventually assembled an army to put a stop to it. We haven’t seen the same response from the Muslim world in response to ISIS.

      Thanks for the comment. SWCC?

    • “Not defending Christian history, but that was how many centuries ago? The Crusades ended, Islamic aggression has continued. ”

      From a historical perspective: The crusades ended in the 15th century, so round about 600 years from today. Christianity has had about a 600 year head start on Islam.

      Not that this is in any way relevant, but the numbers match so nicely.

      • I think the age of the faith is relevant. Islam is about the same age that Christianity was when it went through its most violent period and, looking at the historical record, for many of the same reasons. The faith was introduced to people of extremely diverse backgrounds who had neither cultural nor religious commonalities with the original converts. (Christianity was taught in cultures that hadn’t a clue about Judaism, and therefore had no context for understanding the concept of Messiah).

        Those cultures brought their own baggage into the faith. For example, a number of Catholic and Orthodox saints were originally gods and goddesses of local tribal religions; genital mutilation and honor killings are pre-Islamic tribal practices.

        Historically, it’s something that happens over and over, which suggests that there’s some truth to the idea that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

        • I get that point, but there’s a huge difference in availability of information between Christianity’s 1400 year mark (roughly the 1400s) and Islam’s 1400 year mark (present day). Different beliefs and cultures are easily investigated and understood today. If no effort is being made to understand them, it’s deliberate.

          • You’re absolutely right. In some cases it is deliberate ignorance, just as the Crusaders’ fear of the knowledge in the libraries they burned was deliberate ignorance.

            But that ignorance isn’t Islamic ignorance. It’s just normal human fear-of-change ignorance. Muhammad gave his followers the mandate to go even to the ends of the earth for knowledge, which is why there were so many books of philosophy, mathematics, sciences (natural philosophy) and literature in the vast libraries the Crusaders burned. That’s why the great western universities used as their major texts, the works of Muslim scholars such as ibn Sina, al Khwarismi, and ibn Rusd, for centuries.

            But by the nineteenth century, many Middle Eastern countries had slipped into a sort of dark ages and their political leaders began to teach that western knowledge was evil and that good Muslims kept themselves aloof from such things.

            Again, not Islamic ignorance, just run of the mill human ignorance, for which the buck stops here,

  6. 17 Peter

    Chris…

    I am going to suggest that your argument regarding the equivalence of the excesses of the crusaders and the excess of ISIS are somehow equivalent in respect to their faiths, is wrong. It is wrong because it ignores a basic difference between the two religious belief systems.

    As a military man, you know that it takes more than merely external signs – like donning the uniform – to make a member of a Service. One must actually sign up, accept the disciplines and follow the rules of allegiance and values.

    Therefore it is necessary to examine the rules and authorities within a given religion to determine whether someone truly is a follower . Islam and Christianity share a common trait in that both take the teachings and example of a single man as their highest authority…. an authority that trumps all other teachings, traditions or cultural standards. Neither Jesus of Nazareth, nor Mohammed are mythical figures. They are historical and their lives were documented to a degree that is actually quite rare for historical figures . Neither Muslim nor Christian is entitled to simply make stuff up in order to justify their actions.

    With me so far?

    The comparison between ISIS and some crusaders fails because Mohammed and Jesus were very different people who taught differently and set different examples.

    Jesus stated explicitly that he was not interested in geopolitical power. On the only recorded incident in which one of his followers attempted to use violence, Jesus rebuked him. He stated explicitly that murder was wrong. His followers spread their faith by teaching the appeal of Jesus to the conscience of the individual, not by intimidating epode into compliance.

    Mohammed, on the other hand, was a man of violence who ordered, sanctioned and carried out murders. He engaged in acts of extreme violence and deception in order to establish a geopolitical kingdom in which all residents were forced to obey his rules. It is no accident that when ISIS carry out atrocities, they are able to quote the teachings and example of Mohammed…… because that is the kind of man he was!

    The bottom line is that Mohammed – and hence Islam – was inconsistent. Mohammed advocated both peace AND violence, coexistence AND war. That is why we see both peaceful and violent Muslims. Not because merely claiming to be a Muslim makes you one, but because Islam justifies both peace and war.

    A Muslim who wants to be peaceful can find justification for being peaceful. But a Muslim who wants to follow the violent example of Mohammed himself will find ample justification for that too.

    Not all religions are the same……

    • 18 Peter

      My apologies for lack of proofreading.

      Regards…… Peter.

    • Peter,

      Please see my previous comments. I definitely was not saying all religions are the same (although I do think all religions are about money, power and control over people). What I was saying is that Islamic extremists are actually Muslims even though they’re committing crimes, just like Christian crusaders were actually Christians even when they committed crimes. That’s not the same thing as saying all religions are the same; it’s saying believers can break their own rules, and still be believers.

      Hope that clears it up.

    • Christians have also looked to scripture to justify the violence. Your portrayal of Muhammad, too, doesn’t match the man revealed in the Qur’an and in the stories of his life. Abu Bakr, who assumed control of the faith after Muhammad’s passing said he had the heart of a woman.

      Let me ask you this: are we justified in pursuing ISIS and other terrorists? Would it be out of line to say that we should pursue those terrorists until we had wiped them out or they ceased to practice terrorism?

      Those are the exact conditions under which Muhammad gave Muslims the mandate to fight those who were trying very hard to wipe them out. Why is violence in return for violence appropriate for us, but not for the early Muslims?

  7. 23 Kirk

    Thoughts RE: Foley’s lack of resistance.

    I’ve seen reports that the ISIS murderers are constantly running the prisoners through fake executions. After a couple of iterations, the prisoner would learn that resistance only earns an ass-beating, and that they were just screwing with him… Until they aren’t.

    Pretty effective TTP to make sure that when they do go to actually kill the prisoner, he doesn’t resist on camera. Which is the desired “optic” they want.

    I think they learned a little from that Italian dude who died in defiance. I’m pretty sure they could break anyone to the point where they weren’t resisting during these little sessions, given enough time.

  8. 28 SPEMack

    Chris,

    Good points all around.

    As much as I’d like to see Jim struggle, kick, bite, and gouge, the end game is still the same. It’s not like a Delta team was waiting to extract him if he could only escape.

    People ask me on occasion why I would want to deploy again to stop ISIS.

    And my response in very similar to your views concerning Afghan National Army guys. Their are good dudes over there who are fighting for their families, homes, and a chance for a decent life.

    As the biggest, toughest kid on the block, I feel obligated to help them.

    • “People ask me on occasion why I would want to deploy again to stop ISIS.”

      I can’t even believe people would need to ask. Bizarre.

  9. 30 Paul Collins

    Spot on assessment as usual. Take care, brother!

  10. Chris

    Good reading here. You will have to forgive me if I don’t understand some things about posting here as I’m an old guy with limited computer skills.

    I just found this site through a link on a forum that I frequent. I suspect you are the person who post there with the the link to this site in your sig line but it doesn’t matter.

    You have a very good handle on some things that I have an interest in. Namely our military and law enforcement agencies. I’m not affiliated with either but I am a vet so some of the military stuff I have experience with.

    I know several writers and I appreciate people who have unique experiences, are able to put them into some perspective and willing to share that. We all have unique experiences but few of us can make any sense of them and even fewer have the ability to write about it.

    I’ve just started reading your blog and will over time read all of it. I see it as relevant and timely. Of course you are aware of James Webb’s contributions and I think what you are trying to do is just as important. We all need to try to get a better grasp on some of this craziness. Good stuff.

    • Jim,

      Thank you for the compliments, and I’m actually not the guy who uses my web site as a sig line. I don’t do that on any forum. Curious now, what forum is it?

  11. 33 reserve corporal

    As always Chris you made your point,
    I don t understand why people are afraid to call those murderers, Islamic terrorists, we can say they are assholes or monsters but we can t say they re not islamic.

    I do believe like Chris said, being religious is a matter of belief AND actions.
    How many “good” Christians made horrible things, in the holly name of (money) God without being excommuniate?

    About the murders of Foley, Sotloff Haines and Gourdel, i have nothing to say except the respect i have about those men facing death without a single blink.

    One last point, as a french dude, i just understood, the pain US people felt about the murder of your fellow americans, after the beheading of Hervé Gourdel, since few days France is in Shock especially cause Gourdel was kidnapped in Algeria wich is an Allied country who is not at war unlike Syria.

    My thoughts are going to the family of thoses poor guys of course, and to the JDAM bombs, may they find their way up ISIS fighters ass

    • What Christ says is that you can know a thing by its fruits—that is, the results it produces—and notes by way of analogy that a fig tree doesn’t produce thistles. If you found a thistle (or artichoke) lying beneath a fig tree, I doubt you would conclude that the fig tree produced it because the characteristics of the fruit of the fig tree (religion, in Christ’s analogy) are known and bear no resemblance to thistles.

      The photo I have in one of my presentations of a young girl from Westboro Church holding a “God Hates America” sign is a graphic illustration of the thistle-fig dichotomy. The fruit of the Westboro tree of hate (like the fruit of ISIS) bears no resemblance to the fruit of Christ’s Tree of Life.

      The point of the debate is not the verbiage in and of itself, but how using it tempts people to believe that the Westboro Baptist Church represents the teachings of Christ, and Christ Himself. Or that ISIS represents the teachings of Muhammad and Muhammad Himself. Humans are prone to this temptation because it seems to simplify our lives and requires less effort than trying to gain a real and nuanced understanding of a situation.

      Christ and Muhammad both said, clearly, that it was one’s behavior that marked one as a believer, not empty protestations of faith. (As Christ put it, He would tell those who failed to DO the will of God, “I never knew you.”

      Now, perhaps you view this as Christ trying to weasel out of His responsibility for His followers’ behavior. That’s as may be, but I invite you to see it, instead, as the setting of a standard and a covenant between the Prophet and those who follow Him.

      It is not a defense of ISIS or Westboro or their behavior to suggest that it is unjust to misdirect righteous anger at the atrocities committed by people who only call themselves Christian or Muslim into distrust and hatred of all Christians or Muslims. Ultimately, we run the risk of condemning a faith and all its adherents because of the behavior of those who are breaking its most sacred tenets.

      • 35 reserve corporal

        Maya i totaly get your point,
        but from my point of view, we shouldn’t hide the fact they re muslim or KKKsshole are Christian.
        We won t hide the fact most rapist are men because we don t want to seem offensive for over men.
        And by saying that we are not sayig, that women never rapes.

        The fact that Isis people are muslim is just a fact, even if for most of us islam is not like that 🙂

        • If this were merely a matter of rhetoric, I’d agree with you. But it’s not. Most people don’t seem to be capable of the sort of nuanced thought you show. Some, like the man who shot up the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI, can’t even distinguish between Islamist terrorists and followers of a completely different religion. All “towel heads” look alike to them.

          My intent here is to ask everyone who engages on this subject to keep the record straight. If you hear someone say, “Muslims do this” or “Muslims do that”, please have the courage to speak up and say, “No, not all Muslims do that.”

          A careless or tacit acceptance of that sort of idea in the guise of “accuracy” can encourage prejudice—which is probably the greatest cause of distrust, hatred and violence in any society.

          • Maya,

            I understand and agree with your point, but I also get frustrated at people who swing completely to the opposite end of the spectrum. I just had a two-day, 350 comment argument with a good friend on FB who refused to consider the possibility that Alton Nolen was motivated by Islam when he decapitated an innocent, random woman in Moore, Oklahoma. He even said he didn’t believe Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, was motivated by Islam. That’s patently ridiculous. Many people have a knee-jerk reaction against the obvious truth that some Muslims are influenced by their religious beliefs to carry out horrible crimes against innocent people. Arguments such as “Muhammed was against killing innocent people” or “the Qur’an doesn’t command Muslims to kill people” are ultimately futile; some Muslims believe it does, THEIR beliefs are all that matter to them, and OUR interpretation of what they “should” believe are about as worthless as a Muslim extremist’s opinion on what makes someone a “real” Christian. The extremists are telling us, every day, that they believe Islam commands them to conquer and murder. We should listen to them instead of smugly assuring ourselves that they don’t fit our definition of what a real Muslim is.

          • While Hassan admitted that he was swayed by an ideology, everything I’ve read about the Alton Nolen case indicates that he was seriously disturbed and did not identify with any religious or other ideology. He may have been inspired by the recent pervasive stories and videos of beheadings, but in what way is that the same thing as being “motivated by Islam”?

            It does serve to reinforce my point, though, I think. This man who, from what I’ve read so far, had no inkling of Islamic thought or anything copy-catted (possibly) a method of killing that he saw online or heard about on TV.

            People pick up the hatred and the sense of excitement that a good “cause” evokes and run with it. What motivated Wade Michael Page, the ex-Army, white supremacist to gun down innocent Sikhs in Oak Hill? Was it that he had three names? Was ex-military? Was racially bigoted? Or was it that he was full of hatred of the “other” and used whatever bits and pieces of his personal belief system necessary to cobble together a rationale for murder?

            The same is true of ISIS or the Huttaree (a “Christian” doomsday group inclined to stockpile weapons). It is absolutely true that both ISIS and the Huttaree use religious dogma to shore up their reasons for killing. But it’s also true that their methods are decried in the very scriptures they claim to believe in.

            I agree with you, the way to navigate this situation is by staying away from the poles. So, again, I ask that when we hear blanket condemnation of Islam or Muslims or Christians or Jews or anyone, we take a step up and calmly but firmly say, “Put it down and back away.”

          • Maya,

            I have to conclude you haven’t read much about Nolen. He converted to Islam in prison and had a FB page under the name Jah’Keem Yisrael which was full of postings about jihad, the wickedness of the US, pictures of bin Laden and other extremists, and even a picture of a decapitation with a Quranic verse explaining why Muslims behead their enemies.

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/09/30/what-we-know-about-alton-nolen-who-has-been-charged-with-murder-in-the-oklahoma-beheading-case/

            I have a copy of the decapitation picture from Nolen’s FB page (which I’m told has now been shut down). I can email it if you like.

          • I stand corrected. The last news report I heard was to the effect that he was not involved in an Islamist terrorist group.

            But the rest of my points still stand; they weren’t connected to the Nolen murders. Could you answer the body of my comment? I should have realized that Nolen would just provide a distraction.

            Let’s see if I can make my point from another direction nonetheless. I assume you and others here accept evolution as the mechanism for our physical state and would agree that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is a great piece of scientific sleuthing and forms the bedrock of evolutionary science.

            It is also cited as the inspiration for Social Darwinism, the eugenics movement (the idea that superior human beings should control the fate of lesser human beings such as the poor, minority races and the mentally and physically deficient), and Nazism. It is the underpinning of the philosophy that gave us the Holocaust.

            Would it be accurate then to say that Darwin, his book and the science of evolutionary biology should be condemned because of what men like Francis Galton and Adolf Hitler did with his work?

            Please go back to my #37 and read it carefully. I’d like to know the answers to the questions I asked at the end. What do you propose we do?

          • Post #37 isn’t showing as your post. Sorry, not sure which questions you’re referring to.

            But to respond to what I think is your principle argument, I think you’re off base. I’ve never said Islam was evil, or that it should be condemned. I think you’re argument with what you think I would say, rather than what I’ve actually said. It’s a fair bet that I’ve spent more living with Muslims than you, and I can pretty much guarantee that I’ve put my life in Muslims’ hands more than you. Trust me on this: I’m not saying all Muslims are bad, or that Islam is any worse than any other religion. There are aspects of Islam that are horrible if all Muslims actually adhered to them, but fortunately most don’t.

          • Sorry I think it was #39. My experience with Muslim soldiers is certainly less than yours but more than you might think. My father was Air Force. Stationed in Morocco. The woman who took care of me when I was a toddler was Muslim and I was exposed to Muslims in social situations as well. Since then I’ve worked with Muslims of several sects in interfaith groups and I keep close watch on the anti-Islamic fervor in the US.

            I’ve also studied the Qur’an and the history of Islam extensively and I can tell you that the quotes most jihadists and their enemies pull to either justify the killing or justify viewing Islam as a religion of violence are a tiny portion of what’s in the Qur’an and are targeted to specific situations the early Muslim community was in—basically facing annihilation from people who had, at first, pretended friendship. The teachings about violence are clear: God does not love the aggressor—so Muslims should never begin hostilities. They are to respond only to oppression and when the oppressors desist, fighting is to stop and the Muslims are to treat their former enemies as brothers once more.

            I don’t think you’re saying we should hate all Muslims. You do seem to be suggesting that those peaceful Muslims are the exception, not the rule, and that they are the exception because they DON’T follow the teachings of the Qur’an not because they do.

            If I am mistaken in that, I apologize. Do you understand my concern—that the atrocities committed by ISIS will cause people to distrust and mistreat other Muslims through a simplistic but time-honored practice of guilt by association?

            The dialogue here has been fairly calm, but I see so much hatred directed at Muslims that I very much understand my Muslim neighbors’ fear of drawing attention to themselves. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not simply a matter of semantics or rhetoric or lively and frank debate. I fear for my Muslim neighbors.

          • I can understand fearing for your Muslim neighbors, I just don’t see that they’re in so much danger as you suggest. At the moment, I know of one person murdered after 9/11 because an idiot thought he was Muslim. I don’t know for certain that the Sikh Temple shooter thought his victims were Muslim, but if he did, that brings the number of people mistakenly killed in revenge attacks to 6 in 13 years. How many Americans have been murdered by Muslim extremists in that same time frame? We just had two more innocent Americans beheaded on video; where was the “inevitable backlash” that put your Muslim neighbors in danger?

            And again, your conclusions about what the Qur’an “truly” says aren’t the issue. What matters is what the extremists believe it says. The verses that you’ve decided only apply to a specific historical situation are interpreted by many other Muslims as instructions for how to treat enemies today. No, that doesn’t mean all Muslims believe that, but a hell of a lot of Muslims willing to act on their beliefs do.

            And to a large degree, what the damn book says doesn’t matter too much. Believers of many faiths pick, choose and interpret as they wish. I know many Christians who fervently support abortion under the guise of “a woman’s right to choose”.

  12. Can’t remember who said this first, can’t take credit for it myself: “If they aren’t Islamic, then why do we give Korans to the ones we capture?”

    • That is f’kn gold!

    • And if members of the KKK go to prison for bombing churches or lynching blacks, they will ask for Bibles. Does this mean they are Christians by any meaningful measure?

      Anyone can be given a book and even read it; not everyone practices what’s in it, no matter what faith they profess.

      The point of distinguishing Islamists and their ideology from Islam and the majority of Muslims in the world is to lessen the chances of violence being directed against the innocent because of the beliefs and behaviors of the guilty.

      This is not a trivial rhetorical debate. Lives are lost over it. We gin up hatred against all Muslims when we fail to distinguish between the peaceful majority and groups like ISIS or al Qaeda.

      • Maya,

        What difference does it make whether we believe they’re real Muslims, or real Christians? What matters is what they believe they are. They don’t need our permission or approval to be whatever faith they say they are, any more than we need al Qaeda’s approval to practice our religions. And Watson makes a great point: if they’re not Muslims, why do we try so hard not to offend their Islamic beliefs? Why did we give bin Laden a proper Muslim funeral (except for the actual burial at sea)? When we put boots on the ground in Iraq (not if), what’s the bet we’ll treat every ISIS prisoner as a devout Muslim, with access to Qur’an, prayer rugs and halal meals? When that happens, we’ll see how our government is talking out of both sides of its mouth. If we really believed “ISIS isn’t Islamic”, we wouldn’t take great pains not to offend Muslim rules when holding ISIS prisoners.

        • Chris, are you intentionally misunderstanding me? Insofar as it affects OUR lives here, what ISIS members believe about themselves is irrelevant. All that is relevant here, on the ground, is how what they call themselves (Muslim) makes us behave toward other people who also call themselves Muslim.

          You are a smart and articulate man and I respect you very much, but if you’re really not getting that distinction, please ask yourself why.

          I am not concerned with what happens to members of ISIS. I’m concerned about what happens to Muslims who are NOT members of ISIS but who are treated as if they were or at least as if they were suspected of it.

          If we treat ISIS captives with humanity, how does that bear on the treatment of Muslims living among us in the US and elsewhere in the world? Maybe we should refuse to give them Qur’ans. That would certainly be one possibility. But I’d give them in the hope that they might actually read them and learn something.

          Given all of what you’ve said above, how do you believe we should view Islam as it is practiced here in the states? How should we treat our Muslim neighbors? What would you have had our president say: “ISIS has shown us that Islam is a religion of hatred and Muslims are our enemies. So we shall herewith arrest and deport all Muslims who are not American citizens and we shall force all American Muslims to recant their faith?”

          The President’s points were the same ones I’ve made that you claim to understand. That ISIS may claim to be Islamic, but they do not behave as if they are Muslims, regardless of what they choose to call themselves.

          • Maya,

            Since when is how we treat Muslims the number one problem? We have a large, amorphous and hateful organization filled with tens of thousands of Muslim radicals intent on massacring as many Americans as possible, yet our #1 priority is supposed to be fighting prejudice?

            I’ve written about the close relations I’ve had with Muslims, and that I know for a fact they’re not all the same. One of the translators I served in combat with in Afghanistan recently emigrated to the US, and I’m trying to get him into the Army and into my unit. I socialize with Muslim friends and helped one write her first novel. I’ve taken a Muslim friend to the shooting range to give him pistol training. There in no question, not all Muslims are the same and not all support terrorism. But there also isn’t a nationwide backlash against Muslims every time a Muslim commits a terrorist attack. How many Muslims have been killed in revenge attacks? As you’ve mentioned, there was the Sikh Temple shooting (which I never heard connected to anti-Muslim motivations, although it’s believable) and some moron who killed a Sikh store clerk immediately after 9/11. So what’s the priority? Numerous Americans and western Europeans have been murdered by Muslim extremists since 9/11, far more than the tiny number of Muslims who have been targeted in revenge attacks. Muslim extremists are as we speak urging other Muslims to murder Americans here. The Moore decapitation may have been the first instance of an ISIS-inspired attack in America. Muslim extremists in Australia were plotting to kidnap and decapitate random victims. In the midst of all these ongoing murders and plots to commit murders, how does suppression of anti-Muslim prejudice become “all that is relevant here”?

            And you’re creating a false polarity with your hypothetical “Islam is a religion of hatred” presidential speech. There isn’t a choice between saying “All Muslims are bad” and “no Muslims are bad”. Our president, among others, can acknowledge a blatantly obvious fact: yes ISIS is Islamic, yes its members are Muslims, no that doesn’t mean all Muslims are like ISIS.

            This isn’t rocket surgery, and telling the truth doesn’t require an all-or-nothing statement about our enemies’ religion.

          • The president didn’t say “no Muslims are bad”. He said that ISIS didn’t behave as if they were Muslim. Which is nothing to castigate him for, for one thing, but that’s really beside the point.

            You’re beginning to twist my words. I didn’t say it was our number one problem. I said it was the problem that affects us here on the ground in this country in our daily lives. What a member of ISIS believes about himself (and they are all men) should be irrelevant to the way I view and treat the Muslims I encounter in my daily life here. Wouldn’t you agree?

            Neither of us can do jack about ISIS. But we can make sure our Muslim friends and neighbors and those we don’t even know are not caught in the inevitable backlash.

          • He actually said “ISIS isn’t Islamic”. That’s either a deliberate lie or proves that he’s completely out of touch with reality.

            And no, you didn’t say it was our number one problem, but you did say “All that is relevant here, on the ground, is how what they call themselves (Muslim) makes us behave toward other people who also call themselves Muslim.”

            I disagree. I don’t think that’s all that’s relevant here.

            “What a member of ISIS believes about himself (and they are all men) should be irrelevant to the way I view and treat the Muslims I encounter in my daily life here. Wouldn’t you agree?”

            I do agree. When have I written otherwise? Did anything in my writing suggest I believe we should treat American Muslims different because of ISIS?

            “Neither of us can do jack about ISIS.”

            I disagree about that, but only because I’m still in the military and can in fact take direct action against ISIS as a soldier if deployed. But understood, as a civilian I can’t materially affect the fight against ISIS.

            “But we can make sure our Muslim friends and neighbors and those we don’t even know are not caught in the inevitable backlash.”

            I don’t think the backlash is so inevitable. In fact, I’m not aware of a single murder of an American Muslim in retaliation for 9/11 or any other terrorist attack. I may be wrong, but I don’t know of any and haven’t found any on a search. Muslims haven’t had any civil rights restricted. Based on what I see in conservative Texas, Muslims are free to live as they please without hiding their identities or being in fear. So where is this inevitable backlash?

          • Chris, saying ISIS is not Islamic is a point we can argue, not a lie. By Muhammad’s measure it isn’t Islamic. Not even close. Because they are not following the core teachings of their faith. You can call them Islamic if you like. Mr. Obama can say they’re not Islamic. Neither of you is lying. You each have a different understanding of what it means to be something.

            If our language is so poor that we can’t distinguish between people who follow the tenets of a faith and people who don’t, we may need to be more inventive. So, let’s call them Muslim extremists or jihadists (although that’s corrupting another concept of Islamic thought) or Islamists. But let’s not call each other liars because we disagree about what constitutes following a faith.

            There have been Muslims abused because of 9/11. There have also been Sikhs killed because someone thought they were Muslim. Muslims have had their homes vandalized, crosses burnt on their lawns, their daughters have been told they can’t wear the hijab to school and they’ve had loud angry protests against building mosques and community centers in a number of communities.

            There also groups and individuals with popular reach (Geller, Spencer, and Perkins) who have made it their goal to further anti-Islamic fervor on TV and online. It would be tempting to write them off as fringe elements, if they didn’t have reach into government (as witnessed in the rash of legislation banning Shariah law that wasn’t even a response to anything Muslims here did).

            http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2011/summer/the-anti-muslim-inner-circle

            http://www.cair.com/islamophobia/islamophobia-reports-other-documents.html

            And let’s be realistic. Violence committed by Muslims is sexy and draws eyeballs. Violence against Muslims or Muslims denouncing violence not so much.

            Yes, there is a backlash, and Muslim communities are nervous about what might happen as they approach Eid, a holy observance. I pray to God that you’re right. That we’re growing up and that not one Muslim will be persecuted because of his or her faith here or elsewhere in the West.

          • I think it’s ridiculous for us here in the west to proclaim “Those guys aren’t Muslims” when those guys are screaming at the top of their lungs, “We’re Muslim!” and backing all of their actions with references from the Qur’an or Hadith. I honestly see that as American condescension; “we’re so high and mighty, we know their religion better than they do.” “They’re too stupid to understand what they’re doing.” “I didn’t grow up Muslim, and they did, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.” That’s ridiculous.

            Do you know any Christians who support abortion? I’m guessing you do. Are they not “real” Christians, since killing infants is so obviously against biblical teachings?

          • And I should have added, yes there have been anti-Muslim incidents, but no actual murders of Muslims. In the meantime, there have been numerous Americans murdered by Muslims. Which should draw more attention?

  13. 55 Danny

    Hi Chris, your post is interesting and of reflection, tell me you think this conflict will end or will make the longest.

    • Man, I don’t know. There’s the possibility that ISIS will be so reviled by the entire world, including the Muslim world, that it will be crushed out forever. On the other hand, my service in the War on Terror between 2005 and 2009 may someday be looked on as the very earliest phase of a long, long war.

      I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I do think our “no boots on the ground” war against ISIS will become “many, many boots on the ground” very soon, no matter how much our administration doesn’t want it to.

  14. 57 Frankenstein Government

    I loved the post and the blog. I am a retired police chief and blogger from middle earth. I am going to add you to my blog roll and link you. Thanks for your service.

  15. Hey Chris,
    I wasn’t sure how to send you this so I figured this was as good a place as any. Thought you might like this take on the situation:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/half-measures-in-fight-against-islamic-state-will-only-make-matters-worse/article20926294/?page=all

  16. 60 Fenris53

    Chris
    I’m a young French who soon hope to be part of the french Army, so I discovered your Blog with your article on the French military, and since then I am truly amazed. I love how you see the news and how you do not bother yourself with the politicaly correct things to say (hope this sentence make sens).
    Anyway I personally think that the reason why westerns government do not call Isis muslim’s is mostly not to offend the muslims in those Western countries. Because even if those muslims will be against ISIS they will be the first one to say “they are not true muslims”.
    At least that’s how I see things.

    Keep up the good Work! It is always a pleasure to read you (and sorry for my english)

  17. 61 empathybeforejudgement

    I linked to your blog and read “My life as a tyrant” You are a truly gifted writer. I can’t stop reading. I never thought I’d ever say or write these words, but I think I’m a groupie. I better end that with I’m kidding, but I really do enjoy your insights and perspectives. I especially admire your patience with some of your relentless posters.

    On the subject of ISIS/ISIL. In their sick twisted minds, they believe they’re Muslims and believe their murderous actions are Koranically based. Denying they are is ignorance. We need to know our enemy. Not every Muslim is our enemy, but these Muslims are.

    • Empathy,

      Thank you for the kind words, and I apologize for the delayed response. Life is hectic lately. I agree that not all Muslims are our enemy, and I’ve had great experiences with many. We can’t lump them all together, but we can’t deny reality about some of them either.

      Thanks again, and please come back and comment. Often. 🙂

  18. they are fool who is trying to win the world their was one more person who tried to win the whole world HITLER he thought that he is the king of world
    but what happen he died they will also die they are fool


  1. 1 Growing ISIS Group – Site Title

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