The usual programming

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

RECENTLY, US President Donald Trump announced the death of Abu Bhakr al-Baghdadi in a special forces operation in northwestern Syria. At once elusive and vicious like a typical comic book supervillain, Al-Baghdadi was the subject of an international manhunt operation when IS ravaged much of Syria and northern Iraq in 2014 and orchestrated numerous acts of violence across the world.

He cemented his reputation as just another Osama bin-Laden who demanded an accounting from the Western world and threatened to establish a caliphate encompassing the Levant and Iraq. But unlike bin-Laden who took a bullet from Seal Team 6, al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest before Delta Force could execute him.

But what matters is that another lunatic has just been wiped out from existence. Democracy has prevailed and we should all wait until Michael Bay makes another overly patriotic bro-film exaggerating the actual developments of the Delta Force raid, complete with needless shots of the American flag, sweaty abs, and dramatic explosions no one is asking for.

For now, let us bask in the sweet, sweet death of the world’s most despised terror leader and get to the usual programming: maintaining and reproducing the conditions that had led to the agitation and establishment of terror groups like al-Qaeda and IS.

These groups were not conjured out of thin air. They had their underpinnings in the political and social problems that had grown out of the Western world’s interference in Middle Eastern affairs, starting when the Sykes-Picot Agreement carved the region into spheres of influence following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War.

The scramble for oil and the power play between the United States and the Soviet Union only exacerbated conditions in the Middle East. The leaders that were installed and supported by these superpowers did little to stymie discontent and, instead, made things much worse by allowing the greed for oil and ideological hegemony to prevail over the interests of the people. Added to this is the fact that the US had sowed the seeds of Global Terror after it had supported jihadists during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan thus laid the groundwork for the birth and expansion of al-Qaeda, the initial members of which were veterans of the Soviet invasion. Bin-Laden, who had also supported Afghan fighters using his own fortune, had received funding from the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, the US helped build training camps for the mujahideen who were taught how to conduct guerrilla operations and bomb-making techniques. You could very well guess how this turned out for the Western world in September 11, 2001.

The Global War on Terror that came after involved a country that had nothing to do with supporting al-Qaeda in the same vein the US did. But despite little to no evidence, coalition forces led by the US and the UK proceeded with the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent toppling of Saddam Hussein’s hold on power.

This also led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of civil servants, Ba’ath Party members, and followers of Sunni Islam, many of whom were interned in notorious prison camps such as Abu Ghraib. It was under these conditions that al-Baghdadi found allies in Saddam Hussein’s loyalists. A power vacuum aggravated by sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims animated a new movement that would shock the world with its brutality.

We could all celebrate the bravery of the Delta Force operators when they eliminated an existential threat to Democracy. But shouldn’t we get around into understanding why al-Qaeda and IS were formed in the first place?

Terror doesn’t stop with al-Baghdhadi, so long as imperialist ambitions are allowed to lay waste to entire countries and foment brutal resistance that will cost the lives of innocent people. But apparently, these do not make for effective storytelling. So, let’s all get back to the usual programming and wait for yet another terror leader to rise up and give Michael Bay creative fodder.