Forget ‘ISIS’: Say Daesh

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The terrorist group that calls itself several things, including “The Islamic State,” is upset that France and others have decided to not give either of those names credibility, and will instead refer to this terrorist organization as ‘Daesh’. With good reason: France’s decision is based on logic very close to that of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently declared in a Congressional hearing that “they are terrorists; They are not a state.”

He said as much in a session broadcast on December 4 by CBS, in which reporter Lara Logan noted that “most Arabic-speaking people have always referred to ISIS as Daesh.”

“Daesh” is the Arabic pronunciation of the acronym for ISIS – the Islamic State in Syria – Dawlat Al Islam fi Iraq Wa al-Sham – CBS News’ Jennifer Janisch explained in the same report.

Huffington Post put it this way: “Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (though the last word can also be translated as “Damascus” or “Levant”), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.”

Few would deny this group is attempting to crush everything underfoot.

While they are busy taking pretty much whatever they want, including lots of lives, I see no reason why they should be given the benefit of being called what they prefer to be called: A state. Daesh is not a state, but more the state of mind of a singularly nasty,  frighteningly well organized bunch of terrorists.

Some of them are believed to be true believers of what they think the Quran says – particularly the killing by Muslims of infidels, or non-believers. Others among the terrorists are said to be participating in vicious, hateful crimes against innocent people – such as those who died and were injured in last week’s ‘incident’ in San Bernardo CA and several attacks earlier in the month in Paris – are engaged more for ‘the fun of it’ than in support of strong beliefs of any sort.

Like the Bible, the Torah, the Mishnah and virtually all other ‘holy texts’, the Quran can be interpreted in any number of ways, in part because, like the Bible and similarly ancient texts, it has been repeatedly revised (and re-, re- and re-translated from the original Arabic) over the centuries, since the seventh, when Islam began. And, as the ‘interpreted’ reference (above) notes, there is evidence that some of what’s in the Quran appeared earlier in the Bible!

In a recent ‘Road Map’ program on MSNBC, Graeme Wood, who wrote ‘What ISIS Wants’ for The Atlantic, argued that Daesh “has its own council of scholars, [which] has its own strange, fringe interpretations, and they are looking at Islamic text in a scholarly way; It’s a way that is being [widely] rejected, but it is being [studied] in a scholarly way.”

On the same program, Mehdi Hasan of Al Jeezera America and The New Statesman, disagreed that anyone associated with Daesh deserves to be called a scholar, and declared that MI5, Britain’s massive security agency, “studied dozens and hundreds of these guys and found that it was religious novices, the guys who buy ‘Islam for Dummies’ from Amazon.com who go out and fight; it tends to be people who have had a very bad background in drugs, and alcohol and petty crime; it’s not people with religious training. MI5 found, in fact, that a strong religious tradition is a great protector against radicalization.”

Hardly nation-builders!

Didier Francois, a French journalist who was held captive for ten months by Daesh told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this year that his captors “cared little about religion; There was never really discussion about texts or – it was not a religious discussion; It was a political discussion.”

There’s a strong case to be made that all U.S. media, and all media everywhere, and all government entities anywhere who feel a need to take about these people – and there are a great many of the former – should form a united front: Even while defeating Daesh is proving exceedingly difficult, no concession should be made to them – least of all reflecting their propaganda, in how we refer to them, that they represent a ‘nation’.

As John Kerry said, they are not.

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Is U.S. About To Threaten Russian Planes Over Syria?

F-15-cNow here’s a scary thought: The Daily Beast suggested earlier today that U.S. F-15-C fighter planes, which are designed for and limited to air-to-air combat, could be destined to engage Russian planes over Syria in the near future. The Pentagon announced late last week that a dozen of the twin-engine fighters were being deployed to Turkey, supposedly “to ensure the safety” of America’s NATO allies, as a Defense Department spokesperson said to The Beast.

“That could mean that the single-seat F-15s and the eight air-to-air missiles they routinely carry will help the Turkish air force patrol Turkey’s border with Syria, intercepting Syrian planes and helicopters that periodically stray into Turkish territory,” the web site speculated – adding:

“But more likely, the F-15s will be escorting attack planes and bombers as they strike ISIS militants in close proximity to Syrian regime forces and the Russian warplanes that, since early October, have bombed ISIS and U.S.-backed rebels fighting the Syrian troops.”

Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported today, quoting Russian media sources, that U.S. and Russian jets “have conducted drills jointly to prevent the possibility of their air forces clashing in Syrian airspace.” The Times cited Russian Army Col. Andrei Kartapolov as having told the Sputnik news outlet that, “Today at 11 a.m. Moscow time, Russian and US air forces carried out joint drills on actions by crews and land personnel in cases when aircraft fly in close proximity to each other.”

While seeming to argue against The Daily Beast’s speculation, it is not unheard of for Russia to say one thing and do another – or for the U.S. to do likewise where Russia is concerned. That’s why The Carnegie Corporation of New York – self-described as “a foundation with an historical commitment to improving the U.S. ability to understand Russia and interpret its policies – noted a year ago, in October of 2014, that, “If there is one point of agreement between pundits in Moscow and Washington these days, it is that U.S.-Russia relations are at a post-Cold War nadir.”

Then, recently, The Corporation issued a statement under the name of Deana Arsenian, Vice President International Programs and Program Director, Russia and Eurasia, that, “For those of us with longstanding interest in U.S.-Russia relations, the current state of affairs is as distressing as it is alarming. By all accounts, this critical relationship has reached a point of rupture.”

Ms. Arsenian continued: “What led to [the current situation] can be endlessly debated by policy officials, experts, the media, and the public in both countries and beyond. And, indeed, it is, with varying perspectives on the root causes of the present situation and what should be done about it.”

Fine and good as that may be, foundations sometimes have a way of taking so long to figure out what’s causing a problem that, in the meantime, the problem has worsened.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin already none too happy with President Barack Obama – and vice versa – and with war planes of the two nations within bulls-eye shooting distance of each other (The Times of Israel report says the planes of the two nations flew, in their joint drills, “a minimally safe distance of 5.5 kilometers [3.4 miles]” from each other), one can only hope that communications between the Pentagon and the White House, on one side, and the Kremlin on the other, are more active than either side is prepared to say.

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Please checkout Commotion In The Pews, an eclectic blog by a brilliant (ex-Naval Intelligence) guy with a fascinating range of interests and a hobby being Santa, wherever he’s invited, in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

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