“Today our Nation saw evil“, a grim faced President Bush stated as he addressed the nation on the evening of September 11th. Bush continued,”The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning and huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger”. For millions of Americans like myself, 9/11 represented our indoctrination into a war we didn’t know exist, perpetrated by individuals whom ideology epitomizes pure evil.
The ideology of absolute evil is defined as radical Islam and their militant groups that stretch from The Hamas of Palestine and Hizballah of Lebanon to the Holy Warriors in Chechnya and the Islamic Salvation Front of Algeria. Their means of achieving terror are different, but their goal is the same, the creation of an Islamic world.
They refer to it as a Khilafah or caliphate.
In June, The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, commonly known today as ISIS, announced the restoration of the Khilafah over the areas under its control that stretch from Iraq’s Diyala province to Syria’s Aleppo. Geographically they control an area the size of Belgium. ISIS has called on all jihadist organizations including Al Qaeda and their global cells to “offer their physical and material support to the calipha of the new Islamic state, ushering in a new era of international jihad.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel labeled the Islamic state as “beyond anything we’ve seen”. Warning that “they are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of…military prowess, tremendously well funded”. The combination of sophistication, social media attraction, accumulation of an estimated $2 billion in wealth and military might represents a threat to the U.S. that vastly surpasses that once held by Al Qaeda pre-9/11.
“ISIS is one of the world’s richest terrorist organizations, if not the richest”, states Michael Knights of Washington Institute. What makes ISIS much more sophisticated is the money they raise on the ground via their oil operations.
“ISIS is running, essentially a cross-border oil export shop. They control between 30-40,000 barrels of production per day”, states Knights. Instead of destroying the oil, ISIS will “take Iraqi produced oil to Syria, refine it and then export it via truck out of Turkey or even Iran”, concludes Knights.
K.T. McFarland, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense further elaborates on ISIS’ network of wealth. “In eastern Syria, they’ve got oil wells. In western Iraq, they have oil refineries and wells”. Furthermore, “they robbed a bank in Mosul in June to the tune of half a billion dollars”, states McFarland.
Their ability to raise money on the ground makes them sophisticated, “the state-of-the-art American military equipment they are using also makes them the best-equipped”, comments McFarland.
With this in mind, what truly makes ISIS a “threat unlike any we’ve seen” is their global outreach efforts. By using social media, the Islamic State has been able to attract would-be jihadists from around the world to join them to fight Syria and Iraq. “It holds very, very broad appeal to both converts and natural-born Muslims alike”, states John Horgan, a psychologist at UMass-Lowell who specializes in terrorism.
Horgan further notes that the social media ISIS uses is “very, very polished, highly choreographed, and highly persuasive” in regards to its messaging. This broad appeal cannot be understated and on Tuesday we saw an example of how they intend to do it.
In a video released Tuesday, ISIS showed their broad appeal in the form of a video depicting a British jihadi beheading an American journalist by the name of James Foley. They did this in order to attract more recruits and according to intelligence officials they have currently attracted more than 7,000 foreign fighters to fight in Syria alone.
The release of the beheading video was meant to carry the message that the group is not afraid of the United States. Moreover, it was also part of a well-oiled propaganda machinery by the ISIS to recruit foreign members.
The foreign individuals that fight for ISIS pose a troubling threat. Specifically to the U.S. and Europe because those whom left to fight in Syria will return home knowing that their passports do not require visas to travel back to Europe and the United States.
With this knowledge, it is no question that the threat posed by ISIS is not only direct but it is gaining momentum as they are in fact at war with the United States of America. Neglecting this reality like the State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf did on Thursday,attempting to downplay ISIS’ declaration of war against the U.S., denies a very real threat.
Sadly, our own State Department and the Obama Adminstration on the whole have outright denied these threats for they have a different view of what 9/11 represented. Our country will forever remain at war with groups such as ISIS for they will forever target us for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.
And no one will keep that light from shining.