“To Follow The Example Set By The Prophet Muhammad”

Despite public pleas from his desperate mother, journalist Steven Sotloff was apparently murdered by fundamentalist thugs somewhere in Syria. And as 21st-century Islamist terrorist freaks are prone to do, they published a video of his grisly execution.

Steven’s mother Shirley Sotloff had just recently asked the ISIL bastards to release her son, even calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—who laughingly thinks he is head of an “Islamic State”—by his self-bestowed title, “caliph,” which is the name given to the head of state in a Caliphate. I don’t blame her for trying. I don’t blame her for saying anything to get her son back. I would have called that murderous Baghdadi bastard the Islamic Mother Theresa if that would have secured my son’s freedom. Like Mrs. Sotloff, I would have tried to appeal to Baghdadi’s Islamic faith and ask him “to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected People of the Book” and “to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over.” Yes, I would have said all that, and more, including what the now-grieving mother offered up to Baghdadi last week:

Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government. He is an innocent journalist.

Of course none of those words mattered to Baghdadi or the piece-of-shit thug with a British accent who did the dirty work, perhaps murdering Sotloff before his mother made her appeal, an appeal that included an insistence that her son “traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants.” None of that mattered because there is no such a thing as an “innocent” person outside the theological tribe these people belong to. If you are not one of them, if you don’t follow their version of Islam, then you are ipso facto guilty and subject to execution in the name of a strangely unmerciful Allah.

I am confident that President Obama, even has he continues an air assault on ISIL in Iraq, will soon expand the effort into Syria, where, hopefully, one day that blood-loving zealot who murdered Steven Sotloff, along with the delusional leader of ISIL and the rest of his Allah-invoking fighters, will look up and, just for a sweet, sweet moment, see a missile coming their way with a big American flag painted on it.

Steven Sotloff is a freelance journalist being held captive by ISIS militants.

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  1. Bbob

     /  September 2, 2014



  2. Americans by the ton are already falling into the terrorist trap by demanding immediate action to avenge these barbaric killings. Just this morning the Joplin Globe published a political cartoon depicting president Obama as helpless and “without a strategy”, an unfortunate remark of his now taken out of context. It just adds gasoline to the fires that seem to breaking out everywhere. Fortunately, wiser minds seem to realize that this is not going to be a sprint but a marathon. We tried the sprint approach 11 years ago and we’re still paying for it, even though it made things worse.

    Even killing the heads of these radical organizations is ineffective, not that we shouldn’t try. To ISIS and their ilk, there is no such thing as bad publicity. They crave attention. Action attracts more recruits, more cannon fodder. We are going to need full cooperation and participation from the EU and the moderate Arab world to stem the tide, and an essential component must be to eliminate the hopelessness and illiteracy that abets the terrorists’ recruitment. That’s the strategy we need and the one the president was referring to. He’s on his way to try to get it done.


    • Jim,

      You know how much I respect and value your opinion. Here, though, I take exception to a few things you said. You conflated the unfair attacks on Obama’s “without a strategy” comment (those attacks are also coming from mainstream journalists, too, unfortunately; I heard NBC’s Richard Engel today utter how ridiculous it was that Obama, after three years of ISIL, didn’t have a strategy) with those people, in both parties, who are urging the President to act with a little more, well, urgency. It is possible to both properly understand what the President said and meant, in response to a question from Chuck Todd on ISIL in Syria, and also want the President to demonstrate a little more passion and urgency about the whole matter. He seems to not be crystal clear on how he actually views the long-term threat of ISIL to American interests, even as he has, rightly, expressed his desire to bring justice to its members.

      I really think we differ more on whether we need “full cooperation and participation from the EU and the moderate Arab world.” In Iraq, we need the Iraqis, including the Kurds. It looks like we are making progress on that front. Syria, of course, presents a different problem, as our attacks on ISIL there will, temporarily, serve to benefit Assad. But those attacks will also benefit the more moderate (and I use that term somewhat loosely) elements that will, hopefully, prevail in the fight against Assad. Would it be better if we had regional Arab powers to help us? Sure it would. But it is hard to see any regional power sending troops into Syria. That’s not going to happen. Nor are any of our European allies going to send troops to fight in Syria. Thus, we really don’t need any nation’s “full cooperation and participation,” as nice as that would be to have. What we need is their help in cutting off resources to ISIL, including stopping the payment of ransoms and the purchasing of oil, as well as providing military assets and money to support an ongoing effort to, little by little if necessary, make it difficult for them to exist as a cohesive military entity.

      Finally, and respectfully, I take issue with your use of the phrase “falling into the terrorist trap,” as in,

      Americans by the ton are already falling into the terrorist trap by demanding immediate action to avenge these barbaric killings.

      I have heard that idea expressed a lot in the last few weeks. And I confess I don’t understand how it could possibly matter whether ISIL, in all their brilliance, is trying to bait us into a war and if we give in (by acting “immediately” even though it has been some time since we were aware of their brutality) we are somehow playing into their hands. We are talking about a group of terrorists who number maybe 15,000 or so. Many of those fighters are part of Saddam’s old army, the one we knocked off in 2003 pretty handily. If we had the will to do so, ISIL would today fare no better against American ground forces and air power. They would, I think it is pretty clear, be wiped out or forced to flee, as many of them did in 2003. That’s not to say such a scenario would be cost-free. Of course not. But that is the worst-case scenario. Let’s be clear, though: we are not talking about getting involved in that kind of warfare against them. We are talking about supporting the Iraqi military first, and then using air power and other assets (like cutting off their funding sources) in Syria to, hopefully, cripple them enough so that other anti-Assad forces can finish them off. If that is somehow a trap they are setting for us, I fail to see its coherence.



      • Duane, you have a good point that Obama’s apparent lack of urgency or passion is troubling. As I have said before, I think he’s a better decision-maker and planner than he is a politician. He is also, I think, enough of a realist to know that even if he had waxed passionate about tackling ISIS two or three years ago, pre-beheadings, the public would not have responded with enthusiasm to support involvement. At that time, as best as I can recall, the ISIS “problem” appeared to be nothing more or less than one piece of the confusing Syrian civil war and the ongoing struggle between Sunis and Shiites. ISIS was fighting al Assad, our enemy, and it didn’t seem unreasonable to me, anyway, to just let ‘em fight it out among themselves. McCain’s instinct was to pick out some of the more “moderate” groups and become their arms suppliers and air cover, ignoring, apparently, what to do if they were successful. I’m pretty sure that most of the participants in this conflict despise us, excepting the Kurds and a few Christians. That’s short-term thinking, seems to me, the same thing that got W. in deep kimchi in the second Iraq war.

        As to attacking ISIS in Syria, I, like you, would love to get quick and decisive revenge, but I’m not in favor of doing it unilaterally if we can leverage the beheading outrage to get regional cooperation and international legitimacy on the action. But public outrage is short-term stuff these days. Ever since we stopped fighting the kind of war that had a draft and that actually affected everybody in real time, genuine public concern has diminished. Passion flares briefly, especially when demagogued, and it’s effective politically, but this gets us into long-term trouble most every time. (I think the last time it actually worked was the Spanish American war.)

        The same problem has affected Europe, the U.K. excluded. They want to wait until the sole superpower does their work for them. I have always been frustrated that the EU sits and waits for us to clean up their backyard for them, and if that’s not bad enough, they continue to condone ransoms. As for the so-called Iraqi Army, I count them a failure. You seem to hold out hope, but I don’t. Even with a new P.M., their heart isn’t in it. They are still blowing each other up. The Iraqi government is still Shiite and the Sunis won’t stop until they regain power. The sooner Iraq splits into three parts the better this can be handled.

        The “terrorist trap” I was speaking of is being baited into an air war in Syria without a plan for finishing the job, meanwhile enhancing recruiting from the masses of the world’s second-largest religion. At this point, I’m not sure our intelligence can even locate their command and control with any accuracy. This is not conventional war and there won’t be shock and awe, there will be bad guys all over using human shields and melting into a chaotic population. I wish I knew more about the intel.

        You seem to agree that ground forces will be needed to back up an air campaign in Syria, but I don’t see that happening. The Iraqi Army isn’t going to do it – they’re still trying to protect Baghdad, much less invade Syria. If we choose the method of arming a “moderate” faction, the possibility of ISIS getting those weapons, like they did from the Iraq Army, is a real concern. I think it’s like the president said, we do not have a strategy yet and there are two good reasons for it. One, terrorism on this scale is unprecedented, and two, the allies aren’t on board yet.

        Finally, let me opine that the Powell Doctrine is not obsolete. In fact, I’d say it is more relevant than ever.


  3. ansonburlingame

     /  September 3, 2014

    Reread the last paragraph of this blog. Then go back to 9/12/2001, the day after…….

    Then read today’s Globe editorial calling for doing something “now”.

    I share the anger, disgust, thinking of such people that do such things as “barbarians”. That is what Rome called them just before the gates of Rome and the empire fell and humans in Europe and beyond entered 1000 years of “dark ages”.

    At least now in America we have become slightly more focused on who our enemy might be. In 2001 it was a call to arms in a “war on terror”. Now even some on the left call for a “war on ISIL (or is it ISIS, again). What about Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbohla (spl?), and other lesser known groups (Muslim Brotherhood?) groups spread around the world.

    There are not enough missiles (or delivery vehicles) in America to rain down such missiles carrying an American flag on each one, to hit every pickup truck, machine gun nest, etc. carrying the banner of just ISIL, much less all the other groups loosely associated with those thugs.

    Bush II mistakenly thought that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might help matters. It didn’t work as he hoped it seems to me. Now it is Obama’s time in the barrel. He is not facing 3000 dead Americans in America, yet. All we have endured so far is two dead Americans with their heads cut off. But certainly that is enough to ignite the anger of most Americans, me included, today.

    One thing that remains abundantly clear to me is this “war” (and yes I consider it a war) is one that is generational in length, maybe even multigenerational, like the Cold War. So the first question is does America (actually Americans) have the ability to unite against such people and ultimately win that “war”. And if not America, who, I wonder?

    Missiles and bombs today in Iraq, a call for missiles and bombs in Syria tomorrow. What should come after that I wonder?

    I, for one at least, believe we must completely rethink want was said in Cairo in 2009 by President Obama, related of course to “binding ties”. I know of NO “ties” that link ISIL and us and there are lots of acronyms following ISIL that I could add as well. I would only suggest, again, that all those acronyms spell OIL, at least in terms of the financial means to keep cutting heads off of Americans.

    Now for a “strategy”, right, perhaps a muligenerational strategy, just like we had during the Cold War?



    • I will only say this, Anson. Even a “multigenerational strategy” begins with one step. We have, it seems to me, taken the first step already (attacking ISIL in Iraq), without necessarily figuring out what the longer-term strategy against ISIL might look like (apart from the general long-term strategy of attacking anti-American terrorists wherever we find them). I advocate that we take the next step, which is attacking ISIL in Syria, even if all the details aren’t completely worked out. It is fairly clear to me that we will have to act even if we can’t get a large group of regional nations or European nations to act with us. So, while I would give it a little more time to see if a broad coalition can be assembled (especially of regional powers), I wouldn’t wait too much longer. ISIL, while not an existential threat to the United States, is clearly a threat to our long-term interests, if we need any other justification besides justice itself to go after the bastards.


  4. Here in America, our barbarians use drones and planes.


  5. ansonburlingame

     /  September 4, 2014


    There is a “trap” in all of this and it is our own trap, not one set by opponents. My column in today’s Globe only hints at what I believe is needed but focusing on a center of gravity of an opponent is the point.

    We are fighting against a large group of people with only two things in common within that group. Religion provides the manpower and money provides the technology. “They” sure did not invent or produce the technology on their own; they have to buy it from others.

    We cannot successfully bomb a religion. But we can stop buying what provides the funds to fight against us. No petrodollars in the Middle East, no funds to fuel a war against us, in any form of war.

    Except for transportation fuel we are close to being independent of Middle East oil. Divorcing ourselves from that fuel is hard, but not impossible, at least in America. But moving from gasoline for transportation to something else, hydrogen being our best bet in my view, will take a lot of united effort for all Americans.

    Just annoucing a long term effort to do so, eliminate oil as a fuel for transportation would “send a signal” of huge impact. Actually doing it would literally change the world as we know it today. Can America accept that challenge?

    Frankly, I doubt it, but it is at least something to consider.



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