Let’s Talk About ISIL a Minute

Its been a few days since the dreadful attacks in Paris, and subsequently today French paramilitary police forces raided even more ISIL attackers, foiling another suicide bomber plot.  And now ISIL is threatening to carry out lone wolf, suicide attacks in New York City.

I haven’t really posted anything or wrote on this because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say. This is a very fucked-up situation that we (the royal we) find ourselves in. I am not political; I don’t subscribe to any party or specific ideology. I ask questions and I think for myself, making my own conclusions on and about life.

So I won’t get political here – I won’t argue for or against Syrian refugees; I won’t argue for or against more involvement in the fight against ISIL. I mean, what fight??

I want to share with you a brief portion from my newest eBook about my time in Iraq that I feel directly relates because it specifically deals with my meeting with legit, hardcore, captured Al Qaeda fighters:

The hatred and emptiness in his dark eyes was expected, yet unsettling. My interpreter spoke up. “Sir, this guy says it’s unfair what you are doing.”

‘Unfair? What? The invasion?’ I wasn’t confused because a lot of Iraqi’s felt that the invasion and current state of the provisional government wasn’t very fair, but I wanted to know exactly what he didn’t like about it. This was rare for us – we rarely every captured prisoners like this. They either died in place, died and were carried off by their pals, or they broke contact and blended back into the populous. 

“He says, that this treatment is unfair. He says that he is Al Qaeda – he has come from Jordan to fight Jihad. He is proud and has already carried out attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.” The man stared at me, and his voice, still quiet, intensified. “He says that he had already confessed – he has told the us everything he knows, and he has cleansed his soul and is prepared to meet Allah. He wants to know why we are delaying him from his death?”

Delay him from his death? I was confused. ‘Ish, what does he mean, I don’t understand.’ Ish spoke to the guy again, the little dude looking over at Ish as he talked, then back at me to respond. Ish translated.

“He say he know that we will behead him. He knows he will be raped, ashamed, then beheaded, and he believes that not doing this is cruel. He is waiting for this because he knows it to be true, and he has already made himself right with Allah. This is why he is asking why you are not killing him yet. I think he is scared, not just angry. He is not sounding right.”

I was bamboozled. I got down on a knee so I could be closer to the guy. I wanted him to see me. I took off my Kevlar helmet and set it on the ground. ‘Tell him this’ which my interpreter did as I spoke. ‘You are a prisoner of the United States Army. We do not rape; we do not execute our prisoners, or behead them. No, you sir are detained – arrested, where you will be sent to Abu Ghraib prison, to await trial, where you will then be judged by your peers. This is your fate. Not death. Your chance to die was back there.’ I pointed to the ruined house, the scene of the fire fight. ‘You lived, and now you pay the price of justice.’

The guy looked confused – almost as if he had been let down. He had not eaten or two days and they ran out of water the night before. We fed him, we gave him water to drink, and I sat him in what little shade we had. His wounds were treated, and he was cared for. That is how we treat our prisoners.

“Shukran. Tank you.” he said. He looked deflated. He was a sad creature right then and there. I could hear the medivac helicopter coming in for his friend. Holy Christ, I thought – this was what the enemy was. This was Al Qaeda – uninformed, uneducated, and average guys who only believed what they were told, and had a grudge against America. They probably had a grudge because they believed whatever they were told. How do you combat against that?

How do you?  This guy was a Jordanian citizen fighting Jihad in Iraq; he had killed my American brethren in his cowardly IED attacks.There was blood on his hands, and for all I know he went to prison where him and al Baghdadi became good friends (this was 2005).  Maybe this fuckstain is an emir in the battle for against the world, a prominent player in ISIL in Syria or Iraq. Maybe he is dead.  Maybe he found Jesus- who knows.

But that is what no one really seems to comprehend or understand: These are people with an idea in their head.  They have a notion of what they think is right, and biased by the idea of what the Western world stands for based on what is on TV, on billboards, and preached in a mosque or discussed over hookah in the evenings.

How do you combat that?  How do you fight an idea?  This – the War on Terror – the entire farce of counter-insurgency – this is a seriously fucked-up situation where we cannot just capture someone in the other guys’ uniform and throw him in a POW camp or reeducation center.  This is a fundamentally flawed approach to a fundamentally broken set of beliefs that a group of people are selling to others.

Remember the American Dream? Work hard and you will succeed, right? Nice house, 2.3 children and a dog and the picket fence.  Yeah – that worked in the 1950’s and only then, because there are simply too many people in American that,if they worked hard, still couldn’t attain the pristine image of what that dream is.  It is just statistically impossible because everyone can’t have everything.  And this is what ISIL doesn’t know yet.  Or at least refuses to believe.

Or, hell maybe they can and maybe they do believe it – because to us and our Western set of ideas and morals, this notion of a draconian Caliphate is insane (by our standards).  We fancy ourselves democratic and beyond the archaic simpleminded sentiments of thousands of years ago [and I am not bashing Islam here; I am objecting to fundamentalism, chopping off hands, heads, burning people in cages, etc.]

Regardless of if America belonged in Iraq or Afghanistan or not – we were there.  We were fighting these people, part defeating them and I suppose part solidifying their instructed notion of us.  And now its their turn.

This is what our lives are now.  My war is over – I’ve been out of uniform since 2012.  But the war clearly is still going on and it isn’t contained to the Middle East.  This is a global phenomenon.  Where did this terrorism come from? Who knows- take your pick; the boom of oil mid-century and then subsequent witnessing of oil money making Kings, Emirs and guys in Business suits wealthy while the nomad and Bedouin kept farming dirt and herding camel; the spread of Democracy and the notion that everyone everywhere should and can have a choice; a stifled population that has been under the thumb of different dictators and imperialists for hundreds of years; maybe it is people afraid of the unknown and afraid to be wrong in their set of religious beliefs or their notion of life.  WHO KNOWS – none of those, all of those –

The fact of the matter is that THIS is where we are.  It doesn’t matter how we got here – we are here now.  And the real question is, what the HELL are we going to do about it? How do we fight an enemy that will not show themselves, and strikes cowardly and secretly with their own body as a weapon, targeting the most innocent and far-from powerful and policy maker as possible?

How do you fight someone who pretends to be a refugee seeking protection from persecution, and then turns around and storms a concert, throwing hand grenades into a crowd of people just out trying to have a good time?

And I am not anti-refugee; America was build on immigrants, and trust me I met a shit ton of great people in Iraq who were normal, regular people just trying to make a living like any of us.  So I have no problem with the poor embattled people of Syria trying to get the hell out of Hell.  But when the enemy hides among them what do we do? Say to them all “Well… Nope.”?

Do we clamp down on our own domestic securities and treat everyone like criminals?  Do we send more drones and more NATO manned flights?

The only way to kill an idea – to absolutely eradicate an idea from the brain – is to do it through one of two means.

  1. Conceptually remove it through experience and the learned; time and proof breeds the ideas out of the subsequent generations [this requires a lot of time, education, and commitment world-wide]
  2. Physically remove it via a bullet, until all heads with that idea are gone [this also requires a lot of time and commitment, as well as a lot of blood to be spilled by our own forces]

So… which one is it going to be?

Don’t ask me – I have no fucking clue.  All the right answers I thought I had I’ve already tried in Iraq, and we see how that turned out…



About anotherwarriorpoet

Mathew Bocian served as a Captain in the United States Army with the Stryker Brigade and was deployed to Mosul and Tal'Afar in 2004 - 2005, and to Baghdad for The Surge in 2007 - 2008. He left the Army in 2012 and now uses his poetry as a way to heal from the traumas of war, while attempting to express to readers the realities of war. He is the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and holds a master's from the Graduate School for Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
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8 Responses to Let’s Talk About ISIL a Minute

  1. Very interesting Captain Bocian. Good question: What the hell are we going to do about the situation we find ourselves in regarding Islamic extremists?


  2. Quite the conundrum, for sure! And I like your two options, but I think instead of either or, we make it more a combination of both. Win the information war while maintaining pressure through our armed forces.


  3. Thanks for posting your piece on ISIL above, reading it reminded me of Robert Fisk’s interview on Canadian TV, which I have included below, where he discusses the IS phenomenon describing them as a weapon not a religious or political entity. I think you might be interested in what he has to say. Your blog posts are very interesting thanks for sharing. I met many US soldiers while serving in Kosovo in 2000-01. http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/how-isis-threatens-the-world


  4. The problem is religion but the solution, we are told, is in the hands of the inept.
    Them being the politicians.
    Those fools who have never stared into another’s hate filled eyes, or spoken to the enemy, or even the grunt in the mud (without the staff officer class present to ensure the guys don’t REALLY speak their minds.)

    To politicians it’s all about gain, never about right, more about power and ideology.
    And their guidance come from “advisors”.
    Some live in universities, think tanks, or back offices.
    Like goldfish, they never get out of their tanks to experience what bro’s see thus are often wrong in their advice as their opinion is one of those looking in from outside..

    Every decision advisers take is also moderated by money, greed, political advantage, big business, and the fall out if they make a mistake. Add the legal profession and so called “international law” everyone of “importance” is scared of saying ‘boo’ let alone carrying out positive actions.

    Today’s wars are too public, too political, too CNN.
    Too ROE, and hearts and minds.
    Too restrained by shed loads of maybe and what if comments and decisions.

    The solution could be annihilation of the enemy and back through their generations.
    Only it will be never ending as others will “take up their cause”.

    Perhaps WW3 is what we need.
    A total reset of the world.
    The big die off and segmentation of the world back into what time had created.
    Separate countries and continents with their separate religions, apart, geographically, trading, and spiritually.

    Sod it, drop the bomb!


  5. robakers says:

    Great Article,

    Thank you for being what we all should be when faced with the enemy. That is what it is all about, treat them with respect even when you want to put a boot in his face and a knife in his heart.

    What bothers me about the solutions you mentioned. Is that the idiots on TV and in DC have already made up their minds and are beating the war drums awful hard. Just on that information, I am leaning on going with your first choice.

    Thank you for your service over there.


    Liked by 1 person

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