On a day when yet another ISIS brutality is pitchforked into the headlines — this time news that the terrorist group issued a new video showing the beading and shooting of nearly 30 Christians in Ethiopia who wouldn’t convert — a new report gives further evidence of the unintended consquences of the Bush-Cheney administration. An Iraqi officer who was one of many in the Iraqi military disbanded and effectively fired in 2003 is the one responsible for ISIS’ rise in Syria.
A former intelligence officer for the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was the mastermind behind Islamic State’s takeover of northern Syria, according to a report by Der Spiegel that is based on documents uncovered by the German magazine.
Spiegel, in a lengthy story published at the weekend and entitled “Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State,” says it gained access to 31 pages of handwritten charts, lists and schedules which amount to a blueprint for the establishment of a caliphate in Syria.
The documents were the work of a man identified by the magazine as Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, a former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force, who went by the pseudonym Haji Bakr.
Spiegel says the files suggest that the takeover of northern Syria was part of a meticulous plan overseen by Haji Bakr using techniques — including surveillance, espionage, murder and kidnapping — honed in the security apparatus of Saddam Hussein.
Which confirms most assuredly that Saddam & Co. weren’t nice people. But the significance comes further in this Reuters report on the Der Speigel piece:
The Iraqi national was reportedly killed in a firefight with Syrian rebels in January 2014, but not before he had helped secure swathes of Syria, which in turn strengthened Islamic State’s position in neighboring Iraq.
“What Bakr put on paper, page by page, with carefully outlined boxes for individual responsibilities, was nothing less than a blueprint for a takeover,” the story by Spiegel reporter Christoph Reuter says.
“It was not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an ‘Islamic Intelligence State’ — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.”
The story describes Bakr as being “bitter and unemployed” after U.S. authorities in Iraq disbanded the army by decree in 2003. Between 2006 to 2008 he was reportedly in U.S. detention facilities, including Abu Ghraib prison.
The disbanding of Iraq’s army has been mentioned by many analysts and some current histories of the war as in retrospect a huge mistake.
But it’s increasingly clear that much of the Bush- Cheney foreign policy when it came to Iraq was by-the-seat-of-the-pants or by the neocon talking points: it may have sounded good or logical, but seeming left out one ingredient that is useful in sound policy making: nuance, and the consideration of it.
In 2010 however, it was Bakr and a small group of former Iraqi intelligence officers who made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the official leader of Islamic State, with the goal of giving the group a “religious face,” the story says.
Two years later, the magazine says, Bakr traveled to northern Syria to oversee his takeover plan, choosing to launch it with a collection of foreign fighters that included novice militants from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Europe alongside battle-tested Chechens and Uzbeks.
And so it goes — producing news stories and videos illustrating a brutality and ruthlessness that brings back memories of Germany’s 20th century Nazis. Like this latest:
A shocking new video appearing to show at least 30 Christians being beheaded and shot by ISIS in Libya has been released.
The 29-minute video, titled ‘Until It Came To Them – Clear Evidence’, shows dozens of militants holding two separate groups captive, thought to be in the south and the west of the country.
At least 16 men, described by Islamic State as the ‘followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church’, are lined up and shot in a desert area while 12 others are filmed being forced to walk down a beach before being beheaded.
This follows another video in February of the beheading of a group of 21 Coptic Christians on the beach in Libya, though that terrain was rockier than the one shown in the latest film.
It raises fears that ISIS is consolidating its presence on the ‘doorstep of Europe’, as Libya is just a few hundred miles from the coast of Italy
And, yes, Italy does fear a future invasion of ISIS.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Dick Cheney continues to have a high profile calling Barack Obama the worst President in his lifetime, a subject he will detail more in an upcoming book and book tour. The main thrust of Cheney’s assertions since Obama took over was that he was right and Obama is wrong.
An easy bet: Cheney will go down in history as one of the most powerful and worst Vice Presidents in all of American history — one whose rhetoric was often not matched by fact and often laced with outright deception and whose decisions as a Vice President with enormous influence left the U.S. with lingering wars and unintended consequences that cost the United States and the world money and lives.
ISIS will be one of them.
graphic via shutterstock.com
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.