Patrick Cockburn wants us to be very afraid of ISIS

by BlackCatte

A few days ago we predicted the response there would be to the latest wave of terrorist atrocities. It’s not a difficult prediction to make after all, since every such event is used as an excuse for increased surveillance, increased police powers, increased intervention in the Middle east and more war.

Today the Graun reveals that this latest round is indeed to be no exception.

Scotland Yard has created an SAS-style unit of armed officers to counter the threat of a terrorist gun attack in Britain…

Reports Vikram Dodd today. Going on to say…

The unit has trained alongside the army’s special forces to respond to assaults such as the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, which developed into a siege. It will also be looking to see if any lessons can be learned from Friday’s massacre in Tunisia. [our emphasis]


They have…been issued with SIG 516 weapons and trained to shoot to the head if necessary. Armed officers are traditionally trained to shoot towards the centre of the chest.

So, the British police are being militarised and equipped with new assault weapons, “in response” to a collection of terrorist attacks – none of which happened on British territory.

I feel safer already. Don’t you?

Meanwhile the media rolls out its qualified “criticism” of the PTB, which only reinforces the official narrative, while bleatingly claiming to question it. Patrick Cockburn, unofficial hagiographer of the ISIS legend, is reporting in the Independent that:

The reach of the “Islamic State” was hideously demonstrated last week by near simultaneous attacks in Tunisia, France, Kuwait and Kobani in Syria

Despite a promising intro claiming…

The US and western European governments are eager for their people to avoid focusing on this dangerous development because they do not want to highlight their own culpability in failing to weaken or even contain Isis”

…what we get here from Cockburn could have come straight from a White House briefing. The “culpability” he accuses the US of is the usual hand-wringing faux accusation of ‘not doing enough’, or not being clever enough to see how tricksy those terrorist types really are. He offers no question or critique of the underlying narrative, even when he is required to reproduce it, in all its dripping absurdity.

His basic message is that ISIS is (of course) terrifying, and much much more powerful than we ever thought possible.

There has long been disagreement about the real strength of Isis and its ability to expand. Overall, the argument that Isis is more powerful than it looks has been borne out by events such as the capture of Mosul on 10 June 2014 and of Ramadi on 17 May this year.

In explanation he offers:

Key to its explosive expansion in Iraq and Syria since 2011 is its capability as a fighting machine

So the explanation of its military success is how successful its military has been. Amazing. See, that’s the kind of ace reporting you can’t just buy.

Well, not cheaply anyhow.

Maybe aware of the limitations of tautology, Cockburn follows this with something that sounds as if it is more substantial:

…there are two crucial components to Isis expansion, one of which is the strength of the organisation itself, but equally important is the spectacular weaknesses of its opponents.


It is this weakness which has repeatedly exceeded expectations…

And again…

It is the feebleness of resistance that has determined the outcome….

And yet again…

its successes have been possible because it is opposed by feeble, corrupt or non-existent governments and armies….

It’s apparently very important to Patrick that we all understand that ISIS is winning because of the “feebleness” of its opposition. Partially true, no doubt, but hold on a minute – isn’t the US opposing them too? Why is the largest military in the world failing as spectacularly as these “feeble, corrupt or non-existent” governments?

Ahh, well…Cockburn doesn’t really address any of that very specifically; but he does pepper everything with lots and lots of non-specific fear porn:

What makes the killings in a suburb of Lyon, the beach at Sousse and the Imam al-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait so different from – and in some ways more menacing than – the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks is that today these crimes are promoted by a government, in the shape of the self-declared caliphate, which has a more powerful army and rules more people than most members of the UN.

Yes, that’s right, you heard it from Pat directly. The recent spate of killings are “in some ways” (he doesn’t say what those ways are) “more menacing than…9/11”. Why? well, because ISIS is now a “self-declared caliphate which has a more powerful army and rules more people than most members of the UN”.

How scary is that, right? So scary we don’t even need to think about how much sense any of it makes. A huge new state, rabidly hostile to the US, ruling “more people than most members of the UN” – sprang into being in a key area of strategic interest on the basis of smuggled oil and ransom loot and no one can stop it, because their armies are small and corrupt, and – oh yes – Cockburn just remembered – the US is involved but it is “hampered” in its fight against ISIS and al Nusra by…

a determination to do so without alienating Sunni states to which it is allied, and on whose support American power in the Middle East depends.”

Ahhhh, I see. So, is that why the US just let ISIS roll over Palmyra, even after ISIS telegraphed the fact they were going there for days in different languages? Did the US not bomb their convoys because they thought the Saudis would be cross? And Mosul too? And Ramadi?

Poor Uncle Sam, with its $650 billion annual military budget, is just a slave to the interests of others in this area of major strategic concern,and just has to sit back and watch – horrified of course – as the Middle east succumbs to “Somalianisation”.

Oh yes, that’s right – Somalia was another one of those regrettable accidents according to Cockburn. Just one of those awful things that happen when the US tries to help people. Acknowledging that this “failed state” has had “no effective government since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991” he does not subject this event itself to any analysis and simply skates quickly through the subsequent and “spectacularly disastrous” US intervention in the 1990s, to the conclusion that…

foreign powers sought to contain rather than eliminate the threat. Somalia was written off as a bolt-hole for al-Qaeda gunmen and pirates, but at least there were not many places in the world quite like it.

So, there you are. Whoops, goshdarnit, well-meaning US goof. Foreign powers “sought to contain” al-Shabaab and the growing “threat” of islamic militants in the region, but they just couldn’t, OK? End of story. Move along.

To sum up Patrick’s points in this article:

  • ISIS are much stronger than we thought, what they do is “worse than 9/11” because they are a “government” and (most importantly) none of this is what the US wants.
  • the reason we can’t beat them is because of the “feebleness” of the opposition forces…
  • ….apart from the US who are just too worried about the Saudis and so feel the need to do all their airstrikes in the wrong places so as not to offend them
  • The “Somalianisation” of the region is deplorable, probably unstoppable and – again – (just like the Somaliasation of Somalia) not what the US wants.
  • if it’s anyone’s fault then some time down the line it will probably turn out to be those pesky Saudis, but let’s not press on that pedal too hard yet as we still need them atm.

This is hard to describe as journalism or informed analysis. There’s no depth, no serious challenge to the US government narrative. This is propaganda. The creation of a paradigm and the manipulation of opinion with psychological tricks and appeals to authority, replete with fallback positions (the Saudis as potential perps). Most noteworthy for what it omits and what it tries to neutralise.

Cockburn does not even acknowledge the numerous lines of argument that claim the US engineered, or at leat facilitated, the destruction of Somalia in order to further its own strategic and resource interests. He ignores the claims that western intelligence agencies are supporting Al-Shabaab and facilitating the very chaos we are told they deplore.

To read Cockburn one could be forgiven for thinking the recent revelations about US complicity in the creation of ISIS had simply never happened. Did they pass Cockburn by? Does he think they have no relevance to his analysis?

Good journalism doesn’t ignore information does it? It collates it, analyses it, questions it. Maybe these claims of US culpability are hollow, but how would we or Cockburn know, if the claims remain unexamined?

In another article in the same rag Cockburn does go so far as to ask “have US tactics only helped to make Islamists more powerful?“, but his answer is just more twaddle about US “incompetence”, with gaping holes where the real enquiry ought to be. Discussing the inexplicable failure of “4,000 US air strikes” to make any appreciable dent in ISIS forces, Cockburn offers this:

Supposedly these successes, achieved by Isis during its summer offensive in 2014, should no longer be feasible in the face of air strikes by the US-led coalition. These began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with US officials recently claiming that 4,000 air strikes had killed 10,000 Isis fighters. Certainly, the air campaign has inflicted heavy losses on Isis, but it has made up for these casualties by conscripting recruits within the self-declared caliphate, an area the size of Great Britain with a population of five or six million.

Five or six million is something like two thirds the population of London. Despite its presentation here as some awesome number, it’s not a large recruitment pool, given that at least half this number would be women, and a fair percentage of the remainder would be children or old people, or young men not willing or able to make good soldiers. To put it in perspective the US has a combined active force of around 1m, and 73 million men of “recruitment age.” Even if Cockburn’s figures are real, they amount to very little as an explanation of the apparently unbeatable nature of ISIS. And he’s no fool. He’s a seasoned analyst. He must see the inherent combined absurdity of what he is peddling.

Does he truly believe any of it? Does he believe the recent tragedies are “more menacing than 9/11″? Does he believe the US just goofed when they let Somalia and Libya fall apart? Does he not wonder how ISIS “surprise” attacked Palmyra, after news reports warned of the impending disaster for days beforehand? Is he not curious about what prevented the US from locating the approaching convoys of ISIS troops (replete with dozens of flags and logos naturally) and bombing them to oblivion? Does he really believe in the “sandstorm” he describes as allegedly preventing US airstrikes in defence of Ramadi?

Or does he just expect us to do the believing for him?

Cockburn is correct in one thing at least. ISIS’ continued successes are indeed “no longer feasible,” and can’t be – unless we assume, in line with the new data, that the US is to some extent supporting or shielding ISIS, not attacking them. Once we factor in this possibility, then many of the absurdities of the official narrative can be dismissed, and a far simpler, far more believable story can take its place.

The alternative analysis says the US isn’t defeating ISIS, because it isn’t trying to. It isn’t backing “moderate rebels” in Syria, because such moderates don’t really exist. It’s backing ISIS, and ISIS affiliates, and it’s doing so because – as with Somalia and Libya – chaos and “failed states” are perceived by the most lunatic US policy makers and their clients in the war industry – as the new and more cost-effective method of strategic dominance. It isn’t trying to topple Assad because of Assad’s alleged brutality, it’s trying to topple Assad because his state – good or bad – is a bulwark against their dominance.

If this is true, even in part, then the US and its allies are guilty of new heights of hypocrisy as well as aiding and abetting the production of snuff films.

Cockburn could justify a few of those numerous awards he’s been given for services rendered, by subjecting the official story to some real analysis, rather than simply rubber stamping it with his reputation.


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