Images of ISIS gunmen executing dozens if not hundreds of unarmed prisoners in Salahuddin Province, north of Baghdad, have shocked the world. They show men herded down streets, packed into trucks, and made to lie face down before being riddled with bullets by a line of men with weapons ranging from handguns, AK47s, AKMs and Egyptian-made Maadi copies of those weapons.
Billions of people are asking why human beings would do this to each other.
The number one reason is that small armed groups like ISIS know they can control huge populations of civilian through extreme fear. Acts of epic brutality, now spread through social media as well as word of mouth, cause government soldiers to tear off their uniforms and run, and keep ordinary people inside their homes and quiet, numb with fright.
The number two reason is revenge. ISIS and their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, want revenge against the Shia dominated Iraqi government, who they see as American puppets. US forces flattened the Sunni dominated North, humiliated their brothers. And despite the fact that Saddam Hussein was a largely secular leader, he was a Sunni from Tikrit, and they want revenge for his capture, incarceration and execution.
The number three reason is stature and publicity. Performing atrocities is newsworthy. The fickle Western public scarcely noticed the eight thousand Iraqis killed by suicide bombings last year. But face to face gun killings, captured on video, are another matter. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now being touted as the new Osama bin Laden, while the supposed al-Qaeda leader, al-Zawahiri sits in a cave and makes podcasts.
The number four reason is a twisted interpretation of Islam, that uses millennia old verses as justification for murder and savagery. The ideology of ISIS developed from extreme Wahhabi beliefs, coupled with the more modern Salafi movement. The aim is a pan-Arabic caliphate, and a society that follows the Qu’ran, Sunna and Hadith absolutely literally, as well as regarding all outsiders as legitimate targets.
No one knows what the ultimate outcome of ISIS’s aggression will be, but an ongoing civil war is likely. Iran, Syria and Kurdistan are already deeply involved, and the USA and Saudi Arabia are pulling strings. Frightening developments indeed.
Greg Barron is the author of thrillers Rotten Gods, Savage Tide, Voodoo Dawn and the upcoming Lethal Sky (July 1)