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Islamic State: A binary problem

Written By | Aug 21, 2014

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2014 — American photojournalist James Foley may have felt what war correspondent Ernie Pyle called the “unnatural terror of dying on the battlefield” before he was beheaded by his Islamic State captors. However, it’s doubtful he saw himself as a warrior in the struggle between the timid West and the East’s bold jihadists, especially the IS enthusiasts now sweeping Iraq and Syria.

Like Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was also beheaded by Islamic militants in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2004, Foley may have thought his journalistic credentials proved for all to see that he was outside the conflict, ready to give the news-consuming public an objective view of the struggle from both sides.

As far as Foley’s IS captors were concerned, he was the enemy.

Foley was an American. The five minute video chronicling his gruesome end was entitled “A Message to America.” It issued a stark warning to American President Obama.

“Obama authorized military operations against the Islamic State effectively placing America upon a slippery slope towards a new war front against Muslims … You have plotted against us and gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq … You are no longer fighting an insurgency. We are an Islamic army and state that has been accepted by large numbers of Muslims worldwide … So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

A line of text then appears, “We will drown all of you in blood.” There is little doubt Islamic State and their head-lopping fellow travelers have a binary world view.

President George W. Bush was harshly criticized for his post-9/11 statement, “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” In a speech he delivered in Europe, Bush added that no nation “can be neutral in this conflict, because no civilized nation can be secure in a world threatened by terror.”

Shortly before Bush launched the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman wrote, “Iraq falls into Bush’s least favorite color: Gray. None of the scenarios except the rosiest ones pit simple good against simple evil. We are struck with choices between relative good and lesser evil.”

The authors of a 2004 white paper issued by the Journal of Communication titled, “No shades of gray: The binary discourse of George W. Bush and an echoing press” contend, “Because binaries can serve the function of unification by a foe shared in common, utilization of these two [good/evil] likely helped to unify the U.S. public – initially against terrorists and then against Saddam Hussein … Americans traditionally have exonerated themselves of any guilt for war … by decivilizing the image of their adversaries, then characterization of Americans as good and terrorists and Saddam as evil and threatening may have helped to assuage potential guilt among Americans over U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003.”

The Rev. Rich Lang of Seattle’s Trinity United Methodist Church wrote, “Mr. Bush’s teachings on terrorism: ‘You are with us or against us’ cements for the hearer the apocalyptic world of good versus evil. There can be no neutral ground. You have to make a decision.”

It would be interesting to hear the Rev. Lang expound on his theological views. Does he suggest that there exists “neutral ground” in the biblical struggle between God and Satan? Does not his ordination into the United Methodist Church suggest he made “a decision”?

Last June, two Iraqi Army divisions, around 30,000 American-trained and equipped troops, were routed by 1,000 IS fighters near the city of Mosul. “Clearly, the Iraqi forces in the north lack cohesion and a will to fight,” Jeff White, formerly of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Military Times.

The article went on to say that since 2005, the United States has provided nearly $15 billion in military aid to Iraq, which includes helicopters, M-1 Abrams tanks, C-130 aircraft and 300 hellfire missiles.

Islamic State, on the other hand, was equipped with small arms, civilian pickup trucks with mounted machine guns and 23mm anti-aircraft guns — and a winning, binary world view that exonerates “themselves of any guilt of war … by decivilizing the image of their adversaries” to help “assuage potential guilt.”

Iraqi forces allowed binary ambiguity to negate their overwhelming numbers and weapons superiority.

Aristotle’s Law of the Excluded Middle forces the thinking person to choose between what is true and what is false. “There cannot be an intermediate between contradictories, but of one subject we must either affirm or deny any one predicate.”

The West’s dysfunctional intellectualoids would like to convince us that gray is the new white, a statement not of moral principle but suicidal cowardice.

In that moral vacuum, IS will, as it did for James Foley, make the final choice.

“We will drown all of you in blood.”

Steven M. Lopez

Originally from Los Angeles, Steven M. Lopez has been in the news business for more than thirty years. He made his way around the country: Arizona, the Bay Area and now resides in South Florida.