In a discussion I recently had with someone they refereed to al-Qaeda and ISIL as pure Evil because they killed so ruthlessly. I believe that this understanding of Arab Jihad Islamic terrorism is quite common in the U.S. The implication is that Arab terrorists are somehow possessed by the devil and are thus pure evil.
Perhaps all is not as it seems. First of all the overwhelming majority of Islamic Arabs are NOT terrorist or have any terrorist tendencies, i.e. terrorize people using extremely violent and fatal means. The vast majority are as peaceful as you and I. According to the dictionary terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Wikipedia expands upon the definition as “those violent acts that are intended to create fear (terror); are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal; and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.“
Let us suppose you are an Iraqi live in Iraq and some American troops suddenly appear in your neighborhood and break down your door looking for reported terrorists while you were getting ready for dinner and perhaps shooting a family member because they thought he or she was reaching for a nonexistent gun (sound familiar?). Can you imagine considering this an act of terrorism from your perspective as an Arab? What if a U.S. scud missile fired from a distant warship happened to hit your housing complex killing your wife and 2 children and blow off your legs? Can you imagine yourself thinking of Americans as terrorists and hating them for killing your family and the suffering and anguish of blown away legs?
Can we say that our armed forces only use weapons of great destructive power to only kill terrorists and that they never terrorize innocent people in the pursuit of terrorists? Would such weapons and tactics be acceptable on U.S. soil for rooting out suspected criminals or terrorists knowing that there will be some innocent victims of these attacks? Do not American armed forces calculate collateral casualties when attacking a suspected terrorist target with smart bombs and drones in crowded communities? In fact more innocent civilians are usually killed during hostile actions than terrorists. We are talking about human beings not unlike ourselves who love, fear, hurt, and hate just as we do. There are many Iraqi citizens who are terrified when encountering American troops. To them Americans are the terrorist who terrorize them, make their live miserable and fearful, invade their land and take over their government as bad as it may be and try to turn it into a government like our own which doesn’t work.
Most ordinary people living in Iraq simply want to be left alone to make a humble living. They don’t know what freedom means nor would it be that important to them had they known. Being shot at and bombed to death terrorizes them far more than concerns about freedom or even the oppression of their government. Many Iraqis who have been shot at or had limbs blown off suffer from PTSD many being children, but none are ever treated for it. We has a culture in shock and often in desperation to make it all stop. How many Americans personally know of someone killed by a terrorist? In Iraq most people know of friends, relatives, or family members who have been killed or injured by American troops or weapons. It is no wonder that there are a few who are willing to give their lives to rid themselves of us and are willing to join ISIL or al-Qaeda without a great understanding of what these organization are about to get back at those ugly Americans.
So there are understandably some who hate us and want to rid their nation of these foreign invating terrorists who killed and maim their families. Some have lost their entire family and have nothing to live for so are willing to fight evil Americans to the death. So they join al-Qaida or ISIL and practice that form of jihad against the American terrorist. They do not consider themselves terrorist. They are simply carrying out jihad to get revenge on Americans for killing their loved ones. How many American civilians have been killed by Arab terrorist vs. Iraqi civilians who have been killed by Americans since 9/11? Probably far more than 10-20 times as many Iraqi non-combatants have been killed than all Americans killed including troops.
This is the reason there are so many Islamic extremist who hate us. I believe that many of the leaders of such extremist organizations such as ISIL are very shrewd. Their acts are not that of madmen but of people who have a clear idea of their strategic goals and are very calculating. That is why we with all our sophistication have such difficulty fighting and defeating them. They are feared by our troops who are far better equipped. Their ultimate objective it to get us out of their land. But they are under a huge disadvantage. They do not have even close to the military weaponry and technology that American troops have. So how can they possibly defeat such a powerful foe? History has shown how guerrilla warfare and terrorism can be used quite effectively against an overwhelming foe. It is inexpensive and very low tech and effective at putting terror in the hearts of the enemy. If they were stupid enough to fight a conventional war with the U.S. using their current weapons they would be utterly destroyed in the first engagement. It is what we did against the British in the war of Independence.
Recently ISIL has cruelly beheaded several kidnapped western civilians. They have utilized social media and press to show the world how ruthless they are. They are actually doing this to terrorize America and its allies. If this does not work then they will try something else. Regardless of who is terrorizing who on whose homeland, people who are being terrorized will consider the other side terrorists, ruthless and pure evil as we did al-Qaeda on 9/11. They may hate us but there is a basis for such hatred other than being possessed by the devil. We are terrorist on their land and they on ours. Terrorism never ends unless the side with the least to lose says enough is enough and stops the endless cycle of bloodshed. I think we may have the least to lose in this instance.