Saturday, January 2, 2016

ISIL : the Prequel

To people ill-acquainted with history, the antics of ISIL (ISIS, Dâ`ish, the Islamic State) seem something utterly new under the sun.   But there are precedents.   (Here we speak only of their public theatrics.  Their actual theology, rather than really innovative, is second-hand Wabbabi Salafism.)

ISIL trademarks, with antecedents:

Destruction of antiquities:

Hitler retaliated for the raid on Lübeck, sending German bombers against British cities with medieval town centres.  The raids were known as Baedeker raids, after the German guide books.
-- Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. II (1998), p. 438

More here.


Aztec skull-racks.

The Huns, marking their advance  with mountains of skulls.
(H.G. Wells, on Hulagu:  “Pyramids of skulls were his particular architectural fancy;  after the storming of Ispahan, he made one of 70,000.” -- Outline of History.)
Mexican narcotraficantes, using severed heads as bowling-balls.

More here.

Morals police

We summarized the VICE News ride-along with ISIL’s al-Raqqa Hisbah (حسبة) here.   This kind of unit is not unique to ISIS -- AQAP now has one of the same name, and both are preceded by the dreaded Saudi muawwiʿūn (مطوعون)

There are precedents as well among American Puritans:

The state exists to punish vice, to spread “salutary terror” in the hearts of men.
-- Wilson McWilliams, The Idea of Fraternity in America (1973), p. 126

Bragging about it:

A historian quotes a memoir from Japanese-occupied Manchuria during WWII:

As part of their education, my mother and her classmates  had to watch newsreels of Japan’s progress in the war.  Far from being ashamed of their brutality, the Japanese vaunted it  as a way to inculcate fear.  The films showed Japanese soldiers cuting people in half, and prisoners tied to stakes being torn to pieces by dogs.  There were lingering close-ups of the victims’ terror-stricken eyes  as their attackers came at them.
The Japanese watched the eleven- and twelve-year-old schoolgirls  to make sure they did not shut their eyes, or try to stick a handkerchief in their mouths to stifle their screams.
-- Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. II (1998), p. 443

Note that the point here  is not that the Japanese committed atrocities, but that (unlike, for instance, the Nazis, for the most part, or Stalin) they boasted about it, publicized it.

In the case of ISIL (we have argued), the beheadings are aimed at more (much more) than terrorizing the enemy:  they have a demonstration effect on their own ranks. 
Ditto for the Japanese;  re the year 1937 (when the Japs were already up & active, well before Pearl Harbor):

The Japanese company commander, Tominaga Shogo, later explained how, after decapitating a Chinese prisoner with his sword, “I felt something change inside me.  I don’t know how to describe it, but I gained strength somewhere in my gut.” 
-- Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. II (1998), p.165

That wasn’t done to “inculcate fear”;  it may well have been done out of sight.  Psychologically, it is more comparable to cannibals eating the warriors they have slain, to incorporate the mojo.

These were not isolated, private acts.  From 1942:

On Singapore Island, 5,000 Chinese civilians  … were rounded up and … killed:  first their hands were tied behind their backs, and then their heads cut off with a sword.
-- Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, vol. II (1998), p. 165

That, note, is likewise ISIL’s favored posture for decapitation.

More here.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe cannibalism is next on the Islamic State menu (LOL), in light of the Japan connection. Examine the colorful career of gekokujoo ("leading from behind" or "righteous disobedience") enthusiast Col Masanobu Tsuji. He was a major player in the 1942 massacre of Chinese perceived to be a threat to the Japanese in Singapore (see above) and later Malaya. He advocated killing ALL American prisoners after the fall of the Philippines; must have been disappointed that so many survived the Bataan death march. Serving in Burma, he had an American prisoner shot and his (the prisoner's) liver removed, roasted, and served to himself and other officers. After the war, Tsuji managed to evade capture and prosecution as a war criminal and was elected to Japan's Diet. (Guess Americans aren't much at holding grudges, unlike the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and just about all the Asians fortunate enough to have been included in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.) Perhaps this suggests a role for Islamic State jihad vets if Saudi Arabia ever becomes a democracy. Per Wikipedia, Tsuji disappeared in Laos in 1961.