Every once in a while, I browse the mainstream media news sites, just to see what reporting buffoonery is going on. This morning, I was not disappointed. This article on CNN about how ISIS funds itself had more than its share of ‘duh’ moments.
There is mention that ISIS supports itself through oil smuggling (gas prices in Turkey are as high as $7.50/gallon), as well as through donations from wealthy supporters in Qatar and Kuwait. Which is ironic, because US Central Command (CENTCOM) Forward Headquarters is in Qatar. The Kuwaiti angle is also ironic; the US State Department says that “Kuwait is an important partner in U.S. counterterrorism efforts, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and intelligence arenas and also supporting efforts to block financing of terrorist groups.” Read more about our entangling alliances here.
But then, we get to the real meat of the article: ISIS relies on more than oil and donations to fund their operations. Apparently, they also collect revenue like a federal government. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, notes that ISIS is “the best-financed group we’ve ever seen.” He likens the operation to an organized crime ring. Those familiar with the non-aggression principle will immediately recognize that governments ARE organized crime rings. Need some examples? Here’s a direct quote from the CNN article: “It means ISIS can demand money from people wherever it has established control. Want to do business in ISIS-controlled territory? You pay a tax. Want to move a truck down an ISIS-controlled highway? You pay a toll. Villagers in ISIS territory reportedly are charged and pay for just about everything. There are reports that people in Mosul (Iraq) who want to take money out of their own bank accounts need to make a ‘voluntary’ — not so voluntary — donation to the Islamic State, to ISIS.” I’m not sure how the irony of this statement can pass over Levitt’s head or those of the authors. The context of the article makes clear that the actions of ISIS to collect revenue should be condemned, but the authors fail to connect the dots and recognize that we operate under the same sort of system in the United States. I would argue that appropriating funds by threat of force is wrong, and it does not matter if the enforcer wears a black bandana in the desert or an IRS badge.
The last little bit of buffoonery in this CNN piece comes at the very end, where Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, criticizes the Obama administration for not funding ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels enough. He goes so far as to state “there would have never been an ISIS, and we probably would have gotten rid of the Assad regime” if the US had more robustly supported the rebels three years ago. In response, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest argues that the President has been deliberate in his actions. Here’s a direct quote from the press secretary: “It’s not difficult to contemplate or imagine a scenario where if the United States had put — dumped a bunch of arms into that country three years ago, that members of ISIL or other extremist groups would be toting American arms as they wage their campaign of violence throughout that region.” It’s not difficult to contemplate this scenario, because that’s exactly what happened – the US government has been providing overt and covert support for Syrian rebels the last few years, and is now in the position of bombing its own weaponry.
It’s hard to single out which issue in this article is more of a ‘duh’ moment: implicitly recognizing that ISIS immorally funds itself by extorting property from Iraqis, and that we have the same system in the West, or the incredible irony of funding both sides of a civil war in which there can be no winners.