Ira Chernus, professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder:
To sustain our image of ourselves as innocents in the whole affair, we have to blot out this empirical history and replace it with a myth (not so surprising, given that any war against evil is a mythic enterprise). That’s not to say that we deny all the facts. We just pick and choose the ones that fit our myth best….
We assume that the enemy, like Lucifer himself, does evil just for the sake of doing it. Even the most liberal parts of the media often can’t see IS fighters as more than “lunatics” bent on “slaughter for its own sake”.
[In reality, a study at George Washington University finds that ISIS’s] “motivations are diverse and defy easy analysis.”
Add up this sort of evidence and you’re likely to come to a startling and, in our present context, deeply unsettling conclusion. It’s not just that IS fighters are distinctly human, but that in some ways they are eerily like us. After all, we, too, have a military that uses an ideological narrative to recruit young people and prepare them to be willing to die for it.
Our military, too, is savvy in using social media and various forms of advertising and publicity to deploy its narrative effectively.
The[re is a] belief that we have only one option: annihilation. Or if that proves impossible, despite the military forces at our disposal, then at least containing them forever. In fact, the presidential candidates of this moment all demand annihilation and nothing less. In Donald Trump’s words, “bomb the shit out of ‘em.” In Hillary Clinton’s more demure formulation, “crush ISIS… break the group’s momentum and then its back.” Even Bernie Sanders agrees: “Our priority must be… to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime.” [Crush the barbarians; rhetoric has really progressed since the Middle Ages.]
The dream of a war of annihilation against evil has a long, long history in white America. It began in 1636 when Puritans in New England wiped out the Pequot tribe, … [using] a war-against-evil template that the country still follows nearly four centuries later in its “war on terror.”
Indeed, the US empire is still on the bloody path of expansion: