Should we bomb in Syria

isis-execution-peshmerga-forces

21 Kurds executed, from an IS video

The terrorist group known as ISIS, ISIL, IS or DAESH is obviously a major threat to peace in the Middle East and to a lesser extent to Western nations who oppose its aims. They have executed (murdered) at least 10,000 men, women and children between June 2014 and September 2015 — in Iraq (7,000 plus) and Syria (about 3,000).[1]

“The final death toll doesn’t account for thousands more victims of the terror group who have been killed in suicide bombings and captives fleeing the horrors of life in Raqqa. Neither does it include the massacre of up to 1,700 cadets at Speicher army camp in Tikrit, Iraq, on June 12, 2014, a few weeks before ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate. It also excludes the slaughter of 5,000 Yazidi people in Iraq’s Sinjar province last August who were shot down by ISIS fighters as they tried to escape.”[1]

They have killed both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, and a comparatively few Westerners.  A report has pointed out that “the terror organisation – also known as the Islamic State – has killed far more Muslims than Christians, Westerners, or minorities during its existence”.[2]

Bombing ISIS in Syria?

So, I am not minimising the threat to Global peace, but I must ask the question, “Is bombing ISIS in Syria the right course of action?”

Civilians suffer

The Syrian city of Raqqa, once the 6th largest city in Syria, is the de facto capital of ISIS. With the take-over of ISIS, the population has reduced from 1 million to 400,000.[3] There are perhaps some 50,000 ISIS terrorists in the city. They have tunnels to protect themselves and so it is inevitable that most bombing casualties will be civilians who have no choice but to live there.

“Isis can’t afford news to get out of people defecting, so anyone attempting to sneak out is executed in secret. They killed several people in the west of the city and just dumped their bodies in a hole until the smell got so bad that they had to bury them.”[3]

What do ISIS want?

“We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might make sure of its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.” [4]

  • ISIS want the west to be involved, in what they will claim to be a Christian crusade against them, and against Muslims everywhere.
  • ISIS want Muslims, in the Middle East, in Western Counties, and throughout the world, to feel that their religion, and their way of life is threatened by ‘pagan’ religions.
  • ISIS want to marginalise Muslims living in predominantly Muslim countries and in countries where they are in a minority so that they can be radicalised and ‘converted’ to extreme views.
  • ISIS welcome our bombs and want us to kill people, thinking that civilians and fighters alike are martyrs to a cause much greater than their individual lives.

War of Ideas

This is not primarily a military war, but a war of ideas. To people with Christian belief, and to people with a secular outlook, the idea of turning the world back to the middle ages is unthinkable and incomprehensible. To a small percentage of Muslims it is a cause worth fighting for. To the vast majority of Muslims the radical and extreme views of ISIS are repugnant and threaten their view of life and very existence.

Let’s not play by their rules!

To Christians, believers in Democracy and secular society I say this:

Do not give in to fear, to provocation and to revenge! Bombing cities in an attempt to defeat terrorists is not just useless; it is counter-productive and just creates more recruits.

ISIS will only be defeated if moderate and secular Muslims rise up against them, if necessary in military action. Only this will defeat the perception that it is the Islam religion versus the rest of the world.

By all means, let us protect ourselves from direct terrorism by increasing our security and intelligence services, but surely the lesson from the last hundred years of meddling in the Arab world should inform us that interference only causes the situation to get worse.

In our lifetimes we have seen the decline in colonisation, the defeat of fascism and the rise and fall of communism. Yes, radical Islamism is a threat to us all, but we will not see its demise by playing by their rules and giving credence to the very ideas which threaten us.

Reminder – the words of Jesus

I will finish with the words of Jesus, who lived in a nation that was oppressed by the Roman Empire. Let us be sure that any desire to support action against ISIS is free from fear, free from prejudice and without any hint of revenge!

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5: 43-45 NIV)


[1] International Business Times, Priya Joshi, 24 September 2015, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-terror-group-executed-over-10000-men-women-children-syria-iraq-1521094.

[2] The Independent, Rose Troup Buchanan, 18 November 2015, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-attacks-isis-responsible-for-more-muslim-victims-than-western-deaths-a6737326.html

[3] The Guardian, Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, 21 February 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/21/islamic-state-capital-raqqa-syria-isis

[4] The Atlantic, “What ISIS really wants”, March 2015 issue, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

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Comments

  1. Geoff MacAngus-Gerrard says:

    I’m not known for my pacifism, but unless the bombs are so “smart” that they can interrogate the people they are targeting and decide whether they are enemies before they detonate, I just can’t see what purpose they can serve. However, the damage they will do to Syria’s innocent citizens and infrastructure will be massive, and the hatred and bitterness generated will take a long time to heal.

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  2. David Hannan says:

    it would be nice if decisions cold be made within the context of being in leafy Surrey where we understand what is right and true . Unfortunately dealing with a Satanic deception (Islam) we face a no win situation when whatever decision we make can be judged to be wrong . David Hannan

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  3. George thank you for putting into words what is on my heart.

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  4. A well considered and written article. Thank you George for going against the tide.

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  5. I think there are so many factors to consider.

    For example, you mention the numbers killed by ISIS (possibly 20,000). But the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to something like 200,000 to 500,000 deaths, many of them civilians! Sure, beheading seems more barbaric, but dying from terrible burns from a bomb is surely much more painful.

    Experts say that the present situation was significantly caused by the invasion (see What you sow you will reap – or perhaps someone else will?). So we in the west have to begin by accepting a large share of responsibility for all that has happened since that invasion, and understand that some people see us as more barbaric than them.

    So before we enter into another engagement, we need to consider if we are sure that this time the results will be better than the present situation.

    On top of all this, there are the non-violent teachings of Jesus.

    I think we have to be much more cautious than we have been in the past.

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  6. Yeah, well said!
    Personally I doubt that we even have much intention of attacking ISIS in Syria. It seems to me that ISIS are being used as a smokescreen behind which multiple Western nations and Saudi Arabia can attempt to depose Assad in Syria. Hence Cameron’s lack of enthusiasm for Russia getting involved (as an ally of Syria). As a committed foe of Syria, we need to keep our weapons well away from there!
    If we were serious about hindering ISIS, then we’d have done much more to cut off their finances.

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  7. Well said, George.

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