observations and opinion
Everyone talks about ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and their like. But nobody seems to be talking to the terrorists. It seems overdue to send them a polite letter, with one simple request.
You have our attention. That’s what you wanted, I think. We are paying attention now.
People are talking about you a great deal. Talking more than thinking. Talking more than doing anything, too. Definitely talking.
All that talking usually turns to “degrading” you, “destroying” you, and such. There’s considerable debate and complaint that people aren’t doing enough, quickly enough, to kill you. Not very nice, but you can hardly complain about the tone of the conversation. You really did bring this down upon yourself.
Yet in all that chatter and serious discussion, something seems to be missing. It occurs to me that in the millions of words I’ve seen written about ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban and, forgive me, I’ve forgotten some of your groups (please don’t do something drastic to get our attention) – in all those words, there are words I have not seen.
Those words are these: please stop.
In all likelihood, you’ve heard those words somewhere. Your mother probably said them to you when you got in the car to go off and join up. She has likely said them in her prayers every day since. Please stop, son, she said. Allah, please stop him, she has prayed.
But you didn’t stop. You kept on going and now you are, where you are. In whatever barracks or tent or house or vehicle you camp in, it’s unlikely anyone there is saying “please stop.” Well, your victims have said it. We don’t see that in the videos because you never show human beings pleading for their lives – they always looked drugged, stupefied by fear – but I bet before you start filming, more than a few people have said “please stop.”
You’ve done lots of things to other people, things you would not like to experience yourself. You pose for pictures doing it, sometimes – the beheadings, the mass shootings, making people dig their own graves (not original on your part by the way, the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge were way ahead of you on that). In all that time digging trenches to die in, most likely more than one person has looked up and said to you, “please stop.”
But you didn’t listen. Not to them. Nobody you’re afraid of, or respect, has asked you to stop. Your comrades-in-arms aren’t saying it. No one would dare utter those words out loud. They are most likely a death sentence for a member of your army.
But I bet people are thinking it. I bet when they see you raise the barrel of a rifle to the back of some kid’s head, your black-gloved finger tensing on the trigger, I bet when they watch your body stiffen in the instant before shooting, I bet some of your comrades are thinking, “please stop.” I bet they’re screaming it, inside their heads. You know the ones – the ones who hang back, who take “guard duty.” The ones who we see behind the column of executioners. Maybe the one holding the camera.
And you want to know something? I bet you have been thinking it too.
When someone gives an order to carve off a widow’s head, because she was insufficiently pious, I bet you’ve thought, “please stop.” When they announced that disabled kids – the ones with Down Syndrome, the ones in wheelchairs, you know the ones – when the powers-that-be said those children were offensive in the eyes of Allah and should be exterminated. Did you think inside your masked head, “please stop” ? I bet you did. The guy beside you was thinking it.
Or all the times they’ve separated young girls from their families, so the girls could be sold off as sex slaves – a profitable industry for some of your organizations. Those times, did you remember your own sister? Did the wailing sound like your mother’s voice? Those girls and their parents are begging you to “please stop!” Inside your head, don’t you hear that voice too? That voice pleading “please stop”? Sure you do.
I think you want to stop, but don’t know how. One way is just to quit (“resignation” we call it). It would work, too: if you simply declared “Hey guys, I’m not doing this anymore” you would be right – you wouldn’t be doing it anymore – because someone would be ordered to do it to you. Not pretty, and you know just how not pretty, right?
You imagine an escape but know how well guarded the roads are into the town you occupy. How do you get past them? It would be risky and of course, it could end the same way as quitting. It would be your gaping mouth, your severed head, stuck on pike. A useful lesson for the other guys who are thinking, “please stop” but aren’t so brave or fed up as you. So that would actually be counter-productive.
The military effort to stop you guys has, recently, been more successful. You may soon see troops surrounding you. With luck, you might be able to sneak out in the chaos. Or perhaps, surrender to the other side. Not sure how well you’d be received after surrendering, though. Feelings are running high lately and regrettably, we’ve seen some captured ISIS men meet a rather ghastly fate. Ghastly, but predictable.
The best-case scenario for you, probably, is a successful coalition bombing run that takes out most of the people you take orders from. That might create an opening – a chance to take a vehicle, drive like hell in some direction. If stopped by your own people, you could say “where have you been? I’ve been looking for you.” Then you’re back to work for the team again. Bad luck, but better than being beheaded.
Ideally, you would run and find somewhere to go where they don’t know who you are and don’t know what you’ve been doing. But where is that, exactly? In your dreams.
No, it’s not going to be easy for you to stop, much as you might want to. It is quite possible that the only way you’re going to stop is to die. And having chosen, or blundered into, a line of work where dying is likely, you’re also somewhat prepared for it.
Your training, such as it is, has been that life is valueless. If Allah needs you dead, you’re supposed to go die. The fact that you’ve dodged that so far suggests maybe, just maybe, you have doubts about that. Good. That tiny flicker of fear you feel, that instinct to stay alive, is also the instinct which whispers those words inside your head. “Please stop.”
You’ve gone to bed a hundred times or more, wondering if tomorrow is the day you die. You’ve walked through a dozen fights and wondered, is this the hour when a bullet will hit me? Surely in organizing one of those elaborate public killings – tossing a suspected homosexual off a rooftop, setting men on fire, drowning them in cages, or even in the run-of-the-mill beheading, it must have crossed your mind, “what if that guy fights back? What if he gets out? Turns my gun on me?”
Even scarier, what if one of your own people decides you’ve crossed some imaginary line, broken some unspoken rule, eaten too much soup, ogled someone’s slave girl too long? You’ve seen what happens to the most loyal team-mates accused of such transgressions. Truth is, you live with death at the back of your head every waking minute.
Maybe you have to run or die trying. Yes, it’s easy for someone else to suggest that, but I’m not the one who got you into this. You are. And if you want it to stop, you’re going to have to stop it. At the very least, stop your part of it.
Running away, as we have discussed, may be quite hazardous and unproductive. It could be worse than doing nothing. That leaves you with one option: suicide. Maybe you should just kill yourself. That would be brave, in a way. However, before you do that, I have a request.
Please stop. Stop and look around you. You have the skills, the tools and the opportunity to stop some other people first. Your comrades. They’re as ready to die as you are, but not in a good cause. So shoot them, smother them, knife them – whatever you can manage to do without getting killed immediately. Then go shoot more of them. If you can get away and surrender to the other side, although there are no guarantees, your chances of staying alive – alive in some form anyhow – are much better than your current circumstances.
If that happens, good for you. But we have to be realistic – I’m not going to lie to you (enough people have been doing that) – it may not work out. Truth is, there may not be anywhere to run, or anyone to surrender to. So, do your best to stop your comrades but be ready not to escape. Someone will be coming for you in moments. That being the case, you’ll want to keep a few bullets in the chamber for yourself. Then – and only then – do yourself in. Your virgins will be waiting for you.
Think about it. You do not want to be captured alive. Because if you are, you know what they will do to you, don’t you? And while they’re doing it, you know what you will be screaming, don’t you?