Calling ISIS What It Is – Evil

Mark Tapson, a Hollywood-based writer and screenwriter, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He focuses on the politics of popular culture.


itIf any Americans remained unconvinced that barbaric evil is at the cold-blooded heart of the terrorist group ISIS, their recent beheading of journalist James Foley made it graphically undeniable. The moral divide between ISIS and us is clearly marked. And yet there are those among us who still cannot bring themselves to use moral terminology to describe the enemy.

Michael J. Boyle for example, an associate professor of political science at La Salle University, contributed an op-ed to the New York Times Saturday on “the moral hazard” of using terms like “evil” and “cancer” to describe the terrorist group ISIS. Sure, he concedes, ISIS has committed thousands of gruesome human rights violations and war crimes, but Boyle wants to put the brakes on the “disturbing return of the moralistic language once used to describe Al Qaeda.”

“Condemning the black-clad, masked militants as purely ‘evil,’” he writes, “is seductive, for it conveys a moral clarity and separates ourselves and our tactics from the enemy and theirs.” How is this a problem? Moral clarity is an ideal state of affairs, especially in a world in which moral boundaries so frequently seem blurred. But Boyle believes that using judgments such as “nihilistic” to describe a group “tends to obscure the group’s strategic aims and preclude further analysis.” In other words, it discourages us from understanding the enemy.

I’m skeptical that Boyle himself understands ISIS’ strategic aims. He insists that ISIS “operates less like a revolutionary terrorist movement that wants to overturn the entire political order in the Middle East than a successful insurgent group that wants a seat at that table.” The notion that Islamic fundamentalists want only a seat at the political table is short-sighted, if not deluded. ISIS and their brethren absolutely want to overturn the political order of the world, not just the Middle East, and replace it with their own. This may seem comically unrealistic to us, but our opinion is irrelevant; all that matters is, ISIS believes it to be not only possible, but inevitable. They are executing their vision in a bloody swath across Iraq, and will continue until someone with the moral clarity and military power to stop them does so.

But this is another issue for Boyle. He is concerned that moralizing about the enemy is a slippery slope toward another Middle Eastern military quagmire:

The Obama administration needs to ensure that the just revulsion over Mr. Foley’s murder and ISIS’ other abuses does not lead us down an unplanned path toward open-ended conflict… The strategic drift produced by this moralistic language is already noticeable, as an air campaign first designed to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe has morphed into an effort to roll back, or even defeat, ISIS.

Isn’t rolling back and defeating ISIS a desirable outcome? In any case, whether we acknowledge it or not, we already are in an open-ended conflict with an enemy – Islamic fundamentalists – who are committed to a forever war. The way to prevent a quagmire is not to be tentative about military force, but to unleash hell and finish the job.

The New York Times wasn’t alone in its moral unease. A similar piece, “Should We Call ISIS ‘Evil,’” appeared on CNN, as National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg pointed out. James Dawes, director of the Program in Human Rights at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, wagged his finger at Goldberg for tweeting that ISIS is obviously evil, and for the same reason as the Times’ Boyle: such simplistic terminology doesn’t do justice to the “complexities” of the ISIS phenomenon. Dawes too claims that calling someone evil “stops us from thinking”:

If we are to have any hope of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies, we must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking…

We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.

Inexplicably, Dawes seems to believe that understanding our enemies and identifying them as evil are mutually exclusive. Then he goes from the inexplicable to the offensive: “There is only one good reason to denounce a group as evil – because you plan to injure them, and calling them evil makes it psychologically easier to do so. ‘Evil’ is the most powerful word we have to prepare ourselves to kill other people comfortably.”

What a crock of academic moral equivalence. The reality is that we call ISIS evil not so Americans can have an expedient justification to go out and “kill other people comfortably,” but because ISIS beheads innocents, buries children alive, sells women into slavery, and massacres thousands. If we can’t objectively describe that as evil, then evil doesn’t exist. Perhaps for Dawes, it doesn’t.

There is no question that understanding the enemy is always vital. No one argues otherwise. But moral judgment is vital too. However, since 9/11 (and even before), the news media, academia, politicians, and even our own military establishment have done their best to deflect understanding and judgment of Islam and to explain away the evil done in its name as everything but Islamic. Islam is peace, they say. Jihad isn’t holy war, it’s inner struggle. Terrorism is blowback for our own oil-grubbing imperialism. The Ft. Hood massacre was workplace violence. Al Qaeda has hijacked and perverted Islam. Hamas are freedom fighters pushing back against Israeli occupation. ISIS is just an insurgent group seeking political legitimacy. And so on.

We will begin to win this forever war when remove these politically correct obstacles to understanding the enemy, and embrace the moral clarity to identify evil and eradicate it.

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  • Larry Larkin

    If it has taken until the killing of Foley for them to get it through their heads that we are dealing with an inherently evil belief system then they are truly industrially grade stupid.
    The fact that there are so many out there that still haven’t managed to get it through their thick heads means that we have a lot of Darwinian extinction event stupid people out there.

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    Perhaps we over emphasize the barbaric nature of how they fight. Let’s remember what Sherman said about war (disqus won’t allow the “h” word). What makes ISIS evil is what they fight for. It’s what their peace looks like that makes them evil. The want an oppressive theocracy. It’s called Islam.

    Ah, that’s what the left is really afraid to do: look at Islam and call it evil. They have no problem doing that with Christianity, the Catholic Church, fundamentalist Christians, or Republicans in general. But when real evil appears …

    Back in 2005 there were a whole spade of books and articles calling America evil. I wrote an article noting how easy it is to publish such a vilification of America but couldn’t even consider if Islam is evil: http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/JasonPappas40401.htm

    • Jack Diamond

      Yes, Islam is the problem. However, people need to be talked to in a way they can easily understand and we are not getting through to enough people by patiently explaining jihad doctrine and shari’a and all the rest. Bill Warner is right, we need to be front and center about the suffering Islam causes, not just the facts that cause the suffering. It is the evil being done that matters, the moral argument that reaches people at large. We need to speak in terms of oppressors and victims and pain and human suffering because that is the language of our time, the language of Islam’s apologists, and the language the media understands and responds to. That narrative has to be taken away from the apologists (the Muslim pity party) and given to the greatest victims of human rights violations of our times (the victims of Islam). The barbarity, the incredible cruelty and intolerance resonates, especially as it is replicated all over the Muslim world, no matter how many statements of “this is not Islam.”

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Perhaps we over emphasize the barbaric nature of how they fight.

      Those that claim that ISIS is beyond extreme and that it is extremists on steroids, i.e., ultra-extremists, are oblivious of the reality of Islam. The reality is up until the decline of Islam brought about by the collapse of the old Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate at the end of WWI, the barbaric nature of the way ISIS fights jihad today is the way Muslims have always traditionally fought jihad since time immemorial. What we are witnessing is the re-invigoration of mainstream orthodox Islam courtesy of our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and the stupidity of our leaders.

      Indeed, jihadists don’t kill innocent civilian infidels because they are terrorists. Instead, they murder innocent civilian infidels because they employ only “total warfare” tactics per the dictates of Sharia and because murdering innocent civilian infidels is the weak underbelly of infidel society.

      • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

        You miss the point completely. The problem isn’t that they don’t fight like gentlemen. Would it be fine with you if they fought in a proper manner like the polished British army commanded by the very model of a modern major general? That would not earn my respect. However they fight it is evil because what they fight for is Islamic domination and subjugation of everyone under a totalitarian oppression.

        • ObamaYoMoma

          Uhm…I think it is the other way around, you missed my point completely. Indeed, I’m the biggest preacher when it comes to exposing the reality of Islam, i.e., the sole fundamental purpose of mainstream orthodox Islam is the subjugation of all infidels and all religions into Islamic totalitarianism via both violent and non-violent stealth and deceptive jihad and the eventual imposition of Sharia, (Islamic totalitarian law) to ultimately make Islam and its followers supreme throughout the world. Thus, the behavior we are observing in Iraq today isn’t extreme but instead is the real unvarnished face of mainstream orthodox Islam should it ever gain the upper hand on we infidels. It’s evil because it is the fundamental holy obligation of all mainstream orthodox Muslims in the world (with the exception of apostates and blasphemers that have escaped execution) to subjugate all infidels via the eventual imposition of Sharia.

          • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

            I agree with your description of Islam. Indeed, I’ve used the example of ISIS to argue with the ignorant masses that ISIS is real Islam in all its “gory.” It’s a great opportunity to expose Islam.

            I post on places like ABC news where there is a general audience. Unlike the visceral anti-Islamic comments I can cough-up the history when challenged as you and Matthew Bracken (excellent post by him) do. Occasionally a Muslim tries the usual deception but after I pour on the facts they slither away. I welcome others to join me there. We have to do more than preach to the choir.

        • John E Coleman

          would you fight if a bullet were used to kill you
          Or would you rather be Beheaded ???

          • IslamDownpressesHumanity

            I’d rather kill the moslems trying to kill me.

    • MattBracken

      The Islamic Jihad Conquest Formula

      By Matthew Bracken

      August, 2014

      Mohammed’s unchanging formula for conquest is time-proven; variations were also used in history by the invading Mongol hordes among others. Emissaries ride forward of their advancing armies, offering to spare the lives of the targeted population in return for their unconditional surrender and explicit submission to their new rulers. In the Islamic context this submission is exemplified by the fresh converts repeating the Shahada prayer before Muslim witnesses.

      There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.

      The Shahada prayer is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam. The Shahada prayer is also what is written on the black battle flags of Islamic jihad. Along with Allahu Akbar—our God is greatest—the Shahada is the battle cry of advancing Islamic armies. In fact, the very word Islam means submission, and not peace, as it is often intentionally mistranslated by duplicitous Muslims practicing taqiya, or sanctified lying for the cause of advancing the spread of Islam.

      It’s purposefully made very easy for a town or a city to submit and convert to Islam. But the entire city must surrender without posing any resistance at all. In the event of any violent or even physical resistance, a new formula applies: the Islamic jihad conquest formula. From the time of Mohammed until today—as we are seeing in the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq—the formula has not changed.

      1. During the battle and immediately afterward, there is a period of unbelievable savagery and wanton hyper-violence.

      Any of the defeated population from infants to grandmothers may be subjected to the most extreme cruelty, including beheading with knives or swords, crucifixion, being burned or buried alive, or thrown down wells or off cliffs or high walls. During this period, women, girls and boys are routinely gang-raped by frenzied jihadists, to the point that survivors almost always suffer lifelong crippling internal and external injuries. Suicide among the survivors of these savage gang rapes is common. The Christian and Zahidi girls and boys in Northern Iraq are only the most recent victims of this traditional Muslim depraved cruelty.

      Those who survive until the victorious jihadists have consolidated their hold and sated their blood-lusts are the fortunate ones. They may have caught a potential protector’s eye, or hidden themselves until the jihadists’ most bloodthirsty passions have subsided. No jihadists will ever be called to account by Muslim jihad leaders for their atrocities committed during the battle and victory consolidation phase.

      For the first time in history, today we are seeing what the previous millions of victims of Muslim conquests have experienced for 1,400 years. The recent beheadings and crucifixions in Syria and Iraq are not new or novel. What is new and novel is that today these Muslim jihad atrocities are being filmed and transmitted for the purpose of spreading the propaganda of Islamic State terror, to encourage their next intended targets to submit and surrender without resistance.

      2. Captured men will be beheaded, shot or enslaved.

      Following a fresh conquest, when the defeated men are tied up, imprisoned, or held under the barrels of Muslim guns, they may either be murdered or enslaved. Their fate depends upon the tactical situation and the best advantage as perceived by the victors. If the Muslim victory is thought to be temporary, the jihadists will immediately murder all of the men and boys over the age of twelve, eliminating them as future threats. They may be beheaded if there is sufficient time, otherwise they will be shot in ditches as we have recently seen in Iraq. The heads of the decapitated will be stuck on poles, fences or walls as a gruesome public warning against further resistance by the living.

      If the latest jihad victory is thought to be secure and slave labor is desired, the captured men and boys will be fettered in chains and put to work under conditions similar to those experienced by slave laborers under the Nazis during World War Two. They may be fed or starved at the sole discretion of their new overlords. They may be worked fifteen or more hours a day, every day, in all weather and climates with no shoes, gloves, coats or hats. Often they will be both starved and overworked to the extent that a significant percentage of them will perish every month. When these wretched slaves are too weak to haul boulders or dig trenches, they may be executed at the sole discretion of their overlords. No discipline will ever be meted out for starving, beating or killing “infidel” slave laborers.

      3. Women and teenage girls will be kidnapped as sex-slaves, to be sold at auction to the highest bidders.

      The prettier young women and girls will be fortunate to become the concubine of one powerful man. The plainer women and girls will be sold as house or field slaves, doing fifteen or more hours of hard work every remaining day of their lives: hauling water, cleaning floors, cooking and so on. They may be raped, starved, beaten or killed at the whim of their owners. They may be subjected to forced female genital mutilation—the razor-blade excision of their clitoris and other horrors—depending on the whims of their new masters. No discipline will ever be applied to their masters. They are chattel property with no rights at all.

      4. Children younger than twelve will be kidnapped and raised under Sharia law by the very men who murdered or enslaved their parents.

      Girls may be assigned to the victors or sold off as future house slaves, beginning their arduous life of toil as soon as they are able to gather firewood or haul water, often by the age of seven or eight. Young girls showing the promise of becoming pretty teenagers may be assigned to harems for sex-slave indoctrination. At the whim of their owners, the luckiest might even be adopted and raised as family members. From starvation, beatings and overwork, to being assigned to a harem as a sex-slave, to being adopted and raised in some comfort, the relative misery of the kidnapped and enslaved girls will be entirely up to their new masters.

      The young kidnapped boys will be sent to madrasa schools to memorize the Koran by repetitiously chanting it, in order to become fully brainwashed Islamic killer zombies as adults. Perhaps most perversely cruel, in time they may join with the murderers and enslavers of their very own forgotten parents, while engaged upon new missions of Islamic jihad conquest. Black slave boys from sub-Saharan Africa will routinely be castrated, turning them into placid adult eunuch slaves.

      5. Conquered property will be looted as legitimate war booty.

      Buildings and homes will be occupied by the victorious jihadists after the murder or enslavement of their former owners. Any moveable property will be stolen by the victors. Concealed money, jewelry or other valuables will be found by serially torturing family members until someone breaks and reveals the hiding place. This looting, like the rape and murder of enemies in battle, is fully sanctioned by Mohammed’s Sharia Law. This is nothing more than the worst kind of piracy codified into practice and called a “religion.”

      It is worth noting that before Mohammed descended into the desert cave to hear the messages of Allah, he was an actual desert pirate, falling upon caravans and plundering them—after beheading the men, and raping and enslaving the women. He later applied the same formula to conquer the Arabian deserts in the name of Allah. If it was good enough for Mohammed, Islam’s perfect man, then it is good enough for any believing Muslim, then, now or in the future. Thus the Islamic jihad conquest formula is unchangeable and Islam can never be reformed. Would-be reformers are beheaded as apostates to true Koranic Islam.

      6. The promised Islamic reward for dying in jihad is a perpetual orgy in “paradise” with 72 virgins.

      For impoverished Muslim men with little hope of finding a women to marry during their earthly lives, this is a strong inducement to engage in violent jihad. If they are victorious in jihad, they might capture, rape and enslave actual living, breathing infidel girls (and boys). If they die while engaging in jihad, they are vaulted to the front of the line into paradise, and immediately obtain their 72 virgins. This is why suicide bombers often rush toward their “infidel” enemies to blow themselves up: they are convinced that their perpetual orgy will begin the instant after their self-detonation. The Islamic promise of 72 virgins in “paradise” means that jihad is a win-win proposition for a fervent Muslim man. They may well enjoy their jihad rape-fest in this world, but if not, they will enjoy it in the next world immediately following their violent jihad deaths.

      7. The Black Flag of Jihad has been the battle flag of Islam from the time of Mohammed until today.

      The Saudi Arabian flag also carries the Shahada prayer, but on a green field, indicating that the home of Mecca is part of the Dar al Islam, or House of Submission. Outside of nations living under Sharia Law, in the Dar al Harb, or House of War, Muslims fly the Black Flag of Jihad to indicate their clear intention to violently force that country to submit to Islam.

      Islam began with a cruel desert pirate named Mohammed, and it soon took to the seas. In the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Flag of Jihad was simplified to show only a scimitar sword or an arm holding a scimitar, indicating to the crew of the “infidel” ship being attacked their simple choice: surrender and submit to Islam, or face beheading at worst, or enslavement at best.

      During the Corsair era, lasting into the 19th Century, many captured Europeans chose to convert to Islam by repeating the Shahada prayer, rather than to be killed or enslaved. Many of these “renegade” Europeans even signed on as crew aboard Muslim pirate vessels, some even rising to the rank of corsair captain. Islam is always welcoming of converts, and under Islam what we call piracy is fully sanctioned as “sea jihad.” Some of these European converts-of-convenience to Islam later escaped and took up piracy on their own accounts. The Black Flag of Jihad was the origin of the familiar non-Muslim black pirate flags, borrowing its fearsome reputation to cow and terrorize targeted ships into surrendering without resistance.

      Simply put, the Black Flag of Jihad is the black pirate flag of an evil pirate “religion.”

      8. The lure of capturing male and female slaves and obtaining other forms of loot and plunder is the Islamic jihad conquest formula.

      Average men in polygamous Muslim societies have little hope of obtaining a wife, not when the wealthy and powerful already have several wives apiece. Jihad offers ordinary Muslims a chance to obtain wives or sex-slave concubines by force in battle, or 72 virgins in the afterlife. Jihad also offers poor Muslims a chance to obtain a home and other forms of wealth by force, as we are seeing today in Iraq.

      Unlike Christianity with its Golden Rule, Islam has always appealed to the worst desires of evil men, and the most ruthlessly evil men, like its originator Mohammed, are its greatest beneficiaries. Normal human beings ask the question: what kind of a sick and twisted so-called “religion” promises its highest rewards in exchange for engaging in organized looting, mass murder, mass rape, torture and slavery in the name of its god? Only Islam, which has been an insane rape and murder cult since Mohammed crawled out of the bat cave and barked at the crescent moon.

      Moses and Jesus are reported to have climbed to the tops of high mountains to communicate with God. Just who was whispering the gospel of plunder, rape and murder into Mohammed’s ear, deep under the surface of the earth in that dark Saudi Arabian cave?

      Who taught Mohammed the Islamic jihad conquest formula?

      • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

        Excellent exposition. Nothing to add.

        • MattBracken

          Thanks. I’m just trying to get our naive countrymen to understand the true nature of Koranic Islam.

  • mezcukor

    The title should say:”
    Calling Islam What It Is – Evil

  • Mik

    a perfect illustration from Dawes

    “If we are to have any hope of preventing the spread of extremist ideologies, we must do more than bomb the believers. We must understand them. We must be willing to continue thinking…

    We can say they are evil people doing evil things for evil ends. Or we can do the hard work of understanding the context that made them, so that we can create a context that unmakes them.”

    He wants to make things better. I think making sure they do not get worse is a better alternative. He wants to do the hard work, sitting in a tenured chair at Macalester Univ. He refuses to see that whatever is, is. He is wishing for a reasonable opponent. Does he believe for a moment that “they” want to understand him? An unreasonable opponent cannot be a reasonable opponent, by nature. What would the so called middle ground look like? Would both sides become somewhat reasonable? Meanwhile, they reload.

  • Gee

    I feel know need to understand any criminal. I feel the need to stop the criminal and punish them for their actions.

    The way to stop terrorists is to kill them and I have absolute moral clarity about it

  • lone scribbler

    Satanic islamic state.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Calling ISIS What It Is – Evil

    If ISIS is evil, then Islam is evil, as ISIS is the real reality of Islam incarnated.

    • John E Coleman

      Like I have said : the Book says it all in Black & White !!

      Read it !!

  • wileyvet

    What makes them is Islam, which has been in an open ended conflict with the rest of the world since the beginning of Muhammad’s career. At some point it simply does not matter what motivates them, but rather it becomes necessary to stop such barbarous behaviour. Motivation is irrelevant, elimination is necessary and desirable. The destruction and brutality is still the same. Like a rapist, what difference does his motivation make, when the woman is just as injured and traumatized? There is just no accommodation with IS. They are Muslims carrying out Allah’s will. They wish to be martyrs, well lets fulfill their death wish. Death and only death will stop them. We can examine their motivation after they are destroyed, but the answer will still be Islam.

  • Damaris Tighe

    Spot on.

  • RMThoughts

    Evil is those who created the ISIS monster. What is perhaps the most troubling aspect of all about America’s attempts to begin military intervention in eastern Syria using ISIS as a pretext, is the fact that the US and its regional allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, created ISIS in the first place to use as a proxy mercenary force for the purpose of overthrowing the government in Syria and confronting pro-Iranian forces across the region from Lebanon to Baghdad.

    With Syria containing ISIS in eastern Syria and routing them in the more heavily populated regions of western Syria, the West’s designs for regime change in Syria appear effectively defeated. ISIS’ incursion into northern Iraq, that it would be used as a pretext to effect regime change on both sides of the
    Syrian-Iraqi border. The West’s feigned surprise at the immense funding,

    We claim that the Syrian government holds no control and therefor no jurisdiction over its eastern most territories, allowing the US and its partners to invade, occupy, and control the region. Under the pretense of fighting ISIS, the US has already declared it would provide greater funding, arms, and support for “moderates” who would then be able to seek refuge and attack in eastern Syria with absolute impunity from Syrian forces, thus allowing the West’s terrorist proxies to operate deeper and more effectively in territory closer to Damascus.

    In reality, these so-called “moderates” demonstrably never existed. The West has so far failed to explain how their funding, arms, training, and aid programs amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars and representing the collective resources of America, Europe, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have somehow been “eclipsed” by ISIS forces.

  • aspacia

    Boyle is another idiotic fool.

  • John E Coleman

    Move !!

    • IslamDownpressesHumanity

      Make me.

      • IslamDownpressesHumanity

        I apologize for that statement. I didn’t realize you were a veteran. But let me ask you, what’s the point of loyalty to a corrupt government? Many Germans fought for the Nazis out of a misguided loyalty to Germany. Was that right?

  • IslamDownpressesHumanity

    He also took boys as slaves — whether or not they ended up as catamites I don’t know.