ISIS is indeed monstrous. But as this embedded report within the Shiite Iraqi soldiers fighting it shows us, there isn't a great gap in monstrousness.
Empathy is virtually absent from Islamic culture. Sunni or Shiite, brutality is ubiquitous, and the Shiite Iraqi soldiers act much like ISIS does. Some of the people they're torturing are supposed to be ISIS. But there's no real evidence beyond supposition and torture. And it's pretty clear that entire population groups, likely Sunni, are being classified as ISIS, and routinely abused.
And it's equally clear that the purpose of these atrocities is the enjoyment of the Shiite Jihadists whom we decided to pretend are a legitimate military instead of Iran's puppet.
This is a sadistic and savage culture that has nothing in common with us. All the various factions commit atrocities as they have been doing for a thousand years in brutal tribal warfare. There is no right and wrong here. There are no good guys. There are just monsters who are a bigger threat to us than other monsters. Despite the delusions of the left (and some on the right) we have nothing in common with these people. And taking them in as immigrants, as we have been doing, is a huge and terrible mistake that we have already paid for. And that we will go on paying for.
(Caution: Graphic descriptions of torture.)
Shortly after dinner, Taha walked into the room and grabbed the head of the younger man who was to be released on the commander’s order. He had been beaten so hard that a large ball of pink flesh had replaced his right eye, and his lips were blue, thick and pouting. “Eh, you have lost your eye, who did this to you?” asked Taha, laughing.
From the circle of soldiers that had formed around the two detainees, a very skinny soldier came forward grinning. “Why? Why did you do this to this poor citizen?” Taha mocked, and the soldiers hooted in response. The young detainee stared back blankly at the soldiers with his remaining eye.
Not far off, a soldier from another unit was dragging a thin young woman by her wrist. Her shirt was torn open and her headscarf had slid down to her shoulder, revealing stringy, salt-and-pepper hair. She tried to resist as she stumbled barefoot over rocks, moaning and pleading for help, but the soldier pulled her into a bombed-out house. Two soldiers who followed him told the officers, laughing, that they knew the woman was with Daesh because they had found “five bundles” ($50,000) on her. (Mosul is a rich city, and because Iraq has no banking system, the woman could have been carrying all her family savings in cash. But after three years of Isis rule, most people in the city had sold everything in order to feed their family, and anyone who had enough money to allow them to leave had already done so. Thus, the woman was suspected of being linked to Isis.)
The officers grumbled about the lucky soldier who had stumbled across this money. “And he got a woman as well,” said one.
“But did you see how ugly she was?” answered the other, and they turned and walked on.
The women screamed, begged and wailed, but the soldiers ignored them. “You are Daesh,” one soldier said. “All of you in the Old City are Daesh.”
The man craned his neck and looked out of the window behind him. Below the house, a bloated, decomposed body had turned black under the scorching summer sun. He turned and smiled, but there was now a hint of fear, a loss of control. “I am just a medic,” he mumbled. Taha swung his leg back and kicked the man’s face so hard that he collapsed motionless on his back. For a second, everyone in the room thought he was dead.
“Pour water on him, he is faking,” Taha said angrily.
One soldier pulled the man up and sat him down again. Slowly, he opened his eyes, which at first looked stunned, and then darkened with anger. He opened his mouth, and a dark lump of flesh, blood and a set of large, gleaming false teeth tumbled on to his chest and the floor.
“Ha, will you confess?” said the soldier with the metal pipe.
“I have nothing to say,” hissed the man with blood pouring from his mouth. Taha nodded to the heavyset soldier, who pulled the old man to his feet, his legs wobbling. He leaned the man against the arched window and then, in one quick move, the soldier flipped him out of the window, but held his feet. The old man hung, swinging, from the window.
“Are you going to confess now?” asked the soldier. “What else is left for you?”
“How can I prejudice myself?” came the faint voice of the old man from below.
In that dark room, the soldiers and officers looked at the old man’s feet, dirty and cracked, for a few seconds before they vanished from the window. He fell into the yard below with a thud. The soldier who had dropped him leaned out of the window with his machine gun and fired five bullets into the body in the rubble below. A cloud of gunpowder filled the room, dancing in the shafts of light. The soldier looked out of the window and then fired two more bullets. “These two at his legs, just in case he wants to walk home,” said the soldier, laughing.
Taha and the two officers walked back. A young officer said, with a sheepish smile: “I wonder if Allah one day will punish us for all these killings. Will we go mad or something worse?”
“He is my fifth since the start of [the battle of] Mosul,” said Taha. “Al-Qaida have one good principle: if they suspect someone, or have the tiniest evidence against him, they execute him. They say that if he was guilty, he deserved it, and if he was innocent, his blood will be purged and later he will go to heaven. I follow the same principle.”
Night after night, in ruined houses, makeshift cells and the dark streets of Mosul, those identified as members of Isis were tortured and executed. Jubilant Iraqi soldiers filmed themselves beating and shooting prisoners.
Locals, keen to exact revenge on those they held responsible for the miseries and destruction of the last three years, started denouncing not only members of Isis and their families who had tried to blend in with fleeing civilians, but also any man of fighting age who came from a different city, bore the marks of injury, or simply looked suspicious.
Men came to the commander’s house every night with denunciations. Some were absurd: a frail man in tattered brown trousers and a white shirt came running to report a family of refugees because their three young sons never left the house. A doctor reported the brother of someone who ran a Facebook page sympathetic to Isis. A man who sold vegetables and used to call for prayers in the local mosque was dragged in by local vigilantes, but after a couple of hours of torture he was pronounced innocent, and released.
The commander handed the man’s ID card to a soldier to be burned, to disappear him from official records, and nodded. Kifah, the lean soldier, joyfully dragged the man out into the street. Other soldiers and officers followed, and locals cheered and celebrated. Kifah pushed the man ahead of him, while others kicked and punched the man to the ground, jeering and taunting him, dragged him up and kicked him again, laughing when he fell.
“Sing one of the caliphate songs for us,” Cpt Wissam said, laughing hysterically, his eyes blazing with rage. They made their prisoner run in front of them, telling him he was free to go. He ran, stumbling as he tried to pull his falling trousers up with his hands tied. They chased him, kicking and slapping. A soldier jumped in the air, and kicked him in the face with the theatrical relish of a professional kickboxer.
Back in their room, the soldiers watched the video many times, lying on mattresses between machine guns, backpacks and boots.
The massacre at Camp Speicher was a catalyst for all the rage that came after. Its trauma sat high on the pedestal of Shia grievances. A “never-again” culture emerged, mobilising men on the streets.
The soldiers made him lie on his stomach and raise his legs; soldiers fashioned whips from electrical cables and metal wires, and beat his feet. When he lowered his legs, a soldier squeezed his head with his boots until he raised his feet again. Between his cries of pain, he insisted that he had nothing to do with Isis. After repeated punches, he fell and blood poured from his head. “Ah fuck, now the smell will be horrible,” said one soldier. “Who’s going to clean this up?”
They woke him up and gave him half an hour of respite. For five hours, soldiers and officers tortured him in shifts, taking turns. After each shift, Omar was made to stand up jump on the spot, so that his feet wouldn’t go numb and he could still feel pain. When his body had turned crimson, with deep gashes, two more soldiers joined and started all over again.
“Lets try and see which one can hurt him more,” one said. When the pain was unbearable, Omar gave them the hiding place of one of his fellow fugitives, Ammar.
By midnight, the soldiers were tired with Ammar; black lumps had swollen over what used to be his face. He was taken to where his friend had been lying dead for couple of hours. There is nothing noble about death in Mosul: dogs had already taken parts of Omar’s leg. Ammar was ordered to kneel by the dead body. A soldier moved him to a better position to film. He did not resist. He was dead before the bullets entered his skull.
There is no especially significant difference between this and ISIS. And both ISIS and the Shiite Iraqi military under Iranian control are major threats to us. It's just a matter of tactics and timing.