JEFF COX: Admitting Our Mistakes…


Organic Food Guy
Kenwood, Sonoma County

It seems as though we Americans have a hard time admitting our mistakes. And yet mistakes unadmitted tend to fester and eventually poison the system, much as a festering sore does in our physical body.

Take, for instance, our role in the rise of ISIS. Right off the bat, let’s agree that ISIS fostered a culture of violence, death, and unimaginable depravity. Its deep roots lay in Wahhabism and the Salafist strain of Islam that sees the world in two parts: the near world of Muslim societies and the far world of infidel societies. And radical Islam was always about eventually converting the far world into the near world—think of the Moorish invasion of Spain and the battles fought with the Crusaders. This radical strain of Islam was always about re-establishing a Caliphate, or overall governance of all Islam under one ruler, the Caliph.

But history chugged along until George Bush upset the apple cart by invading Iraq in 2003, detaining thousands of Iraqis both Sunni and Shia, and imprisoning them in places like Abu Ghraib, where many were beaten and tortured, sometimes to death, under the CIA’s rules of “enhanced interrogation,” or what Dick Cheney at the time called “the dark side.”

A close friend of mine was CIA for his whole long career in government service and when I heard about the abuses of Abu Ghraib, I asked him how he felt about that. He said, “The CIA doesn’t torture.” I didn’t want to argue with him because I knew it would do no good. That was the agency’s line and he would stick to it.

But I also came to see that the cadre that established ISIS was forged in the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib and other black sites. Want to radicalize someone? Beat them to a bloody pulp and torture them. That’ll do it every time.

But of course, “the CIA doesn’t torture.” How could we? We’re the good guys. Remember liberating Paris? Remember opening the Nazi death camps and rescuing the survivors? It’s not our fault. We’re the good guys. It’s the fault of those crazy subhuman Islamic terrorists, as Trump likes to characterize them.

Except that if we’re the good guys, what is everyone else? They must be the bad guys.

America needs a dose of humility to realize that everyone thinks they are the good guys. Those traumatized individuals who crawled out of our CIA torture chambers to form ISIS inflicted their hurt and anger and depravity on whomever they could. They thought they were doing god’s work.

ISIS is not our fault alone—Islam has a 1,400-year history that leads to its appearance. But we have had a part to play. If we really want to help the Middle Easterners achieve peace, we should drop the arrogance of superiority and blamelessness, own our part in this tragedy, and start afresh to show some real humanity instead of supporting endless war in places like Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and, perhaps in the future, Iran.