“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, August 08, 2014

From the New Yorker: “I don’t know,” Karim said. “My situation is O.K.” “No, it’s not O.K.!” his friend said. “Sinjar is under the control of ISIS.”

AUGUST 6, 2014
A Friend Flees the Horror of ISIS

A humanitarian crisis that could turn into a genocide is taking place right now in the mountains of northwestern Iraq. It hasn’t made the front page, because the place and the people are obscure, and there’s a lot of other horrible news to compete with. I’ve learned about it mainly because the crisis has upended the life of someone I wrote about in the magazine several weeks ago.
Last Sunday, Karim woke up around 7:30 A.M., after coming home late the night before. He was about to have breakfast when his phone rang—a friend was calling to see how he was doing. Karim is a Yazidi, a member of an ancient religious minority in Iraq. Ethnically, he’s Kurdish. An engineer and a father of three young children, Karim spent years working for the U.S. Army in his area, then for an American medical charity. He’s been waiting for months to find out whether the U.S. government will grant him a Special Immigrant Visa because of his service, and because of the danger he currently faces.
Karim is from a small town north of the district center, Sinjar, between Mosul and the Syrian border. Sinjar is a historic Yazidi area with an Arab minority. Depending on who’s drawing the map, Sinjar belongs to either the northernmost part of Iraq or the westernmost part of Kurdistan. Since June, when extremist fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham captured Mosul, they’ve been on the outskirts of Sinjar, facing off against a small number of Kurdish peshmerga militiamen. ISIS regards Yazidis as devil worshippers, and its fighters have been executing Yazidi men who won’t convert to Islam on the spot, taking away the women as jihadi brides. So there were many reasons why a friend might worry about Karim.
“I don’t know,” Karim said. “My situation is O.K.” “No, it’s not O.K.!” his friend said. “Sinjar is under the control of ISIS.”
Karim had not yet heard this calamitous news. “I’ll call some friends and get back to you,” he said.
But the cell network was jammed, so Karim walked to his father’s house. His father told him that thousands of people from Sinjar were headed their way, fleeing north through the mountains to get out of Iraq and into Kurdistan. It suddenly became clear that Karim would have to abandon his home and escape with his family.
ISIS had launched its attack on Sinjar during the night. Peshmerga militiamen were outgunned—their assault rifles against the extremists’ captured fifty-caliber guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, anti-aircraft weapons, and armored vehicles. The Kurds began to run out of ammunition, and those who could retreated north toward Kurdistan. By dawn, the extremists were pouring into town. Later, ISIS posted triumphant photos on Twitter: bullet-riddled corpses of peshmerga in the streets and dirt fields; an ISIS fighter aiming his pistol at the heads of five men lying face down on the ground; Arab locals who stayed in Sinjar jubilantly greeting the new occupiers.
Karim had time to do just one thing: burn all the documents that connected him to America—photos of him posing with Army officers, a CD from the medical charity—in case he was stopped on the road by militants or his house was searched. He watched the record of his experience during the period of the Americans in Iraq turn to ash, and felt nothing except the urge to get to safety.
By 9:30 A.M., Karim and his extended family were crowded into his brother’s car and his father’s pickup truck. They’d had no time to pack, and for the drive through the heat of the desert they took nothing but water, bread, canned milk for Karim’s two-year-old son, and their AK-47s. At first, Karim’s father refused to go along. A stubborn man, he said, “Let them kill me in my town, but I will never leave it.” Fortunately, the father’s paralyzed cousin, who had been left behind by his family, pleaded with him, and at the last minute the two old men joined the exodus. Karim’s twenty or so family members were the last to get out of the area by car, and they joined a massive traffic jam headed northwest. Thousands of other Yazidi families had to flee on foot into the mountains: “They couldn’t leave. They didn’t know how to leave. They waited too long to leave,” Karim said.
Karim drove in a convoy of two hundred and fifty or three hundred cars. They stuck together for safety. The group decided against taking the most direct route to Kurdistan, which would have taken them through the Arab border town of Rabiya. ISIS wasn’t the only danger—Yazidi Kurds have come to regard Sunni Arabs generally as a threat. So they drove across the border at an unmarked point into Syria, where Kurdish rebels—who form one side in the complex Syrian civil war—were in control of the area. The rebels waved the convoy on, while Syrian Arab villagers stared or took videos with their mobile phones. A relative of Karim’s happened to be a cigarette smuggler and knew the way across the desert once the roads disappeared. (“Everyone and everything has his day,” Karim told me.) The undercarriage of Karim’s car began to break off in pieces. They drove for hours through Syria, crossed back into Iraq, and shortly afterward reached a checkpoint into Kurdistan, where the line of cars was so long that they had to wait for hours more. It wasn’t until nightfall, nearly twelve hours after they had fled their home, that Karim and his family reached the Kurdish town of Dohuk, where he happened to have a brother who gave them shelter in his small apartment.
“Compared with other people here, I’m in heaven,” Karim said by phone from Dohuk. “Some are in camps for refugees. It’s very hot and very hard. We are safe, but thousands of families are in the mountains. Thousands.”
Karim heard that one young man had been executed by ISIS for no reason other than being Yazidi. A friend of Karim’s was hiding in the mountains, running low on supplies, and out of battery power in his phone. Another friend, an Arab (“He is not a religion guy, he’s open-minded, it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or Yazidi,” Karim said), had stayed in Sinjar and was trapped in his home. Now ISIS was going house to house, with information provided by locals, looking for Iraqi soldiers and police, for people with money, for Kurds. They had already taken away the friend’s brother, a police officer. No one knows for sure how many people ISIS has killed since the attack on Sinjar. Karim heard that it is many hundreds.

Prince Tahseen Said, “the world leader of the Yazidis,” has issued an appeal to Kurdish, Iraqi, Arab, and European leaders, as well as to Ban Ki-moon and Barack Obama. It reads: “I ask for aid and to lend a hand and help the people of Sinjar areas and its affiliates and villages and complexes which are home to the people of the Yazidi religion. I invite [you] to assume [your] humanitarian and nationalistic responsibilities towards them and help them in their plight and the difficult conditions in which they live today.”
It’s hard to know what, if anything, is left of the humanitarian responsibilities of the international community. The age of intervention is over, killed in large part by the Iraq war. But justifiable skepticism about the use of military force seems also to have killed off the impulse to show solidarity with the helpless victims of atrocities in faraway places. There’s barely any public awareness of the unfolding disaster in northwestern Iraq, let alone a campaign of international support for the Yazidis—or for the Christians who have been driven out of Mosul or the Sunni Arabs who don’t want to live under the tyranny of ISIS. The front-page news continues to be the war in Gaza, a particular Western obsession whether one’s views are pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace, or pro-plague-on-both-houses. Nothing that either side has done in that terrible conflict comes close to the routine brutality of ISIS.
Karim couldn’t help expressing bitterness about this. “I don’t see any attention from the rest of the world,” he said. “In one day, they killed more than two thousand Yazidi in Sinjar, and the whole world says, ‘Save Gaza, save Gaza.’ ”
Yesterday, a senior U.S. official told me that the Obama Administration is contemplating an airlift, coördinated with the United Nations, of humanitarian supplies by C-130 transport planes to the Yazidis hiding in the Sinjar mountains. There are at least twenty thousand and perhaps as many as a hundred thousand of them, including some peshmerga militiamen providing a thin cover of protection.  The U.N. has reported that dozens of children have died of thirst in the heat. ISIS controls the entrance to the mountains. Iraqi helicopters have dropped some supplies, including food and water, but the refugees are hard to find and hard to reach.
It was encouraging to learn that humanitarian supplies might be on the way, but we always seem to be at least a step behind as ISIS rolls over local forces and consolidates power. ISIS is not Al Qaeda. It operates like an army, taking territory, creating a state. The aim of the Sinjar operation seems to be control of the Mosul Dam, the largest dam in Iraq, which provides electricity to Mosul, Baghdad, and much of the country. According to one expert, if ISIS takes the dam, which is located on the Tigris River, it would have the means to put Mosul under thirty metres of water, and Baghdad under five. Other nearby targets could include the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Dohuk. Karim reported that residents of Dohuk, inundated with refugees, felt not just a sense of responsibility for Sinjar but also alarm, and that they were stocking up on supplies in case of an attack.
One way to protect the innocent and hurt those who are terrorizing them would be for the U.S. to launch air strikes on ISIS positions. That option has been discussed within the administration since the fall of Mosul, in June, but it runs against President Obama’s foreign-policy tendencies. “The President’s first instinct is, ‘Let’s help them to do it,’ ” the official told me. “The minute we do something, it changes the game.” This time, unlike in Syria, it isn’t hard to figure out how to “help them to do it”: send arms to the Kurds, America’s only secular-minded, pluralistic Muslim allies in the region, and the only force in the area with the means and the will to protect thousands of lives. (Dexter Filkins wrote, on Monday, about the possibility of American military aid to the Kurds.) Perhaps the U.S., Europe, and the U.N. can’t or won’t prevent genocide in northwestern Iraq, but the Kurds can. The fact that the peshmerga were outgunned by ISIS and ran out of ammunition in Sinjar says that we are a step behind on this front, too. According to the Times, Washington has turned down Kurdish requests for American weapons for fear of alienating and undermining Iraq’s central government in Baghdad.
It seems delusional to imagine that there is such a thing as an Iraqi central government that should be given priority over stopping ISIS and preventing a massacre. That dream of the American project in Iraq is gone. But perhaps the Obama Administration is being more realistic. Yesterday, I also learned that the U.S. is, in fact, sending arms to the Kurds—just not openly. This was even more welcome news, though it’s too bad that the weapons didn’t reach the peshmerga in time to defend Sinjar. The U.S. Joint Operation Center in Erbil is helping peshmerga ground troops and the Iraqi air force to coordinate attacks on ISIS, providing intelligence from the sky. It’s a breakthrough that the Kurds and the Iraqis are cooperating at all. “For the moment,” the senior official said. “And it could all fall apart, because it’s lightning in a bottle.”

The official said that peshmerga forces are organizing to retake Sinjar. Karim heard the same thing in Dohuk, and he said that he wants to be in the first group that returns to his hometown. Meanwhile, he’s volunteering with the American medical charity he used to work for, helping other refugees in Dohuk. He told his children that they’re on an extended vacation in Kurdistan.


  1. Reports that the Turks are doing the air attacks.

  2. A former high ranking CIA official in Baghdad tells Newsweek that Turkish jets carried out airstrikes on Islamic State (I.S.) militants threatening Kurdish refugees--an assertion that Ankara denies.

    The White House, meanwhile, said it had launched humanitarian air drops to the beleaguered Kurds trapped by advancing I.S. forces in the northern part of Iraq and was considering air strikes to fend off an expected assault.

    U.S. forces were placed “on a hair trigger,” according to NBC News, with a twofold priority: to provide humanitarian relief for refugees from Islamic State aggression and to protect U.S. officials on the ground.

    Newsweek Magazine is Back In Print

    I.S. forces were reported to be advancing on Irbil, where the U.S. has a consulate manned by 30 to 50 State Department officials and a significant number of U.S. military advisers. NBC News reported an unnamed senior U.S. official saying, “We're not going to let them take Irbil.”

    Kurdish TV claimed earlier in a day of conflicting reports that American jets had carried out the strikes on Islamic State position outside the town of Kalak, 25 miles northwest of Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

    “The Turks are doing it,” said the former CIA officer, who maintains close contacts in Iraq, especially with Kurdish authorities. “There’s no question about it,” he said on condition of anonymity until he could gather more corroboration from his sources in the region. “But certainly we are giving them targeting data.”

    The CIA did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

    A resident of of Kalak told McClatchy News that “she had seen the aircraft and had heard the explosions coming from behind Islamic State lines, which are slightly more than a mile away." The resident said because it was dark she could not see any markings on the aircraft.

    Pentagon spokesman John Kirby emphatically denied U.S. jets had carried out the strikes, calling reports of such “completely false.”

    “No such action was taken,” Kirby said in a tweet.

    The Turkish military denied local Kurdish media reports that Turkish planes entered Iraqi airspace to track the extremist movement’s forces, Bloomberg reported, citing a one-sentence statement on its web site.

    A Turkish official told the New York Times that the country’s air force had not conducted any operations. “There is no such thing,” he said, referring to airstrikes.

    Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier Thursday that “Turkish aid supplies had been dropped in the mountains near Sinjar in northern Iraq, where about 50,000 Yezidis have taken shelter after militants from the Islamic State drove them from their homes during the group’s latest advance,” Bloomberg reported. “He did not say whether Turkish aircraft carried out the operation.”

    Turkish F-16s were said to be patrolling the skies over the area.

    After an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Thursday afternoon, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said Baghdad had not asked Turkey for any “interference.”

  3. Now that the "fog" of bullshit is being lifted about the propaganda of the "Hamas" run "Palestinian Health Ministry" and it's reports of "civilian" casualties is getting clearer...

    From the PDF "Out of the names of 152 individuals who were killed, that were examined by the ITIC, 71 were identified as terror operatives and 81 as non-involved civilians. The percentage of terrorist operatives among all those examined is 46.7%, while the percentage of non-involved citizens is 53.3%. This ratio may vary as the ITIC continues to examine the names of those killed in Operation Protective Edge."

    From the BBC:

    So there were 216 members of armed groups killed, and another 725 men who were civilians. Among civilians, more than three times as many men were killed as women, while three times as many civilian men were killed as fighters.

    Spokesman Capt Eytan Buchman told BBC News that "the UN numbers being reported are, by and by large, based on the Gaza health ministry, a Hamas-run organisation".
    He said that part of the reason for the discrepancy between the figures was "when militants are brought to hospitals, they are brought in civilian clothing, obscuring terrorist affiliations".
    "Hamas also has given local residents directives to obscure militant identities," he said.
    "It's important to bear in mind that in Operation Cast Lead [the last Israeli ground offensive in December 2008-January 2009], Hamas and Gaza-based organisations claimed that only 50 combatants were killed, admitting years later the number was between 600-700, a figure nearly identical to the figure claimed by the IDF."
    In conclusion, we do not yet know for sure how many of the dead in Gaza are civilians and how many were fighters. This is in no sense the fault of the UN employees collecting the figures - their statistics are accompanied by caveats and described as preliminary and subject to to revision.

    1. A number of other news organisations have been considering the civilian-to-fighter ratio.

      An analysis by the New York Times looked at the names of 1,431 casualties and found that "the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll. They are 9% of Gaza's 1.7 million residents, but 34% of those killed whose ages were provided."

      "At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71% of the population and 33% of the known-age casualties."

    2. Pardon me while I laugh my ass off....

    3. Yup, I'm joining you, in fact been laughing at those figures for a few days.

      They have been quoted here time and again.

      Baghdad Bob did as well.

    4. .

      You would have to be a naif to not realize that both sides are lying.

      This is war. And that is propaganda.

      I believe Hamas' numbers about as much as I believe Israels.


  4. If given the chance? Hamas's stated goals are the genocide of the Jews. Not JUST the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel, but the murder of every man woman and child that is a Jew in the world.

    No different that Hezbollah's stated goals.

    The leader Nasrallah has been quoted saying: "If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide."

  5. America just dropped 2 - 500 pound bombs on the "islamic militants"....

    We need photos of the destruction, the bodies, the innocents killed...

    Where were these bombs dropped? On a road? On buildings? Details!!!! Were any babies dismembered?

    War crimes committed?????

    Why did America not simply airlift the 1.2 million refugees to safety?

    What are the demands of the Islamic Militants of ISIL?

    We need a ceasefire... We need to listen to ISIL's complaints and POV...

    We need to put ourselves in their shoes and understand why they feel the way they do..

    there is no "military" solution, ISIL needs to be brought into the government of Iraq and given power sharing...


    1. :):)

      Well I'm glad someone is dropping some bombs on ISID.

      Whoever it may be........the mystery bomber.

      Did they leaflet the area first, warning the civilians to flee?

      Oh wait, the civilians have already fled, to the top of Mt Sinjar.

    2. 2 500 pound bombs?

      That might even be Quart in his souped up ultra-light.

      He wrote me he had been listening all night to the Vatican Radio and the Pope Francis and was feeling compelled to do something, anything.....

    3. .

      It was reported that they were against 2 IS artillery sites that were firing on Irbil were US personnel are stationed at the consulate.

      It was also reported that the US military was green lighted to take further action to protect both Irbil and the refugees in Sinjar.


  6. Airstrikes Begin: U.S. Navy Planes Drop Bombs on ISIS Forces

    U.S. Launches Airstrikes on ISIS Forces
    NBC News

    The United States dropped laser-guided bombs on ISIS artillery in Iraq on Friday, the Pentagon said — the beginning of airstrikes threatened a day earlier by President Barack Obama.

    The bombs, 500 pounds each, were dropped by two Navy F-18 fighter jets near Erbil, the strategically important city that serves as the Kurdish capital, and where the United States has a consulate. ISIS was using the artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil, the Pentagon said.

    The strikes marked a return to U.S. military engagement in Iraq, three years after Obama removed U.S. forces.

    Obama, in a speech Thursday night from the White House, said that he was authorizing airstrikes to protect American interests in Iraq and drops of food and water for tens of thousands of refugees trapped by ISIS on a mountain in Iraq.

    Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday: “As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities.” ISIS and ISIL are acronyms to describe the same Islamic militant group.

  7. The Gospel Herald reported, via Free Republic:

    A prominent Christian leader of the Chaldean community unveiled the “systematic beheading of children” and other horrendous crimes committed by ISIS. He said that the Sunni extremists are committing genocide against Christians in Iraq and with the aim to instill the Sharia Law as the law of the land.

    In the interview with CNN’s Jonathan Mann, Chaldean-American businessman Mark Arabo said that the “world hasn’t seen an evil like this for generations.”

    “There is a park in Mosul, where [ISIS] they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick and have them in the park,” he explained. “More children are getting beheaded, mothers are getting raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.”

    Speaking from San Diego over Skype, Arabo called for the international community to offer asylum to the more than 300,000 Christians fleeing and living in neighboring cities.

  8. Two F-18's from the George H.W. Bush took out a couple of artillery units that were firing, and were within range of our personnel in Erbil.

    1. Well, so far, the "Obama Doctrine" is pretty simple -

      Stay off the mountain, and lay off Erbil.

      Let's see if it can stay that non-complicated.