Here’s a Read That Very Well May Not Be Worth Your While.
What to read or what not to read—that is the question.
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS was recently awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for general Non-Fiction. With receipt of such high honor combined with its recent release in paperback, this book is garnering lots of attention among those interested in the subject.
The author, Joby Warrick, has been hailed as one of America’s leading national security reporters, winning multiple Pulitzer Prizes. With his years of experience covering the Middle East, diplomacy, the intelligence community, and nuclear proliferation, I expected this book to be an authoritative source on the subject of ISIS.
The page turning narrative reads like a fictional story with plenty of interesting information about its central character, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. But I came away from reading this book thinking the author had side-stepped the real issues, such as, how Bagdadi (the Caliphate and ISIS leader) came to power, who supports this movement, origin of the movement (did Al Qaeda in Iraq become ISIS or are they different), and critically, why are other Muslim nations not fighting back?
If these are your questions, you won’t find the answers in this book. The truth is…this book is hardly about ISIS at all.
If instead you are interested in the back-story of Zarqawi and a narrative that continues to blame the Bush Administration, by all means, read it. But let me first point out a glaring problem that underpins the whole story (I’m surprised this got by the editor).
Inexplicably, Warrick underscores how the Bush Administration used Zarqawi and overstated his importance—but proceeds to do the exact same thing in the pages of his book.
Perhaps the Bush Administration did misrepresent his importance in Al Qaeda to create a narrative linking events in Iraq to 9/11. But then the author does precisely that by linking the U.S. invasion to the rise of ISIS, and writes an entire ISIS book about Zarqawi—who was killed by a drone strike in 2006–before the ISIS of today was even in existence. Both narratives are inaccurate and dishonest. The agendas are different, but the methods are nearly identical.
This book also fails to address critical factors in the rise of ISIS, namely, who is supplying the weapons and money? While we know ISIS is relying on oil revenues, who are the buyers and how are these transactions conducted? And how does this landlocked army, surrounded by hostile forces, continue to flourish and replenish their ranks – predominately with foreign fighters?
This is a New York Times / MSNBC version of events where the author leaves breadcrumbs throughout the book all trailing back to America as having a critical role in the creation of ISIS.
I find it highly unusual, perhaps even misleading, that the ideology behind the ISIS movement is not a central focus.
For example, if another country were invaded by a foreign power who then evacuated (as France was by Germany in WWII), would it cause the citizens of the invaded country (France) to begin bombing and beheading their fellow citizens once the invading power withdrew (Germany)?
Setting aside whether the invading country was right or wrong to do so, aren’t those fighting in the name of ISIS responsible for their own actions?
And, if so many people are willing to join ISIS, what does that say about the ideology and fundamental belief system that’s become a plague in this part of the world?