Sunday, March 13, 2016

Leaked Daesh Documents Really, Really Boring

Daesh, the Islamic State group currently waging a civil war in Iraq and Syria, has shown itself to be pretty effective at managing propaganda, portraying itself as an organization of religious purists fighting for their Islamic faith. However, continuing with Friday's "banality of evil" theme - or alleged evil, in the case of the Bohemian Grove - I came across this article posted on the aptly-named website War is Boring.

According to the article, a cache of leaked Daesh documents show the group to be little more than another petty bureaucracy. Not only that, despite the image put forth of a principled band of holy warriors, it seems that the group's recruiters did not particularly care how well new recruits understood Islam or how obedient to the faith they appeared to be. Much of the time, the questions regarding Sharia law and religious obedience were simply left blank.

The bulk of the files are personnel documents, a kind of job application or file a recruiter fills out when a fighter first joins Daesh. It’s basic — just 23 questions that tells readers all about the new recruit.

Name, address, blood type and birthday are all required. So is information about the wannabe jihadi’s family. The Islamic State also wants to know how its recruits made their way into the Caliphate, which routes they took and who recruited them.

The more interesting questions come later when the registrar must explain the applicant’s level of understanding of Sharia law, how obedient they appear and what special skills they possess. The people doing the paperwork often left these spaces blank.

Which is hilarious and humanizing. I immediately imagined two normal schmucks sitting at a table in a dry desert town. “Have you heard of Sharia?” the interviewer asks.

“No,” the other replies. “But I want to fight.”

“That’s OK,” the first responds. “I’ll just put you down as a ‘beginner.’”

So it would seem that in the end, Daesh is just another fighting force trying to carve out their own piece of the Middle East. The leaders of the group may consider it the vanguard of a new Islamic Caliphate, but as far as the recruits doing the actual fighting, how they see Daesh is anyone's guess. The personnel files sure don't help to make much sense of their attitudes, though the recruiters themselves don't seem to care much about who they're bringing in. I suppose they must have quotas or something, which override any real principles.

It leaves me wondering if all of Daesh's atrocities are simply a giant version of the Milgram experiment, in which the foot soldiers go about following orders without question because their commanders absolve them of all responsibility. It's especially easy to tell people that their religion demands they kill a bunch of people if they don't actually understand what their religion has to say about it.

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