Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The short supply of common sense

Zack Beauchamp (Vox) exclaims, "As if the Syria and Iraq conflicts weren't bad enough, here's some more alarming news: the influx of foreign fighters, which is to say foreigners volunteering to fight for Sunni militant groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, has reached an all-time high: as many as 20,000. According to a new estimate from the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), no conflict since 1945 has ever attracted this many foreign fighters."

Now there are any number of ways you can respond to the above claim.

Maybe, for example, you're aware that the ICSR is seen by many as a center-right organization?  Or maybe you note what some Palestinian activists see as the ICSR's deliberate distortions in their 'studies'?  Maybe you point out the secretive nature of the ICSR when it comes to disclosing their funding?

The reality is you don't need to know any of that background, you just need to possess some common sense.

ICSR is not standing at the borders of Iraq and Syria with a mechanical counter asking each person crossing if they're fighters going into Iraq or Syria and if they're non-Iraqi or non-Syrian and then pressing the button on their little clickers.

How valid is the estimate?

Not very.

That's why the numbers go up and down even when it's the US government self-reporting -- or maybe especially when it's the US government self-reporting.

Beauchamp chooses to set aside common sense and to abandon a journalist's inherent skepticism to instead dance the dance the ICSR wants him to.

Let's hope they made it rain during Beauchamp's lap dance.

Not content with providing counts that they can't in any way verify (you'd have better luck with the International Organization for Migration analyzing satellite photos but even that -- which is still flawed -- would only capture movement and not the nationalities of those crossing borders), they -- and Beauchamp -- also want to tell you what's going to happen when these fighters return home.

See, they're seers.

They are all knowing.

They can tell you what happened and what's going to happen.

Maybe the ICSR is so secretive about its funding because their ability to foretell the future allows them to pick the winning lotto numbers as well?

If you're going to run with the conclusions -- questionable, though they are -- of the ICSR on more foreign fighters being in Iraq and Syria now than, say, July, then you need to run that train all the way to the logical stop.

Foreign fighters may have increased in Iraq and Syria.  I don't know.  They've failed to prove that this has taken place but it may have.

If it has, the logical conclusion is that US President Barack Obama's actions are the reason.

They were 'second string varsity' or whatever he called them before he went into his deep panic and, in August, began non-stop bombings.

As the world press -- especially the US -- played dumb, we pointed out daily that Barack's remarks were elevating Vladimir Putin to global leader.  The attacks from Barack and the administration were taking a figure many saw shrinking on the world stage and elevating him.

Putin is now Barack's rival.

Barack and the people who advise are deeply ignorant.

Time and again, what is at best a minor nuisance is instead elevated to world crisis by the actions and statements of Barack.

Maybe when the only thing topping your vanity is your insecurity, you're incapable of turning the other cheek or just ignoring an insult?

If I were the leader of a non-US country, I would be thrilled Barack was president of the United States because his insecurity and his vanity mean that he can always be played.

The following community sites -- plus Black Agenda Report, Susan's On the Edge, the Guardian and The Diane Rehm Show -- updated:

  •  The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.