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Russia bigger threat to America than ISIS? Dangerous case made on false facts

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia. He has written for RT since 2014. Before moving to Russia, Bryan worked for The Irish Independent, the Evening Herald, Ireland on Sunday, and The Irish Daily Mail. Follow him on Twitter @27khv

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia. He has written for RT since 2014. Before moving to Russia, Bryan worked for The Irish Independent, the Evening Herald, Ireland on Sunday, and The Irish Daily Mail. Follow him on Twitter @27khv

Russia bigger threat to America than ISIS? Dangerous case made on false facts
John McCain’s ridiculous assertion that Russia is a bigger threat to America than Islamic State is creeping into the mainstream. However, it’s particularly depressing when journalists with experience of Moscow parrot this crazy canard.

Thursday last was something else. Early in the morning, media outlets reported horrific claims from Iraqi MP Vian Dakhil about how Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) had allegedly cooked a one-year old boy and fed him to his mother. Assuming the politician was telling the truth to Egyptian television, it’s a type of evil beyond comprehension. Needless to say, killing an innocent child is unspeakable in itself, but that sort of malevolence, depravity, and turpitude is off the scale.

According to Dakhil, the lady concerned is a Yazidi. An ethnic group, neither Arab nor Muslim, which is being brutalized and wiped out by IS. The headbangers massacre Yazidi menfolk and keep the women and children as sex slaves because they consider them an inferior race of devil worshippers, or, to borrow a German phrase, they see Yazidis as “untermensch.”

This term is useful here because, as noted by others, the kind of wickedness and degeneracy practiced by Islamic State has plenty of parallels with Nazi Germany, a regime and ideology that also terrorized minorities it considered impure and beneath its own debauched definition of superiority. 

Horrible Crimes

This was particularly so in the case of the Jews. In the full expanse of human history, few, if any, ethnicities have received treatment like that meted out to the Jewish victims of German lunacy – a campaign of wickedness and slaughter that is still difficult to contemplate and fathom around three quarters of a century later.

For this reason, a video I received a few hours after viewing Dakhil’s interview left me crestfallen. And the fact that it was recorded at the American Jewish Congress’ 2017 Global Forum made it even more disappointing. 

During a panel debate on “Power, Politics, and Putin Russia’s Role in Today’s World Order,” Russia-born, American-raised journalist Julia Ioffe made some amazingly ignorant remarks that betrayed a badly askew moral compass and a craven absence of simple decency.

For context, Ioffe was replying to statements made by fellow participant Professor Stephen Cohen, who had argued that when Barack Obama said he was fighting IS, the crazies were actually gaining more territory. Cohen felt this proved that America’s real objective in Syria is to remove Bashar Assad as president, rather than to wipe out Islamic State. He illustrated this by referencing Russia’s destruction of IS’ chief cash generator: an oil distribution network via Turkey that Washington had ignored.

“I just fundamentally don’t agree that ISIS is the biggest threat to the US. If anything, Russia is a far, far bigger threat to the US. What is ISIS going to do? They are going to kill a few dozen here and a few dozen people there,” Ioffe contended. “That’s horrible. But they don’t have nuclear weapons like Russia. They don’t have a massive ground army like Russia,” she said.

Well, hold it right there. Imagine if FDR had decided Soviet communism was a greater danger than German fascism in the 1940’s because the Nazi’s were only “killing a few Jews.” It’s fair to say a good many of the people at the American Jewish Congress’ event might never have been born, perhaps including Ioffe herself, as it’s hard to imagine many Russian Jews surviving Hitler’s forces in an occupied Russia.

Then there’s the nuclear issue. Firstly, Russia, unlike America, has never dropped a nuke in combat and regards its arsenal as a deterrent. Indeed, since the 1950’s, a nuclear strike from either Moscow or Washington has always been seen by both sides as recipe for mutually assured destruction. In fact, it was that very understanding which prevented the Cold War from turning hot.

It has also long been accepted by military and intelligence communities across the G20 that the likelihood of a nuclear attack carried out by a rogue actor with a dirty bomb is much greater than the prospect of a first-strike launched by one major power against another. There have been multiple, credible, reports suggesting that Islamic State is seeking nuclear material to make a such a bomb

In addition, let’s not forget the remarks about Russia’s “massive ground army,” because it’s hard to imagine how this could be a realistic threat to America. First off, the US armed forces have around double the personnel of their Russian peers. Then there’s the logistical impracticality of a smaller army mounting a successful invasion on another continent separated by an ocean on either side (an attack via Alaska would need to cross Canada first).

Strange Logic

“ISIS never has been and never will be an existential threat to the US. And when you, when was this, a year and a half ago, I was in a refugee camp in Germany talking to Syrian refugees, and there was a not a single refugee there who was fleeing ISIS territory. They were all fleeing Assad’s territory,” she continued.

“ISIS exists because Assad exists. Terrorism in Syria exists because Assad exists,” Ioffe went on, adding “and keeping up, propping up, Assad feeds the terrorism beast inside Syria.”

Now, whatever about principles, there are a number of basic factual errors here. For starters, the reason Ioffe didn’t meet any refugees running from IS is that not many can escape their territory. Given the well documented descriptions of life under their jurisdiction, it’s probably not for want of hoping.

It’s also incorrect to say that “ISIS exists because Assad exists” when the organization was actually founded in 1999 by Jordanian radical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate of Osama Bin Laden. The group’s “breakthrough” came during the Iraqi Insurgency prompted by America and Britain’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. Indeed, by 2006, an “Islamic State of Iraq” had been formed, long before the “regime change” project targeting Assad took hold. So, it’s more accurate to say that “ISIS exists because of Washington’s actions.”

And let’s circle back to Ioffe’s flippant “a dozen here, a dozen there” reference concerning the victims of Islamic State. Notwithstanding how the terror group has murdered tens of thousands of innocents around the world, there is a critical issue to consider – how IS’ entire philosophy is that of an apocalyptic cult set on world destruction as a way to heavenly salvation. This group wants to literally annihilate or enslave everyone who does not do as it says.

So far, we have seen attacks targeting our bars and bridges and airports and sea-side promenades, with small armies now having to patrol formerly safe spaces across western Europe, Russia, and North America. In this, IS is targeting our very freedom and way of life.

It’s also worth noting that the Russian government has never launched a military or terrorist attack on the US homeland, but Islamic State, and Al Qaeda which spawned it, have together killed a lot of Americans on American soil.  

Dubious Connections

Furthermore, to say “terrorism in Syria exists because Assad exists” is very similar to what George Bush was saying around a decade and a half ago about Saddam Hussein. Loose talk that led to a catastrophe. And who was his main speechwriter at the time? Only one David Frum, now a senior editor at The Atlantic, a magazine ultimately edited by Jeffrey Goldberg, one of the loudest promoters of Bush’s ill-fated war.

Incidentally, Julia Ioffe joined The Atlantic some time ago and has clearly been swallowing the mania of her higher-ups. This has apparently led to the journal’s toxic neoconservative ideology becoming fused with her long-standing hostility towards Russia, making her a sort of next generation answer to John McCain.

Perhaps some of her grievances towards her birthplace are justified, but, in her haste to bash everything Russian, Ioffe has exposed colossal empty-headedness, not to mention a severe lack of conscientious thought.

Islamic State is an unimaginable evil, and to rate Russia more heinous than these craven psychopaths is the worst form of baseless hysteria and downright bigotry. Furthermore, as a journalist who reported from Moscow for many years, she should be aware of genuine Russian fears about jihadis and radical Islamism. But that’s the whole point – Ioffe most likely fully understands this anxiety but chooses to discount it to further her agenda and that of her employers.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.