Art by Emma Moore
by Channa Childs, Managing Editor
The global community is on red alert once again. This time by an insurgent group based in the Middle East known by many names: Da’esh, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levent), and, most commonly, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Since the inception of the Syrian Civil War, these terrorists have gained a substantial territorial foothold in Syria along with control of some citizens, and governments and civilians worldwide are taking notice.
Many Central students, including senior, Audrey Glover, are among the people watching the developments of this international crisis.
“It’s shocking to hear about the things that they’re doing globally, and it just goes to show how terrorism didn’t end with the death of Osama Bin Laden,” she said.
The international community is expressing this same sentiment. The United Nations has publicly declared that the group has committed foul human rights abuses. United States members of the press and ISIS captives James Foley and Steven Sotloff were prime examples of such cruel behavior. ISIS attempted to extort ransom from the U.S. government and these men’s families; unfortunately, when they did not receive the requested sums, both were beheaded on video publicized by the organization.
“In all reality, it was senseless. Unfortunately that is how most of our world is today, deaths to those who don’t deserve it,” senior Jacoby Clark said.
Foley and Sotloff were only two targets of ISIS’s many ransom demands. While the U.S. has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, the French government has paid the ransom for their captured citizens. The only weapon in the American government’s arsenal is attempting rescues. This leaves many citizens anxious about the safety the government can guarantee, and more importantly, if the Obama administration is responding sufficiently.
In a televised address from the White House, President Obama reacted to these fears. This speech was given on Sept. 10, the day before the 13th anniversary of the deaths of 2753 Americans by a similar terrorist group, Al-Qaeda. Just like President Bush’s emphatic address shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, President Obama vowed to take harsh action against the group.
“Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” President Obama said. “We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.”
His plan of vigilantism is four-pronged. He announced that airstrikes will be more than a means of providing humanitarian aid, as they are currently. Air strikes in nations infiltrated by ISIS will also be concentrated tools against ISIS forces. Furthermore, 475 U.S. troops (not in combat roles) will be sent to aid the Iraqi fight against ISIS. Additionally, he voiced the need to improve intelligence and undermine their fiscal security.
Senior Jalesa Fearson expressed approval of the President’s proposed plan for action with ISIS.
“President Obama’s plan is acceptable and it sounds good. But it’s one of those plans that you have to execute and then hope for a good outcome,” Jalesa said.
Senior Gretchen Harrison also said that action was necessary by comparing the need to get involved to an annual flu shot.
“It’s better to get a small dose of what the group can do and fight off the bad guys now than to ignore the problem and let them gain more and more power to potentially do more harm in the future,” Gretchen said.
ISIS has gained a major fortune quite rapidly too. It is estimated that they are worth $500 million, more than any other contemporary terrorist group. The Council of Foreign Relations said that their money primarily comes from various criminal acts like “smuggling and extortion.” A report by CNN correspondent Randi Kaye determined that several other dishonest factors contribute to their financing. The group took control of some Syrian oil fields, then sold the product back to the Syrian government. They also did this with electricity. Private donors in other countries are also believed to contribute to their budget.
Social Media Presence and Training Camps
Not only do they have financial influence, but they also have a substantial social media presence. The group’s motto, “remaining and expanding,” is eerily visible on the internet. Recently, members of ISIS used Twitter to promote Sotloff’s beheading. Many videos and photos have been posted of their activities as well. Most alarming are images and tales from the ISIS training camps. As reported by a Syrian news outlet, children are the targets of these programs and parents have no choice in the matter. The homework of children in a Raqqa summer camp is to practice decapitation on a doll.
“It is inhumane to start teaching a child hatred at an early age,” senior Yvonne Dominguez said. “I find it horrible that they would use children as a weapon against us.”
Not a Muslim Group
In light of the horror of ISIS, the President was sure to clarify a key difference between ISIS and members of the Islamic faith.
“No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way,” President Obama said.
“It’s nice to know that if nothing else, our government is trying to protect Muslims around the world. That statement does so much to prevent widespread ‘islamophobia’,” Jalesa said.