The History Book Club discussion

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
This topic is about Black Flags
134 views
MIDDLE EAST > ARCHIVE - APRIL 2017 (KICKOFF APRIL 3RD) - Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS - DISCUSSION THREAD

Comments Showing 1-50 of 368 (368 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 31, 2017 07:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is the thread for the discussion of the April Book of the Month -Black Flags: The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick.

Black Flags The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick by Joby Warrick Joby Warrick

Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (2016), “A Best Book of 2015”—The New York Times, The Washington Post, People Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Kansas City Star, and Kirkus Reviews

About the Author:



JOBY WARRICK covers intelligence for the Washington Post, where he has been a reporter since 1996. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and has appeared on CNN, Fox, and PBS.

Note: A special spoiler GLOSSARY thread has been set up for all articles, web pages, videos, interviews which relate to this book that are not already featured videos. This way we can keep this non spoiler discussion thread relatively free of sundry postings related to the book so we can focus on the discussion of this book. There is so much here that we need the spoiler thread to not impact the topic questions and conversation. However, if you do not like spoilers - then do not visit the glossary spoiler thread until after you finish the book - it is up to you.

Here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 02:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
ABOUT BLACK FLAGS

WINNER OF THE 2016 PULITZER PRIZE FOR GENERAL NONFICTION


“A Best Book of 2015”—The New York Times, The Washington Post, People Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Kansas City Star, and Kirkus Reviews

In a thrilling dramatic narrative, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Joby Warrick traces how the strain of militant Islam behind ISIS first arose in a remote Jordanian prison and spread with the unwitting aid of two American presidents. Drawing on unique high-level access to CIA and Jordanian sources, Warrick weaves gripping, moment-by-moment operational details with the perspectives of diplomats and spies, generals and heads of state, many of whom foresaw a menace worse than al Qaeda and tried desperately to stop it. Black Flags is a brilliant and definitive history that reveals the long arc of today’s most dangerous extremist threat.


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 02:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Praise

Named a Best Book of 2015 by Michio Kakutani of The New York Times, The Washington Post, People Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Kansas City Star, and Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping. . . . Mr. Warrick has a gift for constructing narratives with a novelistic energy and detail, and in this volume, he creates the most revealing portrait yet laid out in a book of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the founding father of the organization that would become the Islamic State. . . . For readers interested in the roots of the Islamic State and the evil genius of its godfather, there is no better book to begin with than Black Flags.” —Michio Kakutani, The New York Times

“Warrick charts Zarqawi’s rise from booze-swilling Jordanian street tough to one of the most brutal jihadists in the world. He demonstrates how much the militants of the Islamic State owe to Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006—not only their ideology but even the color of the jumpsuits that prisoners wear in execution videos. The militants of ISIS, one of Warrick’s sources explains, are the ‘children of Zarqawi.’” —The New Yorker

“A revealing, riveting and exquisitely detailed account of the life and death of Zarqawi, the improbable terrorist mastermind, and the rise of the movement now known as the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A detailed, step-by-step narrative demonstrating how repeated miscalculations by the United States, Arab leaders and al-Qaeda wound up empowering the Islamic State. . . . Black Flags provides answers in this still-unfolding history of what happens when religious radicals try to outdo one another for the mantle of God’s favorite.” —Dallas Morning News

“Invaluable for anyone struggling to understand the gruesome excesses and inexplicable appeal of ISIS . . . [a] seminal book.” —Los Angeles Times

“Warrick’s book might be the most thorough and nuanced account of the birth and growth of ISIS published so far. Black Flags is full of personalities, but it keeps its gaze carefully focused on the wider arc of history.” —Boston Globe

“The sort of work every journalist would love to write and few can: a detailed and perceptive analysis that’s also a page-turner . . . necessary reading for anybody who wants to put Islamic State into the context of both contemporary jihadism and the long history of Muslim fundamentalism.” —Chicago Tribune

“[Black Flags] is clear and well-told, a good guide for those horrified by the group’s emergence but not familiar with every step of the crumbling of Iraq and Syria over the past dozen years. . . . [It] lays out in strong detail just how rough a neighborhood, both geographically and ideologically, the struggle against ISIS is taking place in.” —Associated Press

“Joby Warrick . . . [has] a great eye for memorable characters. In Black Flags he puts faces on the amorphous organizations we hear about all the time, namely ISIS and the CIA. Learning about the origins of ISIS is key to understanding the organization today—and key to understanding why we failed to halt ISIS’s growth.” —GQ.com

“Joby Warrick moves easily through the intelligence warrens of Washington and the shattered landscape of the Middle East to tell this insightful narrative of the rise of the Islamic State. Black Flags is an invaluable guide to an unfolding tragedy that must be understood before it can be ended.” —Lawrence Wright, author of Thirteen Days in September and The Looming Tower

“Joey Warrick is one of America’s leading national security reporters, so it’s no surprise that Black Flags is the most deeply reported and well-written account we have about ISIS and its terrorist army.” —Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad

“Joby Warrick weaves Black Flags with the tradecraft of a spy, the mind of an investigative reporter, and the pen of a novelist. The picture that emerges is sometimes hard to bear: of brutal ISIS torturers and Jordanian interrogators, of bumbling U.S. leaders, of American intelligence services that still can’t get it right quickly enough. We should all thank Warrick for telling a hard truth the government will not want to hear: how U.S. policies helped give birth to the so-called Islamic State.” —Dana Priest, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter and author of Top Secret America

“Drawing on his unrivaled sources and access, Joby Warrick has written a profoundly important and groundbreaking book, one that reads like a novel, riveting from the first page to the last. If you want to know the story behind ISIS, and all of us should, this is the book you must read.” —Martha Radiate, Chief Global Affairs Correspondent, ABC News, and author of The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family

“A page-turner and a flat-out great book. This is the inside account of how we ended up with the Islamic State, with one revelation after another. If you read one book on ISIS, this is it.” —Robert Baer, author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism

“Joby Warrick is an exceptional storyteller, and Black Flags is both illuminating and spellbinding. No book better explains the miscalculations, wrong turns, and bad luck that led to the rise of ISIS.” —Rick Atkinson, author of The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945

“[A] crisply written, chilling account. . . . Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Warrick confidently weaves a cohesive narrative from an array of players—American officials, CIA officers, Jordanian royalty and security operatives, religious figures, and terrorists—producing an important geopolitical overview with the grisly punch of true-crime nonfiction. . . . The author focuses on dramatic flashpoint and the roles of key players, creating an exciting tale with a rueful tone, emphasizing how the Iraq invasion’s folly birthed ISIS and created many missed opportunities to stop al-Zarqawi quickly.”
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Joby Warrick has written a penetrating and fascinating look at the birth and evolution of the world’s most violent terrorist network, ISIS, or ISIL. This is an eye-opening book. . . . The author tells his story through rich details and revealing anecdotes that bring you into the violent world of Islamic extremism. At times, you feel as if you’re sitting in a tent in a remote region of Iraq, watching and listening to al-Zarqawi as he claws his way to the top of the terrorist chain. . . . The writing is crisp, the reporting incredible, a combination of extensive digging and terrific use of sources.” —Buffalo News


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 31, 2017 07:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Excerpt:

PROLOGUE
Amman, Jordan, February 3, 2015

Just after nightfall, a warrant arrived at the city’s main women’s prison for the execution of Sajida al-Rishawi. The instructions had come from King Abdullah II himself, then in Washington on a state visit, and were transmitted from his private plane to the royal court in Jordan’s capital. A clerk relayed the message to the Interior Ministry and then to the prisons department, where it caused a stir. State executions are complicated affairs requiring many steps, yet the king’s wishes were explicit: the woman would face the gallows before the sun rose the next day.

The chief warden quickly made the trek to the cell where Rishawi had maintained a kind of self-imposed solitary confinement for close to a decade. The prisoner, forty-five now and no longer thin, spent most of her days watching television or reading a paperback Koran, seeing no one, and keeping whatever thoughts she had under the greasy, prison-issued hijab she always wore. She was not a stupid woman, yet she seemed perpetually disconnected from whatever was going on around her. "When will I be going home?" she asked her government-appointed lawyer during rare meetings in the months after she was sentenced to death. Eventually, even those visits stopped.

Now, when the warden sat her down to explain that she would die in the morning, Rashida nodded her assent but said nothing. If she cried or prayed or cursed, no one in the prison heard a word of it.

That she could face death was not a surprise to anyone. In 2006, a judge sentenced Rishawi to hang for her part in Jordan’s worst-ever terrorist attack: three simultaneous hotel bombings that killed sixty people, most of them guests at a wedding party. She was the suicide bomber who lived, an odd, heavy-browed woman made to pose awkwardly before TV cameras showing off the vest that had failed to explode. At one time, everyone in Amman knew her story, how this thirty-five-year-old unmarried Iraqi had agreed to wed a stranger so they could become a man-and-wife suicide team; how she panicked and ran; how she had wandered around the city’s northern suburbs in a taxi, lost, stopping passersby for directions, still wearing streaks of blood on her clothes and shoes.

But nearly ten years had passed. The hotels had been rebuilt and renamed, and Rishawi had vanished inside Jordan’s labyrinthine penal system. Within the Juwaida Women’s Prison, she wore a kind of faded notoriety, like a valuable museum piece that no one looks at anymore. Some of the older hands in the state security service called her "Zarqawi’s woman," a mocking reference to the infamous Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who ordered the hotel bombings. The younger ones barely remembered her at all.

Then, in the span of a month, everything changed. Zarqawi’s followers, it turned out, had not forgotten Rishawi. The terrorists had rebranded themselves over the years and were now known in Jordan by the Arabic acronym Daesh—in English, ISIS. And in January 2015, ISIS asked to have Rishawi back.

The demand for her release came in the middle of Jordan’s worst domestic crisis in years. A Jordanian air-force jet had crashed in Syria, and its young pilot had been captured alive by ISIS fighters. The group had broadcast photos of the frightened, nearly naked pilot being paraded around by grinning jihadists, some of them reaching out to embrace this great gift that Allah had dropped from the sky.

From the palace to the security agencies, the king and his advisers steeled themselves for even more awful news. Either the pilot would be publicly butchered by ISIS, they feared, or the terrorists would demand a terrible price for his ransom.

True to form, ISIS announced its decision in macabre fashion. Less than a week after the crash, the captured pilot’s family received a call at home, from the pilot’s own cell phone. On the other end, a stranger, speaking in Iraqi-accented Arabic, issued the group’s singular demand.

We want our sister Sajida, the caller said.

The same demand was repeated, along with several new ones, in a constantly shifting and mostly one-sided negotiation. All the requests were routed to the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Jordan’s intelligence service, and all eventually landed on the desk of the imposing forty-seven-year-old brigadier who ran the department’s counterterrorism unit. Even in an agency notorious for its toughness, Abu Haytham stood apart, a man with a burly street fighter’s physique and the personality of an anvil. He had battled ISIS in its many incarnations for years, and he had famously broken some of the group’s top operatives in interrogation. Zarqawi himself had taken several turns in Abu Haytham’s holding cell, and so had Sajida al-Rishawi, the woman ISIS was now seeking to free.

Outside of Jordan, the demand made little sense. Rishawi had no value as a fighter or a leader, or even as a symbol. She was known to have participated in exactly one terrorist attack, and she had botched it. Hardly "Zarqawi’s woman," she had never even met the man who ordered the strike. If ISIS hadn’t mentioned her name, she would likely have lived her remaining years quietly in prison, her execution indefinitely deferred for lack of any particular reason to carry it out.

But Abu Haytham understood. By invoking Rishawi’s name, the terrorists were reaching back to the group’s beginnings, back to a time before there was an ISIS, or a civil war in Syria; before the meltdown in Iraq that gave rise to the movement; even before the world had heard of a terrorist called Zarqawi. The Mukhabarat’s men had tried to keep this terrorist group from gaining a foothold. They had failed—sometimes through their own mistakes, more often because of the miscalculations of others. Now, Zarqawi’s jihadist movement had become a self-declared state, with territorial claims on two of Jordan’s borders. And Rishawi, the failed bomber, was one of many old scores that ISIS was ready to settle.

In summoning this forgotten ghost, ISIS was evoking one of the most horrifying nights in the country’s history, a moment seared into the memories of men of Abu Haytham’s generation, the former intelligence captains, investigators, and deputies who had since risen to lead the Mukhabarat. Once, Zarqawi had managed to strike directly at Jordan’s heart, and now, with the country’s pilot in their hands, ISIS was about to do it again.

---

Abu Haytham had been present that night. He could remember every detail of the crime for which Rishawi had been convicted and sentenced to hang. He could remember how the night had felt, the smell of blood and smoke, and the wailing of the injured.

Mostly he remembered the two girls.

They were cousins, ages nine and fourteen, and he knew their names: Lina and Riham. Local girls from Amman, out for a wedding party. They were both dressed in white, with small faces that were lovely and pale and perfectly serene. "Just like angels," he had thought.

They still wore the nearly identical lacy dresses their parents had bought for the party, and stylish shoes for dancing. Almost miraculously, from the neck up neither had suffered a scratch. When Abu Haytham first saw them, lying side by side on a board in those chaotic first moments at the hospital, he had wondered if they were sleeping. Injured, perhaps, but sedated and sleeping. Please, let them be sleeping, he had prayed.

But then he saw the terrible holes the shrapnel had made.

The girls would have been standing when it happened, as everyone was, whooping and clapping as the bride and groom prepared to make their entrance in the ballroom at Amman’s Radisson Hotel, which was lit up like a desert carnival on a cool mid-November evening. The newlyweds’ fathers, all big grins and rented tuxedos, had taken their places on the podium, and the Arabic band’s bleating woodwinds and throbbing drums had risen to a roar so loud that the hotel clerks in the lobby had to shout to be heard. The party was just reaching its gloriously noisy, sweaty, exuberant peak. No one appeared to have noticed two figures in dark coats who shuffled awkwardly near the doorway and then squeezed between the rows of cheering wedding guests toward the front of the ballroom.

There was a blinding flash, and then a sensation of everything falling—the ceiling, the walls, the floor. The shock wave knocked guests out of their beds on the hotel’s upper floors and blew out thick plate-glass doors in the lobby. A thunderclap, then silence. Then screams.

Only one of the bombs had gone off, but it cut through the ballroom like a swarm of flying razors. Hundreds of steel ball bearings, carefully and densely packed around the bomb’s core, sliced through wedding decorations, food trays, and upholstery. They splintered wooden tables and shattered marble tiles. They tore through evening gowns and fancy clutches, through suit jackets and crisp shirts, and through white, frilly dresses of the kind young girls wear to formal parties.

Abu Haytham, then a captain, was winding down another in a string of long shifts on that Wednesday in early November 2005. It was just before 9:00 p.m. when the first call came in, about an explosion of some kind at the Grand Hyatt across town. The early speculation was that a gas canister was to blame, but then came word of a second blast at the Days Inn Hotel, and then a third—reportedly far worse than the others—at the Radisson. Abu Haytham knew the place well. It was an Amman landmark, glitzy by Jordanian standards, perched on a hill and easily visible from most of the town, including from his own office building, nearly two miles away.

He raced to the hotel and pushed his way inside, past the rescue workers, the wailing survivors, and the recovered corpses that had been hauled out on luggage carts and deposited on the driveway. In the ballroom, through a haze of smoke and emergency lights, he could see more bodies. Some were sprawled haphazardly, as though flung by a giant. Others were missing limbs. On the smashed podium lay two crumpled forms in tuxedos. The fathers of both the bride and the groom had been near the bomber and died instantly.

Abu Haytham assembled teams that worked the three blast sites through the night, gathering whatever remnants they could find of the explosive devices, along with chunks of flesh that constituted the remains of three bombers. Only later, at the hospital, standing over a wooden slab in a makeshift morgue, was he overwhelmed by the horror of the evening: The broken bodies. The scores of wounded. The smell of blood and smoke. The girls, Lina and Riham, lying still in their torn white dresses. Abu Haytham, a doting father, had girls the same age.

"How," he said aloud, "does someone with a human heart do a thing like this?"

Just two days later came the news that one of the attackers—a woman—had survived and fled. A day after that, Sajida al-Rishawi sat in a chair in front of him.

She would surely know something, tied as she was to such an obviously important and well-planned mission. Where would the terrorists strike next? What plans were unfolding, perhaps at this very hour?

"I don’t know, I don’t know," the woman would occasionally manage, in a soft mumble. She repeated the line slowly, as though drugged.

Abu Haytham pleaded with her. He threatened. He appealed to her conscience, to religion, to Allah. Hours passed—crucial hours, he feared.

"How brainwashed you are!" he shouted at one point. "Why do you protect the people who put you up to this?"

Remainder of Prologue:
http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/boo...

Source: Penguin Random House


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 31, 2017 07:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Other Books by Joby Warrick

The Triple Agent The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA by Joby Warrick by Joby Warrick Joby Warrick


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii
List of Principal Characters xv
Maps of Key Locations xviii
Prologue 1 (message 4 has Prologue excerpt)

BOOK I: THE RISE OF ZARQAWI

1. "What kind of person can command with only his eyes?" 15
2. "Here was a real leader" 30
3. "A problem like that always comes back" 46
4. "The time for training is over" 62
5. "I did it for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi" 72
6. "This war is going to happen" 86
7. "Now his fame would extend throughout the world 95


BOOK II: IRAQ

8. "No longer a victory" 101
9. "So you guys think this is an emergency" 115
10. "Revolting is exactly what we want" 126
11. "It would surpass anything al-Qaeda did" 138
12. "The sheik of the slaughterers" 151
13. "It's hopeless there" 161
14. "Are you going to get him" 176
15. "This is our 9/11" 193
16. "Your end is close" 2016

BOOK III - ISIS

17. "The people want to topple the regime" - 223
18. "Where is this Islamic state of Iraq that you are talking about?" 239
19. "This is the state for which Zarqawi paved the way" 251
20. "The mood music started to change" 267
21. "There was no more hope after that" 281
22. "This is tribal revolution" 296


Epilogue 308
Acknowledgements 317
Notes 320
Index 336



message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 08:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Syllabus and Reading Schedule

WEEK ONE READING ASSIGNMENT - (xiii through page 85) - 4/3/17 - 4/9/17

Author's Note xiii
List of Principal Characters xv
Maps of Key Locations xviii
Prologue 1 (message 4 has Prologue excerpt)

BOOK I: THE RISE OF ZARQAWI

1. "What kind of person can command with only his eyes?" 15
2. "Here was a real leader" 30
3. "A problem like that always comes back" 46
4. "The time for training is over" 62
5. "I did it for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi" 72



message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 07, 2017 12:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Syllabus and Reading Schedule

WEEK TWO READING ASSIGNMENT - (86 through page 150) - 4/10/17 - 4/16/17

BOOK I: THE RISE OF ZARQAWI - CONTINUED

6. "This war is going to happen" 86
7. "Now his fame would extend throughout the world 95


BOOK II: IRAQ

8. "No longer a victory" 101
9. "So you guys think this is an emergency" 115
10. "Revolting is exactly what we want" 126
11. "It would surpass anything al-Qaeda did" 138



message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 08:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Syllabus and Reading Schedule

WEEK THREE READING ASSIGNMENT - (151 through page 238 ) - 4/17/17 - 4/23/17

BOOK II - IRAQ - CONTINUED

12. "The sheik of the slaughterers" 151
13. "It's hopeless there" 161
14. "Are you going to get him" 176
15. "This is our 9/11" 193
16. "Your end is close" 2016


BOOK III - ISIS

17. "The people want to topple the regime" - 223


message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 08:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Syllabus and Reading Schedule

WEEK FOUR READING ASSIGNMENT - (239 through page END ) - 4/24/17 - 4/30/17

BOOK III - ISIS - CONTINUED

18. "Where is this Islamic state of Iraq that you are talking about?" 239
19. "This is the state for which Zarqawi paved the way" 251
20. "The mood music started to change" 267
21. "There was no more hope after that" 281
22. "This is tribal revolution" 296


Epilogue 308
Acknowledgements 317
Notes 320
Index 336


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
All, I am opening this thread on April 3rd so that we can begin the Black Flags discussion - remember this is a single thread discussion so you must be careful about spoilers. We do not have this problem on a multi thread discussion.

However for my benefit and for everybody else's I am changing things a bit. If you are posting during the week of the reading schedule and you are only posting information about that week's reading and not going ahead - then you do not have to use the spoiler html. However, if you go ahead of the weekly reading and want to post ahead about some topic or page or quote that we have not been assigned yet and have not read - you are bound to use the spoiler html with the header or your post will be moved to the spoiler glossary thread.

At any time you can post on the spoiler glossary thread but on this discussion thread we are posting and staying with the assignments and not getting ahead if in fact you do not want to be bound to use the spoiler html.

So it is up to you. If you stay with the assignments and do not post about something ahead that is coming up - you do not have to use the spoiler html but if you don't and you get ahead or you want to talk about something expansive then you MUST use the spoiler html or post it on the glossary spoiler thread.


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Those of you who are going to read BLACK FLAGS. Use the spoiler html if you plan to post about pages ahead of the weekly discussion because this is a single thread discussion.

1. Read messages xxxxx and those messages shows you the rules for the BOTM discussion and how to do the spoiler html.

2. Message xxxxx actually shows you the spoiler html code. Use it on this thread if you plan to go ahead of the weekly assigned reading or if you become more expansive. You can post expansive material on the glossary thread with spoiler html but here you must use the spoiler html if you get ahead or become too expansive.

3. Where is the Table of Contents and the Weekly Reading Assignments? - Message(s) Six through Ten.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Remember the following:

Everyone is welcome but make sure to use the goodreads spoiler function if you get ahead of the assigned weekly pages.

If you come to the discussion after folks have finished reading it, please feel free to post your comments as we will always come back to the thread to discuss the book.

The rules

You must follow the rules of the History Book Club and also:

First rule of Book of the Month discussions:
Respect other people's opinions, no matter how controversial you think they may be.

Second rule of Book of the Month discussions:
Always, always Chapter/page mark and spoiler alert your posts if you are discussing parts of the book that are ahead of the pages assigned or if you have become expansive it your topics.

To do these spoilers, follows these easy steps:

Step 1. enclose the word spoiler in forward and back arrows; < >

Step 2. write your spoiler comments in

Step 3. enclose the word /spoiler in arrows as above, BUT NOTE the forward slash in front of the word. You must put that forward slash in.

Your spoiler should appear like this:
(view spoiler)

And please mark your spoiler clearly like this:

State a Chapter and page if you can.
EG: Chapter 24, page 154

Or say Up to Chapter *___ (*insert chapter number) if your comment is more broad and not from a single chapter.

Chapter 1, p. 23
(view spoiler)

If you are raising a question/issue for the group about the book, you don't need to put that in a spoiler, but if you are citing something specific, it might be good to use a spoiler.

By using spoilers, you don't ruin the experience of someone who is reading slower or started later or is not reading the assigned pages.

Thanks.


message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
All, we do not have to do citations regarding the book or the author being discussed during the book discussion on these discussion threads - nor do we have to cite any personage in the book being discussed while on the discussion threads related to this book.

However if we discuss folks outside the scope of the book or another book is cited which is not the book and author discussed then we do have to do that citation according to our citation rules. That makes it easier to not disrupt the discussion.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 11:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is the first week's assignment:

WEEK ONE READING ASSIGNMENT - (xiii through page 85) - 4/3/17 - 4/9/17

Author's Note xiii
List of Principal Characters xv
Maps of Key Locations xviii
Prologue 1 (message 4 has Prologue excerpt)

BOOK I: THE RISE OF ZARQAWI

1. "What kind of person can command with only his eyes?" 15
2. "Here was a real leader" 30
3. "A problem like that always comes back" 46
4. "The time for training is over" 62
5. "I did it for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi" 72


Chapter Overview and Summaries

Prologue

The Prologue discusses the events in Amman, Jordan, February 3, 2015 and what led to these events; also the difficult time that Jordanian King Abdullah II faced in Washington and his sense of a lack of adequate support to field the never ending influx of Syrian refugees and the lack of weapons to ward off ISIS, etc.

1. "What kind of person can command with only his eyes?"

Chapter One describes the opening details of the book and focuses on the most notorious of Jordan's prisons - the old fortress of al-Jaft - where troublesome men are forgotten. How did some of these men not stay forgotten?

2. "Here was a real leader"

Chapter Two observes the real leader among these "forgotten men" and why. One of the issues which allowed these men to be set free was the transition of King Abdullah after his father's death from cancer. The chapter describes the politics behind the scenes and the attempts on his father King Hussein's life.

3. "A problem like that always comes back"

Chapter Three discusses al-Zarqawi's new chosen vocation - to become an international honey merchant! Obviously the Mukhabarat had a few questions prior to his flight.

4. "The time for training is over"

Chapter Four begins on November 30, 1999. It is odd looking at these dates that ISIS and these terrorists have been at it for a long time and at the beginning it would have been easier for the world to stem the tide. The Jordanians' Mukhabarat were ever relentless and intercepted and tripped upon a wiretap with the phrase - "The time for training is over" and what that was to mean in terms of Iraq and the Americans.

5. "I did it for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi"

Chapter Five describes some of the mindless dedication of some of these terrorists who have no reason other than the above for what dastardly deeds they do to innocent people. In fact, according to al-Zarqawi - "the more revolting the better". Poor Lawrence Foley - all he did was work on clean water projects but he was an available target who lived without safeguards and his goings and comings were predictable - the only reasons for his being a target. Finding al-Zarqawi was the goal and by 2002 Nada Barcos and the US knew at least where he was. Proving a case would be more difficult.


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 05:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Discussion Topic One:

1. First, introduce yourself and what interested you about this book and its timeliness.

2. Second, the Prologue - discuss your first impressions of the book and the Prologue itself. Begin the discussion and interactions. This is your discussion and your learning experience so make the most of it.


H.M. King Abdullah Ibn Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

King Abdullah II 's remarks during 2017 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington - https://youtu.be/iJM4XD9wQgs

Queen Rania speaks to Christian Amanpour for 60 minutes
https://youtu.be/IUqzQzq-o4I

One-on-One With the Queen of Jordan
https://youtu.be/o9z2mUL5WaM

King Hussein of Jordan: Survival of a dynasty - Al Jazeera World - Part One:
https://youtu.be/2cvmFyD2fdk

King Hussein of Jordan: On A Knife Edge - Al Jazeera World - Part Two:
https://youtu.be/BEweh1dyrM8

Very interesting video showing a young King Abdullah and his father Hussein:
https://youtu.be/rCYJchah3kY


The late King Hussein of Jordan and his wife Queen Noor

Jordan crown prince loses title
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_eas...
Note: This was interesting - Hussein had four wives. Hussein's favorite was Hamzah son by Queen Noor but he was too young to take over when the king knew he had cancer - he told Abdullah - son by his second wife that he would be his successor but that his son would not be make king after him but that it should go to Prince Hamzah who was made crown prince by Hussein. Well Abdullah bides his time and then takes away his half brother's title has his successor.


Queen Noor of Jordan with her sons Hashim and Hamzah (who looks very much like his late father King Hussein)


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Discussion Topic Two:

1. What is the significance of the epigram?:

"I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life." - Khalid ibn a-Walid (seventh-century Islamic warrior, companion of Muhammad)

More:
https://www.britannica.com/biography/...


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 12:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod

Virginia and Larry Foley in Jordan in 2001. Photo courtesy of Virginia Foley.

This is rather poignant so I am posting here rather than on the glossary thread:

I Wanted to Know What Brought Them to Commit Murder’

Terrorism Survivor Virginia Foley:

With speeches of appreciation and affection, a group hug, and more than one tear, STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) came to a close. Participants from Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, Cambodia, and the United States gathered up pens and notebooks, group photos, and keys to their residence hall at Eastern Mennonite University, preparing to go home. Seven days of stories of trauma and lessons for healing were over June 20, 2006. After telling my own story and listening to others, I was tired. I was also sorry that this remarkable experience was now behind me.

My life as a U.S. Foreign Service spouse ended when shots rang out in Jordan on Oct. 28, 2002, and the killer of my husband ran around the corner of our house. I had no preparation for giving up Larry – my best friend, partner for 34 years, and the father of our three children. While on assignments for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in South America, Africa and the Middle East, we never saw ourselves as potential targets for terrorism. We thought of ourselves as symbols of America’s desire to improve the quality of others’ lives. After Larry’s death, I was unprepared for the onslaught of trauma I was about to receive at every level. My journey from Amman, Jordan, to STAR in Harrisonburg, Virginia, had been a long one.

"When personal trauma is not healed aggression and increased violence may be the result," STAR teaches.

Our family is one of several American families identified as victims of assassins recruited and paid for by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, a name which means father of Musab from the town of Zarka, Jordan. “Why don’t you hate us?” some Jordanians asked.

My answer is that Jordanians are victims too; they shared my grief, as did all who worked with Larry or who knew him. “We are all connected,” teaches Dr. Howard Zehr, frequently referred to as grandfather of the field of restorative justice. “Communities are impacted by crime, and in many cases should be considered stakeholders and secondary victims,” Zehr writes in his Little Book of Restorative Justice. Under restorative justice, both the needs of the victims and offenders must be considered and addressed.

My 35-year-old daughter Megan and I wrote to His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan, asking that the men who killed Larry not be executed. We did so not wanting to contribute to the cycle of violence that led to his murder. “When personal trauma is not healed,” STAR teaches, “aggression and increased violence may be the result.” This is true of societies as well as individuals. We heard this message in the stories told by Rwandan and Northern Ugandan participants in STAR. We have seen it in societies and cultures where violence seems to have no end. Unhealed trauma commonly leads to “justified aggression” and “dehumanization” of whomever/whatever is seen as the enemy. Yet there was another reason I didn’t want this killer, and his co-conspirators, executed. I wanted them to know that our family is not a plastic symbol for American policies, but real people. I also wanted to know who they were as real people and what happened in their lives that brought them to commit murder.

They were executed despite our appeals. We were prevented from partaking in the healing from a restorative justice process.

Criminal justice focuses on punishing the offender. Zarqawi is now dead, along with many of his recruits. His perpetuation of violence has ended on one level. So too has ended any opportunity for restitution or accountability, for victim participation in the justice process, for understanding why this man named Father of Musab made the choices he did. I am left with an overwhelming sadness. Restorative justice asks: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Who has an obligation to address these needs? Transformational justice asks: What circumstances and structures permitted this behavior and what measures can be taken to correct, prevent, or reduce future occurrences?

During the days after my husband brought me a cup of coffee and left for work – that day when the almost-innocent pop, pop, pop outside my window turned out to be the sounds of a gun – I was hardly prepared to think about restorative justice. Today I feel fortunate to have learned that the concept exists and is actually being practiced in New Zealand, Canada and even parts of the United States – in victim/offender meetings made possible upon the request of the victim and in circles where community and stakeholders can talk about “making things right.” If vengeance can’t heal our trauma, perhaps accountability can.

The support of family, of friends from all over the world and loved ones, of USAID and the U.S. State Department, of His Majesty King Abdullah and Her Majesty Queen Rania and other spokespersons for the Jordanian people, has given me strength to search for a perspective for my tragedy that might be helpful to others. STAR and restorative justice have provided a context for that perspective.

Reflection by Virginia Foley

Link and source: https://emu.edu/peacebuilder/summer07...
- Peacebuilder



More: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2...


message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 02, 2017 01:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Discussion Topic Three: (Also watch videos on main page)

1. Had the Iraq invasion not taken place and Saddam toppled - would ISIS have been able to get a strong hold in the Middle East and Iraq? Why or why not?

2. What have been some of the biggest policy plunders in the Middle East - specifically Iraq, Syria, Jordan and other places which may have fostered this group inadvertantly? What blame can be assumed by Cheney, Senior Bush, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Condeleeza Rice, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Michael Hayden, Robert Richer, George Tenet, Frederic Hof, L. Paul Bremer, Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, Chuck Hagel or any other American politicians, CIA, NSA or state department officials? Or Assad? Or Russia? Explain.

More: The Assad Files - The New Yorker - http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...

3. What specific blunders by Middle Eastern kings and leaders also contributed to this mess?

4. What does ISIS seek to gain and how are they different in philosophy and ideology from al Qaeda? How do these terrorist groups not represent Islam or the Muslim faith?

5. In 2009 should we have left a residual force or more of a residual force in Iraq - did President Obama make the right decision then - what was he worried about and did the Iraqis even want us to be there at that time - of course now we have the benefit of knowing what transpired and things have changed - but nonetheless what were the mistakes on both sides in 2009? Wasn't that decision taken out of his hands by agreements that George W. Bush had made with the Iraqi government? Was it Maliki? How did Maliki drive a wedge between the different groups after the US left? Did these groups that Maliki alienated start saying and believing - "Anybody but Maliki"? Haider al-Abadi is the prime minister since 2014? Has that made a difference in policy?

More: What we Left Behind (2014) - The New Yorker - http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouri_a...


Nouri al Maliki

More:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/201409...


message 20: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 06:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Quotes to discuss - Prologue - page 8

"Zarqawi's successors called themselves by different names before settling on ISIS - or simply the Islamic State. But they continued to refer to Zarquawi as the "mujadid sheikh," acknowledging the founder who had the audacity to believe he could redraw the maps of the Middle East. And, like Zarqawi, they believed their conquests would not end there.

In the prophetic passages of the Muslim holy texts known as the Hadith, Zarqawi saw his fate foretold. He and his men were the black clad soldiers of the whom the ancient scholars had written: "The black flags will come from the East, led by mighty men, with long hair and beards, their surnames taken from their home towns." These conquerors wound not merely reclaim the ancient Muslim lands. They also would be the instigators of the final cataclysmic struggle ending in the destruction of the West's great armies, in northern Syria."


a) What were your thoughts when reading this passage? Is death the end game for ISIS - is that their goal? How did they manufacture in their minds that they were going to be able to create a reality from some ancient prophecy and match themselves to that text? Did any one think this whole fabrication of theirs began from a fantasy? Zarqawi was not a learned man - but a thug who did many bad things and was a juvenile delinquent - why would these thugs believe that this was about them? Did that almost read like the creation of a cult like following?

b) What were your thoughts when you came across this passage?




message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 07:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Quote to discuss - Chapter One - page 24

Everyone at al-Jafr knew how Zarqawi worshipped his mother, how he became like a little boy whenever she visited. He would prepare for days, scrubbing his clothes in the sink and tidying up his corner of the cell. Some inmates knew about his love letters to her, and to his sisters. Scarcely a word was mentioned about Zarqawi' wife, Intisar, or their two children. But to his mother, and sisters wrote gushing notes adorned with poems and hand-drawn flowers in the margins.

a) What were your impressions of what the author wrote which seem diametrically opposed to the man who was a terrorist? I am sure that a psychiatrist would have a field day - but what kind of compartmentalization took place in this man's mind?

More:
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/w...


message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 07:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Quote to discuss - Chapter Two - page 36


King Abdullah - King Hussein's grandfather

"Hussein survived at least eighteen assassination attempts in his lifetime. He was just fifteen on the summer day in 1951 when his grandfather - Jordan's first king, Abdullah I - was shot to death by a Palestinian gunman as the two royals were visiting Jerusalem's al Aqsa Mosque. The young prince gave chase narrowly escaping death himself when the assassin turned and fired a bullet that deflected off a medal on his uniform, according to the palace's version of events. Later, his enemies would try ambushes, plane crashes, and even poison nasal drops, which Hussein discovered the he accidentally spilled the dispenser and watched in horror as the frothing liquid cut through the chrome on his bathroom fixtures. The king dodged death so many times that he took on an aura of invincibility. Jordanians would often say that Hussein possessed baraka - Allah's favor. The prospect that one of his sons could be equally blessed seemed unlikely."

a) Weren't you amazed that there were at least 18 attempts on Hussein's life? Why? How could he stay in the same country after all of that astonishes me. He had a good life and his life ended due to human conditions. It is a different world in the Middle East. What are your thoughts?


Al-Aqsa Mosque

More:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Aqsa...


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 02, 2017 05:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Quote to discuss - Chapter Three - page 60

"Abu Mutaz (not his name for his safety - intelligence officer) observed that Zarqawi would habitually lie about the most insignificant things, and he would stick to the false story even after being confronted with contrary evidence. His behavior was so baffling that Mukhabarat hired private psychiatrists to review his files and make an assessment. Though inconclusive, their review suggested that Zarqawi could suffer from a kind of multiple-personality disorder, one in which the subject's deep insecurities and shattering guilt battled with an outsized ego convinced of his own greatness.

"He had a hero complex and a guilt complex," Abu Mutaz said. "He wanted to be a hero and saw himself as a hero, even when he was a thug. But it was the guilt that made him so extreme."


a) What are the readers thoughts about Mutaz's and the private psychiatrists' assessments about Zawqawi and how do you think they would have assessed his successor Baghdati?

b) Why do so many of these young men recruits and others from democratic countries as well become pliable targets who are easily brainwashed into leaving their country and their friends and support system and attach themselves to certain disgrace, death and ignominy? In some way I can understand the Sunni and Shia situation because of some of the horrendous decisions made by others in Iraq and by Maliki himself - but I wonder who can understand the other?


Al Askari Mosque - Shrine of the 10th and 11th Shia Imams: Ali an-Naqi & Hasan al-Askari - Before the bombing in 2006, Samarra, Iraq


message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 02, 2017 06:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Quote to discuss - Chapter Four - page 71

"In the West, newspapers were beginning to speculate about whether America's government, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, was preparing for a possible second war against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Zarqawi, for one, believed the stories. In conversations with disheartened Islamists in the bleak months of 2002, he talked of the epic conflict still to come, and how he had been steered by destiny to precisely the right place for engaging the great enemy of Allah, according to Fu'ad Hasayn, a Jordanian journalist who met Zarqawi in prison and later penned a biography about the terrorist's leader's early years. At that moment, Bin Laden was on the run in Pakistan, and the Taliban rear guard was being chased by US commandos across the eastern mountains of Afghanistan. Yet the real showdown still lie ahead, Zarqawi predicted, in a country that had no history of serious religious militancy in at least a hundred years.

"Iraq, Zarqawi told friends, will be the forthcoming battle against the Americans"


a) If Saddam Hussein had not been toppled - would al Qaeda or ISIS have arisen or taken hold?

b) If Syria had not been left to its own devices would ISIS have been able to use this country for its own purposes indiscriminately?

c) Why after the US entered Iraq did a country with no serious religious militancy in at least a hundred years become militant?

d) Why and how has ISIS tried to bait the West into entering conflicts?

e) Mosul has proven difficult for forces to take over without the risk of human fatalities because ISIS uses these civilians as human shields with drones. Since this is the case - are human fatalities going to be a matter of course rather than an exception in this situation sad as that might be? What can the Allies and the folks fighting ISIS do to minimize the civilian fatalities in urban settings? How will the Iraqis know in Mosul who is ISIS and who is not?


Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's family mourned him in Amman, Jordan. The banner, left, says, "The wedding of the hero, Martyr Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Credit Nader Daoud/Associated Press

f) Do you think that the banner calling this terrorist a hero should have been allowed in Jordan after he was killed by a drone strike? Doesn't it show his family's true sentiments? What are your thoughts on this?


message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 02, 2017 10:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Quote to discuss - Chapter Five - page 84

"Abu Haytham listened intently, and then asked, again, the question that had confounded him since news of the murder first broke (Foley):"

"Why?"

"I did it," Suweid said, "for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi."


a) What did the readers think of that quote? Did you believe Suweid?

b) Was Zarqawi truly involved? Or do you believe what Suweid's lawyer said that it had been induced by torture?

c) What about the intercepted call between Suweid and his contact in Iraq, a man they identified as Mummer Yousef al-Jaghbeer, a known Zarqawi disciple who claimed when arrested that Zarqawi himself dispatched Suweid to Jordan with a $50,000 budget. Where did Zarqawi get this money? Who was financing these terrorists at the beginning? Do you believe that Zarqawi was responsible when usually ISIS or al Qaeda take responsibility and did not?


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 01, 2017 08:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
All I have completed all of the questions and set up for Week One. Please begin and go through the chapters and your reading and try your hand at answering the questions in order to start discussions among yourselves.

If you stay to the week one assigned pages and the questions above - you are fine and do not have to use the spoiler html. However if you go beyond page 85 which is the last page of Chapter Five then you have to use spoilers around your comments and put in a bolded heading indicating what chapter you are talking about.

For example:

Chapter Seven

(view spoiler)

Once I assign next week's reading then we can expand the number of pages - but right now for this week if you discuss anything beyond 85 - you have to use html period or go to the glossary thread.

Glossary thread:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 02, 2017 03:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
If there are other topics or quotes that you would like to discuss from the Prologue through the end of Chapter Five - please feel free to initiate your discussion thoughts and add a quote and page number or let us know what the topic is.

You are free to discuss anything in the book you would like from the Prologue though the end of Chapter Five without using html. But if you go beyond - during this upcoming week - you must follow the spoiler html policy strictly or post your comment on the glossary thread which is a spoiler thread. This is the discussion thread so it is not the spoiler thread. We are trying something new for the single thread discussions and seeing how this works out.

If it doesn't work out well - we will go back to the strict html spoiler policy for all posts on single thread discussions - we hope this works better for folks who are participating in the read. If not, this is an experiment.


message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
The discussion thread is open for this week's kickoff of this BOTM book (April 3rd) - please dive in and begin posting on this week's reading assignment.

WEEK ONE READING ASSIGNMENT - (xiii through page 85) - 4/3/17 - 4/9/17

Author's Note xiii
List of Principal Characters xv
Maps of Key Locations xviii
Prologue 1 (message 4 has Prologue excerpt)

BOOK I: THE RISE OF ZARQAWI

1. "What kind of person can command with only his eyes?" 15
2. "Here was a real leader" 30
3. "A problem like that always comes back" 46
4. "The time for training is over" 62
5. "I did it for al-Qaeda and for Zarqawi" 72



message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Folks I have posted everything for the first week's reading - now you need to start the discussion and someone needs to be brave to get things going.


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Post your hellos and start by taking a look at the discussion questions for each chapter and taking a stab at them. Do a brief intro and let us know your general impressions first of the Prologue


message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Hello all - let us know you are reading the book, and tell us your initial impressions.


message 32: by Savannah (new)

Savannah Jordan | 96 comments My name is Savannah Jordan. This book interested me because I believe the growth of radical Islam is necessitating an expansion of both our military and intelligence agencies. This in turn is placing a massive burden upon our finances. Hence, it is an enemy which may be the undoing of the USA.

I am on page 50 of the book. The book is extremely well written. A couple of statements made by the author indicate to me that he thinks the US should have contributed more to King Abdullah's fight against ISIS. Perhaps as I read more of the book this initial perception will be proven incorrect.


Harmke Hi everyone, I'm Harmke and I live in the Netherlands. Last year, I read an article from The Atlantic that explained what ISIS really wanted (I will share it in the glossary thread). It was the first time I read something that was really trying to explain this group of terrorists. I hope this book will learn me more.

My first impressions: I agree with Savannah, the book is very well written, you don't have to know a lot in advance.

Initial thoughts after reading the prologue: ISIS could emerge because of a big bunch of coincidences and - looking back - wrong judgements and Zarqawi optimally using them.


message 34: by Michael (last edited Apr 03, 2017 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Michael (michaelbl) | 407 comments My name is Michael Blackmer. I was born and raised in Montana, USA but have completed my education and spent my adult work life in Canada. My wife is Albertan (hence the desire to stay here). Being an American citizen and a resident of Canada, I think, gives a bit of a unique take on event around the globe and particularly the war on terror.

My interest in ISIS has existed since they made their debut on the nightly news. Black Flags is my second read on the topic. I believe that we need to know this enemy like none other because their ideology would have the strike wherever they have opportunity including North America. Secondly, as a member of the clergy I am concerned that all Muslim believers are at risk of being labelled radical as a result of what ISIS does when in reality I believe ISIS to be an extremely radical version of Islam to the point that they really do not reflect true Islam. They have killed and abused as many Muslims as they have anyone else. Most of our Muslim neighbors here would have the same opinion of ISIS as anyone else on our street. We need to know our enemy and identify our friend.

The first book I read about ISIS was:
Rise of ISIS A Threat We Can't Ignore by Jay Sekulow by Jay Sekulow (no photo)


message 35: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 19 comments Hi everyone! I got interested in the book because of all the praise it received and because I wanted to know more about ISIS and how it developed. ISIS is scary, because it seems they can recruit anybody anywhere. How did they manage to radicalize (young) men that were born and bred in Germany, France or the United Kingdom (et al.) to perform terror attacks in their own countries? I think the term "global terrorism" has been used several times in reference to ISIS, because this is no terrorism that's focused on one location like e.g. ETA or the IRA. The terror attacks are no longer meticulously planned operations (like it still would have been with Al-Quaeda), but instead are performed by people who are willing to turn themselves into a lethal weapon by using whatever is available.
Is all this really down to just one charismatic leader? Will religious fundamentalism be enough to turn men into killing machines?
And how much are European and US politics to blame for the rise of terrorist groups in the Middle East?
Up to now I have only read the prologue, but it was so well written, that I definitely will carry on reading asap.
(Plus I have to read through all the extensive material Bentley was so kind to provide in this thread!)


Michael (michaelbl) | 407 comments Prologue:

Jordanian King's reaction to the treatment of their pilot was I believe fair. My impression is that ISIS had no intention to release the pilot. In turn one of theirs already sentenced to death was executed. ISIS seems to get their kicks showboating in front of the cameras. They want the rest of the world emotionally and psychologically unbalanced. This is perhaps the largest weapon in their arsenal.


message 37: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 03, 2017 01:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Savannah wrote: "My name is Savannah Jordan. This book interested me because I believe the growth of radical Islam is necessitating an expansion of both our military and intelligence agencies. This in turn is place..."

I think we should have too. And Abdullah has had a lot on his hands with ISIS - Welcome Savannah Jordan - glad to have you with us. Take a look at the questions for each chapter including the Prologue and your answers and probing should spur an interesting conversation.


message 38: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Harmke wrote: "Hi everyone, I'm Harmke and I live in the Netherlands. Last year, I read an article from The Atlantic that explained what ISIS really wanted (I will share it in the glossary thread). It was the fir..."

Hello Harmke - a lot of foreign policy plunders and the Iraq invasion all started us down this path. Thank you for sharing the article.

The book is extremely well written and moves you along.

Take a look at the questions for each chapter and try to respond to stimulate a discussion between all of you.


message 39: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "My name is Michael Blackmer. I was born and raised in Montana, USA but have completed my education and spent my adult work life in Canada. My wife is Albertan (hence the desire to stay here). Being..."

Welcome Michael - delighted to have you join us. I did not know you were born and raised in Montana - thought you were always a Canadian.

I agree that ISIS wants a global conflagration as had been demonstrated by their lone wolf or small team operations which have hurt so many innocent people - men, women, children and students from every walk of life who did not have to have this happen to them. Very cruel and evil.

Yes, I also agree thankfully that they do not represent Islam but have attracted Sunnis in Iraq to their cause in these beginning chapters through I think political blunders on the part of the Bush administration and specifically Cheney although there was enough blame to go around with others doing too little to help out allies. Tough situation.

Yes I also agree about knowing who your friends are and I think the United States needs to be truer to those friends lately and ditch the politics. You make some very good points about also knowing your enemies. ISIS is nobody's friend and I wonder if folks will realize that in time. I think they have started to.


message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 03, 2017 03:23PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Eva you raise some good questions - but first welcome welcome from Germany.

I have asked the same questions in the discussion topics so I hope that we can get a discussion going on this very topic. How do they radicalize affluent foreigners - folks in many instances who had every advantage - to murder their own. I cannot fathom it. I added to the glossary a documentary about one of their internet finds from the UK who was a normal loved kid who somehow through the computer left his family and was killed in a drone strike. He had been responsible for inspiring others on the computer to do terrible things. He had a loving family who were devastated at what he did.
Nobody was more shocked that they were and they are heartbroken.

Do they feel that they do not belong? And now they belong to a "group" which to me seems more like a cult.

Eva you are also correct about these folks being willing to die and turns themselves into lethal weapons as if nothing else mattered in their lives not even their own life or their fellow countrymen's.

So sad what happened in the UK recently - but Paris, Germany, Belgium, the US have all suffered - this is not just a Middle East problem.

It is sad to say but when you have a very bad weed which has taken over your garden because of your neglect - you sometimes have to root everything out and throw away what you had and start anew with new soil, plants, and environment. It is going to be very difficult in a city like Mosol for example now to root out who is ISIS and who is not. Everyone complains about the civilian casualties and it is most unfortunate but I do not think that folks understand how difficult urban warfare is with a cult like group like ISIS which can blend in.

I think we will learn more about their tactics as we read on.

I hope that everybody jumps into the discussion and responds to the topic questions or comes up with some of their own because there is a lot to talk about.

You ask about one charismatic leader - remember Zarqawi was killed finally in 2006 and then Baghdati stepped in (supposedly killed on April 1st) and it became even bigger so this ideology or cult or whatever you want to call ISIS- has brainwashed a number of folks and a host of disillusioned disenfranchised Iraqis - mostly Sunnis due to what happened to them after Saddam Hussein's demise. They have a lot of money - where are they getting it and why can't it be stopped. Al-Qaeda has been slowed down since Bin Laden's death and keeping the pressure on them has helped. But countries cannot harbor these terrorists because it just spawns a new replacement in the ranks.

As far as European and US politics - you have to read it and weep and the stupidity or duplicity of some of these folks. Cheney in particular comes to mind.


message 41: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 03, 2017 04:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Prologue:

Jordanian King's reaction to the treatment of their pilot was I believe fair. My impression is that ISIS had no intention to release the pilot. In turn one of theirs already sentenced to..."


You are right and that is why they want to horrify and revolt the folks who watch. They want you to believe that there is nothing that they would not do to you - no suffering that they would not cause and that they are ruthless to the core. All true - but they use the media and the internet to foster this horror. Their intent in Iraq was always to start a civil war so that they could drag in the Americans and take over the country due to in fighting and sectarian violence - well they almost succeeded at that. And they capitalized on Saddam Hussein's ouster as well as Assad's problems (these folks are not saints and of course Saddam is no longer around) - once these strongmen were immobilized - it made it easier for them. In fact, both of these folks look like statesmen in comparison to ISIS and that is shocking in and of itself.


message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 04, 2017 06:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Roadmap to Discussion Questions for Week One Assignment

a) Start by posting your intro and responding to Discussion Question One - message 16 (Prologue)

b) Message 17 - discussion of the Epigram

c) Message 19 - Discussion Question 3 - some great general questions and topics for book

d) Message 20 - Prologue Quote discussion

e) Message 21 - Chapter One

f) Message 22 - Chapter Two

g) Message 23 - Chapter Three

h) Message 24 - Chapter Four

i) Message 25 - Chapter Five

Note: There are three main page videos which are great to watch and I have added a bunch of stuff and photos as I did the set up for week one so take a look at all of those links, videos, and photos.

Additionally I have added a lot to the glossary in order to not clutter this thread which should be helpful.

But most importantly raise your own questions and post responses to each other - Eva for example posed some really interesting questions which I asked myself - great to talk about.


Michael (michaelbl) | 407 comments Discussion Topic Two:

1. What is the significance of the epigram?:

"I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life." - Khalid ibn a-Walid (seventh-century Islamic warrior, companion of Muhammad)

For me it brings the idea of things we have seen in other events or eras of history. Perhaps ideologies like Japan's Bushido Code. For the Japanese soldier to surrender was to be dishonored (lose face). Death was preferable. I think the above quote has the same sort of ideology that the men that were being brought into the fight by Khalid were totally prepared in the extreme to die for the cause before them because the cause was seen as holy and right. The reward was more than worth the cost of laying down ones life.

I think there are elements of this that we see today as ISIS recruits from various sources around the globe.


Michael (michaelbl) | 407 comments Bentley in responding to Eva wrote: "Do they feel that they do not belong? And now they belong to a "group" which to me seems more like a cult." This was in response to the question of how ISIS manages to recruit for diverse sources of people.

In some ways the question is one of ideology. We have seen throughout history that certain groups will flock to an ideology that resonates with them. Beliefs that they are fanatical about regardless of the holes in the thinking and teaching that those of out on the outside see looking as we look in with our perspective. Some honestly want the rewards that are promised.

I also wonder if ISIS is, at times, using similar tactics to those used to recruit child soldiers. Threatening to harm family if the "candidate" does not tow the line.


message 45: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 04, 2017 02:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Discussion Topic Two:

1. What is the significance of the epigram?:

"I bring the men who desire death as ardently as you desire life." - Khalid ibn a-Walid (seventh-century Islamic warrior, company..."



Michael, what an excellent excellent explanation - I was not aware of the Japanese Bushido Code but you did see that in World War II where the Japanese soldiers were found in caves and in hold ups still fighting the war after it had been over - not wanting to surrender or even accept the end of the battle.


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 04, 2017 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Michael wrote: "Bentley in responding to Eva wrote: "Do they feel that they do not belong? And now they belong to a "group" which to me seems more like a cult." This was in response to the question of how ISIS man..."

Michael some very interesting points you bring up which I would certainly like to discuss with other members too.

Children are very vulnerable and do not want any harm to come to their family and it is unbelievable that they would exploit that fear - but they have.

I worry about ideology in this country too of late with the Trumpeters as I call them - a lot of good people caught up in the propaganda of not taking the time to separate fact from fiction. When someone promises you the world and everything is going to be good with no sacrifices for them or you - there is something wrong. People want to believe that someone is going to be able to solve everything.

But this is a bit different - they are not promising them a rose garden - they are promising certain death and that seems to some of these folks like they are promising them that they are going to win a lottery. That is what I do not get - leaving their families, their friends, their way of life for what? And who in their right mind straps on one of those vests? There has to be a certain amount of brainwashing which is cult like.


message 47: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 04, 2017 05:54PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Today's situation has a great deal to do with the book and the part of the world and conflict we are discussing

Today - Syria - which is constantly in the news for all of the wrong reasons is once again in the middle of it again - (location of news is from Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province) - it has been reported that there was a gas or chemical attack of some kind (Idlib) - which is outrageous. It is odd but it comes just a day or so after Haley and the Trump administration talked about the removal of Assad not being the top priority - McCain was ballistic about the situation today. The photos are very upsetting. Assad blames the rebels and an explosion at some rebel poison gas factory and denies involvement. The Russians state that nobody carried out air strikes in the area. However the report is as follows: Airstrikes hit the rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on Tuesday morning, giving off a "poisonous gas," according to Anas al-Diab, an activist with the Aleppo Media Center.

Were there planes in the area? Were they Syrian? What is the gas? Is it Sarin? What poison gas factory is in the area - is this a fake accusation? Who were the eye witnesses who saw these planes? Is this the work of someone wanting to lay blame at Assad's feet? Assad blames the rebels. Was it the Syrian government? On the map it appears to be a location under Turkish control? The White House wants to blame others and of course lately often does. But what is anybody doing about the situation aside from stopping Syrian refugees who are trying to escape. A sad world mess. What are your thoughts? There is also a propaganda war going on too according to Al Jazeera which is troubling to be able to ascertain the facts. But it is an indisputable fact that a chemical attack took place which is not only horrendous but against international law. The question is who are the perpetrators this time? And of course all of us are very concerned for the victims. There is a map that I included which should help folks understand where this took place and the many factions within Syria.

More:
Syria: The Story of the Conflict - BBC News
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-...
CNN - http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/04/middlee...

From Al Jazeera - WARNING - http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04...

Syrian Civil War - al Jazeera
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/05...

Source(s): BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN



Additional Articles in the Glossary for Black Flags


message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I have to say this - I can see why this won the Pulitzer Prize - superbly done so far. Not a pleasant subject for sure but very informative and expertly crafted.


message 49: by Eva (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 19 comments Bentley wrote: "Today's situation has a great deal to do with the book and the part of the world and conflict we are discussing

Today - Syria - which is constantly in the news for all of the wrong reasons is once..."


Absolutely horrifying what happened again in Syria! Another toxic gas attack on civilians with upsetting and disturbing pictures and every party trying to blame the other as the real culprit.
Just read a commentary in Die Zeit where they tried not to say too explicitly that it was Assad's regime, but listed some of the indications like eye witness reports and the Russian Dep. of Defense's confirmation that the Assad regime had carried out an air attack. Why would Assad though attack his own people? According to the article, Assad keeps attacking places that are still in the opposition's hand in order to wear the inhabitants out and offer them some sort of local ceasefire. In return for handing over the main opposition leaders as well as information on other rebels, he offers humanitarian help. Help that is mainly financed by the US and Europe. But the organization and distribution of this help is completely controlled by Damaskus and through Assad loyal warlords. If this theory is true (and it was Assad's regime carrying out this attack), then this seems like some kind of blackmailing both to other countries (give me money, because I can create peace) as well inside of Syria (agree to my rules of peace and I can offer you help).
Most of the information in this article is based on Syria expert Kheder Khaddour from the Carnegie Middle East Center. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the English version of this analysis.


message 50: by Eva (last edited Apr 05, 2017 09:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eva | 19 comments Prologue
Did that almost read like the creation of a cult like following?
Yes, I agree that ISIS seems very much like a cult or at least uses the same kind of techniques to recruit people and to convince them of their ideology.
In response to the question of how ISIS manages to recruit for diverse sources of people, Michael offered ideology as an answer.
This is certainly true and plays a big part in their recruitment, but I think the initial approach to convince people that they should follow such an ideology is to make them feel they’re part of something bigger and meaningful. To make them feel like they belong somewhere (as Bentley has written as well).
And ISIS certainly tries to sell their cause as something bigger-than-life, starting with identifying themselves as something from a Muslim holy text prophecy.
To see yourself as an embodiment of an old prophecy, one which will change the course of the world is certainly part of the ideological aspect.
But the behavior that was described in Chapter 1, seemed to be more the group aspect: all wearing the same clothes, absolute loyalty to each other, their leader and the cause. Broken individuals that finally seem to have found their place and are willing to do anything for that group. Brainwashing certainly being a part of that as well.
And the allure of that very special power trip where they go from having been a nobody before, to all of a sudden being part of a group the world is not only talking about, but afraid of !? Definitely a powerful temptation for some individuals.


« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8
back to top