Not sure if any of you have ever looked at Dabiq, the ISIS online magazine. It is gorgeous, as beautiful a lay out as you will see. It’s very impressive. And it is scary nuts. Fanatical stuff. Murderous. Anyway, this is how ISIS gets its message across to lone wolf terrorists as well as its remote terrorist cells like those in Paris. There is really no need to have any contact with ISIS in any way, all you need to is keep reading Dabiq. That is the beauty of the ISIS business model, that they can create mass murderers like the killer in Orlando without having to spend a moment on the guy. Dabiq is like a jihadi correspondence course. Unless you have actually thumbed through its digital pages, you can’t quite see its power. It is an impressive looking journal. It gives a sense of seriousness and truth to the ISIS ideology that those hand held Al Qaeda videos never could. You have to already be in a jihadist mindset to believe those Al Qaeda videos. But you could be some messed up self hating racist fuckup with a mean streak in Florida and become an ISIS jihadi after reading an issue of Dabiq. Much like Mein Kampf did with Germans in its time, Dabiq can take believing if not especially religious Moslems and turn them into cold blooded spree killers. That happens very rarely (at its most ISIS has had maybe thirty thousand members out of a billion Moslems worldwide, while at its peak the Nazi party had eight million members out of maybe eighty million German Aryans worldwide*), but unlike Al Qaeda, which seeks to create a global Caliphate (by the year 2020, they are behind schedule), the goals of ISIS require much less to achieve much more.
ISIS is an Islamic organization, yes, but it is millenarian, a millenarian cult. All of this, all the war and slaughter, is part of the coming end of days. There was a terrific and surreal article in The Atlantic last year, What ISIS Really Wants, subtitled “The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.” Apparently few read it which is a damn shame because the article points out with ample quotes how ISIS has stated its goals and belief system and ideology in every single issue of Dabiq…there is absolutely nothing secret about ISIS. Surprisingly, the death of Christians is not important in itself. We are killed only as a means of sparking the rest of Christianity (aka Rum, as they call us, as in the Roman Empire) to go into all out war against ISIS which will lead to an enormous battle on the Plain of Dabiq (a battlefield ISIS made pains to seize, actually). ISIS will lose that battle, it is written. Eventually the last battle will be fought at Rum itself (actually Istanbul, which at the time of the original prophecies was Constantinople and capital of the Roman Empire, hence Rum). That ISIS will win, just barely, and at last the Day of Judgment will be at hand. And that is pretty much it in a nutshell. That is what ISIS is trying to do. That is what this whole mess is all about. Trying to bring about the Day of Judgment and resulting Paradise. You can read all about it in Dabiq.
Christians are only important here as armies that ISIS will fight to being about that prophecy. These occasional slaughters in Paris (for quasi-historical reasons ISIS hates France, while Brussels, as the capital of the European Union, is the modern equivalent of Rome) as well as in the U.S., are merely to spark us to war. ISIS really wants us to go to war with them, and in a big way. We have to, or else the prophecy cannot come true. Other than as means to that end, though, our lives or deaths are of little consequence to ISIS. On the other hand, all Moslems who do not join ISIS are apostates and should in theory be executed. In practice, of course, as apostates are actually needed to support the ISIS warrior caste. But otherwise they are thoroughly expendable. Hence the incessant ISIS slaughter of fellow Moslems. They have killed thousands upon thousands of Moslems. The car bombings are endless. The mass executions. They shoot down apostates as coldly as Nazis shot Jews. They see it as their duty to kill as many apostates as possible. But they kill us to spark the final battle. You can see just how bewildered Moslems are that so many of us in the West seem to equate Islam and ISIS. You can see how stupid and blind a Donald Trump must seem to them. You can see it every time they are asked about ISIS on TV. Who do we think ISIS has been slaughtering all this time? How many times a day do car bombs explode in New York? Because if ISIS were trying to kill us like they are killing fellow Moslems, car bombs would be going off in New York pretty regularly. Dabiq would be sure of that. ISIS, of course, must love Donald Trump. He must be proof that the prophecy will come to pass. Trump demands war with ISIS. Trump will bring an army to Dabiq. It is written.
ISIS is not a reflection of Islam. ISIS has as much to do with the rest of Islam as millenarian cults such as Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and David Koresh’s Branch Davidians had to do with the rest of Christianity. Or, for that matter, as the most dangerous Millenarian cult of all time, Hitler’s Nazi Party (and its monastic order, the SS), had to do with the rest of western civilization. We have so reviled Nazism for its extraordinary evil that we have passed over its fundamental Millenarian mission, which was to transform Germany, then Europe, then large swathes of the rest of the whole world into an Aryan paradise. They planned to achieve their Aryan paradise through conquest and Nazi race policies, as laid out years before in Mein Kampf, which in short order brought about the deliberate deaths (through murder, slavery or starvation) of perhaps fifteen million or more innocent people. That they were not able to kill far more (they hit maybe 10% of their goal) was only because they lost the war they had begun, which itself cost another thirty million lives or so to bring to a conclusion. (This is not including the war against the Japanese who, while genocidal, were merely an expansionist empire with an emperor cult and not millenarian at all.). Nazi Germany attacking Russia may have been a fatal strategic error in military terms, but essential according to Nazi ideological goals if the Slavs were to be eliminated by outright killing while reducing the remainder to a slave population culled through deliberate starvation. Without attacking Russia, none of this was possible. Germany’s strategy was driven by Nazi millenarian ideology, and throughout the war, its requirements drained resources (such as the trains used to transport victims to death camps) that the armies desperately needed. The Holocaust–merely the first step in Hitler’s plan to annihilate entire races on an industrial scale–itself functioned right up till the end of the war, ceasing only when Germany was completely conquered. The ideology trumped the existential needs of the state itself. Such die hard Nazi fanaticism, the bitter resistance to the very end and the wave of suicides that followed its defeat, cannot really be understood without Hitler’s dream of a pure Aryan Millennium, his Thousand Year Reich. It was a vast vision and cost upwards of fifty millions lives. In one of the most startling scenes in the movie Downfall (Der Untergang) which re-enacts the last days of the Third Reich, as the death of Hitler and surrender of the German army is announced through loudspeakers, there is a ragged volley of shots as SS men put their guns to their heads and fired. They had sworn to fight to the death for Hitler and the Nazi creed, but since the war ended before they got their chance to die, they blew their own brains out. This happened tens of thousands of times (at least) across Germany. Indeed, when the Russians suddenly appeared on the eastern border (most Germans, being Nazi true believers, were unaware the Russians were at the door until 1945), there would be astonishing waves of mass suicides. A thousand people in the town of Demmin killed themselves on May 1, 1945, two days after Hitler:
Many families committed suicide together, locals as well as refugees. The suicides were either carried out with guns, razor blades or poison, others hanged or drowned themselves in the Peene and Tollense rivers. Several mothers killed their children before killing themselves, or walked into one of the rivers with a rock in a backpack and their babies in their arms. Some families committed suicide by walking into the rivers, tied together. A local forester first shot three young children, then their mothers, then his wife and then himself, surviving as a blind man. In another recorded case, a daughter cut the wrists of her parents.
And that was just one town of many. Nazi Germany had become one immense suicide cult, and the government began dispensing cyanide pills to every citizen. This was not a normal ideology. Indeed, ISIS, as crazy as it is, is more explicable than the Third Reich. It’s no wonder the allies went to such pains to exterminate Nazism at the root. Millenarian cults with armies are probably the most dangerous cults of all, and the Nazis, at the core of Western civilization, were the craziest and scariest millenarian cult ever.
ISIS’s war is as driven by its ideological needs as was Nazi Germany. ISIS is seeking to create the sequence of events that will being forth the end of the world and the beginning of paradise. They have killed maybe twenty thousand people in Iraq (by the end of 2015) and a few thousand in Syria and elsewhere so far trying to achieve this. They have enslaved thousands of others. Unlike Nazi Germany, however, ISIS’s is not an industrial approach to mass killing. Indeed, it is positively archaic, knives cutting off heads, or the oddly steampunk (or Mad Max) looking armored trucks packed full of high explosives, slow, lumbering and effective if not blown up first. Al Qaeda’s state of the art operation on 9/11 seems quite beyond ISIS. Koran literalists–perhaps since Mohammed’s armies never flew planes into skyscrapers, nor will ISIS. And car bombs could be donkeys laden with bombs or Greek fire, and are therefore OK. I suspect somewhere in the pages of Dabiq you will find discussions just like this. (Al Qaeda’s own journal Inspire, on the other hand, is much more imaginative in its recommended methods of terror, from throwing infidels off of buildings to turning jetliners into flying bombs.) And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of car bombs, not only as terror devices (the Viet Cong had used them with devastating effect in their long terror campaign in Saigon), but also as weapons in the field. When ISIS dramatically took Fallujah two years ago by sudden assault, they came at night in a howling sandstorm led by twenty or forty (numbers differ) car bombs which exploded nearly simultaneously against Iraqi government positions, obliterating entire units. ISIS infantrymen poured in afterward, screaming Allah Akbar and bloodcurdling threats, and the Iraqi government soldiers who could run, did. It was a brand new kind of asymmetric warfare and perhaps the secret to that initial ISIS flush of success, suicide car bombs in formation, as devastatingly effective as the use of tanks in the Nazi blitzkrieg in the first two years of World War 2; it has taken the Iraqis a couple years now to come up with tactics to neutralize it (with techniques they probably borrowed from the Kurds.) For a couple years, martyrdom and backyard mechanics nearly undid all the U.S. efforts in Iraq.
But still, for all their violence, ISIS armies and ISIS terror can’t hope to compete with anything the 20th Century had already come up with. Only if ISIS were to get their hands on an arsenal of nuclear weapons could they hope to achieve death on a scale approaching the Nazis. They have not yet and the scale of casualties is therefore vastly reduced compared to the Second World War. Nor does ISIS envision slaughter on that scale. They do what they do in order to bring about the final battles. There is no need for large scale genocide and world war. Their mindset is almost medieval, small armies and individual combat. The thoroughly modern border war between Iran and Iraq a generation ago killed a hundred times as many as ISIS has killed so far. There are end times and there are end times. We live in one considerably less bloody.
Consider the second deadliest millenarian cult of all time, after the Nazis, the Taiping in mid 19th century China. An unusual Christian offshoot (its leader, the self-styled Heavenly King named Hong Xuiquan, was the brother of Jesus Christ), the Rebellion and its suppression cost twenty million lives, perhaps twice that even, and took fifteen years to crush. All that mostly without firearms and certainly without automatic weapons and car bombs. Millenarianism is like splitting the atom, an extraordinary amount of energy released by sometimes just one guy (in this case, the brother of Jesus Christ.) In comparison, and as we said, ISIS is rather small time, actually, and with very limited goals. They want a big battle on the Plain of Dabiq. Some say why not just give it to them. After all, they want to lose it. They want to be routed and almost annihilated. It is all part of the prophecy. This is not Al Qaeda, who apparently think ISIS are nuts. Al Qaeda seeks the rebirth of the Islamic Caliphate, in this world, and not the Day of Judgment and Heaven. ISIS is more like the Branch Davidians with car bombs and a glossy magazine.
It is the fanaticism of millenarians, with their knowledge that the end of times and perfection is at hand, perhaps needing only a push, that enables the most dangerous of them to bring about such destruction. They are not living for this world, but to being about the next. That is what gave the hatred, self loathing, violence and mental illness of the Orlando mass shooter Omar Mateen the focus it needed to allow him to murder fifty people. He had never killed anyone up till then. He’d hated them, beaten them up, and no doubt fantasized about killing them. But it was Dabiq that would have given him the logical framework to turn all that hatred and self hatred into an act to bring about a better world. Let him fit his plans of mass murder into the ISIS millenarian strategy. One’s own homicidal fantasies are no longer crimes but a good thing, an essential thing, a duty. Omar Mateen killed those screaming people with the same cold and clinical expression as Einsatzgruppen members killed entire villages of Jews. Thus variably the descriptions of these jihadi killers are of killers very methodical and passionless in their work. At times they show moments of humanity, such as the killer at the Bataclan Theater who smiled and let a brother get his brother out the door to escape. It’s not that they necessarily held anything against their victims personally, or anything against Christians at all, they just had a job to do, that is killing innocent people to bring about the final battle in Iraq. One does what one has to do to bring forth the new world. Apostate Muslims–which is just about anyone not ISIS–are another story, and held in contempt. Lots of beheadings. And the poor Yazidis were called devil worshippers in one of the more unfortunate Koranic passages and suffered accordingly at the hands of the Koran literalist ISIS fighters, the men and older women all killed without compunction, the young women sold into slavery. There are not many member of ISIS, thankfully, and their ranks melt away as the war in Iraq goes badly for them. (They suffered grievous losses in the battle of Fallujah, at least five thousand dead or captured, perhaps one fifth of their manpower in their Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.) But each member is potentially a mass murderer, just as every SS man was, because it is his duty to be a mass murderer if required. And this includes all the lone wolves out there. ISIS will be gone soon enough, Dabiq will cease publication, this particular millennial death cult will enter history with who know how many other millennial death cults. The surviving members will age and lose their murderous ways. But in the meantime, though, there will be killing. There will be more Orlandos and San Bernardinos. How many more we have no idea. All we can do is wait for them and be glad we are not living in Europe in the early 1940’s.
If only all such millenarians could be as sweet as the Bahai or the Rastafarians, or as merely annoying as the Jehovah Witnesses. Or like Heaven’s Gate, who lived quietly, if weirdly, in their home in the suburbs of San Diego and then all committed suicide when the time was at hand. It was quiet and neat and nobody was bothered. None of the testosterone charged killing sprees and rape and violence that accompanies nearly all millenarian wars. But then Heaven’s Gate took care of that testosterone problem when they castrated themselves. Just an idea.
Note:* While watching Stalag 17 recently it occurred to me that the Peter Graves character–the American born German who goes to the Reich to join the Nazi cause–is essentially the same as the foreign born Moslems who flocked to Mosul to join ISIS.