Society and Culture

PLEASE STOP: How Warhawks Are Perpetuating Violence and Racism

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Folks, have you been watching the news lately?

I’m guessing yes, because you’re all socially conscious, politically engaged legal mavericks, right?

Awesome! So you’ve heard about ISIS, then, I’m sure.



In case you haven’t been watching the news lately — because sunshine and summer weather — ISIS is an extremist Muslim terrorist group that currently controls a significant chunk of northern Iraq and parts of rebel Syria. Not coincidentally, their territory overlaps a TON with important oil sources. Once a part of al-Qaeda, ISIS split off as its own separate entity earlier this year.


Because their ideology was too extreme even for bin Laden’s cronies. That says a lot.

ISIS — which stands for The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – made news this week after the Washington Post translated its “Contract of the City,” a document that was distributed to citizens of the Iraqi province of Nineveh. Folks, it’s pretty cray.



The contract essentially reads like a list of rules, a dos and don’ts guideline, if you will, for the people of Nineveh. It lists limb amputation as a suitable punishment for stealing, allows for the crucifixion of criminals, and essentially bans women from leaving their homes.

This is really not cool. But! Before you get all hawk-eyed and demand American intervention in Iraq to save all the poor, downtrodden Iraqi victims, let’s all take a moment and listen to Jon Stewart.


I fucking love this man.

Folks, here’s the deal: Groups like al Qaeda, and its increasingly violent offshoot, ISIS, are awful and dangerous and need to be stopped. They totally need to stop existing. We are all in agreement there.

Not only do they pose a threat to the Iraqi people as a whole — who are at risk of getting their limbs chopped off willy nilly if they break a rule on their way to work — but they also pose a threat to the larger global community. Their ideology is depressingly common, and the more power groups like theirs seize, the more hostile the world becomes to people who don’t fit into their agenda.

Namely women, queer people, trans people, disabled people, and people of different races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.

This is a group that sees women as inherently less than. They’re required to wear “modest dress,” which essentially means they’ll be punished for wearing anything other than a full burqa. They can’t leave their homes. They are bought and sold like property from fathers to husbands. And wife beating? Totally cool.

ISIS doesn’t see women — or anyone else who isn’t a straight, masculine-presenting, Muslim man — as people. They’re not human beings. It’s a really, really bad situation.

And because of that, along with obvious national security concerns, many Americans want to rush our military right back into Iraq. John McCain, as the always entertaining Jon Stewart reminds us, is one of those folks. But there’s a huge hole in that plan.


bad idea

Groups like ISIS exist because of Western intervention in the Middle East. They are a direct result of Western imperialism. Al Qaeda formed in the late 1980s as a reaction to Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan — a move that subjected the Afghan people to extreme violence and poverty. It formed as a resistance movement, an answer to the injustices Afghanistan faced at the hands of European, imperialist oppressors.

And they only gained traction as the West continued to insert itself into a corner of the world where it ultimately didn’t belong. Violence and living conditions worsened for civilians. Coups were staged, leaders were deposed, and corrupt figureheads were set up in their place. (Remember Saddam Hussein? The U.S. and Great Britain put him there).

The political problems that plague the Middle East are largely our fault. But instead of taking responsibility for the consequences of misguided power-grabbing and oil pursuit, the U.S. likes to paint a different picture. A pretty racist one, in fact, where Iraqi is a confused, childlike nation, unable to govern itself without making a huge mess. And Americans? We’re painted as the concerned father figure, stepping in to calm the commotion.

But folks, it’s not true. This story is a lie.

The U.S. isn’t a soothing father figure. It’s more like an instigator. And the sexist, xenophobic ideology of groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda isn’t the product of an unsophisticated, backward, childlike nation. The ideology of our conservative leaders is chillingly similar, if more palatably phrased and with Jesus, not Allah, at its helm.



The white savior narrative that war hawks like John McCain are spewing was created by an elite group of politicians and corporate powerhouses who crave money, power, and oil. They don’t care what it costs.

But I hope that you do.

Let’s come up with a more innovative solution to warmongering in Iraq. A solution that doesn’t rely on lies, racism, and increased violence. A solution that creates real, positive change for the people living under ISIS’ tyranny.

Show the comments what you’ve got.

Featured image courtesy of [United States Forces Iraq via Flickr]

Hannah R. Winsten
Hannah R. Winsten is a freelance copywriter, marketing consultant, and blogger living in New York’s sixth borough. She hates tweeting but does it anyway. She aspires to be the next Rachel Maddow. Contact Hannah at



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