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French Paradox: Terror Attacks Continue As ISIS Loses Ground

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French Paradox: Terror Attacks Continue As ISIS Loses Ground

Iraqi counterterrorism forces gesture in Falluja, Iraq, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

In the hours after the horrendous attack on French revelers and tourists in Nice — celebrating Bastille Day in homage to liberty, equality, and fraternity — supporters of the so-called Islamic State declared revenge for the reported killing of an ISIS commander known as “Omar the Chechen.” Indeed, several of their top commanders have been eliminated in recent months, even as they continue to see their forces driven from cities and towns across Iraq and Syria. As this episode indicates, however, the terror group continues to possess the capacity to inflict mayhem in the West even as its “caliphate” begins to disintegrate.

President Obama warned about this paradox last month, when he reviewed the state of the war against ISIS following the shootings in Orlando, Florida. The “lone wolf” terrorists who perpetrate such atrocities are very difficult to detect, and impossible to deter in every case. And it is not yet clear what connection or support the terror group provided to the perpetrator of this latest atrocity in France, who reportedly was heavily armed. But cowardly terror against Western and Mideast civilians is increasingly the only way that ISIS can demonstrate power to its followers and its funders.

What media coverage of the terror strikes tends to obscure is that the strategy pursued by Obama is gradually destroying ISIS, as its thugs surrender one city after another. Starting with the battle for Kobani early last year, when the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, bolstered by American air power evicted the genocidal gangs, the tide of battle seems to have turned decisively against ISIS on the ground, in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and in due course Mosul, where “Omar” is believed to have met his end. To date, ISIS has lost at least 50 percent of the territory occupied since its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of their “caliphate” in 2013.

Naturally, Obama receives no credit for the successful prosecution of this struggle from the Republicans, including their presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, who constantly blather about how we are “losing” and complain that the president doesn’t show sufficient hostility to Muslims and Islam. These brilliant strategists have very little to offer regarding policy or planning, but emit plenty of loud advice about the proper rhetoric.

For months, they insisted that Obama had to denounce “radical Islam,” as if that would magically disable the enemy; now Trump has announced that we must “declare war” against ISIS, presumably because he doesn’t understand that our forces are deployed and conducting thousands of airstrikes. (It is all too easy to imagine the Trump campaign coming up with this pointless sound following the tragic news from Nice.)

Still clowning for a position in Trump’s cabinet, Newt Gingrich came up with a fresh stroke of GOP genius, urging that we subject every Muslim American to “testing” on the subject of Islamic law; those who endorse shariah, he said, would be summarily “deported.” So the former Speaker casually suggests that we trash the First Amendment and our tradition of religious freedom, a legal and moral impossibility.

What Gingrich proposed is also a very stupid way to combat terrorism, which it would undoubtedly exacerbate. It would please the kind of bigots that he has always courted, but it would only isolate and alienate the Muslim community, whose assistance in uprooting jihadi networks and identifying suspects is essential. Like his new idol Trump, Newt is just another “useful idiot” of ISIS, helping them to stage a holy war between Islam and the West even as their prospects decline.

And ISIS is declining, by its own admission, although its propaganda apparatus and militant cells maintain the capacity to strike on at least three continents by managing or merely inspiring attacks. Destroying its bases and choking off its revenue sources in the cities it once held will eventually degrade its capacity to murder the innocent, whether in Paris, Nice, or Baghdad. But that will take time.

Meanwhile, if the Republicans actually want to hinder terrorists, they might consider confirming Adam Szubin, the president’s highly qualified nominee for Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, whose nomination they have stalled since his appointment in April 2015. They might even consider legislation to tighten access to military assault weapons and explosives, which terrorists can so easily obtain in this country.

But of course, they will do none of those things. They’re all about talk, mostly inane and destructive, not action. It is the vilified but resolute Obama who has acted and — no thanks to his blustering political opponents — may yet see the “caliphate” extirpated before he leaves office. For the enemies of civilization, that will represent at least the beginning of the end.


Photo: Iraqi counterterrorism forces gesture in Falluja, Iraq, June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. Dominick Vila July 15, 2016

    I don’t believe the change in tactics, that is, the adoption of Al Qaeda tactics, while losing ground in Iraq and Syria is a paradox. In fact, the change in tactics is the direct result of knowing that their dream of an Islamic State is evaporating as a result of continuous and effective attacks by the Syrian government, the Russians, Turks, the French, Iraqi government forces, and the USA.
    The ISIS hierarchy knows that the end is near, and they are lashing out against everyone trying to spread their Messianic message of hatred as far and as often as they can before they cease to exist.
    The problem is that the total loss of territory will not end what began during the occupation of Iraq. It will continue, and it is likely to be more dangerous and difficult to deal with than what we have been dealing with the last several years.

    1. AgLander July 15, 2016

      Winning? Really? That type thinking is dangerous but fortunately you are in the delusional minority in thinking that way……although it’s a stretch to describe your comment as a product of “thinking” versus reciting what you’ve been told to think.

      1. The lucky one July 15, 2016

        Thanks aggie, you just provided the best short description of what you and your ilk spew, “reciting what you’ve been told to think.”

      2. Dominick Vila July 15, 2016

        You either did not read my entire post, or you suffer from the same inability to understand and think rationally that afflicts so many Republicans.
        First of all, I don’t recall saying that we are winning. Secondly, the last paragraph in my post states that even if we destroyed the ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq, the threat of terrorism will continue for many years to come. A decentralized ISIS organization will be a lot harder to destroy than one confined to specific areas.
        I am not surprised my post confused you so much. Previous opinions and replies posted by you indicate either a total lack of elementary comprehension skills, or a level of indoctrination similar to what prompted so many seemingly intelligent people to obey the likes of Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and so many other lunatics.

        1. AgLander July 15, 2016

          Hyperbole much?

          1. CrankyToo July 15, 2016

            “Hyperbole much?” THAT’S your answer to a thoughtful analysis of your ability to comprehend known facts?

            Don’t you realize that your inane response only serves to further substantiate what Mr. Vila and most others (who habituate this site) think about you?

            If only you possessed a sufficient grasp of the subject, the courage of your convictions, and the communicative skills to espouse your positions with something approaching intelligence….

            But you possess none of those qualities.

        2. plc97477 July 16, 2016

          There seems to be a major comprehension problem with the gotp.

    2. itsfun July 15, 2016

      Sure would hate to see what they would do if they were winning, instead of being defeated.

      1. AgLander July 15, 2016

        Dominick is Obama’s cheerleader mascot…..he’d eat a #hit sandwich if it was Obama offering it to him.

      2. CrankyToo July 15, 2016

        Don’t worry, Child. We’ll tell you when it’s safe to come out from underneath your bed….

        1. itsfun July 15, 2016

          Gee thanks. What have you done lately to help our country

          1. CrankyToo July 15, 2016

            Lately? Not much. I’m an old geezer. These days I just pay my taxes, look after my family, feather the nest, and try to enjoy my retirement years.

            But back when I was ten feet tall and bulletproof, I served through two hot wars and a very long cold war. Do those 20 years count?

            Or how about the subsequent ten years I spent at The Cape, helping to put payloads into orbit? Do I get credit for that?

            I’d love to know what you think about all that because your opinion means more to me than all the plaques on my “I Love Me” wall.

          2. Bill P July 15, 2016

            Cranky for an old geezer you just went 3 for 3 with your comments. That’s batting 1,000

          3. CrankyToo July 15, 2016

            Hell, my Aunt Frances can hit bush league pitching – and she’s 96.

          4. itsfun July 15, 2016

            I’m a old geezer too. These days I do pretty much the same as you, but I still go to the gym 4 days a week and try to play golf twice a week. I am very impressed with what you have done. That is a lot more than I have ever done. I spent 18 months in Vietnam, but got out as soon as I could. I would never go back into the service, but wouldn’t trade some of the things for anything. I just didn’t understand your comment about me coming out from under the bed. I will be the first to admit I was scared as hell, but did my best to hang in. I am sorry to offend you, but I am so tired of being called names sometimes I over react. Again I am sorry to have insulted you.

          5. CrankyToo July 15, 2016

            Don’t give it another thought, Bro. It’s all good.

          6. Daniel Jones July 15, 2016

            ..well, it’s not like you’re going to anytime soon.

          7. itsfun July 15, 2016

            You can think Who reads this to you?

  2. Melissa5656 July 15, 2016

    I basically get paid around 6000-8000 bucks /every month from freelancing online. For those of you who are looking to do easy computer-based work for few h each day from your couch at home and get decent profit in the same time… Then this work opportunity is for you… http://self97.com


  3. Phil Christensen July 15, 2016

    LOL. The whiney calls from the Whitehouse to Crawford, TX continue…

  4. AgLander July 15, 2016

    When told that 2 Americans were among the scores slaughtered, Obama shrugged and reminded everyone that 2 is less then 3, and the fact that it wasn’t 3 is proof certain that his program against terror is working……at which point he got a one finger salute from those he was addressing.

    1. Bill P July 15, 2016

      As usual you have nothing of value to offer just showing your bias against the president. It’s always great to see you write a few sentences that are filled with juvenile rants.

  5. adler56 July 15, 2016

    Americans travel at their own risk. Is president Obama supposed to provide protection for every American nut who travels when we’re the most hated people on earth?

    1. AgLander July 15, 2016

      What you are trying to say is that you believe those killed are “acceptable losses” as evidenced by Obama’s tepid response to each of attacks and escalating carnage. When we get hit, and we will, I’m sure some Frenchman will return the favor by directing your way a similar, soulless comment like you just made.

      1. FireBaron July 15, 2016

        So, Ag, what do you want us to do? Have Marines stationed in every sovereign, independent nation as a ready strike force to protect American Tourists who go places despite travel advisories? Or would you prefer we ban all travel to and from all foreign countries? Maybe that would satisfy a jingoistic Isolationist like yourself.

        1. AgLander July 15, 2016

          The problem with terror has not been addressed for the last 7 years and will not be addressed until we clean house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue…we are a rudderless nation and have been under Obama whose feckless lack of even a basic strategy from day one has plunged us to this situation.

          1. Bill P July 15, 2016

            Yeah I missed those old 8 years prior to President Obama. They were filled with wonderfully good times, our country was safe from terrorist attacks, stock market was great, housing market exploded, there was full employment. Oh wait I really meant the 8 years before GW Bush, he of the “bring it on” fame.

          2. iamproteus July 16, 2016

            Ag, your ignorance is nothing short of stunning!

          3. charleo1 July 17, 2016

            What the Right is claiming, is they can address terrorism much better than the current President. Even though, when their President Bush, and his administration was in charge of fighting terrorism, they in fact managed to set off a powder keg, and hand us the much worse situation we face today. So how are people supposed to feel about going back to that? Just ignore it’s previous failure? Assume somehow it will work better this time? That Republicans won’t make the problem worse, and soon it will be just as costly, and just as hard to fix, as it turned out to be the first time they mucked it up? If not, why not? Answer that, or they can pound sand on terrorism.

  6. FireBaron July 15, 2016

    Here is a wonderful hunk of Irony that I know Dominick and some others will appreciate and Ag, Otto and ItsFun will deny the crap out of: President Obama is carrying out the type of war against Daesh that Donald Rumsfeld proposed – air strikes, drone strikes, launches of missiles and SubRocs from the Navy, and avoiding, if at all possible, boots on the ground. Yes, President Obama is following the Rumsfeld policy. Unfortunately, most of our chicken-hawk conservatives (which is pretty much most of the Republican Party in both the House and Senate) believe the only solution is “boots-on-the-ground”, as long as their children don’t have to be part of it. Although I have to admit, I would prefer to not have to depend on Eric Trump to keep any submarine I ever served on safe.

    1. Oddworld July 15, 2016

      You summed up my thoughts exactly.
      If Obama had made the same kind of commitment or even suggested we put
      boots on the ground in the same capacity that we did in Iraq he would be attacked from all sides of the political spectrum. It is also likely congress would ever approve of such a proposal by Obama. Had the president have had an

      1. iamproteus July 16, 2016

        Oddworld, and how many of those would be replacements for KIA’s and WIA’s and MIA’s created by that strategy? Not that the GOP would be concerned by it…except for its value as a bludgeon against Mr. Obama.

        1. Oddworld July 16, 2016

          I screwed up part of my comment. I meant to say it is “unlikely” congress would approve of sending troops to Syria. I was having a lot of problems with my computer when I posted and was trying to type as fast as i could before the damn thing quit on me. I’m glad you understood the point I was making regardless. For the record, I couldn’t agree more with your point.

  7. Leo Greenberg July 15, 2016

    That post was totally written by a moron. Everyone, other than himself and his opinions were described as idiots or fools. I expect the next thing coming from his pen will be blaming Israel for this attack in Frace killing over 80 people and by the way not with an assault rifle. We are at war with Islamic extremists period, end of story.

    1. CrankyToo July 15, 2016

      Partner, you’ve got no business calling anyone else a moron – let alone Joe Conason.

      1. AgLander July 15, 2016

        Conason is a liberal hack in every respect, but he is unique among the contributors at NM in one key aspect……he’s not sitting in his underwear in a campus dorm room picking at his keyboard. Most of the writers here at NM have not had their driver’s license long and most cannot legally buy beer.

        1. iamproteus July 16, 2016

          Ag, just out of curiosity, do you have help in coming up with all your BS, or is it merely leakage from your own warped mind?

        2. johninPCFL July 18, 2016

          Good self-analysis. Now at least we know you’re a dorm-room loser with no driver’s license drunk on toilet-bowl gin.

          1. AgLander July 18, 2016

            Not me, but you just attacked the authors of 2/3 of the articles posted here on NM! You progressives must enjoy the taste of eating your own!

  8. AgLander July 15, 2016

    For statistical purposes in keeping the big lie going about his success against terrorism, Obama has already instructed his staff to enter the headcount of dead in the French incident under the category of “casualties due to a careless, reckless and imprudent driver”.

    1. Daniel Jones July 15, 2016

      Flagged as errant bull after-product.

      1. AgLander July 16, 2016

        You sound like another Lois Lerner! I knew there were more like her out there.

        1. iamproteus July 16, 2016

          And you sound exactly like a total fool….so?

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