August 7, 2014

The Massacre of Sinjar

With the Islamic State (formerly ISIS or ISIL) sweeping across Northern Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction and murder in their path, they are now engaged in a pitched battle for the city of Sinjar.  The North Western city of Sinjar is the home of the Yezidi religious minority group which has suffered under various states of oppression for hundreds of years.  Often demonized and misunderstood, the Yezidi have been branded as devil worshippers by people like the highly suspect 19th Century mystic Madam Blavatsky.  However, the Yezidi are no devil worshipers but rather practice an indigenous religion which may pre-date Islam but incorporates some elements of Islam, Zoroastrianism, and other belief systems, including the worship of a Peacock god.

The Yezidi faith has many unique practices but despite the interesting instrumentations of their religion, the Yezidi are good peaceful people who have always supported the United States. When I was a Special Forces soldier deployed to Tal Afar in 2009 we had several Yezidi interpreters who were outstanding men. While Sinjar was a safe place, Yezidi who traveled to Mosul faced summary execution.  When ISIS captured the city and let all the criminals out of prison, any Yezidi found in the prison were immediately executed.

Early reports state that up to several thousand Yezidi may have been slaughtered over the last 72 hours in Sinjar as the Islamic State took over large portions of the city.  Up to 100,000 thousand inhabitants of Sinjar were immediately turned into refugees as they fled the city and took refuge on Sinjar mountain.  Encircled by Jihadists and trapped on the mountain with no supplies, the weakest of the group are the first to die: Yezidi elderly and children are dying of exposure, mostly from thirst.  One of my former interpreters has his family trapped on the top of Sinjar mountain right now.

Yesterday I was able to speak on the phone to a friend currently fighting along side Kurdish elements inside Sinjar.  He said that battle lines are drawn across Sinjar with the Islamic State on one side and Kurdish forces (mostly consisting of Kurdish and Turkish socialists) on the other side.  The Kurds attack in the morning and the Islamic state retaliates at night with both sides essentially in a stalemate as they take and then lose terrain.

My friend has been fighting with the Kurds for a while now and although moral is high, the men have not been rotated from the front lines in over six months and are exhausted by combat fatigue.  Their mortar section leader was killed last week so my friend has been appointed as the new section leader.  Over the phone I had to do my best to explain how to properly employ the mortar systems at their disposal in a improvised and ad hoc manner.  Their fight continues.

With up to 100,000 Yezidi starving to death on Sinjar mountain and the battle at a stalemate, the situation is grim.  This is unacceptable.  What is happening in Sinjar is a slaughter.  A religious minority is being exterminated by an Army of darkness.  That can’t happen.  This is nothing short of genocide.

There are now scattered reports of US air strikes against ISIS targets near Mosul amid the Pentagon’s official denials.  Whatever happens in the next few days will be critical.  While few are more skeptical of getting involved in more conflicts around the world than me, this is a situation where America can put a win in the box for the good guys and do it relatively easily with airstrikes which would shake up the status quo on the ground, giving Yezidi refugees a chance to escape, and Kurdish forces the opportunity to change the tides of war.  Please contact your representatives in the US government and let them know that a Yezidi genocide is unacceptable as is turning our backs on the oppressed.

The Kurds on the ground are also in need of experienced combat leaders.  Former Marines, Rangers, Infantrymen, and especially Special Forces veterans would be of immense help on the ground as advisors.  I’m ashamed that I’m not there myself but personal issues have me tied down.

If you think you can make a difference, now is the time to do something.

About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • Fred82

    YankeePapa joesig As I understand it, the "hoops" are a sort of weeding out process in their own right. Most of those not sufficiently committed to the cause will probably say to hell with it instead of jumping through all those hoops. On another note, I have heard that some entities catering to PMCs and "mercs" do offer some training to prospective candidates. That said, I came away with the impression that this training was designed more as refresher training and a means of weeding out those who didn't belong. If one wasn't in decent shape and didn't have the goods at one point, they would probably be weeded out. I cannot confirm that point though and would appreciate any further information.

  • Kiyabear

    joesig Kiyabear It is impossible to maintain the level of knowledge gained by consecutive years of 18 hour days and personal exposure to the decision makers. Important point you made - things are ever changing and evolving. Two things I've learned throughout the years is that there are layers beneath layers and connecting the dots is much more difficult than it seems.  I've also learned that 'facts' can easily lead one astray because all facts are internally processed through one's own filters of bias, expectation and experience.  It is a rare person indeed who can Spock it.

  • YankeePapa

    joesig YankeePapa , . ...Fortunately this is not Spain.  Many foreign volunteer detachments aiding the Republic had their commanders instructed to visit Moscow... where a number vanished.  Political commissars (in the rear of some foreign detachments) shot soldiers in the back for not advancing fast enough to suit them... or for "defeatist talk..."   . ...The decent cause of the Republic eventually taken over by the Communists... who promptly tried to murder all of their Anarchist allies (including George Orwell who was serving with them...) . ...Yes, very bad things can happen in that part of the world.  The good news is that the Kurds have been very protective of Americans in their midst... best place to have had your son serve during the Iraq war.   . ...No, this is not Rhodesia, nor is it Biafra.  For one thing, the U.S. and U.K. are not trying to get the Kurds to surrender to the aggressors...   . ...Before you posted the above reply I made a separate posting advising most Americans that they are neither needed nor wanted.  Any who don't jump through the hoops likely to be bounced.   . ...Foreign armies (with exceptions like Australia...special circumstances...) essentially not allowed to recruit in the United States.  Actual *recruitment* takes place on their turf.  But before even having you show up there and talk to them, they can insist that you provide them with information.   . ...The Rhodesians, when they got mail re possible service... sent out information packets.  Required... copies of high school and or college transcripts... police clearance letter*, medical and dental certification re health... copy of DD-214, employment history... and so on... *(Police clearance letters are not routinely available to American citizens... otherwise employers without need might demand them...  However, many countries require one before issuing a Visa (South Africa did at the time) so if police advised that letter required for a visa, they could issue one... used to be $10.   . ...Rhodesia (size of California in a circular shape) had one police force.  The U.S. has more than 20,000 separate police departments... The Rhodesians, understanding this asked that the letter be from the State Police... However, many states only have a Highway Patrol (with maybe an organized crime unit), so they had to settle for County Police department letter...) . ...Young foreign men at loose ends in Rhodesia were a major pain unless they quickly enlisted or took a quality place in the civilian economy.  The last couple years of the war, foreigners showing up unscreened were greeted coldly, and often sent out of the country the same day...  . ...If they aren't already doing it, the Kurds will employ the same policy... Unscreened Americans arriving... vast majority will be given the bum's rush... . -YP- . ...    . ...

  • joesig

    Kiyabear joesig Very astute.  I'll give an example, which I might have given before.  I left AFG in summer of 2012, after roughly 2.5 years there.  When I left, because of the peculiarities of my job and my previous experience, I think I knew as much as just about anyone could about the overall situation there.  High level, low level, in-between levels, and especially RC's S, SW, and E.  Now barely two years later, I'm as ignorant as anyone else about what is actually happening on the ground, what COMISAF is planning, tactical details on roads, enemy OB, ANSF challenges.  It is impossible to maintain the level of knowledge gained by consecutive years of 18 hour days and personal exposure to the decision makers.  It's possible to fake it, though, and talk as if one still understands the details.

  • YankeePapa

    joesig  , . ...I would like to point out for anybody considering going that unless you possess the needed skills/experience and have "jumped through the hoops" and specifically have been notified that you are wanted before going you would very likely be turned away at the border/airport. . ...In spite of countless warnings out there... a lot of people who are of absolutely no use will be showing up... Rhodesia found itself becoming more and more "unfriendly" to foreigners who showed up "to help" as the war progressed...  . ... While valuable recruits never stopped coming... everything from misfits to wack jobs increasingly arriving... The Rhodesians gave new arrivals who had not been "pre-screened"a very rough and quick selection on the spot and turned away a large number.  . ...For starters, anybody uninvited in most countries who shows up without a return trip ticket and operating cash generally turned away at immigration/customs.  Foreign "bums" of no use loitering around the cities very much unwanted. . ...Again, the Kurds can use very specific and highly professional help.  They don't need untrained and unskilled "trigger-pullers..."  For political reasons they are pretty much forced to accept Kurdish volunteers from other regions who don't speak Iraqi version of Kurdish.  English speaking raw recruits unacceptable. (Not to mention religious and cultural differences...) . ...The Kurds are not going to organize an "American Volunteer Group" to fight as an independent unit.  Aside from other considerations... political heat from Washington would be overwhelming... hard enough with selected instructors and specialists...  . ...Many Kurdish officers and men have been involved in hard fighting for  generations... They are not going to take foreign wannabes and make them Colonels.   . ... A relatively small number of Americans who are qualified and in a position to go would be most welcome.  Everybody else who shows up on their doorstep uninvited is going to wish that they had stayed home and not thrown away their money... and maybe caused themselves  years of "problems" as well... . -YP-