Early reports are indicating that British citizen Mohamed Emwazi, AKA Jihad John, has been killed by a US drone strike in the so-called Islamic State’s capital city of Raqqa, Syria. Jihad John was used as an ISIS frontman, a sort of Cobra Commander figure, in propaganda films in which hostages such as John Foley were beheaded. While confirmation of his death is not forthcoming, the press and many Americans are already chalking this one up as a victory. A propaganda win, not far removed from the type of information operation which the Russians are also waging in Syria.
Human beings love narratives, cute stories which tie events together into a cohesive plot. Countries which are traditionally adversarial towards each other are currently using the ISIS narrative to their own ends. ISIS is a boogyman, one which represents the deepest fears that the West has about the Middle East, Arabs, and Islam. Because of this it makes for great narrative fodder for players as varied as Iran, Russia, the United States, the Kurds, and other countries who are now cracking down on internal dissent with the excuse that they are merely fighting ISIS in their home countries.
Americans are just as susceptible to propaganda as anyone else of course. We love fictional tales of maverick empowered female CIA operatives who track down Bin Laden and lead heroic military men into his home to kill him. Many in the CIA love the fiction as well, as indicated by their collaboration on the the film Zero Dark Thirty. In Russia, Vladimir Putin has based his political career on an imaginary persona, the guy who rides bears and shoots a whale with a crossbow. In Syria, the daily propaganda quota from the Russians tells us that Putin is crushing ISIS in weeks, something America failed to do in years. However, when we take a closer look at Russian airstrikes in Syria we see that they are not targeting ISIS for the most part, but rather trying to prop up and protect the Assad regime. This is no surprise of course, Putin went on 60 Minutes and told the American public that this is what his agenda was.
What we see in Syria, is many different actors fighting a little, but wanting to make it appear as if they are fighting a lot. This is why every Delta Force raid in Syria and Iraq is immediately publicized. CNN reports semi-real details of the Abu Sayyaf raid in Syria and the Hawija prison raid moments after the operators return to their base. These are the types of missions that Delta would conduct a 3-4 hour After Action Review for. CNN is reporting on these missions before the operators themselves fully know what happened on the objective. In short, what we are seeing is a propaganda effort via the use of selective leaks from the Pentagon, and probably from within JSOC itself.
(ISIS puppet Jihad John)
The joke is on both Russia and America because these are false wins. A year ago SOFREP published The ISIS Solution in which we pointed out that the puppet masters behind ISIS are not Jihadists but rather Saddam-era Baathists. At the time we were derided and laughed at for this assertion, but a body of growing evidence including some top-notch journalism from Christoph Reuter of Der Spiegel, demonstrates that we were on the right track. Another point we made in the book was that figures like Al-Baghdadi, and by extension Jihad John, are frontmen. These figures are low hanging fruit which the ISIS leadership cells present to the west as easy targets. Better to focus on them than on those who work from behind the scenes.
Baghdadi and Jihad John are expendable figures, whose persona and namesakes will be used and re-used by ISIS time and time again. Many members of the Special Operations Task Force recall chasing multiple Al-Baghdadi’s around Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He wasn’t a ghost, but more of a unicorn. He probably never existed in the first place. This is what philosopher Jean Baudrillard calls second order simulacra or in science fiction a Stand Alone Complex; a copy that never had an original. The Jihad Johns and Al-Baghdadi’s of the world can be killed again and again but will none the less live on forever.
Let’s look at another recent example of a Stand Alone Complex to understand how this concept works: the recent protests at the University of Missouri. The protests appeared to be a student movement focused on fighting racism, and several school administrators were soon forced to resign. The student activists raged against a number of vague issues ranging from Ferguson (which they somehow thought the university should have done something about) to an alleged swastika painted with feces on a wall in the school. The movement caught on like wild fire with a full blown hysteria engulfing the university for a few days as alarmist claims of the KKK was on campus began to spread. Then of course there was the hilarious faux hunger strike by a student who claimed to be protesting the high cost of health care for graduate students. He only lasted a few days into the hunger strike, lacking the constitution of IRA members who literally starved themselves to death for fifty days in prison during the 1980’s.
It has now been revealed that the student who staged the hunger strike is from a very affluent family that made 7.5 million dollars last year. I don’t think he is having any problems affording health care. It now appears that some campus officials colluded with affluent students to generate a protest based on false allegations, or ones with a mere hint of truth which were then exaggerated, and demanded unreasonable action taken by the University. It looks like a campus putsch, a university palace coup to remove certain tenured administrators. This is a great example of a Stand Alone Complex, a social movement which created a bandwagon effect, but whose origins are not based on any facts or actual events. The Mizzou protests are a copy that never had an original, designed to serve an ulterior motive.
Back in Syria, the Stand Alone Complex appears to be alive and well. Despite Russian and American intervention, two of the world’s great powers, ISIS is still chugging along.