The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been in the news a great deal lately–and for reasons most organizations try to avoid. Or at least cover up. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by
- the United States
- the European Union
- the United Nations
- the United Kingdom
- Saudi Arabia
- the United Arab Emerites
- India and
It been condemned by such well-known human rights organizations as Amnesty International. And a major reason for this is the evidence of its brutalities that ISIS has proudly supplied. Among this evidence are its own Internet videos of
- the beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists, and aid workers;
- the burning of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot;
- demands for extortionate ransoms for kidnapped Japanese and American captives;
- the wholesale shooting of captured Iraqi soldiers; and
- the selling of captured children.
The release on February 3 of a video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, underscored ISIS reputation for cruelty
Al Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him. The pilot stood upright throughout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.
ISIS burning of captured Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh
Terrorism experts believe that the elaborately-staged video was meant to weaken the morale of Jordan and other Sunni Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.
But it violated a fundamental rule of public relations: If you commit atrocities, do it secretly so you can deny it if the truth ever comes out.
That’s how the members of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s dreaded secret police–the N.K.V.D.–the predecsssors to the later-named KGB–operated throughout their brutal history.
In 1939, when the Soviet Union seized the eastern half of Poland, the N.K.V.D. executed 22,000 Polish army officers in the dense Katyn forest.
The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the forest in 1943. The Soviet Union furiously denied responsibility, claiming the victims had been executed by the Germans.
The Soviets continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when the government finally admitted its guilt.
ISIS has turned out videos of its brutalities which film experts have declared are almost up to the quality of Hollywood spectaculars. But ISIS leaders have apparently forgotten–if they ever knew–the truth of the saying: “You can make a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”
Niccolo Machiavelli, in his classic work, The Discourses, offered a telling example of how magnanimity can triumph over brutality.
Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.
And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”
Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city.
Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.
This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity. It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.
What Machiavelli doesn’t say–but what history offers plenty of examples to substantiate–is this: The brutality of aggressors will be met–and sometimes overcome–with brutality by their past or intended victims.
Nowhere was this better proved than during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Without warning, three million German soldiers–backed up by overwhelming air and tank support–attacked their “ally” on June 22, 1941.
The Wehrmacht blitzed its way across Russia–to the gates of Moscow and as far south as Stalingrad on the Volga River. In its path it left devastated cities and at least 20 million dead Russians.
German soldiers moving into a burning Russian village
Russian women were gang-raped, then shot, or blown up with hand grenades. Tens of thousands of captured Russian soldiers were allowed to die of hunger, sickness and freezing cold behind barbed wire. Other captured POWs were brutally beaten, tortured and/or shot.
But then the tide of war turned and the Russians launched their own offensives in 1943. And they kept going–all the way to Berlin.
Russians raped tens of thousands of German women–and nailed others to barn doors. Cossacks cut off the raised hands of Germans trying to surrender. Tanks crushed retreating German soldiers and civilians unlucky enough to be in their path.
Thus do those who practice barbarism often find themselves being repaid with it–usually ten-fold.