US Counterterrorism Official Says US Is 'The Angel Of Death' And Should Be Target Killing ISIS Tweeters
from the winning-hearts-and-minds dept
A few weeks ago there was a fair bit of controversy after a US drone-strike killed an ISIS “hacker” who was, among other things, popular on Twitter. While US officials tried to paint him as a much bigger deal behind the scenes, some are now admitting that he was just noisy online. ABC News is reporting on the supposed internal debate among US counterterrorism officials concerning how to best deal with ISIS Twitter users. Some are arguing that these guys are small time annoyances, while others are arguing that we should just straight up kill ISIS tweeters. This next quote is fairly incredible.
?We are the angel of death. This war is a propaganda war too. Why only limit it to military leaders? Should we be ignoring the propagandists that speak English and are tech savvy who know how to reach westerners?? a senior counter-terrorism official knowledgeable about the counter-ISIS strategy told ABC News. ?I don’t see why you would want to curtail either targeting strategy. This is also a war of ideas.?
And if you’re running a propaganda war, do you really think the best strategy is to kill people for speaking their minds? That doesn’t convince anyone to change the way they’re thinking. It just radicalizes more people. Having US officials state “we are the angel of death” doesn’t project anything other than pure bloodlust among US officials. It suggests a war where at least some US officials think the way to deal with ISIS is to stoop to their level — by mindlessly killing people we don’t agree with and assuming it’s “fair game” so long as they’ve mouthed off online.
As for Junaid Hussain, the guy killed in that drone strike, the report confirms what we’d heard from a bunch of people: despite what US officials put out in the news about his death, the reality was he was just a guy with a Twitter account who was loud:
?Junaid Hussain was a Twitter noisemaker and a hack hacker. He wasn’t a first disseminator on anything important, as far as I can tell. Nothing at all in his profile leads me to think he’d be close to the inner circle of leadership,? said ?ISIS: The State of Terror? author J.M. Berger, who tracks jihadists online.
In the article, those defending killing ISIS tweeters claim that it makes sense because they believe that it somehow stops the recruitment of English-speaking individuals into ISIS:
?So the English-speaking ISIS guy that is removed, in a drone strike for example, could equal a thousand potential fighters who never self-radicalize and leave home,? said Anderson, who was a top aide and advisor to the current and former Secretaries of Defense.
Except there’s an implicit assumption in there: that these Twitter accounts are successfully recruiting members of ISIS by the thousands. As we’ve pointed out before, the evidence suggests that, while the internet may play a part in radicalizing some individuals, it’s likely a fairly small part. Your local (in person) social network is a much, much bigger factor, and almost no one is simply becoming radicalized because they started to follow an ISIS person online.
Either way, it’s difficult to see how deciding to just start killing off people for being mouthy online is going to convince anyone who hates the US that they’re somehow on the wrong track. It seems like it will only confirm their preheld opinions. But, you know, the “angel of death” apparently doesn’t give a shit:
?Shoot your mouth off all you want. Eventually we are going to kill you,? the senior counter-terrorism official said.
I can’t see how that makes us any safer. It seems like quite the opposite is likely.