I Helped Create ISIS

Former US Marine  Vincent Emanuele narrates the abuses dished out by US forces to Iraqis. Thanks to Steve Ricardo for the heads up. The article is reproduced with the permission of Vincent Emanuele.

Many have begun to refer to the Islamic State group as Daesh. | Photo: andaluciainformacion.es

After 14 years of War on Terror the West is great at fomenting barbarism and creating failed states.

For the last several years, people around the world have asked, "Where did ISIS come from?" Explanations vary, but largely focus on geopolitical (U.S. hegemony), religious (Sunni-Shia), ideological (Wahhabism) or ecological (climate refugees) origins. Many commentators and even former military officials correctly suggest that the war in Iraq is primarily responsible for unleashing the forces we now know as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, etc. Here, hopefully I can add some useful reflections and anecdotes.

Mesopotamian Nightmares

When I was stationed in Iraq with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 2003-2005, I didn't know what the repercussions of the war would be, but I knew there would be a reckoning. That retribution, otherwise known as blowback, is currently being experienced around the world (Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, France, Tunisia, California, and so on), with no end in sight.

Back then, I routinely saw and participated in obscenities. Of course, the wickedness of the war was never properly recognized in the West. Without question, antiwar organizations attempted to articulate the horrors of the war in Iraq, but the mainstream media, academia and political-corporate forces in the West never allowed for a serious examination of the greatest war crime of the 21st century.

As we patrolled the vast region of Iraq's Al-Anbar Province, throwing MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) trash out of our vehicles, I never contemplated how we would be remembered in history books; I simply wanted to make some extra room in my HUMVEE. Years later, sitting in a Western Civilization history course at university, listening to my professor talk about the cradle of civilization, I thought of MRE garbage on the floor of the Mesopotamian desert.

Examining recent events in Syria and Iraq, I can't help but think of the small kids my fellow marines would pelt with Skittles from those MRE packages. Candies weren't the only objects thrown at the children: water bottles filled with urine, rocks, debris, and various other items were thrown as well. I often wonder how many members of ISIS and various other terrorist organizations recall such events?

Moreover, I think about the hundreds of prisoners we took captive and tortured in makeshift detention facilities staffed by teenagers from Tennessee, New York and Oregon. I never had the misfortune of working in the detention facility, but I remember the stories. I vividly remember the marines telling me about punching, slapping, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and head-butting Iraqis. I remember the tales of sexual torture: forcing Iraqi men to perform sexual acts on each other while marines held knives against their testicles, sometimes sodomizing them with batons.

However, before those abominations could take place, those of us in infantry units had the pleasure of rounding up Iraqis during night raids, zip-tying their hands, black-bagging their heads and throwing them in the back of HUMVEEs and trucks while their wives and kids collapsed to their knees and wailed. Sometimes, we would pick them up during the day. Most of the time they wouldn't resist. Some of them would hold hands while marines would butt-stroke the prisoners in the face. Once they arrived at the detention facility, they would be held for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Their families were never notified. And when they were released, we would drive them from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the middle of the desert and release them several miles from their homes.

After we cut their zip-ties and took the black bags off their heads, several of our more deranged marines would fire rounds from their AR-15s into their air or ground, scaring the recently released captives. Always for laughs. Most Iraqis would run, still crying from their long ordeal at the detention facility, hoping some level of freedom awaited them on the outside. Who knows how long they survived. After all, no one cared. We do know of one former U.S. prisoner who survived: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.

Amazingly, the ability to dehumanize the Iraqi people reached a crescendo after the bullets and explosions concluded, as many marines spent their spare time taking pictures of the dead, often mutilating their corpses for fun or poking their bloated bodies with sticks for some cheap laughs. Because iPhones weren't available at the time, several marines came to Iraq with digital cameras. Those cameras contain an untold history of the war in Iraq, a history the West hopes the world forgets. That history and those cameras also contain footage of wanton massacres and numerous other war crimes, realities the Iraqis don't have the pleasure of forgetting.

Unfortunately, I could recall countless horrific anecdotes from my time in Iraq. Innocent people were not only routinely rounded-up, tortured and imprisoned, they were also incinerated by the hundreds of thousands, some studies suggest by the millions.

Only the Iraqis understand the pure evil that's been waged on their nation. They remember the West's role in the eight year war between Iraq and Iran; they remember Clinton's sanctions in the 1990s, policies which resulted in the deaths of well over 500,000 people, largely women and children. Then, 2003 came and the West finished the job. Today, Iraq is an utterly devastated nation. The people are poisoned and maimed, and the natural environment is toxic from bombs laced with depleted uranium. After fourteen years of the War on Terror, one thing is clear: the West is great at fomenting barbarism and creating failed states.

Living with Ghosts

The warm and glassy eyes of young Iraqi children perpetually haunt me, as they should. The faces of those I've killed, or at least those whose bodies were close enough to examine, will never escape my thoughts. My nightmares and daily reflections remind me of where ISIS comes from and why, exactly, they hate us. That hate, understandable yet regrettable, will be directed at the West for years and decades to come. How could it be otherwise?

Again, the scale of destruction the West has inflicted in the Middle East is absolutely unimaginable to the vast majority of people living in the developed world. This point can never be overstated as Westerners consistently and naively ask, "Why do they hate us?"

In the end, wars, revolutions and counterrevolutions take place and subsequent generations live with the results: civilizations, societies, cultures, nations and individuals survive or perish. That's how history works. In the future, how the West deals with terrorism will largely depend on whether or not the West continues their terroristic behavior. The obvious way to prevent future ISIS-style organizations from forming is to oppose Western militarism in all its dreadful forms: CIA coups, proxy wars, drone strikes, counterinsurgency campaigns, economic warfare, etc.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Meanwhile, those of us who directly participated in the genocidal military campaign in Iraq will live with the ghosts of war.

Vincent can be reached at vincent.emanuele333@gmail.com


  1. Good stuff! If I see anything else I will send you the link for your approval, though I'm in SE Asia at the minute and internet can be sketchy.

    Be well.


  2. Steve,

    it was a well spotted piece. The author was immediately agreeable to it featuring here when I got in touch with him.


  3. It certainly was a good piece, even though the reading of it was absolutely stomach-churning. While not containing new information, nevertheless it is horrific to hear straight from a US Marine of the brutality he participated in and inflicted on wholly innocent people. I argued on TPQ two or three years ago that the crimes committed in the US/British torture chambers surpassed those inflicted by Saddam and was told that wasn't credible. We can see now that it is not only credible, it is the reality

  4. Vincent

    That is a very powerful piece you have written and it must have taken courage for you to say what you have about yourself so publically.

    That you, and the West, contributed to the creation of ISIS maybe true. But the West does not start and stop with the UK and USA; the small island I live on, insignificant as it might be in many ways, forms part of western civilisation as do other nationalities larger than my own.

    As I read your article I too recalled 'vivid memories' of my own. My experiences and memories are the opposite of yours in that I was 'outside' the passing armoured vehicles or fixed military sangars. I can recall British Soldiers tossing coins and 'candies'at us as children, and on other occasions more lethal or offensive items were aimed at us -I have seen plastice bullets doctored with batteries or blades to make them more lethal. On one occasion a fist sized rock narrowly missed my face to forcefully smash into the wall next to me as 2 soldiers standing in the back of a passing amoured jeep laughed and jeered at catching me so unawares. Or other occasions jeeps would mount the footpath in attempt to hit me or other kids. It was a regular occurrence that Soldiers would wait outside our school gates and throw rocks at us as we came out the school gates -I think they just wanted to relieve their own boredom and as kids we obliged -and to my recollection I do not recall anyone on either side being badly injured in those skirmishes -if anything the Brits took more hits.

    I also recall the stories of others being driven into hard-line Loyalist areas and being thrown out of the military vehicles and having to run for their lives lest loyalist gangs catch them. I recall the panic in my community as the Ballymurphy massacre unfolded nearby and saw breaking news footage of the Bloody Sunday massacre. It is generally considered that the Parachute Regiment responsible for those atrocities got their comeuppance at Warren Point. When the IRA carried out its own atrocities, for example the Birmingham Pub Bombings or Enniskillen Massacre, its support base made its revulsion or objections known and that probably served to police IRA actions to some degree. I have spent a lot of time, 24/7, around IRA volunteers and I can tell you that as much as British actions provoked many of them to join the IRA they did not loose their sense of humanity.

    The point that I am making with all of this is that as wrong or reprehensible your or the Wests role in creating ISIS might be, ISIS is its own master and responsible for its own conduct and no one else. Burning people in cages or beheading humanitarian aid workers can in no way be attributed to a legitimate means of fighting western imperialism. Executing a war of Genocide against the Yazidi people and other ethnic minorities has nothing to do with you or the West but the evil interpretations that Radical Muslims can give to their belief in Islam. Islamists were not misguidedly targeting off duty Western Soldiers in Paris nor did a bomb prematurely detonate on a Madrid train instead Islamists aimed to kill as many unarmed innocent civilians as they could. And they are going to keep doing that. Islamists need to be brought before the Hague for Genocide, Crimes Against Hummmanity or War Crimes if the luxury of capture presents itself but until then they need to be confronted with drone strikes like Jahidi John was or shot dead as the Paris Police had to do. Being witness or victim to attacks with bottles of urine, or worse, gunning down innocent civilians does not justify anyone committing some of the worst atrocities on innocent people in the history of mankind.

  5. ISIS are not a response to US transgressions in Iraq. Zarqawi had already planned his Jihad there before the invasion.Look at the first Caliph after Mohammed (Abu Bakr), how he fought other 'Muslims' he saw as a block to his expansionist designs. Its the template ISIS follow, if it was just the US occupation, they could only be a nationalist organisation, without world designs.There is a new film out called 'Only the Dead' by a journalist who saw the birth of ISIS while it was just Tawhid wal Jihad, it should shed a better light on things.

  6. Christy,

    While I agree with you, threatening Jihadi's with The Hague is a like a flea trying to fuck an elephant. Drone strikes are like the boy at the back of the class with a rubber band and screwed up paper. The fact is 'The West' could militarily wipe out Daesh within 6 months if it wanted too, but it doesn't. Widespread destabilising of the Middle East is what The West/Israel (notice how astoundingly quiet Israel has been on all this?) wants. Divide and conquer.

    I recently read in the Jerusalem Post an article how...

    'Settlements are not the issue, and they are legal. The more “Settlements” we build and expand, the closer we get to achieving an everlasting peace with our Arab neighbors. The “Settlements”, is our front line for coming to a peaceful understanding between us and our Arab neighbors.'

    While the Western Media spoon feeds the masses the party line regarding the horribleness of Daesh, Israel continues to quietly and illegally annexe more land for themselves.

    A large part of the Western Media is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who along with Dick Cheney and the Rothschild family control Genie Energy, a huge US Oil company. Genie Energy has identified large reserves in Syria that it wants, hence the unending quest to get rid of Assad.

    ISIS is a product of this, I am sure you would have seen the photo of John Kerry and Abu Bakr having a tete e tete before Daesh's first incantation, the 'Muslim Brotherhood' first appeared? John Kerry who let slip only last week that the real plan was various autonomous areas with installed proxy rulers?

    A year ago, the Iraqi's even complained of US air-drops to Iraqi forces supposedly going astray but ending up with Daesh, and of intercepting comms between US pilots and Daesh saying 'don't worry yours is coming'. They can put a 1000lbs laser guided bomb down a chimney but miss a whole area?

    War is window-dressing, the goal for the West is Oil and Israeli expansion. A lot of people are dying for Wall Street.

  7. Steve

    I mentioned the Hague because it is a nice idea but was thinking as you are that it is no remedy to something like Islamists. And yes it has crossed my mind that Western powers have played on Islamists so they implode on themselves by trying to out do each other in getting back in touch with their neanderthal religious roots so to speak. If you have not seen this interview with US general Wesley Clark after watching it you will come back and tell me I told you so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz5fZziMWEE

  8. Will have a look when i've a better connection,cheers Christy.

  9. Christy,
    I was finding it interesting to what you were writing and then you turned in to a Western Jihadi at the end.

    ' Islamists need to be brought before the Hague for Genocide, Crimes Against Hummmanity or War Crimes if the luxury of capture presents itself but until then they need to be confronted with drone strikes like Jahidi John was or shot dead as the Paris Police had to do. Being witness or victim to attacks with bottles of urine, or worse, gunning down innocent civilians does not justify anyone committing some of the worst atrocities on innocent people in the history of mankind.'

    Every action has a reaction Christy....blowing people like Jihadi John to pieces and everyone else around him including women and children will not resolve ISIS but drive more people in to its arms....ISIS has been responsible for some very bloody and inhumane actions but as for being 'the worst atrocities in the history of mankind'...seriously!

  10. The way to resolve this so-called 'Islamist terror' is to apply the international law to those who are funding and supporting it. We are talking here about our own governments here in the West. You can include whoever else in that if you like, be it Russia, China or whoever (I'm not oblivious to their role in the international arms trade and all the rest), but the West in this instance (that being the manipulation of pseudo-Islamic Wahhabism as a geostrategic 'interventionist' tool) are the primary facilitators and those who ultimately must be confronted if we're serious about dealing with the problem. Those who create terror so they can fight it and achieve ulterior goals in the process are at the root of this and must be held to account at the ICC or wherever. What they are doing fits the bill and satisfies the definition of 'crimes of aggression'. Yet because they are the supposedly enlightened West and because they have shaped the institutions of the international system to their imperialist agenda they are not pursued. As I mentioned on another thread, a good place to proceed from is the UN submission of former Iranian PM Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who argued the system needed reformed to eliminate undemocratic vetoes that attach to the powerful while the legal frames of references governing the prosecution of crimes needed extended to those same vested interests also. It is the only way this can change and the only thing that will stop them in their tracks. It is also achievable.

  11. Niall

    I made myself clear that Vincent may deserve to feel guilty so it can be assumed that I was not condoning the killing of any innocent people. So I understood the moral dilemma you refer to and do not disagree with you but I was speaking in terms of Vincent's sense of guilt and what I view as the reality that if capture is not an option then having to kill people like Jihadi John is a reality that has to be faced.

    Islamists are reviving the most primative and savage ways of killing people that mankind has ever devised in its history, from burning alive, chopping heads off, stoning to death, cutting hands, legs or tongues out as criminal punishments, opening sex slave markets to sell their bounty of women and children.... and other atrocities that I cannot imagine. So, Yes, seriously!. Fine if you disagree with me but you think I am a jihadi and all that goes with that sort of reprehensible character?

    You defend the above listed atrocities as a justified response to the throwing of bottles of urine or killing innocent people as "Every action has a reaction". If you read what I wrote then you should have grasped what my point was; that despite similar behavior from the British Army violent Nationalist/Republican responses were morally and ethically tempered to some degree (not always successful) to avoid killing innocent civilians or inhumane ways of killing their enemy.