It depends on what the meaning of the word “IS” is….and the JV Squad

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This makes for a pathetic LoL of the day:

The Institute for Science and International Security is having some acronym woes.

The highly regarded nonprofit, non-partisan outfit, which seeks to stop the spread of nukes to other countries and to terrorists, posted a plea Tuesday on its Web site under the heading “Needless Collateral Damage.” It asked that everyone please stop using its acronym, ISIS, “as a shortening for the name of the jihadist terrorist group named, in transliterated Arabic, the Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham.”

Sure, that would be really snappy: The “ADAIFAIWAAS,” or maybe just DIFI. (But then the senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein (D), would be most upset.)

How about JV-IS?

In its post, the good ISIS says that the bad ISIS “announced in June that it was changing its name to the ‘Islamic State” and suggests that the media use “IS.” (Seriously? Then we get back to what the meaning of “is” is. No, we’ll stick with ISIS.)

The good ISIS says “the widespread, persistent use of the acronym ISIS to refer to this terrorist organization” causes “considerable confusion” and “reputational harm.” Besides, the good ISIS says, they had it first, having used that acronym since 1993.

That’s of little matter, since dueling acronyms are a constant problem in this acronym-crazed town.

Remember when WWE was once known as WWF? No? Nevermind then.

Glenn Kessler on the WaPo’s Fact Checker examines the screwball spin that White House spokesman Josh Earnest gave about a week ago to President Obama’s JV comment in dismissing the relevance of the Islamic State as being anything consequential to world and national security, on the scale of al Qaeda’s threat:

Question: “Did the president underestimate ISIS [the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] when he referred to them in an interview only a couple months ago as a JV squad and making a reference to National Basketball Association basketball teams like the Lakers?”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest: “I thought somebody might ask this question today so I wanted to pull the transcript of the interview because it’s important to understand the context in which this was delivered. So let me just read the full quote and then we can talk about it:

“‘I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.’

“So the president was not singling out ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another name for the group], he was talking about the very different threat that is posed by a range of extremists around the globe. Many of them do not have designs on attacking the West or attacking the United States, and that is what puts them in stark contrast to the goals and capability of the previously existing al-Qaeda core network that was led by Osama bin Laden.”

– exchange at White House news briefing, Aug. 25, 2014

Here is Kessler’s fact check into history:

The Facts

The New Yorker article, written by David Remnick, appeared in the Jan. 27, 2014, issue. It was clearly based on a series of interviews with the president, over a period of months, but the interview in question took place in the Oval Office on Jan. 7, according to the previously unreleased transcript.

The date is important because just four days before, newspapers reported that the Islamic State had captured and raised its flag over Fallujah, where Marines in 2004 had fought one of the bloodiest battles of the U.S. invasion. As Liz Sly of The Washington Post reported:

A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago….

The upheaval also affirmed the soaring capabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that was formed a decade ago to confront U.S. troops and expanded into Syria last year while escalating its activities in Iraq.

It was in that context that Remnick asked about a possible resurgence of al-Qaeda. Here is what the transcript shows:

Q: You know where this is going, though. Even in the period that you’ve been on vacation in the last couple of weeks, in Iraq, in Syria, of course, in Africa, al-Qaeda is resurgent.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but, David, I think the analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant. I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

Q: But that JV team jus[t] took over Fallujah.

THE PRESIDENT: I understand. But when you say took over Fallujah –

Q: And I don’t know for how long.

THE PRESIDENT: But let’s just keep in mind, Fallujah is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology is a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.

The president’s “JV” comment was so striking that Remnick, in his article, referred to it as “an uncharacteristically flip analogy.” The New Yorker article does not specifically refer to ISIS, but it is fairly clear in the article — and certainly clear in the transcript — that Remnick was asking about its takeover of Fallujah.

In the White House briefing, Earnest asserted that Obama was referring to groups that “do not have designs on attacking the West or on attacking the United States … they certainly don’t have the capability of attacking the West.” He told reporters that “it’s important that we don’t sort of shorthand the analogy that the president was trying to draw here,” in that the president was referring to “jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes.”

But the context of Remnick’s question makes it clear that he was asking about ISIS, as the president acknowledged. Perhaps at the time the president viewed it as a local matter between jihadists, but now, eight months later, the United States is striking Islamic State targets in an effort to turn back its advance across Iraqi territory.

4 Pinocchios

Although some Islamist militants are localized and regional (think it would remain as such? Think a Caliphate in the Levant would stop there?), the problem of Islamic violence and tyranny is a world-wide affair. Furthermore, all of these numerous Islamic groups and organizations- despite being, in some cases, rival competitors- have shared interests, shared goals, cross-over funding and training, and links.

The mistake of so many (especially those who, like President Obama, want to return us to a 9/10 model and mentality of treating Islamic terrorism- both domestic and exported/international- as an act of criminality rather than an act of war, to be dealt with through law enforcement and courts) is to regard the War on Terror as narrowly confined to one terror organization- al Qaeda.

When bin Laden declared war on the U.S., his second fatwa wasn’t signed by just him. It was signed under the banner of not al Qaeda but the World Islamic Front. It included the signatures of Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (becoming al Qaeda’s second-in-command); Abu-Yasir Rafa’l Ahmad Taha, leader of the Islamic Group; Sheikh Mir Hamzah, secretary of the Jumiat-ut-Ulema-e-Pakistan; and Fazlul Rahman, leader of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh. It was never just “al Qaeda” that was at war with us in 1998 (and prior), as we “slept”.

Rather than just “the Base”, we are at war with the al Qaeda network; which is why in so many news articles over the last decade, you’d see an act of terrorism attributed to a cell or organization that “has ties to al Qaeda” or described as “an affiliate”. We are more properly at war with a global jihad movement.

Whereas critics of the GWoT and those Democrats and Ron Paul Isolationist/non-interventionists saw President Bush as expanding the war rather than narrow focus on OBL and his merry band of religious nuts, perceiving it to begin and end with al Qaeda, President Bush stated it correctly from the beginning:

“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

-President Bush in an address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, United States Capitol, Washington D.C., September 20, 2001.

Whether they are playing Junior Varsity Jihadism or stepped their game up to Varsity Pro and the big leagues of international terrorism…Whether it’s Hamas in the Gaza Strip, al-Shabaab in Somalia, al-Nusra Front in Syria, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia, or ISIS in Iraq (as well as so many more), these terror groups are all related; and they all have something in common, aside from the terror and the violence: Forced conversion, purification, and Islamification of the world.

It’s all the same war. A war against modernity and civilized civilization:


13 Responses to “It depends on what the meaning of the word “IS” is….and the JV Squad”

  1. 1



    Dana Milbank:

    But three days earlier — the day Britain raised its terrorism threat level to “severe” — Obama delivered a very different message when he spoke to donors at a fundraiser in New York’s Westchester County. “Yes, the Middle East is challenging, but the truth is it’s been challenging for quite a while,” he said. “I promise you things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago. This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War.”

    Speaking to another group of contributors that same day in Newport, R.I., the president said that the post-9/11 security apparatus “makes us in the here and now pretty safe” and that the threat from ISIS “doesn’t immediately threaten the homeland.”


    Obama has been giving Americans a pep talk, essentially counseling them not to let international turmoil get in the way of the domestic economic recovery. “The world has always been messy,” he said Friday. “In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.”

    So we wouldn’t have fussed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine if not for Facebook? Or worried about terrorists taking over much of Syria and Iraq if not for Twitter? This explanation, following Obama’s indiscreet admission Thursday that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for military action against the Islamic State, adds to the impression that Obama is disengaged.

    In short, Americans would worry less if Obama worried more.

  2. 2

    another vet

    Excellent analogy of the current state of affairs. Some people still don’t get it and unfortunately they are the ones running the show right now. In order to win a war one of the first steps is to be able to properly identify the enemy. Then again, you can just say and pretend there is no war. We all saw how well that worked out on 9/11.

  3. 3



    Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars:

    Yet some terrorism specialists point out that ISIS is consumed by the sectarian wars in Syria and Iraq, and has shown no intent to launch attacks in the West, or any ability to do so. Still, ISIS has attracted five hundred British volunteers, many scores of other European passport holders, and even some Americans to its fight; they might eventually turn toward London, Berlin, or New York. Last week, British authorities announced that the threat of a terrorist attack on its home soil was “severe,” given the rising number of British jihadis now among the militants in Iraq and Syria.

    The question about President Obama’s resumption of war in Iraq is not whether it can be justified but where it will lead. Air strikes against a well-resourced guerrilla army will do little if they are not accompanied by action on the ground. It would be a catastrophic error for the United States to take on that role. But what other professional force will dislodge the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate and then control the population? American policy assumes that Iraq’s squabbling politicians will rally a Shiite-led army to fight ISIS in the country’s Sunni heartland. On recent evidence, this assessment looks unrealistic.

    In Syria, the options are worse. Obama has said repeatedly that he does not believe that Syria’s moderate rebels have the capacity to overthrow Assad or defeat jihadists. Yet the alternatives would allow Syria’s violence to fester at the cost of tens of thousands more civilian lives or would tacitly condone an alliance with the brutal Assad, who has been implicated in war crimes.

    Obama and his advisers have at times taken refuge in a self-absolving logic: We can’t force people in other countries to unite around our agenda, so, if they don’t, whatever calamity unfolds is their responsibility. As a retreat from American hubris, this form of realism has appeal. As a contribution to a stable Middle East, it has failed utterly.

    It is not yet clear that ISIS will endure as a menace. Fast-moving extremist conquerors sometimes have trouble holding their ground. ISIS has promised to govern as effectively as it intimidates, but its talent lies in extortion and ethnic cleansing, not in sanitation and job creation. It is vulnerable to revolt from within.

    The group’s lightning rise is a symptom, however, of deeper instability; a cause of that instability is failed international policy in Iraq and Syria. If the United States is returning to war in the region, one might wish for a more considered vision than Whack-a-Mole against jihadists.

    The restoration of human rights in the region first requires a renewed search for a tolerable—and, where possible, tolerant—path to stability. ISIS feasts above all on the suffering of Syria, and that appears to be unending. The war is in its fourth year, with almost two hundred thousand dead and nine million displaced, inside the country and out. The caliphate now seated in Raqqa is the sort of dark fantasy that can spring to life when people feel they are bereft of other plausible sources of security and justice.

    “We don’t have a strategy yet,” the President remarked last week, infelicitously, about Syria. He does have a coalition of allies in the region that are willing to challenge ISIS’s ambition, including Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries patronize disenfranchised Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, and some of their support certainly reaches jihadists, including ISIS. Yet they share an interest in reducing Syria’s violence and in promoting regional and local Sunni self-governance that is less threatening and more sustainable than what ISIS has created. Ultimately, Sunnis will need the kind of autonomy that Kurds presently enjoy.

    Leading a coalition of this character is hard, uncertain work. George H. W. Bush, the President whose foreign policy Obama seems to admire most, did it successfully in the runup to the Gulf War of 1991, by intensive personal engagement. Obama has more than two years left in the White House. To defeat ISIS, but also to reduce its source of strength, will require the President to risk his credibility on more than just air strikes.

  4. 4


    “You win a war when your enemy no longer has the will or the means to continue to fight” Sun Tzu 2400 years ago

    Our enemies during WWII lost the will and the means to continue fighting and surrendered unconditionally.

    Fighting a war to establish detente is a fool’s game. We will soon pay a price for electing a president who found his inspiration for foreign policy and war strategy from reading Marxists through the haze of hashish smoke.

  5. 5

    Nanny G

    We are in Hundred Years’ War, if not a longer one than that.
    Part of the problem is that, sometimes, like when an Obama-type is in power here, we let the other side build up.
    But post-Obama the war will be a thing that will have to be addressed.
    Obama seems on the side of ISIS.
    He is allowing them time and space to arm and fund and organize themselves.
    He only pinpricks them if he is forced to.
    Their organizational bulk remains intact.
    Obama couldn’t wait to ”fundamentally transform America,” because he hated the way America was before he took power.
    ISIS looks at America as the ”Great Satan,” and at Israel as the ”Lesser Satan.”
    It is almost as if ISIS and Obama view these things alike.
    In days of old, before 9-11, the rich oil princes and sheiks and imams lived as if Sharia was a bunch of suggestions for themselves but laws for their underclass.
    The worldwide calphate would be run much the same.
    Islamic leadership (does Obama see himself there?) will have all the wealth, food, drinks, drugs, sex, extravagances while the slaves of Allah follow a strict and heavily punished version of Islam.
    Non-Islamic survivors will be the slave class below even them!

  6. 6


    @another vet: Oh, they get it; they just think if they ignore a problem hard enough, it simply goes away (actually, someone else comes along and solves it). It is how liberals deal with the debt; just keep spending and ignore the pay-back. Those who hold the mortgage will simply forget. Everything always just works out, if you are ignorant enough.

  7. 7

    another vet

    @Bill: There are definitely two different worlds out there right now- reality and Obamaland. Perhaps if we just hide in the closet or pull the covers over our heads the bad guys will go away. Then we can all just reap the benefits of the coming Marxist utopia they seem so bent on creating. If, or perhaps when, this country gets hit again my response is going to be a little different than what it was 13 years ago. People who don’t learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them and we certainly seemed to be headed in that direction.

  8. 8


    @Nanny G:

    We are in Hundred Years’ War, if not a longer one than that.

    We, the West, have been fighting the Muslim hoards for longer than just a decade. We, the West, have been fighting the Muslim hoards for a thousand years, and it is not going to end until we finally get the cajones to kill them all.

    Obama seems on the side of ISIS.

    Have you noticed that everyone calls the Islamist group ISIS, while Obama, and his lackeys, continue to call it ISIL? Is Obama sending them a message?

    Islamic State of Iraq and Syria


    Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (which is Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and southern Turkey)

  9. 10



    All part of the same war:

    Ansar Jerusalem was founded in the aftermath of the uprisings in Egypt in 2011. The US added the jihadist group to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorist groups. In the designation, the State Department said that Ansar Jerusalem “shares some aspects of AQ [al Qaeda] ideology, but is not a formal AQ affiliate and generally maintains a local focus.”

    But as Thomas Joscelyn observed at the time of the designation, Ansar Jerusalem has used al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and al Qaeda-associated statements in its propaganda. Additionally, groups such as Shabaab and the Al Nusrah Front hid their affiliation with al Qaeda for years before announcing their allegiance. [See LWJ report, State Department adds Ansar Jerusalem to terrorist designation lists.] And just today, al Qaeda announced the formation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. In the announcement, al Qaeda stated that the formation of the Indian Subcontinent group was in the works for more than two years. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda opens branch in the ‘Indian Subcontinent’.]

    Yesterday’s attack serves as a reminder that as the world focuses on the exploits of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, other insurgencies in the Middle East are still underway. The Egyptian military has been unable to suppress the jihadists in the Sinai after more than a year of fighting.

    Attacks by jihadists against Egyptian forces in the Sinai and beyond occur on a near-daily basis. Just days ago, Ansar Jerusalem beheaded four Egyptian soldiers.

  10. 11



    Bill Roggio:

    Kirby is defending the indefensible. The Obama administration and Kirby would be better served admitting that it was a mistake to underestimate the Islamic State. As a senior military officer, he knows that it is impossible for the Islamic State to have gained the capacity to take on two states (Iraq and Syria) and control large regions in both countries in the span of just eight months.

    Those of us who have been watching the Islamic State (previously known as al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State of Iraq, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham) have warned that the group has been gaining in strength since 2012. For example, this deadly raid on Haditha in March 2012 shows that the group had regrouped and developed the capacity train, plan for, and execute sophisticated operations against Iraqi security forces.

    Watch the video linked above that shows the Islamic State’s assault on Haditha in 2012. The tactics used in that attack weren’t developed over the past eight months. These tactics have been on display in both Iraq and Syria over the past three years. The alarm bells should have been ringing in the Obama administration once the Islamic State seized Fallujah and several areas in Anbar province in January. Instead, the president grossly understated the Islamic State’s abilities. And today, administration officials are referring to the group as a dangerous global threat while the military is launching airstrikes against the group daily and is planning to expand its operations, possibly into Syria.

    Administration and military officials shouldn’t bristle when asked why they failed to properly assess that danger of the Islamic State. They should admit their mistake and articulate a strategy to defeat the group. Even if a new strategy contradicts previous campaign promises to end the war in Iraq.

  11. 12

    Nanny G

    I really wonder what Obama has in store in his ”strategy” speech on Wed.
    It seems as if he intends to have us arm Islamists who are silent partners of ISIS.
    (This will only lead to our inadvertently arming ISIS…..again.)
    It also seems as if he only wants to fight from the air and from a non-boots-on-the-ground position.
    (This means drone strikes only if no civilians might be there, weak and ideologically vacillating Muslim armies being armed to fight as our proxies.)
    Lastly, it seems as if Obama will only help IF enough Muslim allies are in front of him.
    (This brings to mind the statue with feet of clay from the Bible. In the last era the vision covers the legs of iron mix with feet of iron and clay to create an inherently weak leadership. It is this era that gets utterly destroyed from without. Can Turkey, the Saudis, Egypt, the Kurds, some Shia, some Sunnis all really agree with the USA on a battle to the utter destruction of fellow Muslims?)

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    @Wordsmith: It’s kind of hard to admit that the foreign policy keystone of your entire 2012 campaign (al Qaeda is on the run) was a mistake. Obama has yet to admit his opposition to the Iraq surge was a mistake (though it gave him the opportunity to grandstand the event that has made the recent ISIS invasion of Iraq possible). I don’t think Obama is big on admitting mistakes; once he started that, there would be no time left for golf.

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