In scenes uncannily like Eastern Europe in the early 1940’s or Srebrenica in 1995 the victims of the Camp Speicher massacre of July 2014 were lined up like lambs to the slaughter. Unarmed and completely defenseless they were ruthlessly slaughtered by their captors. Up to 1,700 Iraqi air cadets were believed to have been murdered in Tikrit by Islamic State (Daesh, ISIS). Their bodies were either dumped into mass-graves near the scene of the massacre (the sight of freshly dug mass graves in Iraq is such a grotesque sight to behold isn’t it?) or the Tigris River. The murder-victims were primarily Shi’ites Muslims who are considered unforgivably heretical in Daesh’s eyes and thus deserving of such a slaughter.
When Shia militiamen fought against Daesh in Tikrit in April of this year they didn’t take any prisoners. This fact has been pointed out by journalists and commentators alike. And its quite significant. Most conclude that the reason there were no prisoners of war was simply because the Shia militiamen killed them all, regardless of whether or not they waved the white flag – remember plenty of Daesh members have surrendered and been taken as prisoners of war by the Kurds throughout the past year so it’s not as if they all manage to keep fighting on until they are killed. It has been argued that this take no prisoners strategy sets a very dangerous precedent for this conflict. After all, the general argument goes, if Daesh members know there is no choice but to fight to the death this war may be, perhaps needlessly, prolonged and therefore cause more death and destruction.
However there is another way to look at all this, and that is to view it is a conscious reckoning. The fact that no prisoners are being taken is the Shia militia’s way of conveying a very simple message. This fight is a fight to the bitter and bloody end. Daesh’s assault on Iraq is a fundamental assault on its existence and therefore must be completely eradicated. An absolute revenge, if you will, for the grave crime against humanity conducted at Camp Speicher (a massacre which was, it’s important to understand, a much graver massacre and crime than even the Dujail village massacre of Shiite men and boys ordered by Saddam Hussein in 1982 – the very massacre for which he was hanged in 2006). And yes that means this war may be much more brutal, much more bloody and much more violent than it otherwise might be. But as far as many of these Shia militiamen, and other Iraqis, are concerned this is the way it has to be since a defeat in the field of battle isn’t enough, Daesh must be completely purged, destroyed, never to rise or threaten Iraq and its people again for what it has done and for what it earnestly seeks to do.
Speicher needs to be put into perspective to properly understand this mentality. Cast your mind back to 1991 when the United States was readying to militarily confront Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, over its annexation of Kuwait. The now passed Tariq Aziz, then Iraq’s foreign minister, was told to convey to his president a warning given to him in a letter by then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker warning Iraq against using non-conventional biological or chemical weapons. Part of the letter declared that,
“If the conflict starts, God forbid, and chemical or biological weapons are used against our forces, the American people would demand revenge, and we have the means to implement this. This is not a threat, but a pledge that if there is any use of such weapons, our objective would not only be the liberation of Kuwait, but also the toppling of the present regime.”
Baker also spoke of “a most terrible response” against Iraq were it to deploy such weapons, indicating that the U.S. would retaliate in kind with non-conventional, possibly nuclear, weaponry. It was clear Saddam would have been completely obliterated if he were to attack American soldiers in such a way. Remember, one of the reasons Hussein was so confident he could keep Kuwait despite the technological superiority of the American-led multinational coalition was the fact that he perceived America to be a society which could not endure/tolerate the loss of ten-thousand soldiers in battle. He even once suggested to his military commanders that they could capture thousands of American soldiers (somehow), tie them to the front of Iraqi tanks and then seize parts of eastern Saudi Arabia to prevent any American attempt to retake Kuwait. Using American soldiers as human shields in such a manner would doubtlessly have incurred a devastating, to put it mildly, retaliation on Iraq which could well have been nuclear and killed many civilians and soldiers alike.
While these examples are hypothetical one can be almost certain if a tyrant like Saddam Hussein or a tyrannical group like Daesh ever did to unarmed American prisoners-of-war what Daesh has done to primarily Shi’ite Arab Iraqi cadets at Speicher the retaliation would be highly destructive and probably wouldn’t leave all an abundance of combatants alive to take prisoner. One should keep that in mind when trying to comprehend and understand what motivates and drives many of these Shia militiamen when it comes to some of the more ruthless actions they are undertaking against their irrevocable Daesh adversary.