In an interview posted on YouTube 22 August 2015, Noam Chomski responded to a question about the origins of ISIS.

ChomskyHis comments were off-the-cuff. He had no notes and spoke in a conversational manner. This was not a lecture or a prepared speech. He was simply speaking about his understanding of the origins of the world’s conflict with Islam. He began by reflecting on a statement by the former CIA officer Graham Fuller and ended with a chilling and prescient statement.

If Chomsky is correct in his assessment of the causes of the violence presently tearing apart the Levant, we are now faced with the painful task of having to deal with a situation which we in the west actually created twelve years ago. It is ironic to hear again and again today the claim, “Well you can’t just let terrorists run all over the world killing people,” when we may well be the ones who created the “terrorists” in the first place.


Here are Chomsky’s comments:

The former CIA officer Graham Fuller says, the United States created ISIS.

He does not mean that the US went out and actually organized groups of radical Jihadis but rather the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledge hammer approach – smash up what you don’t like.

2003 – the US and Britain invaded Iraq. This was a major crime.

The invasion was devastating to Iraq. The country had already been virtually destroyed: the nearly decade-long war with Iran in which, incidentally Iraq was backed by the US. the decade of sanctions which were described as genocidal  by respected international diplomats. The sanctions devastated the civilian population and strengthened the dictator, compelling the population to rely on him for survival. This is probably the reason he wasn’t dispatched on the same path as a whole host of other dictators who were overthrown.

Finally, the US just decided to attack Iraq.

The 2003 attack was compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasions 1,000 years earlier. Th US invasion was very destructive:

  • hundreds of thousands of people were killed
  • millions of refugees were created
  • thousands were displaced within their country
  • there was devastating destruction of the archaeological richness and wealth of the country

One of the effects of the invasion was to immediately institute sectarian division.

Part of the brilliance of the invasion force under Paul Bremer was to separate the sects and set them at each others’ throats:

  • Sunnis
  • Shias
  • Kurds

Within a couple of years there was a major sectarian conflict incited by the invasion. It was very brutal.

If you look at a map of Bagdad in 2002, its a mixed city of Shia and Sunni. They are living in the same neighbourhoods; they are inter-married. In fact sometimes they said you could not even tell who’s Shia and who’s Sunni. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another. There are differences but it was not hostile.

In fact for a number of years both sides had been saying, “There will never be Sunni/Shia conflict; we’re too inter-mingled.”

By 2006 there was a raging civil war.

Out of that conflict, violence spread to the whole region which was soon being torn apart by Sunni/Shia conflicts.

The natural dynamic out of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. And this had it roots in the major US Ally, Saudi Arabia, which has been the major US Ally in the region as long as the US has been involved there. The reason is that Saudi Arabia has a huge amount of oil.

Britain before the US typically had preferred to side with radical Islamism over secular nationalism. And, when the US took over, it essentially took the same stand.

Radical Islam is centered in Saudi Arabia. It’s the most extremist radical Islamic state in the world. Saudi Arabia makes Iran look like a tolerant moderate modern country by comparison.

Saudi Arabia is also a missionary state. So it uses its huge oil resources to promulgate these doctrines throughout the region establishing schools, mosques, clerics and so on all over the place from Pakistan to North Africa.

An extremist Saudi doctrine is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS.

The conflicts that were engendered by the US sledge hammer smashed up Iraq and now that conflict has spread everywhere.

Saudi Arabia now provides the ideological core for ISIS. And wealthy Saudis and Kuwaitis provide the funding for these Jihadi groups that are springing up all over the place.

The attack on the region by the US and Britain is the source from which this thing originates. You can be pretty confident that as conflicts develop, they’ll become more extremist and more brutal. That’s what happens when violence becomes the means of the interaction. It’s almost automatic.

If they manage to destroy ISIS, they’ll have something more extreme on their hands.


Hearing Chomsky’s chilling warning, it is hard not to call to mind, Jesus’ equally sobering caution that

all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

(Matthew 26:52)