This will likely (hopefully) become huge news if the establishment press decides to report it: the United States knowingly armed religious extremists in Syria.
The hyperlinked article, penned by Nafeez Ahmed, details a declassified, though heavily redacted, document uncovered by Judicial Watch. Based on a fair reading, “the West” was okay with the rise of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria. That this “Principality” manifested as a former al-Qaida affiliate (AQI), which is known in Western circles now as ISIS or IS, is irrelevant to the larger point: the United States knew its plan to exclusively arm “moderates”, as it was spun in the press, was also arming jihadists, and that this could lead to instability in Iraq, but that it was desirable none-the-less as a way to isolate Assad. We have betrayed our contract with the Iraqis and the Kurds yet again.
This does not mean, to anticipate a likely response, that the United States “created” the Islamic State (Da’ish). American foreign policy is not god-like. Da’ish is full of human adults with moral agency, capable of making their own decisions — and they choose daily to murder and enslave. It does mean, however, that the U.S. purposefully armed al-Qaida in Iraq and the al-Nusra Front. It also means the official “We’re only arming moderates” line was not simply the truthful utterance of a well-meaning idealism, as the White House would have you believe, but a lie.
Both U.S. and Turkey, while seeing Da’ish as an enemy (and it is their enemy), also see it as useful. This is not a surprise, but is already known, especially to those fighting Da’ish on the ground. Clearly many players around the world see a short-term use for fascism in the region. The big “shock”, therefore, is not that weapons were mistakenly falling into the arms of radicals, but that “the West” was consciously arming its own “enemy.”
Finally, therefore, it must be acknowledged that there is a huge difference in the above policy and one which fully, unapologetically — and unilaterally, if need be — rids the world of fascism. The above policy is a cowardly and secretive one which belies its real interests and betrays its humanism. It is a policy of sectarianism, identity politics, and myopic geopolitical gamesmanship. It is a policy which chooses the risk of regime change without sacrificing for it, using instead local actors as its own troops. It must be acknowledged that a policy of standing in solidarity with the people of the region and their self-determination would look much different than one which knowingly arms their most immediate threat. This policy would find and support, not “moderates”, but radicals in the name of human freedom, and do so publicly, after much debate, and in the face of any and all international resistance.