Widely published ‘reports’ in the last week or so claimed that the so-called ‘Islamic State’ group’s elusive ‘caliph’, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed in a Russian airstrike in Raqqa.
In fact, the reports are now that this story was false – which makes me wonder why it was doing the rounds at all.
The cartoon image above is from a Charlie Hebdo satire, by the way.
Baghdadi has in fact been declared ‘killed’ a number of times in the last couple of years. I’ve never believed those claims – because I’ve never been properly convinced that ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ exists at all.
In covering this subject of Baghdadi here, I’m going to revisit some of what I’ve written here before – specifically regarding the Baghdadi mystery, but also the older Bin Laden myth (as I believe the two are related), and the whole business of this ‘caliphate’ that the ‘ISIS/Daesh’ group has been trying to carve out in the Middle East.
This is particularly relevant right now, as that ‘caliphate’ appears to almost over, with Raqqa (Syria) and Mosul (Iraq) both under heavy assault and expected to be fully ‘liberated’ from the jihadists. What happens with the ‘ISIS’ phenomenon after that is unclear; but too many people – including mainstream commentators – have moved on too quickly from the origins of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ and have instead allowed themselves to be locked into the fast-moving week-to-week narrative instead.
In 2014, when this whole ‘ISIS’ psy-op/horror-story began to take hold (yes, it’s only been three years), we learnt that a mysterious figure named ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ was being declared “the leader of all Muslims everywhere” by ‘Islamic State’ propagandists and their vast media enterprises.
It was one of the most disturbing things I had heard in a while.
Because, as far as I understood, there was only one figure in Islamic tradition that could make that claim of themselves and this is a figure rooted in Islamic prophecy concerning the End of the World.
And yet, suddenly, here was this previously unknown figure being declared ‘caliph’ and “leader of all Muslims” (an extraordinary claim) and here was this sudden onslaught of mass media coverage of barbaric jihadists brutally establishing their ‘Islamic State’ and terrifying people the world over with fears of this ‘death cult’ and their insane agenda.
The relentless coverage, psy-ops and ‘fear-porn‘, as well as battles and terror attacks, concerning ‘ISIS’ have continued, week after week, in all the time since.
But the reality – or even the existence – of the group’s iconic leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has barely been explored or properly established in all this time. Unlike in the Bin Laden/Al-Qaeda era, the media never talks about Baghdadi when it takes about the group he supposedly leads. The media in general seems entirely uninterested in him.
I referred to Baghdadi back in 2015 as ‘the Phantom Menace’.
And with good reason. Baghdadi is a figure who is so elusive that there are only two known photographs and one video recording of him in existence. The image depicting him below is from a Charlie Hebdo satire piece from 2015.
The fact is that, in essence, we know practically nothing about him; leading security experts had declared at the time, “They know physically who this guy is, but his backstory is just myth.”
As I noted at the time, ‘Essentially, once you peer beyond the fog of the shaky official narrative, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could literally be anyone.’
There were claims very early in the ‘ISIS’ psy-op that ‘Baghdadi’ was in fact a Mossad actor named ‘Shimon Elliot’ – a claim I explored in the same, older post in 2015.
I pretty much concluded at the time that I didn’t think this claim was true. But whether he is or isn’t a Mossad operative in the same way that Osama bin Laden was an obvious CIA asset, it’s easy to see why so many people believed he was – for one thing, ‘ISIS’ in the Middle East appeared to have been acting out Israeli foreign policy for the region and helping establish the ‘Yinon Plan’.
But, as alluded to earlier, the claim that ‘Baghdadi’ doesn’t exist isn’t just fanciful conspiracy theory conjecture.
According to a Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, a chief American military spokesman of the Iraq campaign, Baghdadi never existed and was actually a fictional character whose audio-taped declarations were provided by an elderly actor (taking us beyond The Phantom Menace and into Ben Kingsley’s character in Iron Man 3).
This was partly laid out in a New York Times piece a long time ago. These lines of inquiry start to paint a picture highly reminiscent of the Osama bin Laden myth – which we will come back to in a moment.
What made the ‘Mossad theory’ or the ‘actor’ theory all the more disturbing to me was that you could see footage, for example in the Vice News film inside The Islamic State, of young, practically infant, boys in towns or cities invaded by ISIS/ISIL, and they were forced to attend indoctrination lectures and pledging their allegiance to ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’; not to an ideal or ideology or even to an organisation, but literally to the person of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
And of course ‘Baghdadi’ himself isn’t present in the film, but remains elusive as ever. But just think about that for a moment – and then think about the fact that ‘Baghdadi’ might not actually exist.
But Baghdadi appears to have been designed as a cult of personality – both to fulfil perceived religious/cult prophecy and to be a replacement (and more extreme version) of Osama bin Laden as the iconic figure around which all jihadists or extremists could gather.
One of the extraordinary things that happened with Baghdadi and ‘ISIS’ was that various jihadist/extremist groups around the world decided to pledge allegiance to the cult-figure of Baghdadi himself and to the ‘Islamic State’ brand – which is something that had never happened before and certainly hadn’t happened with Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda.
Another reason I was disturbed by the earliest declarations of al-Baghdadi as ‘caliph’ is that it was clearly intended to announce Baghdadi as ‘the Mahdi’ – the ‘Rightly Guided’ figure prophesied thousands of years ago to lead the ‘Muslim world’ in a final, ‘Armageddon’-like battle against the forces of the ‘Dajjal’ or ‘Anti-Christ’.
This is also one of the reasons why so many young people from various countries have been seduced by the ISIL/ISIS brand: because all the prophetic associations are there in the prevailing narrative – the ideas of the ‘final battle’ between ‘the righteous’ and the ‘evildoers’, the divinely-guided ‘Mahdi’ and ‘final caliph’, etc, are all things taught to young Muslims as part of the ‘End Times’ mythology (though it comes from non-Koranic sources).
So, while ‘ISIS’ can be seen at least partly as a massive psy-op against Western populations and societies, it is – and always was – an even bigger, more horrible, psy-op against Muslim populations in Muslim countries.
It was, in essence, a massive mind-fuck.
One that seemed designed to play to prophecy and to therefore confuse, intimidate or terrify people; this element of playing with prophetic tradition seems all the more troubling when you also put it in the context of prevailing right-wing Christian/Jewish Zionist obsessions with fulfilling perceived Biblical prophecy of a final, ‘Armageddon’ conflict centering on Jerusalem and the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple (the Al-Aqsa mosque) – an event that Christian and Jewish Zionists believe will herald the coming of the Jewish Messiah.
I always find very worrying the actions and agendas of agencies and forces who do believe in this stuff and are trying to actively bring it about (a point I covered in the ‘Seeds of Fascism‘ piece) or, at the very least, trying to manipulate people’s beliefs and expectations via warped psy-ops (such as having Baghdadi be declared ‘leader of all Muslims’).
Even the mainstream, ‘official’ story of al-Baghdadi is rather telling.
‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ had apparently been arrested by US Forces in early 2004 near Fallujah and been detained at the now infamous Camp Bucca detention center under his name Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badry. Detained as a “civilian internee” from February until December 2004 (a number of newspapers instead state that al-Baghdadi was interned from 2005 to 2009), he was recommended for release by a Combined Review and Release Board and set free in December 2004 as a ‘low level prisoner’.
Camp Bucca, which channeled some 100,000 detainees through its barracks and closed months later, is now with hindsight seen by some to represent the beginning of the history of the Islamic State — many of ISIS/ISIL’s leaders, including ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’, were incarcerated and probably met there. According to former prison commanders, analysts and soldiers, Camp Bucca provided a unique setting for both prisoner radicalization and inmate collaboration and was a formative influence in today’s armed terrorists in the region. At least nine members of the Islamic State’s highest level of command are said to have done time at Camp Bucca, according to the terrorism research firm Soufan Group, which notes that ‘though it’s likely the men were extremists when they entered Bucca, it’s certain they were when they left.’
In essence, as far as the ‘clash of civilisations’ psy-op/programme goes, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was probably a ‘replacement’ for Osama bin Laden – the idea of having this elusive, semi-mythical ‘phantom menace’ who ‘we’ (international powers) have to defeat.
Ten years of ‘the hunt for Bin Laden’ was clearly a pantomime for the ‘War on Terror’ to go on for as long as desired. But eventually Bin Laden would have to be killed off to save the US from looking totally inept by its failure to find him.
With Bin Laden, there was always a question mark over whether he really masterminded 9/11 (the evidence is that he didn’t); but, more importantly, there were always question marks over his family’s links to the Bush family, as well as Al-Qaeda’s links to the CIA. There were then question marks over when he really died.
But, essentially, there was always a case to be made that Bin Laden was basically an actor playing a role. I explored this previously, pointing out that the Iron Man 3 movie seemed to be playing this real-life paradigm out in fictional form.
In Iron Man 3, Sir Ben Kingsley plays the Mandarin; presented through the first half of the film as a menacing terrorist spokesperson who issues threats and proclamations to America via video addresses. He appears as a terrible terrorist mastermind, and at one point in the film his campaign is even referenced in dialogue as being the catalyst to maintain a ‘War on Terror’.
But when Tony Stark (Iron Man) finally tracks him down, he discovers the ‘Mandarin’ doesn’t really exist – instead he finds a camp, alcoholic and drug-addled actor named ‘Trevor’ who was hired to play the part and record the videos.
It’s actually very funny, and Kingsley is magic in the role; but it is quite clearly an analogy for the Osama bin Laden myth. I say Bin Laden ‘myth’ not in the sense that he wasn’t involved in Islamist fundamentalism and jihadism – which he clearly was – but in the sense that his ‘masterminding’ of 9/11 was certainly a myth and the Al-Qaeda narrative at the time of 9/11 was also a fiction, all designed to provide the pretext for a war without end in the Middle East and a transformation of America domestically.
As late as 2006, Bin Laden’s FBI profile contained no reference to him having been involved in 9/11. Indeed, Paul V. Sheridan (Winner of the 2005 Civil Justice Foundation Award) was told by an FBI spokesperson, “Bin Laden has not been formally charged in connection to 9/11.”
By 2010, CIA officials were even casually admitting to creating fake videos, as in this Washington Post piece in which two ex-CIA officials talked about creating fake Bin Laden videos.
The same doubts over the legitimacy of propaganda videos have continued beyond the Bin Laden era and into the era of the new, manufactured bogeyman of the so-called Islamic State, with evidence seemingly emerging that some of the ISIS ‘execution’ videos have been fake, raising many questions about whether we’ve simply been witnessing a case of the emperor’s new clothes.
The question about the reality of some of the ISIS videos has gone beyond the realm of online ‘truthers’ or conspiracy theorists, with experts openly – even reluctantly – calling the videos into question.
Curiously in February last year, a former ISIS fighter in Yemen appeared to have admitted that ISIS fakes videos and uses fighters as actors. Memri explains that ‘the Al-Hidaya media group, which is associated with Al-Qaeda, published a 12-minute video titled “The Hollywood Reality Of Al-Baghdadi Group.”
If it is true that ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ doesn’t exist, then one of the reasons for replacing Bin Laden with a fictional character who doesn’t make any public appearances and doesn’t release videos, could simply be that it’s much easier to play out the illusion.
Whereas a number of Bin Laden’s videos were analysed and debunked, there are no Baghdadi videos to be exposed. Whereas Bin Laden could make public statements (for example, insisting he hadn’t been involved in 9/11), a fictional ‘caliph’ can’t. And whereas Bin Laden’s links to the CIA and the Bush family were too well known, ‘Baghdadi’ isn’t a liability in the same way.
But, again, I find it astonishing how little interest there is in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the constant mainstream media discourse on the ‘Islamic State’ group.
It makes me wonder if everyone simply knows he isn’t real and so they choose not to draw any attention to the matter; hoping, perhaps, that the powerful ‘ISIS’ brand that Baghdadi helped establish will simply be so prominent and so permanent that no one even cares where it came from.
It’s a self-perpetuating brand now, where the actual operatives barely have to do anything anymore. But a key to clarifying our perception is to understand that there are two versions of what we think of as ‘ISIS’: one is the dubious, loosely-defined terror brigades that have been trying to carve out a Salafist ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq (which also, coincidentally, happens to match the alleged Zionist Balkanisation plan for the region, as well the leaked Washington plans to create an extremist ‘caliphate’).
The other is something else entirely – and is best described as a massive media/marketing enterprise/psy-op in the West.
I covered that subject here previously; and noted then that probably the best explanation of this ISIS psy-op I’ve read to date is by ‘Black Catte’ on the OffGuardian site, who sharply observed ‘What sets ISIS apart is not hard fact, but the gigantic PR machine that pushes its name, its declarations, its agenda in the world media. Nine tenths of what constitutes “ISIS” in the popular mind is not anything directly connected with that ill-defined and fluid band of mercenaries/jihadists. In fact you might say there are really two versions of ISIS. One the poorly documented fighting force of indeterminate size. The other the massive brand saturation “ISIS” of media legend. And even while the barest hard facts about real ISIS on the ground seem impossibly mired in contradiction, so the media version of ISIS becomes ever more detailed, elaborate, bizarre and sometimes simply ridiculous.’
And in the background of all of this, and supposedly at its root, remains the elusive figure of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who remains a total mystery; a phantom menace guiding the bloodiest of ‘holy wars’ and hovering above the so-called ‘Islamic State’ being established by the sword in stolen lands.
Baghdadi hasn’t been seen in any footage or images for three years – literally not since the very beginning of this whole ‘ISIS’ nightmare. The last video footage of Baghdadi showed him dressed in black clerical robes declaring the ‘caliphate’ from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque.