Pundits and news agencies have questioned the validity of reports that the Islamic State is beheading children in its conquest of Syria and Iraq. But there is one fact that can't be contested: The Sunni-dominated al-Qaida splinter group is on a war rampage using some of the most heinous and barbaric means to exterminate anyone who opposes it, particularly Christians.
In 2011, President Barack Obama declared, "The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year." The only thing he didn't count on was that the terrorist enemies of the U.S. decided not to also call it quits on the war.
Last Wednesday, Obama called it quits again with combat operations in Iraq — or the dropping-bombs-and-not-calling-it-combat-operations operations.
From his vacation spot on Martha's Vineyard, Obama declared: "We broke the (Islamic State) siege of Mount Sinjar. We helped vulnerable people reach safety, and we helped save many innocent lives. Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it's unlikely that we're going to need to continue humanitarian airdrops on the mountain. The majority of the military personnel who conducted the assessment will be leaving Iraq in the coming days."
I guess we should be relieved again that we're "pulling out of Iraq," and the Islamic State will retreat from its tyrannical rampages, right? Not a chance.
While Obama was politicizing the success of his in-and-out combat mission, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "called on the international community to do even more to provide protection," according to UN News Centre.
Why? Because just two days before Obama spoke about mission success, the U.N. refugee agency reported that "an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people remain trapped on the Mountain."
A "profoundly dismayed" Ban added that the Islamic State remains carrying out "barbaric acts," which he said, in UN News Centre's words, "include accounts of summary executions, boys forcibly taken from their homes to fight, (and) girls abducted or trafficked as sex slaves." Even those who manage to get off Mount Sinjar "remain exposed to," Ban said, "a perilous odyssey" to freedom.
How perilous? Here's what we know about the Islamic State's horrific acts over the past few months:
—In July, CNN reported on various Iraqi village residents' descriptions of horrific attacks by Islamic State fighters. The militants "seize local men and pillage homes and places of worships," according to Human Rights Watch directors in Iraq.
—CNN also reported that the Islamic State killed 40 Shiite Turkmens, "including children," in four communities in Kirkuk, Iraq, last month.
—The Islamic State slaughtered 270 Syrians, including national guard members, security guards and employees in the Shaer gas field.
—UN News Centre reported: "According to the human rights team at the UN Assistance Mission (for) Iraq, at least 757 civilians were killed and 599 injured in Nineveh and Salah al-Din provinces, north of Baghdad, and Diyala, in the east, between 5 and 22 June. ... At least an additional 318 people were killed, and 590 wounded, during the same 17 days in Baghdad and areas in the south."
—Some 500 Yazidi community members in Sinjar and the surrounding areas were executed by the Islamic State, according to Adama Dieng, Ban's special adviser for the prevention of genocide.
—The U.N. also reported that some 1,500 Yazidi, Christian and Shabak women and girls were abducted by the Islamic State.
—CNN reported: "At least 2,400 Iraqis died in violence in June, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Of those, the United Nations said more than 1,500 were civilians, including 270 civilian police officers, and almost 900 were members of Iraqi security forces."
—UN News Centre reported that the Islamic State "has broadcast more than a dozen videos showing beheadings and shootings of hors combat soldiers and police officers, as well as apparent targeting of people based on their religion or ethnicity, including Shia and minority groups such as Turcomans, Shabak, Christians, and Yezidis."
And what are we to make of the Islamic State's summary crucifixions?
The Telegraph reported in June that a Syrian man survived "after the jihadists raided his village and nailed him to a cross for eight hours." Eight others were not so fortunate. They died from what is regarded as one of the most heinous, horrifying and painful methods of torture and execution in human history. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the men were crucified "in the main square of the village, where their bodies" remained for three days.
CNN reported in May that of seven public crucifixions in Raqqa, Syria, two adults were left on display — though they were allegedly shot before they were tied to crosses. A member of a recently formed anti-Islamic State activist group in Raqqa said, in CNN's words, "The remaining five victims were children under the age of 18, one of them a seventh-grade student."
Many say these crucified individuals were Muslim, but others say they were former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. The latter group adds that Islamic State members wouldn't crucify other Muslims; they save that extreme form of punishment and humiliation for those who refuse to renounce their Christian beliefs and return to Islam, using crucifixion as a mockery to them and even their crucified savior.
Usama Hasan, senior researcher in Islamic studies at the Quilliam Foundation, explained to BBC News that this form of punishment comes from a very literal, or fundamentalist, reading of the Quran. Verse 33 of the fifth book of the Quran says: "Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth (to cause) corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment."
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