The birth of the Islamic State – ‘Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS’

Simon Albaugh, Staff Reporter

The history of the most notorious international terrorist organization is proof of the devastation that can result from minor but consistent mistakes. Joby Warrick’s “Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS,” released Sept. 29, 2015, is one of the most important nonfiction testaments to disastrous lapses in logic.

Beginning at ISIS founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s imprisonment, Warrick takes readers to the world outside the notorious Jordanian prison’s bars, where minor unrest was brewing, and newly-instated King Abdullah II was looking desperately for public approval.

It’s on this quest for public approval that Abdullah II enacted a general amnesty for all nonviolent prisoners. But in the overload of paperwork, al-Zarqawi, the mastermind behind various suicide bombings around Jordan, was released and took advantage of every recruitment opportunity after.

Al-Zarqawi’s first task after his release from prison was to seek the approval of then-terrorist celebrity Osama bin Laden. But while bin Laden saw the danger of supporting former-thug al-Zarqawi’s pursuit of radical Islamist ideology, systematic mistakes made by the American government provided the exact support al-Zarqawi would need.

The pivotal moment in the development of ISIS came in a decision to ignore established intelligence that ultimately created a celebrity persona for al-Zarqawi and his cause. This disregard was in order to justify the invasion of Iraq but according to Warrick, it ultimately would provide for the skyrocketing numbers that compose The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria today.

Warrick’s work won The 2016 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction for its “remarkable clarity showing how the flawed rationale for the Iraq War led to the explosive growth of the Islamic State.”

But what this book really provides is an exclusive look at the disastrous nature of national government when diplomacy has ominous intentions.

This book shows the breadth of horror that is the current Middle-Eastern life. With multinational terrorist organizations permeating the everyday culture of the Middle East, this book gives an important addition to the current repertoire of essential cultural knowledge.

The increased focus on Islamic extremism, publicized by the current president, is bound to make immense changes in Middle Eastern relations. And as interest in these issues flourish, so does the incentive to establish intelligent dialogue. The hope, then, is that a comprehensive solution will present itself in the midst of such a dialogue.

I would recommend “Black Flags” to political science and international relations majors for its immediate application of political concepts to the issues we face today. I would also recommend this book to history majors for its application of the long-established cultural idiosyncrasies that have played an important role in the development of these issues.

For an enriching look at the issues plaguing American and Middle Eastern relations, search no further than Joby Warrick’s “Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS.”

(4/5 Stars)