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THE WEEKLY MILLENNIAL: Explaining ISIS, Syria, and Rick Perry's Indictment To Apathetic 20-Somethings

“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.” - Leonardo da Vinci
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Demotivated students sitting in a lectu

Welcome to the second edition of THE WEEKLY MILLENNIAL!!1

So last week was great. Thank you for the tweets/comments/whatnots that helped me convince Editor Ben that this was worth taking up a few hours of my week again. And I promise to tone it down on the snark about the "typical Millennial." We got dealt a bad hand and we're all just trying to get by. I get it. We'll all grow together.

"Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge." - Leonardo da Vinci

ISIS: The Group Too al-Qaeda for al-Qaeda 

Heads up: ISIS, who has been making tons of headlines in the past few days for beheading missing American journalist James Foley and posting a video of it on YouTube, isn't actually called ISIS anymore; they're now technically the Islamic State. However, that new name hasn't stopped them from being just as evil as anything you've probably seen on the comment section of various Facebook posts (reminder though: just because they have 'Islam' in their name doesn't mean they are the same as anyone who practices Islam).

Some very quick background: The Islamic State (aka ISIS) is essentially a radical branch of al-Qaeda that was so extreme that al-Qaeda kicked them out in February of 2014. However, despite their vague, all-encompassing sounding name, they really are an extremist group that is very much still in the "jockeying for power" phase (they just have a great PR team). And in case you've forgotten who hates who and why when it comes to that area of the Middle East, here's a few quick bullet point reminders:

- Islam, like Christianity, has different subdivisions: Sunni and Shia

- Sunnis and Shias' big disagreement all started over who assumed power after Muhammad's death, his father-in law or his son-in law (and if you think this is stupid, remember Catholics and Protestants main disagreement is over whether wine is actually magic or not.)

- To give you a little perspective on numbers, 20% of all the Earth's 1.5 billion Muslims live in the Middle East and North Africa, the strong majority of those 20% are Sunni, however, there are strong Shia presences in Iraq and especially Iran (see map).


- Saddam Hussein, the bad guy from Iraq (a mainly Shia country) was Sunni. When he was in power, he successfully spread propaganda that Sunnis were actually the majority, causing Sunnis to generally believe they were owed more than they got (the "Chip on the Shoulder" effect).

- When the US went into Iraq and kicked Saddam's ass, they established a Shia government to reflect the true Shia majority of the country.

- That Shia-based government, of course, abused their power and ended up being huge assholes to Sunnis in the country (cough Israel-Palestine cough).

- Those Sunnis got tired of getting kicked around and began resenting their Shia government, making them susceptible to recruiting by extremist Sunni groups like ISIS who, despite their insane tactics, were well-organized, well-funded and promised "justice"  (PS: This is how the Tea Party works).

- ISIS began amassing a strong following and thanks to some smart economic moves, they began getting more manpower, money, and momentum by the day.

- They eventually got so big for their britches that they clashed with their al-Qaeda leaders, causing a split.

- Since then ISIS has been internationally recognized as a dangerous terror-based organization, and its presence in Iraq, Iran, and Syria has caused an already turbulent situation to reach a critical point.

- Earlier this month, to help curb the ISIS expansion into the Kurdish section of Iraq, President Obama issued air strikes against them. HOWEVER, it's important to remember that this doesn't mean the US is fighting Iraq (again); we are launching air strikes on the Sunni rebel group that is trying to topple the Iraqi government, meaning we are fighting WITH Iraq, not against them.

Summary of that Summary:
Islam is made up of Sunnis and Shias. Iraq, a country that is mostly Shia, has a Shia government that we the US helped set up post-Saddam Hussein (who was Sunni). ISIS is an extremist Sunni group that has capitalized on the sectarian strife that has occurred since the American occupation and is now trying to fight Iraq, Iran, and Syria in hopes of establishing a hardline Sunni Islamic state. ISIS is ruthless and extremist, but they are also strategic, well-funded, and know what they're doing.

In One Tweet:

A Reasonable Opinion To Have: 
There is no magic bullet, American or otherwise, that's going to fix this ISIS problem, because despite the violence that is associated with them on the media, deep down this is a political issue not a military one (we could do some humanitarian aid but haha on that happening). However, the fact that they are universally recognized for what they are AND the fact that its more Iraq's army sucking than ISIS' army winning at this point should help temper any immediate fears and causes for hyperbole when discussing Iraq, Obama, Islam, etc.

What You Could Say To Sound Extra Smart:
Just like how there are an encyclopedia of B-level comic supervillains you've never heard of, there are tons of other extremist militant groups in that area. Take Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN), for example. They're Sunni nationalists, many of whom are former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party. ISIS are bad dudes, but we can't just go focusing only on The Joker when Harvey Dent is still out there.

A More In-Depth Article That’s Still Easy To Understand:
Michael Luciano's "Everything You Should Know About These Crazy ISIS F**kers"

Syria-ously: Why Syria's Civil War is Happening and Why It's Gone on for Three Years 

Since 2011, there has been a civil war going on in Syria (which is located right next to Iraq and really close Israel).

But first, some quick background on Syria: Remember last week when discussing Gaza, I mentioned how no one in Western Europe consulted the Tzar of Common Sense when establishing borders in the Middle East? Well that jackassery not only led to what's going on in Gaza right now, but it also helped lead to a situation where Alawite (a form of Shia) Muslims, who make up only about 10-15% of the population, have somehow run things for 30 some odd years. Shocker: They weren't great about playing nice to others (though Alawites Muslims are religiously moderate, so this isn't a "religious extremism thing," it's more of a "government consolidating power and abusing its people" thing).

And that's been especially true since Bashar al-Assad took over power in 2000 when his father Hafez al-Assad, who modernized the country at the expense of its people during his 30-year rule, died. In 2013, the State Department said in their Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, "The government has committed egregious human rights violations in an ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives, displaced millions, and created an opening for violent extremists that continues to endanger regional stability and our own national security."

And those violent extremists have been actively rebelling since 2011 when the Syrian Army fired upon a collection of protestors, causing protestors around the country to turn into armed rebels. A variety of different armed rebel groups then united and have been engaged in an ongoing, bloody war against Assad and the Syrian government ever since. Then things get a little crazy...

- ISIS, who you remember from before, is one of those armed anti-Syrian Government rebel groups and they've emerged as one of the major opposition forces, having captured tons of Syrian territory lately. However, as noted above, EVERYONE thinks these guys are crazy and they're now fighting with other rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front.

- Russia, China, and Hezbollah (a Shia militant group based out of Lebanon) are backing Syria, mostly for political reasons.

- Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US have been helping the rebel effort (even though the US essentially hates all their "rebel forces to support" options and is just going to screw itself whatever it does).

- The Syrian government is very blatantly committing mass human rights atrocities (including USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS ON THEIR OWN PEOPLE) and everyone knows it, but the rebels fighting them are also kidnapping, displacing, and killing innocent citizens as well.

- In June of 2014, Syria held a presidential election in government-held areas, and it was "the first time in decades that more than one name - just a member of the Assad family - has appeared on the ballot paper." However, the other two candidates were basically mannequins and Assad miraculously won with 88.7% of the vote (coincidentally, this is the exact score you go for when cheating on a test in high school).

- Currently, ISIS and the Syrian government are mutually destroying one another, with updated death-toll and injury counts being posted daily.

A Summary of That Summary
There is a 4-year old civil war happening in Syria thanks to oppressive government rule (led by someone named Basahar al-Assad) abusing its people for so long that they rebelled. ISIS is one of those rebel groups and they are fighting everyone, including other rebel groups. Russia, China, and Shia Muslim extremist groups are helping Syria. Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US are helping the rebel groups (only the US actually is terrified of all the rebel groups, but it's a lesser of two evils kind of thing).

In One Tweet:

A Reasonable Opinion To Have:
If you're the US government, you're sort of screwed on this one (again, the humanitarian aid is always on the table but hahaha), but if you're Joe World Citizen (cousins with Metta World Peace), you have to hope for a miraculous ceasefire that holds long enough for everyone to realize that we need to shake the Etch A Sketch that is the current Middle East layout.

What You Could Say To Sound Extra Smart:
Even if the rebel groups manage to win, their alliance is shaky at best thanks to relatively differing ideologies, meaning that once this current civil war is over, there could be a whole different era of in-fighting for power on the horizon.

A More In-Depth Article That’s Still Easy To Understand:
This cool animated video explanation courtesy of the Guardian.

Texas Governor Rick Perry's Grand Jury Indictment, Something That Sounds Important But Really Isn't

Rick Perry was recently indicted by a Texas grand jury on two felony counts of abuse of power. These "abuses of power" refer to Perry using a line-item veto (basically an "I'm the Governor and I say 'no' to this one thing" move) to withhold funding to something called the Public Integrity Unity (a division of the Travis County District Attorney's office that investigates and prosecutes state officials and lawmakers) unless Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg resigned.

If you believe Perry (who really doesn't like gay people by the way), you believe he did this because Lehmberg was pulled over for driving while intoxicated (the video of which went viral). Perry claims that Ms. Lehmberg "lost the public’s confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically." And legally, he can totally do this (and he's kind of right...)

If you're on the side of anyone with an understanding of political strategy, you realize that Texan Republicans have been trying to squash the Public Integrity Unit for years and that this was one of those 'perfect opportunity' kind of moments that Perry took advantage of, only in trying to do so, he Britta'ed it.

Either way, it actually is in Perry's legal powers to use said line-item veto, HOWEVER, because Perry made the actual threat that he would cut off funding if she didn't resign, he opened himself up for the indictment (because threats are illegal). As our own Jessica Huseman wrote, "Had Perry just vetoed the funding in silence, this would be completely legal. But the threat was made, and here we are." And as a reminder, an indictment just means that a grand jury saw enough evidence to establish probable cause, not that he's necessarily guilty (beyond a reasonable doubt).

A Summary of That Summary: 
Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, was indicted by a grand jury on potential abuses of power stemming from his threatening to withhold funding for a division of the Texas District Attorney's office unless the DA, Rosemary Lehmberg, stepped down. He called for her resignation following her arrest for driving while intoxicated, but his critics believe this is just a chance for Republicans to squash the Public Integrity Unit, said DA Office division, whose function is to investigate and prosecute state officials and lawmakers.

In One Tweet Or Less :

A Reasonable Opinion To Have:
Defending his veto, Perry said, "It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution." However, the only real opinion to have on this is that it is yet another example of BOTH political parties using political theatrics as part of their intricate House of Cards-ian 2016 strategies.

It is these kinds of things that make people, especially Millennials, apathetic about politics in general. Fuck everyone involved.

What You Could Say To Sound Extra Smart:
"Best-case scenario is that this totally derails any chance he had at a successful 2016 campaign (which wasn’t ever going to be successful to begin with) and that it distracts his office long enough for other Republican candidates to pull ahead." - Jessica Huseman

A More In-Depth Article That’s Still Easy To Understand:
"Oops! Everything You Need To Know About Rick Perry’s Indictment On Two — But Not Three — Felony Counts" right here on The Daily Banter.