Fighting ISIS: Emmy-Nominated VICE on HBO


The civil war in Iraq has been crumbling its state with its complicated internal complications. Currently, the country is divided into three factions’ tribal wars and against ISIS. The extremist group, ISIS, displays its globalization through violence and forcing its ideas by caliphating Iraq.

Media Summary

In an episode of “Fighting ISIS” from Vice News, the journalist Ben Anderson who also won the Foreign Press Award, embarks on a treacherous journey to visit a few tribes that are all fighting the same war against ISIS.

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Anderson visits a small tribe of Anbar men called themselves the “Anbar Awakening”. They have been preventing ISIS from advancing and taking over their land each day. For the Anbar and many of other tribes, they got no support from the outside world and they must scavenge and create their own tools to protect themselves from ISIS; weapons and vehicles are commonly stolen from Isis which was originally stolen from the US.

Anderson then visits the Kurdish Peshmerga providence who dealt the same difficulty as the Anbar tribe. Anderson asked one of the Kurdistan soldiers, “are you fighting to defeat Isis now for Iraq or are you fighting Isis and have a free independent Kurdistan?” and the soldier replied back, “having a free, independent country is a desire of every single one of these young men, you see, it’s our legitimate right. Realistically, Iraq is being divided and we have to accept that the old days have passed.”

To conclude the episode, Anderson asked Ambassador Ryan Crocker, what would happen after IF Isis is defeated. Crocker responded back “ignition of an unstoppable dictation Syrian war…whoever on top the most determined, the most extreme, the most ruthless will then turn it cites to something really tempting that would be us.” Crocker was stating that if ISIS fails to continue with their goals, another extreme Islamic group will.

Current State of the Issue

According to CNN’s article “Isis Fun Facts” Iraq Prime minister announced that a coalition of 100,000 troops will play a role in retaking ISIS key city of Mosul. By July 10, Iraq Prime Minister declared that Mosul has been recaptured from ISIS. Troops has successfully pushed back ISIS, forcing them to retreat to Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital. In December 2017, Iraqi troops successfully regain control of the last ISIS controlled city of Raqqa. The US, France, and Britain launched thousands of airstrikes on the city eliminating the ISIS group.

It is true that Isis numbers has reached a point where they are not a threat, but it doesn’t mean they are giving up. ISIS does not control any territory now, but they are still at large hiding all over the world and will continue to launch attacks all over the world. CNN states, “In addition, although ISIS no longer controls territory in Iraq, the threat of violence from members of the group is not over. As it has lost territory over the past year or so, ISIS has morphed into more of an ideological threat, both in the region and in the West.” As a matter of fact, in August 23, 2018, At least 166 civilians were killed in a ISIS suicide bombing in Suwayda, Syria.

Through all over a decade of war and millions of casualties and ruined infrastructures and lives, the leader of ISIS was confirmed killed during an Air Strike.

Cultural Analysis

An anthropologist would view this conflict through political anthropology. US Diplomat Ali Khedery explained that in 2003, President Bush appointed Paul L. Bremer—who by the way had no experience in the middle east—to lead the Iraq war. Bremer’s first order was to disband the Iraqi army through a process called “debuffication. As a result, a vast majority of Iraq’s military officers, experience governmental personals, and healthy men were all purged and as well as over 500,000 active military men were dismissed. These men had an idea that they were dismissed because of their loyalty and joined the opposing party, which was Isis. This could be avoided if president bush appointed an experience general or someone who had the experience and knowledge of the middle east.

The second issue was that president Obama appointed Nouri Al-Maliki as president of Iraq in 2006 by interfering with their election. Al-Maliki expressed his hatred against Sunni people by torturing and killing thousands of Sunni people which led thousands of Sunni people looking for a chance to fight back by joining the ISIS militia.

Additionally, Khedery explained that the US, France, and several other countries are funding billions of dollars to Islamic radical militias as an effort to defeat Isis. But here is the problem, Khedery explains that whoever comes out victorious will still be the next Islamic radical militia and not only a threat to the US, but globally.

The issue with ISIS can be understood through concepts learned in this class. Through political anthropology, Anderson visits a few tribes such as the Anbar and the Kurdistan tribes which resides in the same country of Iraq. In the textbook, “Essentials of Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition” explains that tribes are “indigenous group of people with its own set of loyalties and leaders living to some extent outside the direct control of a centralized, authoritative state.” Iraq is a state that homes many other regions that resides under its political and economic rule, yet the Iraq’s state has crippled and subdivided to tribes such as the Anbar, Sunni, and the Kurdistan.

From 1989-1996, the anthropologist Nordstrom conducted field studies in Mozambique, Africa, which at a time had a fifteen-year civil war among the citizens. Nordstrom founded that the Mozambique government starved and inflicted many forms of violence on its citizens through their Mozambique officers. In contrast, Anderson conducted ethnographic field work in Iraq by experiencing first hand the combat with the tribe members he visited. We can examine this through Militarization. Through the deconstruction of the Iraq war, the state had divided itself into three factions: the Shite Muslims, Sunnis, and the Kurdistans. ISIS is a radical extremist group whose goal is to caliphate the world through militarization; they forced the state to reconstruct cultural institutions by threating the people through any means possible; which includes: guns, missiles, tanks, bombs, and war.

It is imperative to view this issue through this perspective because this war is an example of great lost. In the article, “Us, Britain and France Inflicted worst destruction in Decades Killing Civilians in ISIS-Held City of Raqqa” written by the journalist,Patrick Cockburn from the Independent news media, explained that through militarization, US, France, and Britain inflicted a devastating destruction in the city of Raqqa leaving it in ruins and nearly annihilating everyone in the targeted areas.

From an anthropologist stand point, understanding this catastrophic war that caused a great lost in infrastructures, money, and lives could be prevented. As explained in the Vice documentary, Khedery explained that the US funded billions of dollars to Islamic radical militias to fight against ISIS. As a result, whoever comes out victorious will still be another Islamic radical extremist group who will eventually attack the US according to the US Ambassador, Ryan Crocker.


On the whole ISIS controversy, we can view ISIS grassroots through political anthropology and the current crumbling state of Iraq. Iraq has been subdivided into three factions which are called tribes. ISIS has been defeated and no longer occupies Iraq, yet they’re still at large. From an anthropologist stand point, we can learn the mistakes that the US had made and reduce the casualties in the future.

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Fighting ISIS: Emmy-Nominated VICE on HBO. (2022, Jan 10). Retrieved from