American ISIS members were mostly middle class, privileged. What made them join a genocidal group enslaving people?

A new report from The New Yorker reveals some details of American ISIS members.  It leads one to wonder what motivated so many, apparently middle class, privileged people in one of the wealthiest countries in the world to travel half way around the world to harm vulnerable people in Iraq and Syria, especially since by the time some joined the acts of genocide and slavery were well known.

The report notes:

The Americans who travelled to the Islamic State fit no single type. So far, the returnees have included a substitute teacher from Texas, a Baptist mother of four from Indiana, a former student from Columbia University, and an F.B.I. translator who married the terrorist she was spying on. Most were born in the United States; they were not immigrants. They’re geographically diverse—from Texas, California, Michigan, Virginia, New York, and Indiana. The adults have ranged in age from mid-twenties to mid-fifties, according to George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

But some of the stories are a bit jarring. One woman was actually an informant before going with her husband to Syria. She later picked up cash and materials for her husband and made an anti-semitic video. She even “helped her husband buy three Yazidi slaves.” So what makes a privileged person from the US do such a thing?

Another alleged member named Clark said: “I’m a political-science major, global-business minor. I like politics. I like travel, world events.”

According to the report 9,000 ISIS fighters (and 70,000 of their families) have been captured from 80 countries. It also says that the “United States has not disclosed the number of Americans who joined isis, but it was small, proportionately, when compared with the numbers from Russia, China, European allies…” It notes that Tunisia produced 3,000 ISIS volunteers. 300 Americans allegedly tried to join.

It appears that this is yet another example of how powerful western countries have abrogated some responsibility in dealing with their extremists. Not only did they not stop enough of them from joining, but some of them appear to have been informants for western intelligence, raising questions about what western governments knew and if they could have done more to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. They have quietly repatriated some citizens, or left them abroad, without really looking closely at the radicalization or providing details to their own citizens about how this happened and how it can be prevented in the future. The ISIS members are treated like an embarrassment, and quietly forgotten.

It shows a lack of responsibility in countries that are democracies and in which government institutions should be up for scrutiny and held responsible.

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