They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying – stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.
All of those beheaded last year were my cellmates, and my jailers would play childish games with us – mental torture – saying one day that we would be released and then two weeks later observing blithely, “Tomorrow we will kill one of you.” The first couple of times we believed them but after that we came to realise that for the most part they were bullshitters having fun with us.
They would play mock executions. Once they used chloroform with me. Another time it was a beheading scene. A bunch of French-speaking jihadis were shouting, “We’re going to cut your head off and put it on to your arse and upload it to YouTube.” They had a sword from an antique shop.
They were laughing and I played the game by screaming, but they just wanted fun. As soon as they left I turned to another of the French hostages and just laughed. It was so ridiculous.
As for their apocalyptic views:
They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.The writer, a Frenchman, then goes on to argue that France ought to back away from increased bombing, saying that it will only make matters worse.
Everything convinces them that they are on the right path and, specifically, that there is a kind of apocalyptic process under way that will lead to a confrontation between an army of Muslims from all over the world and others, the crusaders, the Romans. They see everything as moving us down that road. Consequently, everything is a blessing from Allah.
With their news and social media interest, they will be noting everything that follows their murderous assault on Paris, and my guess is that right now the chant among them will be “We are winning”. They will be heartened by every sign of overreaction, of division, of fear, of racism, of xenophobia; they will be drawn to any examples of ugliness on social media.
And, indeed, it would seem Tom Switzer feels the same way.
But that's where I would disagree. I have long suspected that Islamic State simply can't have a future as a successful economic state. As Switzer writes:
It controls mainly desert in north-west Iraq and south-east Syria. Its gross domestic product is roughly the equivalent of Barbados or Eritrea. It has no navy, air force or ballistic missiles. Its army amounts to about 40,000 soldiers. It is not, contrary to what Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said, more menacing than Soviet communism during the Cold War. Underestimating terrorism is a mistake, but so too is endowing jihadists with far more capability than they have.