The latest terrorist attacks by ISIS have changed the 2016 presidential race, sparking a range of predictable reactions across the partisan spectrum, from “Fortress America” stances from Republicans to Democrats pushing to create a new international coalition and combined military response.
But most Americans, especially those running for president, do not really understand what ISIS is about: what they believe and seek, why they are so bloody, how they lure recruits from abroad, and why they are now striking in Paris and Beirut. Last winter, the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood spent weeks with ISIS defenders, sympathetic clerics and academics overseas before writing a revelatory profile, “What ISIS Really Wants.”
After it was published, Wood asked his sources if he got it mostly right. “In general, they saw the portrayal of ISIS in the Atlantic as one they could recognize,” he said in aninterview. “They saw it as something that legitimately attempted to portray them in terms they could see and say, ‘Yeah, that’s more or less us.’”
“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths,” the article’s teaser begins. “It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”
What follows are six key takeaways from Wood’s reporting, updated from a previous AlterNet report.
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