ISIS Helped Me Quit Smoking

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From the Medium article “Why I Joined ISIS”, which quotes a Twitter DM from an ISIS fighter:

It took time for ISIS until they implemented the law, but after having lectures about it and so on, there is no objection — with exception to those who smoke. It’s a little hard for them to suddenly quit smoking. But ISIS have been very good at helping them quit. —Abu Bakr al-Janabi

Smoking is a very difficult habit to break. I should know. I tried to quit twice. The physical symptoms, the self-recrimination you’ll feel at the first sign that you may not be as resolute as you previously thought, the childlike helplessness, the weakness of will…wait a minute…weren’t we talking about ISIS? Violent extremists?

Eric Hoffer’s terrific 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements describes the extremist persona well. If memory serves (I read the book many years ago), this extremist type may have passionate, violent tendencies that compel him not just to extreme beliefs, but also to wild vacillations across that belief spectrum, never, ever ever, to come to rest in that dreaded and dreary, warm puddin’, politically moderate middle of the road. In short, a guy who is more likely to brandish an RPG for Allah, Jesus, or Fat Albert than to thank The Party for helping him quit smoking.


“It’s a little hard…” Seriously?



Look, I know smoking sucks. And I know we all need a little help every now and again. And so we go on The Internet and we find that help, which is, mercifully, just a click and a page view away. So is it possible that…wait…am I talking to one of you guys right now?

Could it be?

Oh, it’s you! Hey, dude. What’s Up? Look, man, I know quitting smoking can be more than ‘a little hard’. I’ve been there, too. I quit some years ago. It wasn’t fun. Like I was saying, it took two tries over several years, but you know what? I did do it. And I didn’t need any help. And, between you and I, I certainly could have done it with or without Sharia law.

Look, I have friends who ask me what they need to quit smoking. They ask if I needed anything. “Did you use ‘The Patch?’ Did you chew ‘nicotine gum’?” No, sir, I did not need those things. Because if you really want the secret to quitting smoking, then put down that AK-47 and I’ll tell you: you don’t need The Patch. You don’t need nicotine gum. You don’t even need Sharia law! The secret to quitting smoking is you just have to want to.

And I’m not talking about arbitrarily making some sort of weird decision to stop doing it, based in nothing but your nagging wife and family–believe me, I know! That nagging stuff doesn’t work. Lectures–who needs it? Or billboards–even more nagging! Am I right? Noise, all of it. Because the truth is, nobody can make you quit. Not even the face of your child. The truth is, you just have to want to.

And if you want it, then you don’t even need God’s help.

Look, you wanted to take Mosul, and look what happened–Will to power, man! It’s not magic. You just wanted it. So the same thing applies to quitting smoking.

You just have to want to.

So be honest with yourself. If you just want to keep smoking, then hey–I can’t blame you. Really. Smoke smoke smoke that cigarette, as the man says. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you need some kind of religious government to make you strong by taking that cigarette out of your mouth for you. Because that’s not the way intent and character work, my friend.

And anyway, wanting to smoke certainly doesn’t mean you’re stupid–so just put that massive hunting knife down, man, we’re all friends here, right? Cool. Maybe it just means that it’s not the right time, you know what I mean? Maybe, just maybe, when it’s the right time, you’ll feel it. And then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So don’t be someone that thinks that someone telling you to do something is the way to do something. Because you probably know, in your heart of hearts, that it’s not. Like I said, that’s not the way intent and character work.

And above all, you don’t want to be that guy. You know who I’m talking about. That guy who, when all your ISIS-fighter buddies are cheering ‘Allahu Akbar!’ because you just took the capitol, cheers “Three days, no smokies! Whoo hoo!” Because they’re all gonna look at you, man. And you don’t want that kind of attention. That’s the bad kind of attention. Means you’re weird. Like a Rob Schneider character from a bad Saturday Night Live movie from the 1990’s. And you don’t want that.

ISIS flag

ISIS flag (courtesy of

“You can do it!”

Because I know you’re not weird. You’re a lot of things, but you’re certainly not weird.

Anyway, I just realized in all my grandstanding that I wasn’t being entirely honest with you about how I quit smoking, so I’m going to come clean. I did have a little help. You see, my body basically collapsed. My lungs stopped getting enough oxygen to properly respirate. So I used this as my catalyst, and you know what? It worked. Turns out I wanted to breathe more than I wanted to smoke, but even this monumentally simple conclusion took a little time to arrive at. So maybe the important point I want to arrive at, here, is that it worked. Eventually.

And maybe it’s all about whatever works.

So maybe I am being too hard on you, man. Because maybe people like you and me–folks in the middle–maybe we’re the key to Peace In Our Time.

ISIS was a state, not a group — it was an actual state. It runs the affairs of people, like any other state — American, British, French — ISIS is running as a state. It provides food for the poor — like shelter, clothing, charity, clean roads. It does everything a normal state does. Postal services. Everything the people need. This is what attracted me about ISIS. No other groups — al-Nusra, El-Aqsa Brigade, is doing that. —Abu Sumayyah

Sigh…Look, here’s the deal: We’ll send a Predator drone with bunch of nicotine patches, Nicorette, and Wellbutrin. I’ve heard those things work. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard they are actually quite effective.

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