Fourth US President Calls for Bombing Iraq as War Hawks Renew Call for a New War and US Troops on the Ground
September 13, 2014
Peter Suderman / Reason & Martin Matishak / The Hill & William Marsden / Postmedia News & Igor Bobic / The Huffington Post
Four Presidents in a row have now announced plans to war a war in Iraq. Despite historic evidence that war does not secure freedom or peace, the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday said US ground troops will be required to meet President Obama's objective of destroying Islamic State terrorists. "American boots will be standing on sand," he said. "Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There's simply no other way to do this."
Watch Each of the Last Four US Presidents Announce That We're Bombing Iraq
Peter Suderman / Reason
(Sep. 11, 2014) -- Did last night's primetime presidential speech announcing expanding authorization for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria feel kind of familiar? Like you've heard it before?
That's probably because you have. You've been hearing for more than two decades, from presidents on both sides of political aisle. At this point, bombing Iraq is practically a American presidential tradition.
And, via the magic of YouTube and The Huffington Post's Sam Stein, you can watch every president back to the first George Bush announce a new plan to launch military strikes in Iraq.
Here's George H.W. Bush in January 1991 announcing that "air attacks are already underway against military targets in Iraq."
George H W Bush Announces War Against Iraq (January 16 1991)
Here's President Bill Clinton in December 1998 announcing a mission, along with British forces, to "strike military and security targets in Iraq."
President Clinton Orders Attack on Iraq
Here's President George Bush (the second one) in March 2003 announcing that American forces, with help from coalition partners, "are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq."
President Bush Announces Start of Iraq War
And here's President Obama, last night, describing US airstrikes and other military operations designed to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Obama Announces Strategy to Destroy ISIS
(Credit for these finds goes to to Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.)
Republican: ISIS Can't Be Stopped Without Troops on the Ground
Martin Matishak / The Hill
(September 9, 2014) -- The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday said US ground troops will be required to meet President Obama's objective of destroying Islamic State terrorists.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said full military divisions won't have to be sent to Iraq and Syria, but that it will require putting US soldiers in harm's way.
"It will not take divisions. But there's no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand," he said. "Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There's simply no other way to do this."
He noted that Obama has already sent more than 1,000 military advisers to Iraq to counter the threat of terrorists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In a prime-time address Wednesday night, Obama announced he would send another 475 advisers to the country.
McKeon confessed that his strategy "isn't without risk" but that the US can't rely solely on counterterrorism efforts because it would not stop ISIS from spreading.
"I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow," he said.
"We need a comprehensive strategy -- one that pins ISIL down and knocks them out," he said, using another acronym for the terrorist organization.
American voters have been leery of using ground troops after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though recent polls have shown support for more muscular actions against ISIS, which has brutally executive two American journalists.
Several Republican lawmakers have said ground troops should not be ruled out, but Obama in his speech insisted they would not be sent to Iraq.
McKeon was critical of Obama's approach to ISIS, arguing he had repeatedly bowed to policies and suggesting he wasn't doing enough to counter the threat.
"As much as I want the president's approach to work, I believe the minimalist strategy he outlined last night will not get us there," McKeon said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
McKeon accused Obama of allowing "politics to limit our chances for success."
He endorsed a few pieces of Obama's plan, including acting through an international coalition; ordering more airstrikes; stepping up intelligence collection; and training and equipping moderate rebel forces in Syria.
But he said Obama's strategy should acknowledge that ISIS is "an immediate threat to US national security." Obama's remarks Wednesday night stopped short of that, saying ISIS had the potential to threaten the homeland.
The outgoing lawmaker said the US must "kick ISIL hard in both Iraq and Syria" simultaneously.
While he admitted that striking militants in Syria would "not be easy," McKeon said an " 'Iraq-first' or an ‘Iraq only' approach won't work" and backed the president's push to arm and train moderate Syrian forces.
He later predicted Obama's legacy would be determined on how he fights ISIS over the rest of his term.
"He needs to zero in on this," according to McKeon.
Pressure Mounts for US Ground Troops in Iraq
William Marsden / Postmedia News
WASHINGTON (September 12, 2014) -- US lawmakers have already begun pressing President Barack Obama to deploy US troops in Iraq to lead the ground attack against the Islamic State terror army.
Many lawmakers claim Obama has underestimated the militant group’s threat and power, which appear to be expanding daily.
The CIA has raised its estimate of the size of Islamic State forces to 20,000 to 31,500, from about 10,000. The substantial range in numbers indicates the paucity of US intelligence on the group (also known as ISIL or Islamic State of Syria and the Levant), lawmakers say.
They also note that Obama rejected advice from his own military advisers who recommended he send a "modest" contingent of Special Operations Forces to Iraq for front-line ground support.
"The President wants to use a light footprint now in hopes that he doesn’t need a heavy footprint later," Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the arms services committee, said in a speech Thursday to the conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute. "This approach was not terribly successful in Libya, which has fallen into chaos. I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later."
McKeon said the strategy should be to encircle Islamic State with the US leading the ground forces. "Any strategy that allows ISIL to squirt out into Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey will only make the fight more difficult," he said. "A coalition force, empowered by the Americans, could do just that."
He added the US should send in Special Forces immediately.
McKeon also criticized the characterization of Obama’s plan as a "counter-terrorism action."
"Counter-terrorism has not stopped the growth of ISIL and the spread of terrorist groups in the region," he said.
Republican senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham said they favour a contribution of US ground forces, claiming Obama has underestimated the Islamic State forces and overestimated the ability of Iraqi and Kurdish troops to defeat them.
"The President said this operation against ISIL will be like other CT (counter-terrorism) operations over the last five or six years," Graham said in a speech to the Senate. "No, it will not! This is not some small group of people running around with AK-47s. This is a full-blown army. They were going to defeat the Kurdish Peshmerga, a pretty tough fighting group, if we hadn’t intervened. . . . They have howitzers. They have tanks. They are flush with money. They are getting fighters from all over the world. But they can and will be defeated. They must be defeated."
"One thing I can promise the American people," Graham concluded. "If we take on ISIL and lose, we will unlock the gates of hell. And hell will come our way."
Retired general David Petraeus, however, downplayed Islamic State’s strength and prowess, arguing that the danger is to overestimate its military strength.
The US already has about 1,500 military "advisers" in Iraq.
Congress is expected to vote next week on whether to give Obama the powers to equip and train so-called "moderate" rebels in Syria as ground forces against Islamic State.
"We should give the president what he is asking for," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. "And we gotta keep our eye on the ball. The issue here is about defeating a terrorist threat that is real and imminent."
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Rand Paul Opposes Obama's Plan
To Arm Syrian Rebels In Fight Against ISIS
Igor Bobic / The Huffington Post
(September 9, 2014) -- WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) does not support arming and training Syrian opposition forces, a key element of President Barack Obama's new strategy to destroy Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
"Senator Paul believes arming the same side as ISIS was and is a strategic error and would oppose such action," Paul's senior aide, Doug Stafford, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.
The news was first reported by The Daily Beast.
In a prime-time address from the White House on Wednesday evening, the president announced he would expand US airstrikes against militants "wherever they are," including potentially Iraq's war-torn neighbor, Syria. He also asked Congress for additional authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels who have waged war against President Bashar Assad for three years, to fight the extremists threatening the region.
"In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost," Obama said. "Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria's crisis once and for all."
By opposing the arming of opposition forces in Syria, Paul echoed Sen. Mark Begich, a vulnerable Democrat up for re-election in Alaska, who expressed similar concern that US arms would end up in the wrong hands. In a statement following the president's speech, Begich said he was "gravely concerned by reports of ISIS seizing and utilizing US weapons intended for those fighting against" Assad.
Appearing on Fox News shortly after Obama's remarks, Paul, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, further disagreed with the president about whether America was "safer" as a country.
"No, absolutely not. Libya is a disaster. Syria is a disaster. Iraq is a disaster, Iraq is chaotic," Paul told Fox host Sean Hannity.
The Kentucky Republican, a possible presidential contender, said he supports an air campaign to destroy the extremists. But he said he believes Obama violated the Constitution by not first seeking congressional approval before ordering U.S airplanes back into Iraq earlier this summer.
"It isn't the constitutional way. it doesn't in any way represent what our Constitution dictates nor what our Founding Fathers intended. So it is unconstitutional what he's doing," he said.
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