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Republicans Endorse Obama's Iraq Airstrikes - But With Sharp Criticism

Aug. 8, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
After the Pentagon announced Friday that two Navy fighter jets had dropped 500-pound bombs on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant forces, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said the US president could have done more to stop ISIL's rise and violent march across northern Iraq. (AFP)
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WASHINGTON — US congressional Republicans are lining up in support of the limited airstrikes in Iraq ordered Thursday by President Barack Obama — but they also are taking a few jabs at the commander in chief.

After the Pentagon announced Friday that two Navy fighter jets had dropped 500-pound bombs on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant forces, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said the US president could have done more to stop ISIL’s rise and violent march across northern Iraq.

“It is regrettable that ISIS' rise was preventable,” McKeon said in a Friday morning statement, “but we must now look forward to the task ahead.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman said he believes “the president's decision to use force in Iraq was appropriate given the circumstances” and that everyone must “understand that [ISIL] threatens both the Iraqi people and poses a clear and present danger to the United States.”

Notably, as Friday moved into the mid-afternoon hours, there were no calls from lawmakers for Obama to seek a use-of-force authorization from Congress.

Meanwhile, Democrats issued statements supporting Obama’s decision — but many stressed they believe the key to stabilizing Iraq would be diplomatic and political means rather than military force.

“The Iraqi people face a significant threat in [ISIL] and I support the administration’s decision to provide assistance to protect innocent civilians,” House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., said in a statement. “In this case, the U.S. military has the ability and the capability to confront ISIS, protect an innocent population under threat of genocide and provide some relief.

"However, we must continue to remember that the U.S. militarily alone cannot resolve this conflict,” Smith said. “For years, we had tens of thousands of troops in Iraq, yet the sectarian conflict continued. In order for real and lasting peace to take hold, the Iraqi people must create an inclusive and fully representative government. [Iraqi President Nori al-] Maliki — or whoever takes his place — must create a government that includes and respects the Sunnis as well as the Kurds.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., also endorsed airstrikes on ISIL targets.

On the Republican side, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was even more critical of Obama.

“The current crisis in Iraq is symptomatic of this administration’s willingness to defy the reality that terrorism is metastasizing throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East,” McCaul said in a statement. “Over the past year, the White House has been continually warned about the growing threat of this terrorist organization that is too extreme for al-Qaida.”

Contrary to part of McCaul’s statement, however, are a long list of Obama administration officials’ comments about the growing threat from al-Qaida cells and groups inspired by that group in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

McCaul called ISIL a direct threat to the United States and called on Obama to do even more.

ISIL “has created the largest terrorist safe haven since 9/11, massacring civilians along the way, and poses a threat to the United States,” he said. “I support targeted airstrikes, which will assist Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi minorities currently being terrorized by [ISIL], provide greater stability in Iraq and protect the homeland.

“However, more must be done to stop ISIS’s continued advances and targeted military strikes should be expanded to wherever these terrorists are training and fighting,” McCaul said. “Furthermore, political reconciliation between all parties in Iraq is needed to stop ISIS and resolve this crisis.”

House Armed Services Committee member Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., an Iraq war veteran, said on Fox News Channel that he has “cautious optimism” that the US airstrikes will make a difference.

“You could never imagine the president coming on television and saying he’s going to crush [ISIL],” Kinzinger said. “He just doesn’t have the, frankly, courage to do that.”

Despite that political haymaker, Kinzinger said, “this could be the beginning of a small move.” But he said a larger move is necessary, saying merely creating “humanitarian corridors” around a mountain in northwest Iraq where refugees are hiding from ISIL forces.

“This will continue until [ISIL] is crushed,” he said. “The only thing that can happen is the United States has to provide air power to Iraqi troops.”

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