Rep. Duncan Hunter: '[Islamic State] in Iraq is not an existential threat to us. They're not going to harm the United States. They're bad guys, yes. If you're there.' (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — A GOP House member who served in Iraq says the Islamic State is not an “existential threat” to the United States, striking a different tone than other Republicans.
As the violent Sunni extremist group continues to slaughter minority populations in northern Iraq and hold a large amount of territory, some American Republican lawmakers want the White House to unleash more US military power on it.
For instance, in a recent joint statement, GOP Senate Armed Services Committee members John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said “a policy of containment will not work against [the State].”
“It is inherently expansionist,” the senators said, “and must be stopped.”
In a mid-summer interview with CongressWatch, Graham was among the first US lawmakers to call for American airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State targets.
Like McCain and other hawkish Republican members, Graham wants President Obama to do more than just the, in the commander in chief’s words, “limited” and “targeted” airstrikes in Iraq to protect US interests there and minority populations that he green-lighted earlier this month.
“The White House is trying to minimize the threat we face in order to justify not changing a failed strategy,” Graham wrote on Twitter this week. “The President is becoming derelict in his duties as Commander in Chief.”
And US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey last week said the State has an “apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.”
But GOP House Armed Services Committee member Duncan Hunter of California, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine, had a different take Tuesday evening on Fox News Channel’s “The Kelly File” program.
“[Islamic State] in Iraq is not an existential threat to us. They’re not going to harm the United States. They’re bad guys, yes. If you’re there,” Hunter said.
“But a bunch of guys wearing pajamas pushing up logs, they are not an existential threat to us like North Korea is, like Iran is, like Pakistan is,” he said, appearing to refer video of State fighters training in baggy black tops that reach their shins. “They are not like that.”
Hunter said “the only” threat the Islamic States poses directly to the US is if they can get their operatives inside the United States to carry out attacks.
Rather than a ramped-up military operation against the group, Hunter is pushing mostly defensive measures — while also suggesting Washington should help certain minority populations in the Islamic State’s brutal path.
“That’s why it’s so important that you secure the southern border ... and start denying visas in totality to people from the Middle East, from this area unless they’re persecuted Christians,” Hunter said. “And then we have to allow them in.”