“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
— President George W. Bush, Sept. 20, 2001
“Our objective is clear: we will degrade and ultimately destroy (ISIS) through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”
— President Barack Obama, Sept. 10, 2014
Just as nobody questioned Bush’s assertion then, no informed American today disputes the threat the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) poses to the U.S. and our allies.
We’ll soon be sending our young men and women into harm’s way again. Some will probably not come home.
We Americans are in this fight together regardless of our politics, just as we were in the days after 9/11, right Republicans?
“We like the path we’re on now,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) told the New York Times. “We can denounce (the ISIS campaign) if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took (Obama) so long.”
With the rubble of the Twin Towers still smoldering, can you imagine the Republican reaction if a Democrat had uttered Kingston’s words? “We can denounce Bush’s war on terror if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
Kingston and extremists like him long ago stopped putting America ahead of their petty political ambitions. They see partisan opportunity, not national unity as we prepare for another Mideast conflict.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, for example, is fear mongering again as he did in 2003, attacking Obama for not blindly rushing U.S. troops into Iraq the way Bush did.
“This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home!” wailed the terrified senator Sunday.
Determined not to allow such unhinged rhetoric to plunge America into another quagmire costing thousands more U.S. lives and trillions of tax dollars, Obama has studied the mistakes of his predecessor, deliberated with his diplomatic and military advisors, conferred with Congress and our allies, and built a real international coalition.
Contrary to Graham’s hysterical portrayal of ISIS as the next Wehrmacht ready to launch a devastating blitzkrieg against the American homeland, this is a bunch of thieves and cut throats cloaking themselves in a perverted interpretation of Islam.
“ISIS should not be overestimated,” noted former CIA Director David Petraeus.
We keep hearing about how ISIS controls an area the size of England. But England isn’t a vast desert. What ISIS really controls are remote towns and cities in Iraq and Syria.
So far, ISIS has proven adept only at beheading little girls, rape, mass executions, murdering defenseless journalists, extortion and robbing banks.
When it came to a stand-up fight, however, ISIS ran away from the tough and well-trained Kurdish peshmerga after Obama backed them up with some well-placed laser-guided bombs last month.
This president isn’t promising speedy victory as the Bush administration did in 2003. No White House officials are appearing on Sunday news shows predicting we’ll be “greeted as liberators” or that the war will pay for itself. There will be no “Mission Accomplished” prance on an air craft carrier.
In fact, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to lay out any timeline for the air campaign, saying it will take as long as it takes to defeat ISIS. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey warned Congress Tuesday to expect a 20-year “generational conflict.”
“We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm,” Obama said. “That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today.”
Two of the Iraq invasion’s discredited cheerleaders got together after Obama’s nationally televised ISIS speech last week. Fox News’ Sean Hannity, consistently wrong about Iraq a decade ago, was wrong again, telling Sen. John McCain Obama had rounded up “only nine” allies for his coalition.
In fact, Obama’s coalition consists of 26 allies, including two that refused to join Bush’s alliance, France and Germany, the most powerful nations on continental Europe. Bush’s “coalition of the willing,” was made up mostly of small nations like Honduras, Latvia and Fiji.
McCain, who insisted the Iraq invasion would be a cakewalk in 2003, damned President Obama’s leadership with faint praise.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” McCain told Hannity. “All I know is, although I am very, very skeptical, I’m willing to give it a try.”
That’s the way to put “America first,” Senator.
Kevin Foley is an author, writer and public relations executive in Kennesaw.