These U.S. Lawmakers Approve of Military Strikes in Iraq

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President Barack Obama said Thursday that his administration has decided the United States will use airstrikes to avoid genocide in Iraq. He authorized two operations in the country: “Targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.” While the president repeated his promise that no American combat troops would be sent back to Iraq, he did not given any information or promises on how long the airstrikes would continue.

The Sunni insurgent group known as the Islamic State has taken control over a large swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014. After its latest offensive, the Islamic State — which was previously called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — controls one-third of the country, and militants in the north are hunting down and killing large numbers of the minority ethno-religious group, the Yazidis, who IS calls devil-worshippers. That violence amounts to genocide, according to a senior United Nations official to the Christian Science Monitor.

Obama stated:

“In recent days, Yezidi women, men, and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives. And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs. They’re without food, they’re without water. People are starving. And children are dying of thirst. Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide. So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice: descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.”

U.S. lawmakers generally supported the president’s decision, although a number of senators, including John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, called for Obama to do more to solve the crisis.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“I support the actions President Obama announced tonight. There are a number of justifications for these actions, but the reasons he cited are surely sufficient,” said Democrat Senator Carl Levin of Michigan in a Thursday press release. “I have urged the administration to provide greater assistance to the Kurds, to assist their defense and to help them resume their protection of Christian villages in their area.”

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“Getting involved in airstrikes moves us a dangerous step closer to direct involvement in Iraq’s sectarian civil war, an entanglement we must avoid,” said Representative Colleen Hanabusa, a Democrat from Hawaii, in a statement several hours before Obama spoke. While the lawmaker said she supported humanitarian aid, “we cannot allow a humanitarian crisis to draw us into a war that would again cost the Iraqi people far too much in destruction and lives lost.” After the president spoke, an aid confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that statement still reflected her views.

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“The President is right to provide humanitarian relief to the Iraqi civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar and to authorize military strikes against ISIS forces that are threatening them, our Kurdish allies, and our own personnel in northern Iraq. However, these actions are far from sufficient to meet the growing threat that ISIS poses. We need a strategic approach, not just a humanitarian one,” stated a joint press release issued by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.“A policy of containment will not work against ISIS. It is inherently expansionist and must be stopped. The longer we wait to act, the worse this threat will become, as recent events clearly show.

Sen. Marco Rubio Speaks At The National Press Club

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“It is important to remember that ISIL threatens not just Iraqis but also the security of the United States and our allies in the region as it consolidates its control of territory that can be used as a base from which to launch attacks. That is why I’ve been urging President Obama since June to conduct airstrikes against ISIL targets and to provide additional lethal assistance and other support to the Iraqi government,” Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio said in a Thursday press release. “Without immediate U.S. action, it will not just be innocent Syrians and Iraqis who pay the price of ISIL’s rise,” he concluded.

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