Two days after authorizing airstrikes and humanitarian aid in Iraq President Barack Obama updated the American public in both his weekly address released early Saturday morning Aug. 9, 2014 and then later in the morning delivering a live statement on the White House lawn before leaving for a two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard. On Friday, Aug. 8 the United States military began airstrikes against Sunni Muslim militants, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and started dropping food and water to trapped Iraqis threatened by the militant group.
President Obama in his statement on Saturday, Aug. 9 let the American public know that "This is going to be a long-term project," and that he is "not going to give a particular timetable," "but ultimately, there's not going to be an American military solution to this problem."
President Obama indicated that "I'm not going to give a particular timetable because as I've said from the start, wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it's my obligation, my responsibility as Commander in Chief, to make sure they are protected." The president pointed out how difficult it is to deal with the ISIS, explaining; "It is very hard to get a unified effort by Iraqis against ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant]."
Earlier in his statement Obama let Americans know that this is not just a short term military incursion; "I don't think we're going to solve this problem in weeks. This is going to take some time." In his generalized comments President Obama only implied the mission will be complete when there is a stable government in Iraq, stating; "The most important timetable that I'm focused on right now is the Iraqi government getting formed and finalized,"
The president though ensured the country Americans are not going to take upon themselves to militarily solve Iraq's problems as they did in the War in Iraq that just ended; "We can conduct air strikes, but ultimately, there's not going to be an American military solution to this problem." Obama expressed that "We should have learned a lesson from our long and immensely costly incursion in Iraq."
President Obama further used his weekly address entitled "American Operations in Iraq" to discuss and explain the military action and humanitarian mission. The president explained the two pronged mission; "First, I directed our military to take action to protect our American diplomats and military advisors serving in the city of Erbil… Second, we've begun a humanitarian effort to help those Iraqi civilians trapped on that mountain."
President Obama does not believe however, that the United States should take on the world's issues and problems; "The United States cannot and should not intervene every time there's a crisis in the world. But when there's a situation like the one on this mountain… the United States can't just look away. That's not who we are. We're Americans. We act. We lead."
President Obama wanted to assure again the American public that this is not going to be another War in the Iraq and no U.S. military will be sent for any ground war or fighting. Obama declared; "As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there's no American military solution to the larger crisis there."
One of the main points of the mission is to prevent ISIS from being able to attack America. Obama explained; "What we will do is continue our broader strategy in Iraq. We will protect our citizens. We will work with the international community to address this humanitarian crisis. We'll help prevent these terrorists from having a permanent safe haven from which to attack America."
Additionally, the ultimate aim is to be to make sure Iraqis can have a "better future." President Obama concluded his address stating; "And we'll continue to urge Iraqi communities to reconcile, come together and fight back against these terrorists so the people of Iraq have the opportunity for a better future-the opportunity for which so many Americans gave their lives in Iraq in a long and hard war."
On Thursday evening, August 7, 2014 President Obama announced that the U.S. would intervene in the growing crisis in Iraq. Obama announced the military mission consisting of targeted airstrikes; "I directed our military to take targeted strikes against [ISIS] terrorist convoys should they move toward the city. We intend to stay vigilant and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad."
The president also announced a humanitarian aid mission; "Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, 'There is no one coming to help.' Well, today America is coming to help. We can act carefully and responsibly to prevent a potential act of genocide." On Saturday, Obama indicated that after speaking with "British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande" the two countries will also assist with the humanitarian mission.
The emergency humanitarian crisis revolves around the Yazidis, ethnic Kurds who "are facing dehydration and starvation" after being corned on a mountaintop by ISIS who have threatened to mass kill them if they do not convert. In the past two days the Air Force has dropped by late Friday evening; 6,822 "gallons of water" and 36,224 "ready-to-eat meals" to help those trapped in Sinjar.
President Obama plans to make sure the U.S. military create a safe passage so they can escape from the mountain. The mission will also help other threatened religious minorities including Christians located in Northern Iraq. So far the airstrikes have also been successful destroying ISIL's artillery, "arms and equipment" that they were using to attack the "Iraqi Kurdish" capital Arbil. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby explained that "Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil."
In a rare instance of bipartisanship both Republicans and Democrats in Congress support the military action including Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH who barely ever agrees with President Obama. Boehner and other Republicans however, think Obama should have acted sooner; "The president's authorization of airstrikes is appropriate, but like many Americans, I am dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses to the region." They also question like Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC if it is enough to affect the situation in dire Iraq. Graham tweeted on Thursday, Aug. 7; "I completely support humanitarian aid as well as the use of air power. However the actions announced tonight will not turn the tide of battle."
- Statement by President Barack Obama on Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014
- President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: American Operations in Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014 -- Transcript | mp4 | mp3
- Statement by the President Barack Obama on Iraq, Aug. 7, 2014
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.