President Obama made a statement Thursday evening about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq:
Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — 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. […]
To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL 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. We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.
Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain. As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis. And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect. Countless Iraqis have been displaced. And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.
ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.
I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world. So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now. When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye. We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide. That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.
I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there. Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive. 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’re also consulting with other countries — and the United Nations — who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.
I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these. I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.
More on the humanitarian crisis and the president’s statement …
My fellow Americans, the world is confronted by many challenges. And while America has never been able to right every wrong, America has made the world a more secure and prosperous place. And our leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity that our children and our grandchildren will depend upon. We do so by adhering to a set of core principles. We do whatever is necessary to protect our people. We support our allies when they’re in danger. We lead coalitions of countries to uphold international norms. And we strive to stay true to the fundamental values — the desire to live with basic freedom and dignity — that is common to human beings wherever they are. That’s why people all over the world look to the United States of America to lead. And that’s why we do it.
So let me close by assuring you that there is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force. Over the last several years, we have brought the vast majority of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’ve been careful to resist calls to turn time and again to our military, because America has other tools in our arsenal than our military. We can also lead with the power of our diplomacy, our economy, and our ideals.
But when the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action. That’s my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief. And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action. That is our responsibility as Americans. That’s a hallmark of American leadership. That’s who we are.
They represent the vast majority of a religion that rose alongside the world’s most popular faiths. Now, members of the Yazidi are cut off from the rest of the world, forced to choose between death at the hands of the militants threatening their families and the elements that have already ended the lives of dozens of children.
“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for UNICEF, told the Washington Post. The situation that drove the Yazidi to the protection of Mount Sinjar is one that most analysts had hoped would not come to pass. Over the weekend, members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) managed to take the town of Sinjar from the Kurdish forces who held it. “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State,” Babille continued. “It’s a disaster, a total disaster.” […]
According to the New Yorker’s George Packer, the Obama administration may be “contemplating an airlift, coördinated with the United Nations, of humanitarian supplies by C-130 transport planes” to aid the Yazidis. While horrifying, the plight of the Yazidis makes up just part of the massive refugee crisis playing out in both Iraq and Syria as a result of the conflicts on both sides of the ever evaporating border. According to the United Nations, at least 1.2 million Iraqis are internally displaced as a result of the current fighting.
Last week, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the ruthless militant group currently marauding through Iraq, reportedly blew up the tomb of the Prophet Yunus. The burial site of Yunus, commonly known to many Christians as the biblical figure Jonah, was located in the modern-day city of Mosul (once the biblical city of Nineveh), and was seen by many archeologists and religious scholars as an ancient – and precious – religious artifact. Now, reports indicate, it is little more than rubble. […]
But the destruction of Jonah’s shrine is actually a bit more complicated than singling out one religious tradition. For starters, the Jonah story isn’t exclusive to Christianity. Jews also revere the prophet, as do Muslims: there is an entire book of the Qur’an, aptly titled “Jonah,” dedicated to the prophet, and the Muslim prophet Muhammad is said to have declared, “One should not say that I am better than Jonah.” […]
ISIS’s attack on multiple religions might have more wide-ranging impact than they expect – especially among their fellow Muslims. When ISIS destroyed the tomb, they reportedly forgot to remove copies of the Qur’an and other holy books from the building. Locals found the damaged books while walking through the rubble, a move so offensive to Muslims that it has allegedly sparked what could be the early stages of localized resistance against ISIS within Mosul.