On Thursday night, President Obama reluctantly announced “targeted airstrikes” in northern Iraq to protect American personnel, the capital city of Kurdistan and the thousands of civilians stranded on a mountain surrounded by Islamic terrorists.
Earlier this week terrorists fighting under the banner of the Islamic State (ISIL) pushed towards the Kurdish capital of Erbil and drove up to 40,000 people from the minority Yezedi religion up to a barren mountain to die of thirst.
Pressure was high on the White House to prevent the fall of a loyal American ally and stave off a likely genocide. And by Thursday night, President Obama had made a decision.
“Today I authorized two operations in Iraq,” he began. “Targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water, and are facing almost certain death.”
He explained that American diplomats and select military personnel in Erbil necessitated the bombardment of ISIL convoys less than 20 miles away and streaming towards the capital.
And he explained that “at the request of the Iraqi government,” the United States will act to prevent the destruction of the Yezidis stranded atop a desert mountain — “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,” he said. “So let me be clear about why we must act and act now.”
“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain,” he explained, “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 cannot turn a blind eye.”
“We can act,” he asserted, “carefully and responsibility to prevent a potential act of genocide. I’ve therefore authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as the fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.”
“Earlier this week, one Iraqi cried to the world, ‘There is no one coming to help,'” he said. “Well, today America is coming to help.”
Obama also addressed inevitable critics of the strikes, ensuring that “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq — because there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”
“There is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force,” he later declared. “Over the last several years we have brought the vast majority of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and I have been careful to resist calls to return time and again to our military, because America has other tools in our arsenal than our military.”
“But when the lives of American citizens are at risk, I will take action,” Obama said. “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.”