A duo of Sunday morning hosts, Martha Raddatz and Bob Schieffer, asked Obama administration officials whether America is at ‘war’ with ISIS, after talk from a wide range of government officials about the terminology of the U.S.’s military action in Syria and Iraq.
ABC’s Raddatz posed the question directly to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on “This Week.”
“The administration seems to be a bit confused as to what to call this action,” Raddatz said, after playing clips of Secretary of State John Kerry, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby where the spokesmen were at odds over calling the U.S. military action against ISIS as war.
“Sounds like some talking points there,” said the ABC host. “Are we at war? Why is ‘war’ the wrong reference term, according to John Kerry?”
“This isn’t talking points,” McDonough said. “Just as we have been at war with al Qaeda since the day we got here, we are at war with ISIL. What does that mean? That means that we are going to use our unique capabilities in support of others on the ground. Other Sunnis.”
“In Iraq we’re going to be supporting Iraqi security forces. And in Syria we’re going to be supporting with air power the Syrian opposition on the ground,” said the White House official.
Meanwhile on CBS, “Face The Nation” host Bob Schieffer confronted Secretary of State Kerry with the same question.
“This week, you went to some lengths to say you wouldn’t call this ‘war,'” said the veteran political anchor. “But, yet, at the Pentagon, and again at the State Department they were saying ‘we are at war with ISIS.’ Are we at war?”
“I think there’s a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology,” Kerry told Schieffer. “If people need to find the place to land? In terms of what we did in Iraq, originally, this is not a war, this is not combat troops on the ground, it’s not hundreds of thousands of people. It’s not that kind of mobilization.”
“But, in terms of al Qaeda, which we have used the word ‘war’ with, yeah. We were at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. And in the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL, in that sense” said the former U.S. Senator.
“But I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that,” Kerry said. “Let’s consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL, and that’s what i’m frankly much more focused on.”