Respected fact-checking website Politifact.com has confirmed that President Obama’s statement that ISIS (ISIL/Daesh) is “contained” in Iraq and Syria is true, despite the attempts of fanatical conservatives to take the statement out of context and turn a devastating tragedy into fodder to impeach the President.
In a recent interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, President Obama was asked about the growth of ISIS, and he made the following comment in response:
“What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq. And in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave. But you don’t see this systematic march by ISIL across the terrain.”
What’s important to note that is that Obama is clearly referring to ISIS’s progress in Iraq and Syria.
Nevertheless, conservative pundits have tried to spin these comments, made on November 12th, the day before the Paris attacks, as evidence that Obama is “out of touch” with the dangers of ISIS, and have even called for his removal.
Michael Goodwin published a piece on Saturday in the conservative rag known as the New York Post that after Obama’s comments, there is a “distressing doubt about whether America’s commander in chief gets it.” Goodwin blasted Obama for supposedly claiming that ISIS in general had been contained, and posed no significant threat. However, anyone who has listened to the president’s comments in full, rather than pulling sound bites that suit their political agenda, would know that Obama made clear that ISIS continues to pose a serious threat, and that more actions must be taken. As Politifact makes clearing in their ruling, “References or suggestions that Obama claimed ISIS no longer presents an active threat are incorrect.”
During the same interview, Obama states clearly that although ISIS’s progress on the ground in Iraq and Syria has been contained, “What we have not yet been able to do is to completely decapitate their command and control structures.” He also emphasizes that solving the problem of ISIS will require stronger alliances in the Middle East and repairing the damage wrought by civil war and sectarian conflict. “I would distinguish between making sure that the place is perfect — that’s not going to happen anytime soon — with making sure that ISIL continues to shrink in its scope of operations until it no longer poses the kind of threat that it does.” Here, Obama clearly emphasizes that ISIS continues to pose a threat.
Unfortunately, even news outlets like CNN published articles with misleading headlines that feed into the conservatives’ fantasies, and CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour added to the confusion by claiming that the comments were “incredible,” given recent events.
As President Obama explains, the U.S. efforts to combat ISIS are wide-ranging, but no easy solution is to be found. However, the complexities of the political situation in the Middle East are clearly far too much for conservatives like Goodwin, who starts his Obama-bashing article with the statement that “war is fiendishly simple.” Ben Carson and other Republicans claim to have a magical cure-all for international terrorism, but, as Obama commented in the interview with ABC, “What I think is he doesn’t know much about it.”
While the right-wing tries to accuse Obama of not taking ISIS seriously enough, it’s important to keep in mind that, as has recently been revealed, President Bush ignored severe warnings of a major attack prior to 9/11, but elected not to act so as to claim ignorance.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.