White House: We are not at war

posted at 3:21 pm on September 11, 2014 by Noah Rothman

In a truly shameful display, the administration has spent the day after President Barack Obama’s address to the nation outlining his proposed response to the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by downplaying his address to the nation.

America is not going to “war,” per say, according to Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest. No, what they envision is merely another counter-terror operation. Just like the supposedly model operations ongoing in nearly imploding Yemen, or in Somalia, which has become synonymous for ‘basket case failed state.’

While traveling in the Middle East to shore up support for what everyone sure thought was going to be a war to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, America’s chief diplomat took the opportunity to clarify the president’s thinking.

“What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation,” Kerry said. “If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with ISIL they can do so, but the fact is it’s a major counter-terrorism operation.”

“I don’t think people need to get into a war fever on this,” the secretary of state added.

On its face, it seems like the administration is sending mixed signals. The president made a rather clear case for a long campaign aimed at rolling back the nascent Islamic State in Iraq and eventually confronting them in their Syrian stronghold. Sources have suggested that this is a mission which will likely outlast the Obama presidency. So why pull punches today?

Josh Earnest made the administration’s thinking clear during his press briefing on Thursday in which he went to tortured lengths to insist that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda were synonymous. Why? Well, claiming these two groups are the same would mean that the administration does not have to approach Congress for a new resolution authorizing use military force.

Instead, the White House can point to the 2001 authorization targeting al-Qaeda, even though the White House had previously argued that the resolution was dated and should be repealed.

Kerry, too, asserted that ISIS “is and has been al-Qaeda.”

“By trying to change its name, it doesn’t change who it is, what it does,” he added.

Just don’t tell them that. “In a message posted on jihadi websites the al-Qaeda general command stated that its former affiliate ‘is not a branch of the al-Qaeda group [and al-Qaeda] does not have an organizational relationship with it and is not the group responsible for their actions,’” Time Magazine reported in February.

The White House’s insistence that the present campaign is merely a continuation of George W. Bush’s War on Terror is unlikely to quiet the increasingly loud voices in Congress demanding a vote on a new authorization.

Okay, well, even if we’re playing legal games with the word “war” and are trying to avoid the politics of getting the people’s representatives to sanction military action abroad, at least there is a plan for victory, right?

“What does victory look like here?” Earnest was asked on Thursday. “What does destroy mean?”

“I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary,” Earnest replied.

…How droll.

The press secretary later clarified that the goal is to ensure that ISIS has no haven to plan and execute attacks on America and to “mitigate” the risk to the homeland from what is really just another terrorist group.

In related news, the Democratic coalition and Obama’s dovish base were livid over his speech last night and deeply disturbed by the president’s decision to commit America to a new war in the Middle East, threats to national security notwithstanding.

In America in 2014, a former constitutional law professor is pretty sure he can launch a three-year-long military campaign against a proto-state occupying territory in two sovereign countries without the approval of Congress. The brazen power grab here which is distressing, but the utter lack of regard for the precedents this administration is setting might be even more unnerving.


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Comment pages: 1 2

OK, it is much clearer now. We are not at “war, war” because it depends on what the meaning of ISIS, Is.

Dan_NV on September 11, 2014 at 4:51 PM

How might this statement legally effect those in the military regarding pay, pensions, eligibility etc? How about their widows?

Don L on September 11, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Good point. Will they be screwed like the victims of the workplace violence at Fort Hood?

talkingpoints on September 11, 2014 at 4:51 PM

NO MORE WAR!
NO BLOOD FOR OIL!
DON’T BLAME ME I VOTED FOR SARAH!

whatever…

kcewa on September 11, 2014 at 4:51 PM

Not at WAR?

Hell, they ain’t even at WORK.

Pork-Chop on September 11, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Amateur hour continues

Whitey Ford on September 11, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Amateur Baghdad Bobby II

Schadenfreude on September 11, 2014 at 5:11 PM

We’re at effort with non-Islamic terrorism activists.

tej on September 11, 2014 at 5:12 PM

“I don’t think people need to get into a war fever on this,” the secretary of state added.

I just needs to kill me ‘somthin! Where the down trodden, brown people at? I ‘gots to get my oppression on!

Oh wait, I don’t think the current administration could wet their pants if you gave them a water pistol and am very concerned for the lives of our best and brightest who are probably going to be sent out on yet another limb that the same people who sent them out will gleefully cut out from underneath them if it gains them a few points in some opinion poll. How many times do you expect Charlie Brown to fall on his ass after Lucy yanks the football away before Charlie separates from the service?

V7_Sport on September 11, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Somewhere, George Orwell is laughing his ass off!

GarandFan on September 11, 2014 at 5:17 PM

Alternate headline:

White House: We are at not-war.

Christien on September 11, 2014 at 5:18 PM

We have alwyas been at peace with Eastasia.

Or something.

PS Noah, it’s per se from the Latin, not per say.

formwiz on September 11, 2014 at 5:18 PM

Oh come on, the WH is clearly doing more than just playing politics. They have to lie to themselves to protect their delicate pride, poor babies. More crow?

rhombus on September 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM

America is not going to “war,” per say, according to Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest.

Proofreader needed on paragraph 2!

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Not at war? that’s good. on the other hand he says he is not at war with conservatives. hey wait a minute….

warmairfan on September 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM

In a truly shameful display, the administration has spent the day after President Barack Obama’s address to the nation outlining his proposed response to the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by downplaying his address to the nation.

Sounds like Imperialistic Leader didn’t talk to his cabinet or staff any more than he talked to Russia, Syria, Britain, or Germany.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 11, 2014 at 5:20 PM

This may be the only time I agree with one very small point with the Administration and it is ONLY because they need the definition to fit their POLITICAL needs. It is this: Al Qa’ida and ISIS/L are the same and from the same tree. The ONLY difference is that Ayman al-Zawahiri is frustrated that the growth of the base of the Ummah is now focused on ISIS and not al Qa’ida PROPER. So just recently the Admin was asking for removal of the AUMF in Iraq and now today they are claiming they can do whatever they want in Iraq because of the AUMF! My brothers and sisters in the military die because politics are at the heart of this NOT because we want to rid evil from the planet.

I posted this the other day and hope that it may help here as well:

I have spent seven years in Iraq on multiple deployments. I have additionally served close to 2 1/2 years in AFG. I KNOW the conflict well having lived with both Iraqi and Afghans and had special access some may not have had there.

Here is what I can tell you to a point :)
Yes, al Qa’ida elements were inside Iraq PRIOR to Sept 2001. Ansar al Islam and Ansar al Sunnah were operating there. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had sought medical help in northern Iraq after a stint in AFG after 2001. Zarqawi was a member of the JTJ a precursor to what later became al Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), which he led. After his death in 2006, which I was involved in around the edges, control of AQI fell upon Abu Ayyub al-Masri who was working with Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) leader Abu Umar al-Baghdadi (AUAB) and ISI’s Minister of War who was Abu Dua aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, today’s current leader of ISI/S/L. Abu Dua took over when we killed al-Masri and AUAB in the desert west of Tikrit and north of Ramadi (don’t worry this is all open source info here).

Additionally, the bandwagon MSM’s cries about no WMD’s, there were WMD’s in Iraq and also over 500 tons of yellowcake were taken out in 2009, as well as smaller portions of sarin, mustard gas, and other chemical precursors that were removed out of Iraq over our nine years there…and were NEVER reported by MSM or if they were, back on page B11 of the Metro section as an “oh, by the way…”

Have you also wondered where Bashar al-Assad received SOME of his chemical and biological weapons? It is interesting that the MSM hasn’t looked more critically into when the Ba’ath Party and the Iraqi Army was dismantled (which was a huge MISTAKE by Paul Bremer meaning the Iraqi Army) that the Ba’athists did not flee to Iran but to Syria and where Ibrahim al-Duri, Saddam’s VP and second in command set up his base along with Muhammad Yunis al-Ahmad his highest ranking General. Both of these guys by the way are still alive today and are very likely back in Iraq and directing behind the scenes for JRTN the Ba’athists military wing who assist the IS.

g2825m on September 11, 2014 at 5:25 PM

The more important question though is right after Obama gave his speech last nite I want to know what he shot on the back nine this morning before he “HAD TO” show up for 9/11 memorial activities?

g2825m on September 11, 2014 at 5:37 PM

I wonder what upsets Barry more, being turned down by countries to support his operation (war) or golf clubs turning him down to golf.

Sven on September 11, 2014 at 5:55 PM

13 years ago we were at war. Today we are at war. A long war. The Long War.

thebrokenrattle on September 11, 2014 at 6:07 PM

“I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary,” Earnest replied.

Ah, what a wit with that one.

Smarmy twit.

hillbillyjim on September 11, 2014 at 6:08 PM

America is not going to “war,” per say, according to Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest. No, what they envision is merely another counter-terror operation. Just like the supposedly model operations ongoing in nearly imploding Yemen, or in Somalia, which has become synonymous for ‘basket case failed state.’

Big Brother: We’re not at war against Eastasia, or Eastsyria or the Levant. We’re at war against the War on Women!

Steve Z on September 11, 2014 at 6:19 PM

Juan Williams just said on Special Report that Congress should go ahead and authorize this action whether Obama asks them to or not. They have a duty to be all in with the President and the country in this non war.

Cindy Munford on September 11, 2014 at 6:50 PM

Obviously not a war, per se. Workplace violence on an international scale.

abester on September 11, 2014 at 7:15 PM

White House: We are not at war

We are in a broad kinetic overseas contingency counter-terrorism operation.

Not a war. Nope. No way. Clearly this is something completely different.

farsighted on September 11, 2014 at 7:48 PM

White House: We are not at war

And we’ve never been at war with Eastasia.

farsighted on September 11, 2014 at 7:51 PM

Military equipment in use and/or changing hands? Check.
Bombing? Check.
Mass killing? Check.
Populace migrating in an attempt to avoid death? Check.
It’s war, dip-shits.

S. D. on September 11, 2014 at 7:49 PM

Quoting my post on the spokeditz thread.

S. D. on September 11, 2014 at 7:54 PM

Pope: Those pedophile priests are not Catholics!

jeanneb on September 11, 2014 at 8:03 PM

Ok…we are in a non-war situation with the non-Islamists not in the middle east.

Susan Rice just stated this isn’t a war either so it must be true. I hope Reid and Pelosi can confirm this soon so we can relax and know that we are safe from saying we are at war.

It was great to hear the economy is doing so well and we’re kicking ass in the Ukraine excursion situation…oh and we won the hearts and minds of the Yemeni which has been bothering me lately.

Now to bring together this unprecedented group of sandals in the sand partners and we can bring this inconvenient non-war thingy to an end.

Long Live Our Leader!

tej on September 11, 2014 at 8:29 PM

America is not going to “war,” per say,

If you’re going to go pretentious on us and start using Latin expressions, you should at least take the trouble to not mangle them.

bgoldman on September 11, 2014 at 8:39 PM

If it’s not war let’s send the IRS and the VA!

claudius on September 11, 2014 at 10:04 PM

So, the enemy (ISIS) of our enemy (Al-Qaeda) is our enemy. Not only that, but we claim that they are also synonymous with our original enemy (Al-Qaeda) even though they are enemies.

Riiiiiiiight.

Theophile on September 12, 2014 at 3:34 AM

Are we at peace?

Galtian on September 12, 2014 at 10:43 AM

The first thing our President should do is go to George Bush’s Texas ranch and make a complete apology for totally screwing up big time and abruptly jerking our troops out of Iraq. Several more tear-jerking apologies should also be given for managing to totally destroy the fragile treaties and agreements reached between many of these other European and African governments. Maybe then a working agreement can be reached between these two President’s and they can work together as a team and straighten out Barack Obama’s screw-ups. (Anything would be an improvement !)

Bugdust172 on September 12, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Obama should just come out and say it — “I am sorry. my Muslim / Islamic Extremist Brothers…the American people are FORCING me to take military action against you. Fear not, though – no boots on the ground and no strikes against meaningful targets.”

easyt65 on September 12, 2014 at 10:40 PM

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