Sen. Graham Warns Obama of 'A Blunder for the Ages'

August 11, 2014 - 5:53 AM

APTOPIX Obama Iraq

President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, about ongoing situation in Iraq before his departure on Marine One for a vacation in Martha's Vineyard.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) - Some Republicans say it's not enough for President Obama to provide limited U.S. military aid to Iraq: If  he doesn't crush ISIS/ISIL terrorists in Iraq now, "then he will have committed a blunder for the ages," Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

Obama's responsibility as president is to defend the nation, the South Carolina Republican told "Fox News Sunday."

"If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here. This is not just about Baghdad. This is not just about Syria. It is about our homeland. And if we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages."

"If you read what they're saying, we are the enemy," Graham's friend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CNN's "State of the Union."

"They want to destroy us. They are getting stronger all the time. They have attracted 10,000 young men from around the world who are now fighting on their side. This ISIS is metastasizing throughout the region. And their goal, as they have stated openly time after time, is the destruction of the United States of America.

"And it's not John McCain that's saying it. It's the director of national intelligence, director of the FBI, the secretary of homeland security, and lately the attorney general."

On Saturday, before he left Washington for a two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard, President Obama told reporters that his "broader strategy" in Iraq includes protecting American citizens in that country, dealing with the humanitarian crisis, and providing support to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces -- "as they battle these terrorists."

"We can conduct airstrikes," Obama said, "but ultimately there's not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There's going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support. And that can't happen effectively until you have a legitimate Iraqi government."

Obama said the effort to prevent Islamic terrorists from gaining safe haven in Iraq is going to "take some time."

"This is going to be a long-term project," he added.

"So we're going to be pushing very hard to encourage Iraqis to get their government together. Until we do that, it is going to be hard to get the unity of effort that allows us to not just play defense but also engage in some offense."

But Graham and McCain warned that time is running out:

"I would be rushing equipment to Erbil," McCain said. "I would be launching airstrikes not only in Iraq, but in Syria against ISIS. They have erased the boundaries between Iraq and Syria. I would be providing as much training and equipment as I can to -- as I said, to the Kurds, and I would do a lot of things that we can not have to wait for Maliki to leave there.

"And I would be giving assistance to the Syrian -- the Free Syrian Army, which is on the ropes right now because we failed to help them. And this all goes back to a number of steps the president took, including a failure to leave a residual force in Iraq.

Sen. Graham told Fox News Sundy the terrorists have four goals: "To make every Muslim bend to their will, to destroy the Christian population in the Mideast, to drive us out, and eventually destroy Israel. So, here's my statement to the president -- Mr. President, your own people are telling you we face an attack on this region. Your game plan, the actions you're taking, cannot protect us. There is no substitute for America being involved in terms of eradicating ISIS. If we don't hit them in Syria, you'll never solve the problem in Iraq.

"Three years ago, Mr. President, you were told by your national security team, get involved, armed the rebels because this problem will grow. You said no. You made many, many bad bets. Your strategy is failing. You told us bin Laden is dead, we're safe.

"Since bin Laden has died, there are more terrorist organizations with more safe havens, with more money, with more weapons, and more capabilities to attack the homeland than there was before 9/11.

"Mr. President, if you don't adjust your strategy, these people are coming here."

Also appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he agrees with President Obama that "there is not a U.S. military solution to this issue."

"We have a very limited mission that the president has authorized -- to deal with the humanitarian crisis to avoid a genocide and I support that mission. We're protecting U.S. interests as far as the safety of U.S. personnel in the northern part of Iraq. That's our limited mission," Cardin said.

"But we're not going to use our military to take care of what the Iraqis should be taking care of. And if you're looking at what the real cause here, the real cause is that the Iraqi government has not formed the way it should to protect the rights of all Iraqis. We are not going to get in the middle of a civil war and use American military where it should be Iraqis taking care of their own needs."

Sen. McCain said the advance of ISIS/ISIL is much more than an Iraqi problem:

"The president made it clear that this was to avert the humanitarian crisis that they were taking these actions and to protect American military personnel that are in Irbil and Baghdad.

That's not a strategy. That's not a policy. That is simply a very narrow and focused approach to a problem which is metastasizing as we speak. Candy, there was a guy a month ago that was in Syria, went back to the United States, came back and blew himself up. We're tracking 100 Americans who are over there now fighting for ISIS.

"ISIS is attracting extreme elements from all over the world, much less the Arab world. And what have we done? We have said this is a -- quote -- 'Iraqi problem.'"

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, however, President Obama said it would be a "big mistake for us to think that we can, on the cheap, simply go in, tamp everything down again, restart without some fundamental shift in attitudes among the various Iraqi factions.

"That's why it is so important to have an Iraqi government on the ground that is taking responsibility, that we can help, that we can partner with, that has the capacity to get alliances in the region and once that's in place, then I think we end up being one of many countries that can work together to deal with the broader crisis that ISIL poses."