Editorial: United States must act to stop ISIL
In 2001, in the aftermath of al-Qaida’s 9-11 attacks, this newspaper supported the invasion of Afghanistan to put a stop to its ability to serve as a training base and launching pad for terrorists. In 2003, the Monitor’s editors believed that the risk of becoming stuck in a Vietnam-like quagmire outweighed the alleged risk presented by Saddam Hussein, and the paper opposed the invasion of Iraq.
Today, like Afghanistan before it, Iraq is in danger of becoming a base for a terrorist organization that’s far more fanatical and brutal than al-Qaida – the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The group’s existence, and its goal of creating a fundamentalist Islamic caliphate on its captured lands, means the United States may have already become embroiled in its third Iraq war. We hate to say it, but combating ISIL and eliminating its ability to spawn acts of global terror may again require American boots on the ground.
ISIL forces augmented by Sunni veterans of Saddam Hussein’s security force are engaged in what amounts to genocide, killing Muslims who didn’t convert to their crazed vision of Islam. ISIL fighters forced 40,000 Yazidis, members of an ancient ethnic group, to flee to a mountaintop or face death. The group’s brutality is a purposeful attempt to intimidate and make resistance seem futile.
This week, the world shuddered when an Australian Muslim fighting in Iraq posted a photo of his 7-year-old son. The boy was smiling like a figure in a Norman Rockwell painting while holding the severed head of a supposed ISIL enemy.
President Obama brought U.S. troops home from Iraq in 2011 after nine years of a nation-building effort that’s still more likely to fail than succeed.
Earlier this summer, he sent several hundred American armed forces members to Iraq as advisers.
On Friday, U.S. planes began dropping relief supplies to the trapped Yazidi refugees and began bombing ISIL forces when they could do so with little danger of killing civilians. In one maddening sortie, American planes dropped American bombs on an American artillery piece ISIL captured from fleeing Iraqi forces.
ISIL is a terrorist group with a well-trained army, experienced leaders, captured territory that includes oil wells and Iraq’s biggest dam and an extremist ideology that’s attracting Muslim fanatics from around the world.
Arming the Kurds in northern Iraq may allow their disciplined forces to keep ISIL at bay or even push it back, but we have little confidence in the rest of Iraq’s armed forces. Iraq’s government is in a transition that could yet lead to civil war, and its army, unassisted, does not appear to be a match for ISIL forces.
Thousands of New Hampshire residents served in Iraq and Afghanistan and many will carry their scars, both physical and emotional, to the grave.
We are loath, as we suspect Obama is, to put more American lives at risk. That shouldn’t be done for further attempts at nation-building. But preventing the creation of a terrorist juggernaut that can threaten the security, not just of the United States but of every nation, is a different story. ISIL has to be stopped. If Iraqi forces can’t do it, other nations, the United States included, will have to do the job.
Peace, and peace of mind for all the world’s citizens, is at stake.