Yesterday the United States started bombing ISIS/ISIL/IS targets within Syria. Over the past few weeks, we have been bombing targets in Iraq as well. On September 10th, President Obama addressed the country and gave a speech detailing his plan for the (Don’t Call It A) War/Military Action against (for the purposes of this post, let’s call it) ISIL, which stands for the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.” His plan involves four points: A systemic campaign of air strikes on ISIL, Increased support for forces fighting ISIL, Counterterrorism measures, and humanitarian assistance for civilians who have been displaced by ISIL. HERE IS THE SPEECH I WISH HE WOULD HAVE GIVEN:
My fellow Americans–I know you’re all expecting me to stand up here tonight and make a case for why we’re going to launch another round of military strikes against the people who are calling themselves “The Islamic State.” Believe me when I say this: There are many, many good reasons to want to bomb the hell out of these people. They enslave, rape, and force women and girls into marriages. They kill kids. We have heard stories of them killing Christians living in Iraq, but any life–Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or Atheist–is precious. Also, it is worth remembering that they kill way more Muslims than anyone else. A different interpretation of their scripture is, for them, reason enough to commit the mass murdering of their Shia neighbors. In addition to this, they have savagely taken the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.
I have watched these videos. I have talked to the families of these brave men. And I, like most of you, desperately long for justice in the face of such acts. But make no mistake–The people who committed these acts WANTED you to see them. As we have been reminded of recently in the NFL, hearing about acts of violence is completely different than actually seeing acts of violence. And as horrific as those images of those men being killed are, make no mistake–The images of those men having their heads savagely cut off are no more offensive to us than the images of the prisoners of Abu Ghraib being tortured, humiliated, and abused were to them…. And those who would call us their enemies have certainly seen those disturbing images as well. The reason ISIL broadcasts these unspeakable acts is because they want to so horrify the American people that it draws the United States into yet another military conflict. We are not going to give them what they want.
Because of my Christian faith, I am called to love my enemies. Never before in my life have I felt such a pull in a different direction…. A direction other than love. The direction of revenge. As a Christian, I believe that I am called to have hope–Hope for an option other than dropping even more bombs on the people whose beliefs tell them that their killing is justified. But when we start to make a case for how OUR killing is justified, we join the majority of the planet in a process of arguing whose killings are actually justified. As a follower of Jesus, this process seems more and more foreign to me. As a Christian, I am much more inspired by mercy than I am by the idea of people getting what’s coming to them…. But as your President I have to do something that works. You don’t have to look at it as Mercy…. Just look at it as “Trying Something Else.” Because we know what DOESN’T work.
We have been trying to solve this problem with guns and bombs and violence and force now for over twice as long as World War II lasted, and that area of the world is undoubtedly more dangerous and unstable than it was when we began. History shows a pattern of the US arming one side to fight against another side, just to have the side that we armed later use those same weapons to fight us. Most of the military supplies and weaponry possessed by ISIL was either supplied by the US (when they were fighting against Assad in Syria) or taken from the Iraqi army when ISIL rolled through Iraq (again, stuff that was given to them by the U.S.). This strategy, while making the people with the companies that provide weapons of war VERY RICH, has done nothing to make the world better, safer, or more peaceful for anyone. It is a cycle that has to stop.
So I’m doing something different. I will not bring up the tragedy of 9/11, as so many have done before me, in an attempt to scare the American public into thinking that anything we might do militarily in that area of the world could make us any safer against another 9/11-style attack. There will always be people who hate us enough to kill themselves in an attempt to hurt us…. No amount of Hellfire missiles is going to change that. Nineteen men took down the twin towers and part of the Pentagon–We can’t kill everyone who hates us, and even if we tried, we would create even more people who hate us. As U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “Truly there is no military solution to ISIL. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but there is no military solution.” We need to try something different. So here’s my plan:
Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has spent over ONE AND A HALF TRILLION DOLLARS on those wars. For the price of those wars, we could have completely paid for the college tuitions for every college-aged kid in America for the next 60 years. We can safely estimate that a military campaign against ISIL over the next year or so, even without any “boots on the ground,” would cost in the area of $200 Billion (already our strikes against ISIL have cost almost a billion dollars). So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re only going to spend HALF of that amount–$100,000,000,000 (Already I have cut the amount of spending in half). Of that $100 Billion, half of that money–$50 Billion–will be used to fund the greatest PR campaign the world has ever seen. If you think the United States military is strong, you should see our marketing corporations. We are going to pay people to read and speak Arabic, and then we are going to fund Think Tanks that will strategically engage people with extremist ideologies.
Many of you are already shaking your heads and thinking “That’ll never work.” Well, the reason we don’t want to try something like this is because we don’t believe in our enemy’s humanity. We don’t believe in their capacity to be reasoned with. We believe the lie that they–like some sort of animal we’re trying to train–will only respond to “strength” (as if it doesn’t take strength to love your enemies or have hope for their redemption). Well, I believe in the ideas of Liberty and Democracy and Freedom, and I believe a proper interpretation of the Quran will show that those principles are perfectly in line with the teachings of Muhammed, as many Muslims already believe. I believe Islam is a religion of Peace, and where these men come to a different conclusion, they are getting it very wrong. Just like many Christians get it very wrong when they use the Bible as a justification for killing.
So yeah…. A $50 Billion PR campaign. And some of you are probably asking, “What about the other $50 Billion?” We will be using those funds to help pay for higher education for our young people. Right now, there is over ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in student loan debt in America. Burdening our young people–who are simply attempting to educate themselves–with huge amounts of debt makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. So from now on, whatever moneys we deem worthwhile to spend on foreign affairs will be matched by moneys spent on creating a society which values education as a human right, and not as something that starts our young adults out in life in a situation that feels like indentured servitude.
I’m aware that many of the people in power right now are probably crapping their pants in anger and fear over the plan I have just laid out, but I really don’t care what those people think. I am tired of making speeches that sound like echoes of George W. Bush speeches with phrases like “if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” Killing people for killing people just leads to more and more killing people. We’re trying something different. I’m going to start acting like the man I made you think I was when I asked for your vote. And if you don’t like it, tough. What are you going to do…. Not re-elect me?
In closing, God Bless The United States of America, and God Bless every other nation as well…. EVERY nation. Even the ones who hate us. OBAMA OUT!!!