Strong Words from Obama on ISIS, but No Promise of Action
Policy + Politics

Strong Words from Obama on ISIS, but No Promise of Action

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Calling the Islamic State a “cancer” that must be extracted from the Middle East, President Obama on Wednesday strongly condemned the terrorist group’s execution-style murder of American journalist James Foley. However, the president was not clear about whether the U.S. would retaliate for the murder, which was publicized by IS in a video released to news organizations and social media yesterday.

Speaking from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing with his family, the president told reporters, “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.”

Related: Reporter’s Execution Could Unleash U.S. Against ISIS

Dressed casually in a sports jacket and no tie, Obama continued to refer to the group of terrorists that has taken over large swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months as “ISIL,” an acronym for the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant. While the group has begun calling itself simply the Islamic State, much of the media refers to it as ISIS, for the Islamic State is Iraq and Syria.

The president did not promise any particular action as a result of Foley’s murder, and remained true to a theme that has run through much of his public comment on the situation in the Middle East over recent weeks: The countries in the region must take responsibility for security there.

“From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread,” he said. There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.”

He said that U.S. actions are taken against the terrorist group with the support of other governments, including the government of Iraq. “The people of Iraq who, with our support are taking the fight to ISIL must continue coming together to expel these terrorists from their communities.”

Related: Failure in Afghanistan Creates a Terror Safe Haven

The president rejected the group’s claim that its actions, including the kidnapping of women and children and the murder of those who do not share belief in their particular version of the Islamic faith, are motivated by religious belief.

“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every day,” he said. “ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt.”

He also rejected the group’s claim that it is at war with the U.S. or the West in general.

“The fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior,” he said. “People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy.”

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