Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reacted to the June 12 Orlando shootings, in which 50 people were shot dead at the Flordia gay club Pulse, with evidence that they can agree on at least one thing: bombing people. Both presidential candidates called for an escalation of the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
“We have generals that feel we can win this thing so fast and so strong, but we have to be furious for a short period of time, and we're not doing it!” Trump complained on Fox & Friends on June 13.
“Are you saying hit Raqqa right now?” asked host Brian Kilmeade. “We're going to have to start thinking about something,” Trump replied.
Along the same lines, Clinton suggested during her post-Orlando speech the same day: “We should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign.”
Both candidates neglected to consider that no operational links between ISIS and the alleged Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, have been discovered. Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS shortly before the attacks, but he had reportedly previously claimed connections to two groups that oppose ISIS: the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah and al Qaeda.
And neither explained how escalating bombardments in Iraq and Syria would do anything to stop self-radicalised and/or unhinged attackers in the US.
If ISIS is not doing anything to help coordinate or assist these sorts of mass killings, then destroying it — even if that were possible — would not make any difference.
And even if you blame ISIS for “inspiring” such attacks, the fact remains that there are any number of extremist ideologies that a deranged would-be killer could derive inspiration from — and you cannot bomb them all.
Clinton and Trump's gusto about doubling down on what the US is already doing — the US-led coalition has carried more than 12,000 airstrikes against ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria — was echoed by sitting lawmakers.
“We've got to be willing to take the battle to ISIS,” Republican Senator Johnny Isakson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reviving the Bush-era slogan “Fight them there, so we don't have to fight them here”. “Right now, they're taking the battle to us, and yesterday it was in Orlando,”
“The reality is, what we need to do is we need to take the fight to the terrorists on their doorstep,” Republican Represenative Bill Hurd from Texas told CNBC. “Whether it's ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, we need to be there.”
But the record shows that, if anything, US military engagements in the Middle East drive recruits to extremist groups, rather than away. Even Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon worried about that.
[Reprinted from The Intercept.]
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