Obama Promises to Defeat ISIS and Rebuts Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

It was a rare and passionate address from the Oval Office.


Calling ISIS and those it inspires “a cult of death” engaged in a “perverted interpretation of Islam,” President Barack Obama detailed his efforts Sunday night to destroy the terrorist organization and tighten gun control in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings that claimed 14 lives last week. Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office, in the first prime-time speech he’s given there since 2010.

“We will destroy ISIL,” the president promised, using another acronym for ISIS, by ramping up intelligence sharing among allies, continuing the bombing campaign against ISIS, and working international diplomatic levers to hammer out a ceasefire agreement in Syria to bring the civil war to an end. Choking off financing to disrupt ISIS activities, he said, was also key to preventing further terror attacks.

The high-profile address comes amid recent polling that has highlighted a growing anxiety over the administration’s ability to fight ISIS. But the speech appeared designed not to announce new policies to fight ISIS—Obama unveiled no major changes in strategy—but to assure the American public that his administration has made the struggle against the militant group in Syria and Iraq a top priority. “The terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase,” he said. “I know how real the danger is.”

The president did make clear one important line he and his administration would not cross in the fight against ISIS. “We should not be drawn once again into a long and costly ground war,” he said. At the same time, Obama challenged Congress to be a partner in the fight by voting to authorize force in the ongoing conflict.

Obama also turned the conversation back to gun control in the aftermath of the San Bernardino killings. He called on Congress to cut off access to guns for people on the “no fly” list, which limits travel for those security officials suspected of terror activities.

But perhaps the most passionate part of the live address came when the president defended Muslims as a vital part of American life. While explaining that “an extremist ideology has spread inside some Muslim communities,” he indirectly rebuked Republican candidates for president who have ramped up anti-Muslim rhetoric since the California attack and even advocated tracking of Muslim Americans.

“When we travel down that road, we lose,” he said. “Freedom is more powerful than fear.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate