Lindsey Graham’s reaction to Obama’s ISIL speech

Above is a video of Lindsey Graham speaking on the House floor about the plan for combating ISIL that President Obama spoke about last night.

Here are some excerpts from Graham’s speech:

  • “About the speech last night, what bothered me the most was the way it started. The President tried to tell us that as a nation we’re safer today than we have ever been. Do you believe that? I don’t. There are more terrorists, more organizations with more money, more capability, and more weapons to attack our homeland than existed before 9/11. We’re not safer than we were before 9/11 and that’s just an unfortunate fact.”
  • “Every president, every senator makes mistakes. History judges you not by the mistakes you make but by what you learn from them.”
  • “Here’s what I ask of the President – stop caveating everything. Look the enemy in the eye and say ‘We will destroy you’ and stop. Look the American people in the eye and say ‘We have to win, we will win and I will do what is necessary to win.’”
  • “The American military…..they’re tired, but they’re not too tired to defend this country.”
  • “The President also said this operation against ISIL will be like other CT (Counter-terrorism) operations over the last five or six year. No, it will not! This is not some small group of people running around with AK-47s. This is a full blown army. They were going to defeat the Kurdish Peshmerga, a pretty tough fighting group, if we hadn’t intervened. To underestimate how hard this will be will bite us.”
  • “Mr. President, please be honest with the American people about what we face. Somebody’s got to beat this army. This is not a small group of terrorists. They have howitzers. They have tanks. They are flush with money. They are getting fighters from all over the world. But they can and will be defeated. They must be defeated.”
  • “There is not a force in the Mideast that can take these guys on and win without substantial American help.”
  • “Mr. President, if you need my blessing to destroy ISIL, you have it. If you need to follow them to the gates of hell, I will send you a note – ‘go for it.’ If you need Congress to authorize your actions, let me know. You say you don’t and I agree with you, but if it makes us stronger for this body to vote in support of your plan to destroy ISIL, I will give you my vote. But here’s what I expect in return — your full commitment to win.”
  • “One thing I can promise the American people – if we take on ISIL and lose – we will unlock the gates of hell. And hell will come our way.”

Graham speak

31 thoughts on “Lindsey Graham’s reaction to Obama’s ISIL speech

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    To put it more simply:

    — It’s good that the president has said he intends to destroy ISIL.
    — To paraphrase Napoleon, if you start to destroy ISIL, you’d better destroy ISIL.
    — It’s probably not doable without ground troops, so I’m sorry he tied his hands by saying he won’t resort to the use of infantry. That could lead to some pretty serious consequences.

    I pretty much agree with all of that, stripped of the hectoring tone and apocalyptic language that Graham, as a Republican running this year for re-election in a red state, felt compelled to add…

  2. bud

    “One thing I can promise the American people – if we take on ISIL and lose – we will unlock the gates of hell. And hell will come our way.”

    Sheesh. What a drama queen. The gates of hell were opened by the likes of George W and Dick Cheney with the backing of warmongers like Graham. First of all if we were to take on ISIL with our military we would easily defeat them on the battlefield just like we did Saddam with his substantially more powerful military. And where did that get us Senator? All it did was piss off a bunch of otherwise moderates in the region who ended up creating ISIL. That’s what happens when you spend a trillion dollars fighting a war of imperialism that has zero bearing on our actual national security.

    So Lindsey, just shut the **** up already. Your strategy has already been tried and it has failed. It’s time for a new approach, one focused on diplomacy absent American boots on the ground, in the air, on the sea or anywhere else within 10,000 miles of Baghdad.

    1. Doug Ross

      Do you think Lindsey would have the guts to stand on a battlefield and face down terrorists? Anyone who wants to go to war so badly needs some experience on the front lines before being allowed to decide the fate of others.

        1. Doug Ross


          If you haven’t been on a battlefield, I don’t think you can understand the gravity of the decisions you make to put others lives in danger.

          Would you allow me to make recommendations on how you should handle your cases? I mean I’ve watched Matlock and Law & Order and Night Court, so I have a pretty good handle on what it takes to represent a client.

          1. Mark Stewart

            War is first and foremost a political act.

            There is a reason our founding fathers insured that our military command structure would report to our elected representatives.

            Last night on NPR I heard one of the Armed Services committee members in Congress complain that the President wasn’t doing everything that the local area general in charge wanted as far as troops on the ground. The President shouldn’t follow any such strategic requests without careful deliberation (on the other hand, politicians should not become involved with tactical control). We strategize war at the political level, with full input from the military chain of command. The military executes that strategy.

            Leadership, on any field, is a pretty weighty responsibility. I am sure that, away from the microphone, nearly all politicians feel that burden.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Doug, decisions on whether to go to war or not are not for warriors to make. It’s for the political sphere, from the commander-in-chief through the voters. That’s our system, and it’s a good one.

            1. Doug Ross

              We are not at war. There’s a document called the Constitution that defines whether we are at war.

              When Obama goes to Congress and asks for support, then I’ll believe we are at war.

      1. Brad Warthen

        Yeah, actually, I do “think Lindsey would have the guts to stand on a battlefield and face down terrorists.”

        And I am fed up with the offensive “chicken hawk” nonsense that is the last resort of war opponents who would rather attack the messenger than offer a relevant argument.

        First, no American — and certainly not a member of Congress, who has been elected to deliberate such issues — should be expected to shut up on issues of war and peace simply because he is not personally on the “front lines” (as if such a thing existed today). If that were the case, then something close to 99 percent of Americans would be disenfranchised on the most important issues before us as a nation, given that so few Americans serve, and so few who do serve are part of the “point of the spear.”

        Second, Lindsey Graham is one of the few members of Congress to serve in uniform while in office. Yep, he’s a JAG officer, a wing-wiper, not part of the point of the spear. But he’s been in-theater multiple times while on duty, and as I pointed out, the notion of a “front line” is fairly archaic today. The only politician I know of who has gone from being a REMF to a combat soldier is James Smith, and that took moving heaven and earth to accomplish, and required that James, then in his late 30s, to be fit enough to make it through basic and advanced infantry training. James is a hero for doing that, but his is a lofty standard (and for most, an unattainable one), and I wouldn’t hold everyone to it before allowing them to speak.

        Third, when Lindsey Graham speaks on national security, so does John McCain, and vice versa. Would you call HIM a “chicken hawk”? If you would, I don’t need to consider anything you have to say on the subject, because you lack all perspective. And if you wouldn’t, then by your standard, he is entirely qualified to speak on such matters. And there is no logical way that the things he says somehow become illegitimate when Lindsey Graham says them….

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “And I am fed up with the offensive “chicken hawk” nonsense that is the last resort of war opponents who would rather attack the messenger than offer a relevant argument.”

          Exactly. I am also tired of it. It’s an ad hominem attack. If you’re resorting to personally attacking the traits of your opponent, rather than addressing their views, you’ve already lost. If you have a legitimate point to make – make it.

          FDR didn’t serve on the “front lines”. Was he a chicken hawk? Truman didn’t either. What about him? I don’t think our old pal John Adams was in the military. Does that diminish his advocacy for armed revolution?

          What about Lincoln? I don’t recall him in any military service.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              He was elected captain by his men, but after the company was mustered out, he reinlisted as a private.

              That was not unusual back in those days when military promotion was far from the modern concept of merit.

              My own great-grandfather, Patrick Henry Bradley, was a general in the South Carolina militia — a post to which he was elected. But when the Recent Unpleasantness arose, he raised his own company and entered the Confederate army as a captain.

              But of course, he was remembered in the family as “General Bradley.” My father has his sword.

          1. Doug Ross

            We’re in a different time now than before. All those other Presidents were faced with actual wars with countries, not nebulous organizations and terrorists. Bush (fighter pilot protecting Arkansas) and Cheney (too busy to actually serve) fabricated a war on Iraq in response to a completely unrelated terrorist act. Graham (paper shuffler) is just a war fanboy. He’s the guy in the stands at the USC football game who thinks he can call a better game than Spurrier.

          2. Jim

            Actually, Truman did serve in the military:

            “Starting from the rank of Private in the National Guard of Missouri, Truman left military service 37 years later as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Officers’ Reserve Corps. On active duty during the First World War, Captain Truman excelled as the commanding officer of a field artillery battery.” (From the Truman Library website.)

  3. John

    Graham is being unprofessional here and I don’t appreciate the histrionics. The US is facing terrorist threats from organized, well funded groups in Libya, Egypt, the Occupied Territories, Somalia, Ethiopia, both Sudans, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Afghanistan, probably Pakistan and certainly Syria. There are also plenty of narco terrorists festering in Central and South America, much closer to us. Who does he want us to “destroy” when we’re done with ISIS? What makes them a bigger threat than the others – who have also brutally killed civilians? Brad is right on his fourth point – this is just cynical red meat for campaigns; and Bud is right that the Alice’s Restaurant strategy (I wanna kill, kill, kill…) won’t work this time either. This is a proposal for endless war where winning = “destruction” like that word somehow has more value than “surrender.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, as difficult as it is to achieve completely, as the WashPost noted this morning, “destruction” is at least an attainable goal.

      Because these people will never surrender. They lack our Western, Clausewitzian notion of warfare, with set-piece battles on a plain, which leads to one side winning and the other clearly acknowledging its failure and honorably surrendering…

      1. Doug Ross

        Newflash: this isn’t warfare. It’s terrorism.

        You cannot stop twenty guys with box cutters or a few guys with a truck loaded with explosives by trying to fight them on their turf.

      2. John

        Destruction is an attainable goal? Call Israel and Hamas and ask them how well they’re doing with that policy toward each other. Some desctruction is attainable sure, anybody can break things. But I can’t think of one time a terrorist organization has ever been wiped out through military means. The only way is to convert them to legitimate government functions and let the politicians eat them at their leisure.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You’re perfectly right that “attainable” is the best word. I just meant to contrast “destruction” to the goal of “surrender,” which is not possible either in theory or practice, with this adversary.

          We can destroy; we can’t make them cry “uncle” and mean it.

          Perhaps a better goal than destruction is to render them, as I said earlier this week with regard to al Qaeda, combat ineffective, or hors de combat.

          And Doug, newsflash back atcha: The novelty in this situation is that we are fighting terrorists who fight as an army. There are conventional military goals to be attained. We want them to cease to be an existential threat to the Kurdish forces, and to the new Iraqi government that we’ve been pushing for. We don’t want them taking and holding more territory. And we don’t want them (or Assad) winning the civil war in Syria.

          These are conventional military aims, like driving Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991, or taking Baghdad in 2003.

          These are things we know how to do.

          The only question is whether we can achieve these aims with only air power.

          1. bud

            We want them to cease to be an existential threat to the Kurdish forces, and to the new Iraqi government that we’ve been pushing for. We don’t want them taking and holding more territory. And we don’t want them (or Assad) winning the civil war in Syria.

            What is this “We” crap. I have no particular problem with ISIS holding more territory. What I don’t want to see is more human carnage, suffering, destruction, homelessness and all the other horrors of war. And that’s exactly the problems that we create MORE of by all this bombing nonsense. I bet if you did a tally you’d find more civilians killed by American bombs than by ISIS atrocities. I’d like to see us become a better country than that. Americans are by nature a compassionate and just people but more misguided war will only make matters much, much worse. Isn’t that obvious by now?

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, a little while ago, Google Analytics informed me that someone in Seneca was reading this post.

    Could that have been Sen. Graham, looking in? If so, a belated welcome…

    1. Dave Crockett

      Uh. I’m in Seneca, Brad. Lindsay has a home not far from me. I see him in his car occasionally. Sorry to burst your bubble…

  5. Bart

    Just my observations on the issue.

    ISIS or ISIL is a Muslim group, on that point the POTUS is totally wrong. ISIS is growing at a much faster pace than anticipated. At the latest count, if the information is accurate, there are over 35,000 members and they are willing to fight, behead, conduct mass executions, and occupy large swathes of Syria and Iraq and are moving steadily into other Muslim countries. ISIS is looking to create a caliphate with the religious rules enforced by their army of believers. If the trend continues, in due time, ISIS will become the dominate force in the ME because they are not afraid to do what is necessary to achieve their ultimate goal or dream. Death is not something they fear but they use it to put fear in everyone else. It is a handy weapon and used effectively will produce surprising results.

    Someone once made the statement that a leader might not seek war but war may be thrust upon him or her and IMHO, ISIS is looking to bring the US even further into their regional war and if we are not careful, it will happen. When thrill seekers who have lived outside the ME and take up the cause of ISIS and join in voluntarily, they become a very real danger to the “folks back home” if they have become radicalized and return home. Especially if they become involved in committing acts of terrorism against civilians.

    In the case of the Foley and Sotloff beheadings, once again IMHO, those were acts of provocation by ISIS to evoke a reaction from the US. A reaction that would result in placing more troops on the ground and increase selective bombing using drones to go after their leaders. Guess what folks? It worked. As most are aware, when drones are involved, the target may be eliminated but there will almost always be collateral damage and some civilians killed. The more killed, the more sympathy and recruits from Muslim sympathizers. At this moment in time, America is playing into their hands. Faulting Graham and McCain is a fool’s errand, neither one occupies the White House.

    The convenient scapegoat for creating ISIS is GWB and he is an easy target for placing blame. After all, according to the armchair experts, until Bush invaded Iraq, ISIS and like groups didn’t exist. You might want to reconsider your position and remember that the first attack on American soil by an Islamic extremist group was in 1993 in the basement of the Twin Towers. The anti-Western movement started a long time ago and went without much publicity and recognition until 1993. The press, not just national but international, did not spend much time on the growing anti-Western sentiment in the ME. It took 8 years before the world woke up to the real dangers associated with radicals who cared little about inflicting destruction and death on civilians. The date was 9/11/2001.

    The excursion into Afghanistan produced some decent results but in reality, all it did was to further encourage more to join the movement. Russia had been humiliated by the Taliban and even though America had helped the rebels during the Russian occupation, like the dog that bites the hand that feeds it, on 9/11/2001, Osama bin Laden planned and executed the ultimate hand biting. Why? Because of his radical conviction that no Westerner should have a military presence in his own country, Saudi Arabia and the ME in general.

    As stated in previous posts, when I was in Dubai in the early 80s, if one went into any news shop in the Emirates, they could find widespread publications calling for the death and destruction of all things Western and the publications were popular and sold well. Iran’s taking of Americans after deposing the shah was a signal of things to come and the way the situation was handled sent a clear signal to other radicals outside Iran. Confrontations and incidents that inflamed passions and hatred were constant and one of the most effective was the so-called downing of an airliner loaded with civilians that was shot down over the Gulf. By most accounts at the time, within a couple of hours, the corpses were already bloated and floating on the surface. Staged? Very likely but it served the purpose and only added fuel to the growing flames of hatred against America.

    Obama is being goaded from several sides and his apparent lack of experience in foreign matters is showing. Allies still look to America for leadership whether bud, Doug, or anyone else likes it or not and our allies expect a positive response and they are not getting one. It is telling that England will not agree to engage or support the bombing of ISIS in Syria especially in light of the fact that apparently Obama did not consult with Syria before making his plans known to the world.

    When we start to believe that someway, somehow, somewhere, and someone will change their minds, we are not fooling ourselves, we are lying to ourselves. I don’t want to see another American die because of some radical ass who believes in taking as many of us with him or her to some promised reward for a cause the majority is not capable of understanding. I don’t want to see America waste valuable resources, especially in human lives sacrificed on foreign soil unless the reason is legitimate and the enemy poses an immediate or long term danger to this country.

    As I noted in the beginning, just some of my random thoughts on the subject at hand.

    1. Kathryn Braun Fenner

      I think your points are excellent. I think POTUS would have done better to phrase it that ISIL does not represent the beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims.

  6. bud

    Bart, I agree that the anti-American sentiments in the ME did not start with George W. He did exacerbate the situation though. Anti-western sentiment really took hold in the aftermath of WW I with Winston Churchill’s misguided attempts to “reform” the region. These sentiments were further enhanced when we imposed the Shah of Iran on the Iranian people. Throughout the tenure of all our president’s since the 50s there has been this underlying imperialist streak that continues to be seen as a threat to the way of life the people in that region want to lead. That’s true whether they are Sunni or Shiite. Whenever one or the other is seen as aligning too closely with the west they become the target. Groups like ISIS are just not viable unless they have some western boogeyman to attract recruits.

    Bottom line: While it is true that George W did not start the ant-US sentiment in the ME he was a major contributor to the insecure feelings of the people. Unfortunately Obama is continuing that sad legacy.

    1. Bart

      As noted in my comments, sometimes war is thrust upon a president whether he or she wants it or not. In GWB’s case, it was thrust upon him and he responded the best he could under the circumstances. True, he relied on inaccurate intelligence concerning the presence of WMDs in Iraq but not one of us had direct involvement during the initial decision making process and how much credence assigned to the intelligence that was available.

      The debate will continue for a long time about the Iraq War. By now, if one has taken a position, it is unlikely they will change their mind.


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