President Barack Obama provided few specifics on how the battle against ISIS must be won, members of the state’s Congressional Delegation said Sunday night.
In about a 15-minute address in the Oval Office, Obama spoke about the recent shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were murdered and 21 others were injured.
On Friday, officials with the FBI said they were investigating the massacre as a terrorist attack. The attack, officials have said, is the worst terrorist attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.
Authorities are also looking into the murderers – Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik – and their suspected ties to ISIS and the financing that helped to pay for the attacks, officials said Sunday night. In his remarks, Obama spoke about the attacks, ISIS and seeking to close so-called loopholes involving the purchase of weapons.
“Tonight I want to talk with you about this tragedy, the broader threat of terrorism and how we can keep our country safe. The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here’s what we know. The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their co-workers and his wife,” Obama said. “So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home. But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West. They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs.”
Obama said the United States should use measured restraint in dealing with ISIS.
“Well, here’s what I want you to know. The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power,” Obama said.
Also, Obama spoke about the issue of gun loopholes, which have been a subject of debate in Congress.
“Now, here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge. There are several steps that Congress should take right away. To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon? This is a matter of national security,” Obama said. “We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons, like the ones that were used in San Bernardino. I know there are some who reject any gun-safety measures, but the fact is that our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, no matter how effective they are, cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual was motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology.”
The speech drew criticism from the state’s congressional delegation.
“We don’t need more gun control. We need presidential leadership that can recognize the problem, identify the enemy, and fight with resolve,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said the speech provided the President an international stage to make his case but failed miserably.
“President Obama is a wartime president who doesn’t seem to realize it. Fourteen Americans were slaughtered by Islamic terrorists, but the President is dangerously detached from reality, lecturing us about political correctness and ineffective gun control. Radical Islamic jihadists are not contained and are advancing on every front—killing innocent civilians from California to Paris to Mali, blowing an airplane out of the sky in Egypt, and inflaming the entire Middle East from Tehran. Imagine if these terrorists get their hands on uranium instead of gunpowder. Radical Islam is at war with America; our only choice is to win or lose, and the longer we debate whether we’re at war, the closer we come to losing it. One cannot help but wonder how many more Americans will die before President Obama recognizes this fundamental truth. He must implement a real strategy to defeat the Islamic State and remove Bashar al-Assad, take the handcuffs off our military in Iraq and Syria, and restore and strengthen vital intelligence programs. We needed to hear from the president tonight how to win this war. But we only heard how we will continue losing it,” Cotton said.
Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, released this statement.
“Tonight’s address by the President shows he has come a long way from his days of believing that ISIS is a ‘JV team.’ Unfortunately, in the two years since the President initially downplayed the threat of ISIS, they have only grown stronger and shown they are capable of carrying out devastating attacks all over the globe. While the President is finally admitting we need to defeat this enemy, he offered no real strategy for how to accomplish that mission. The President now needs to put in place a plan that gives our commanders on the ground everything they need to remove ISIS from the face of the earth,” Hill said.