Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he’s opposing President Obama’s request for an authorization to use military force against ISIS because it’s a “battle for the soul of Islam” that needs to be fought by Muslim nations.
“I remember the war in Afghanistan, which was supposed to last a few months. The war in Iraq was going to be very easy. We were in those countries for over 10 years. We have lost close to 7,000 brave men and women. The country has spent trillions of dollars,” Sanders told CNN.
“At the end of the day, if ISIS is going to be defeated — and this is a brutal, horrible organization that needs to be defeated — it is going to have to be defeated by the Muslim nations in the region,” he added. “Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest defense budget in the world. You’ve got billionaire families in Qatar, in the UAE. They have got to be increasingly involved in providing security in their region. The U.S. can be supportive. Western Europe can be supportive. But they’re going to have to do the hard work.”
After months of needling from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Obama submitted his AUMF plan to Congress yesterday. It includes an exception that “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”
“Look, I think the president is doing everything that he can in trying to defeat ISIS. But when I hear words like ‘enduring conflict,’ it makes me very, very nervous. I think it opens the door wider than it should be. I think we’ve got to continue airstrikes. I think we’ve got to use Special Operations Forces when we can,” Sanders argued. “But I do not want to see a never-ending quagmire in the Middle East where our troops die, come back with terrible illnesses and we end up spending trillions of dollars.”
“Once again, this war is a battle for the soul of Islam. And it’s going to have to be the Muslim countries who are stepping up. These are billionaire families all over that region. They’ve got to get their hands dirty. They’ve got to get their troops on the ground. They’ve got to win that war with our support. We cannot be leading the effort.”
On his own presidential aspirations, Sanders said he’ll decide whether he runs in 2016 “as soon as I have to.”
“We are going around the country. We’re talking to a lot of people. We’re getting a lot of support. But when you take on the billionaire class, that ain’t an easy assignment. So I got to make sure the support is there, and that’s what we’re trying to ascertain,” the senator said.
“I would be taking on the Koch brothers and Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry and the private insurance companies. My job is not to run against Hillary Clinton. My job is to take on the political, economic and media establishment which have so much power in this country.”