Pete Hoekstra to Newsmax: ISIS 'Needs to Be Eliminated'

Image: Pete Hoekstra to Newsmax: ISIS 'Needs to Be Eliminated' (Lauren Petracca/MLIVE.COM/Landov)

Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 07:13 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The United States can best respond to the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State (ISIS) militants through "total domination of the skies" with airstrikes, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra told Newsmax on Wednesday.

"It is absolutely essential that we get our planes in the sky," he said. "As long as we're hitting the bad guys, if we're diminishing their capabilities — if we're hitting them 80 times, 100 times — we're prepared to do that.

"The first thing I want these folks to be worried about every morning is what the Americans or what the coalition is going to be doing to attack them and what they have to do to stay safe," Hoekstra said.

U.S. officials on Wednesday confirmed that a video the Islamic State posted the day before purporting to show the beheading of Foley was authentic. The video — titled "A Message to America" — was posted in response to U.S. airstrikes on Iraq that began earlier this month.

Foley, 40, of Rochester, N.H., was kidnapped on Nov. 22, 2012, in northern Syria, according news reports. He had earlier been kidnapped and released in Libya.

Another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, 31, who appeared at the end of the video, went missing in northern Syria while reporting in July 2013. He grew up in Miami and has written for TIME and other news organizations.

Sotloff's fate depended on how the United States acts in Iraq, the Islamic State said. The airstrikes were the first by the U.S. since the Iraqi occupation ended in 2011.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said Foley's beheading stunned people around the globe, and he vowed that America would do what it must to protect its citizens.

"Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world," Obama said in Edgartown, Mass., near where he was vacationing on Martha's Vineyard.

"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," the president said. "When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done."

Obama called the Islamic State a "cancer" that must be eliminated.

In his Newsmax interview, Hoekstra said he could not agree more with the president's description of the brutal jihadist group, which has declared a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it now controls.

"It needs to be confronted. It needs to be eliminated," Hoekstra said. "If the president means that that's going to turn into U.S. policy — that we are going to roll back ISIS out of Iraq — the president has my support."

Hoekstra, who served eight terms in the House of Representatives before stepping down to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010, said that intense airstrikes would be the best U.S. response to Foley's death.

"We should have complete domination of the skies over ISIS," he said, likening it to when NATO-led forces bombarded Libya for more than seven months to topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

"There will be a debate on whether that was the right thing to do or not, but we have that kind of capability," Hoekstra said. "We ought to have that capability."

Further, the United States must immediately supply the Iraqi Kurds — known as the Peshmerga, meaning "those who confront death" — with more heavy artillery to battle the Islamic State, he said.

The United States and its allies began sending antitank weapons, other arms, and ammunition to the Kurds earlier this month.

Despite having 190,000 trained veteran soldiers, the Peshmerga has been armed with outdated Russian weapons. They had successfully battled dictator Saddam Hussein to keep Kurdistan a semi-autonomous state within Iraq. They also protected the Christian city of Sinjar before the Islamic State took it over last month.

"The Peshmerga are a fighting force that is much more disciplined and much more capable than what the insurgents in Libya ever were," Hoekstra told Newsmax. "Right now, they're just outgunned by ISIS.

"We ought to be providing them with the weapons necessary to fight on a level battlefield, if not a superior battlefield. I want the Peshmerga to be able to outgun ISIS. Give the Kurds the military equipment that they need to be successful on the ground."

But there should be no U.S. combat troops, Hoekstra cautioned. Only those training the Kurds and providing intelligence on the airstrikes are necessary.

"Right now, with the proper training, the Peshmerga, the Iraqi forces — along with  dominating the skies — is going to be enough to defeat ISIS."

Whatever steps Obama takes, however, they need to be done now.

"Part of the problem that you've got here is that we're probably already a month to six weeks too late already," Hoekstra said. "We're years too late in arming the Peshmerga."

The Kurds were to receive some of the heavy artillery left after the U pulled out of Baghdad, he said.

"That never happened. The Peshmerga would have been in a better position to defend these regions if they had received the equipment that they were supposed to get four or five years ago.

"Since that has not happened, it's absolutely essential that we get the arms to the Kurds today," he said.

The humanitarian assistance must continue to Christians who have been run out of their lands by the Islamic State — but more airstrikes are what is needed now, Hoekstra told Newsmax.

"We're prepared to do that anywhere in Iraq where we find these guys. These guys have to wake up every morning not worrying about what attack they're going to make, what attack they're going to initiate.

"I want them worrying about their own security, which means we've got to be on offense every day, all day, from the air," he said.

Meanwhile, other Republicans expressed outrage at Foley's beheading and also called for strong action by Obama.

"In this cowardly and gruesome murder of an innocent man, we see the true nature of the evil that confronts us," Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said. "ISIS has nothing of value to offer the world, only terror, slavery, and death. It is an enemy of humanity, a darkness that will spread as far as it can, unless it is stopped."

Foley's death was "barbaric and heinous," New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said, and it "highlights the truly evil nature of the terrorists we confront, who must be defeated."

McCain, Graham, and Ayotte all serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

California Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, described the Islamic State as "a profound threat to humanity as it brutally targets the most vulnerable.

"We must get serious about confronting this force, including by aggressively arming those battling it," he said.

Florida Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House panel, has met with Sotloff's family in Miami, she told Newsmax.

Her office also has worked with "the relevant agencies, departments, and even organizations with connections on the ground in Syria to try to get answers for the Sotloff family," Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

"This is a tragic situation and we have seen that ISIS has no respect for human life."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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