There have been two weeks of outrage over the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The details of the shooting are still fuzzy, but the anger is crystal clear and exposes a still deep and ugly divide in America.
In sharp contrast, the beheading of James Foley by Islamic State extremists did not prompt the same outrage or protests. The details of the beheading are on video for anyone with the stomach to watch (WARNING: GRAPHIC). The international divide it exposes is equally ugly and far more dangerous. It should unite us as Americans, as the Islamic State on the other side of the divide wants to kill us all, regardless of color or class.
And yet the growing threat of the Islamic State is a secondary story to Ferguson. It speaks more to our national media than the greater population. Ferguson is easier and much less expensive to cover. The growing threat of ISIS — the greatest threat to America and the civilized world in recent history — is more dangerous and more expensive to cover.
And besides, stories that divide us rather than unite us make for better TV. Two sides yelling at each other is the formula for cable news success. The importance of a story and journalistic responsibility lost in the battle for ratings and revenue long ago.
President Obama reacted to the media coverage of Ferguson when he took a break from his vacation and addressed the nation about the death of Michael Brown from Martha’s Vineyard. Attorney General Eric Holder was then dispatched to Ferguson. Obama took another break from vacation to address the killing of James Foley. There were strong words but then the president went back to playing golf.
The question that always follows any criticism of the administration is “what should we do?” It is a question that comes two years too late. It should have come before the impotent red line in Syria and the withdrawal from Iraq with no stay-behind policy.
And now that we are in crisis, it is obvious that ignoring the problem only makes it worse. We must act. In the very short-term, that means sending the Special Forces already in Iraq to kill the animals who beheaded James Foley while freeing their other hostages.
We should also do everything to take out Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new and more dangerous Osama Bin Laden. Baghdadi should be priority No. 1 on President Obama’s drone kill list. The elusive terrorist gave a speech in Mosul to claim his leadership of the jihad and the Islamic State last month. We had an opportunity to take him out and we missed it.
The military believes they had Baghdadi in custody during the Iraq war. But we let him go, because President Obama stopped the deportation to Guantanamo. When he was released, he told soldiers “I’ll see you in New York.” Baghdadi and ISIS are now actively recruiting those with Western passports.
It is important we keep up the fight in Iraq with continued air strikes. We also need to arm the Kurds and pro-democracy rebels in Syria. Strengthening the new Iraqi government and re-supplying its military should also be a priority. And most importantly, we need to revisit and insist on a United States military base in Iraq.
I am in no way attempting to promote a new Iraq war. The truth is we are already at war, we just have not engaged yet. The Islamic State is fully involved. James Foley was the first casualty in this new war. We just need to care as much about him as we do Michael Brown.
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