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Dan Liljenquist: Those who confront death — ISIS and arming the Peshmerga

Published: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 4:49 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 4:49 p.m. MDT

The ISIS scourge continues as Islamic militants, surging with primeval bloodlust, are torturing, slaughtering and then mutilating the corpses of men, women and children in northern Iraq.

The Associated Press

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The ISIS scourge continues as Islamic militants, surging with primeval bloodlust, are torturing, slaughtering and then mutilating the corpses of men, women and children in northern Iraq. Exulting in their malice and cruelty, these terrorists are posting videos of themselves burying women and babies alive, crucifying religious minorities and beheading children, among dozens of other indescribable atrocities. There is nothing redeeming about these murderers who fancy themselves messengers of God. There is no reasoning with them. No negotiating. No peaceful solution. Their frenzied minds and barbaric brutality render them irredeemable to society. They deserve no quarter.

With the Iraqi army in disarray, melting away in the face of the ISIS advance, the United States’ only legitimate short-term option to hold ISIS back is the Kurdish Peshmerga militia. The Kurds are our most loyal allies in Iraq. We should equip them without delay, and not just with small arms and ammunition, but also with heavy weaponry including artillery, anti-tank guns and armor. We should send in our teams of Green Berets to help them organize their defenses and counter-attack. The Peshmerga will be facing the best-equipped terrorist force in history, thanks to the tens of millions of dollars worth of U.S. provided heavy weaponry the Iraqi army abandoned in its flight. The Kurds will not flee, but need much more than assault rifles to stop ISIS and protect their people.

I have a close friend who is a Green Beret. He served in the Kirkuk Province of northern Iraq in 2010 and 2011, witnessing first-hand the goodness of the Kurdish people, their rich culture, their acceptance and respect for ethnic and religious minorities in their territory, and their exceptional determination to defend their people. He worked alongside the Peshmerga militia, and found them to be courageous, disciplined, mobile, efficient and pro-American.

The Pesh are a well-led, competent fighting force. My Green Beret friend witnessed their effectiveness first-hand. In the spring of 2011, during the “Day of Rage,” Sunni Baath Party terrorists fomented riots, seized weapons and burned government buildings in Hawajih, only 20 miles from Kirkuk City. When the Iraqi Army withdrew from Hawajih without restoring order, the Pesh mobilized to protect their people. Under the noses of the Iraqi Army, they deployed an entire brigade of soldiers overnight, using sedans and bongo trucks, taking up defensive positions surrounding Kirkuk City. They fearlessly held their positions until relieved by the U.S. Army. The Pesh know what they are doing.

The word “Peshmerga” in Kurdish means “those who confront death,” and they do exactly that, spending their blood and lives to protect their people and neighbors from the ISIS terror. They only lack the weapons and equipment to get the job done. We should give them everything they need to turn the tide of war.

Many war weary Americans are reluctant to reengage in Iraq, arguing that it is no longer our concern. But we would be foolish to think that we will escape the contagion of death and destruction should ISIS’ version of Islamic totalitarianism take root. These monsters will not be sated with the blood of the Yazidis, the Arab Christians or the Kurds. Americans are their ultimate prey.

My Green Beret friend recently told me, “The United States is a hegemonic force. When we are silent, we give consent. When we protest with words, we display weakness. When we act with measured and wise responses to support our ideals, we demonstrate that democracy is the path to justice and freedom.” Supporting the Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS is both a measured and wise response to this crisis.

Daniel Liljenquist is a former state senator and former U.S. Senate candidate.

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