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Dan Gilmore / October 23, 2015

After Soldier Death, Obama Downplays Fight Against ISIL

When do advisors go into the thick of combat?

“I think we always have to guard against mission creep,” Barack Obama said in June 2014, “so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past: American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.” But here we are. U.S. government officials said Thursday that a Special Forces soldier was killed in Iraq rescuing 70 prisoners that the Islamic State planned to murder in the morning. What is nobler than snatching people caught in the clutches of such evil? The prisoners were a mix of townspeople, soldiers in the Iraqi army and former Islamic State fighters who were accused of being spies. But despite the overall success of the operation, the Obama administration is running damage control. “U.S. forces are not in a combat role in Iraq,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Thursday. The details of the raid, as described by Reuters, betray a greater involvement in the fight against the Islamic State than the administration has let citizens believe. To strike the Islamic State, the U.S. loaded up five helicopters with “dozens” of U.S. soldiers and peshmerga fighters. Even before the body armor was shouldered and the magazines loaded, the U.S. helped collect intelligence and supported the operation with air strike capabilities. The U.S. soldiers — the official story goes — were only there in an advisory role. But when do advisors go into the thick of combat, standing within striking distance of Islamic State bullets? Obama said that there would be “no boots on the ground” and the geopolitical situation is under control while “al-Qaida is on the run.” So now he’s twisting reality and denying honor to this American soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Obama’s interests.

> Update: The Pentagon identified the soldier as Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler.

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