‘War Fever’

John Kerry Says U.S. Is Not at War With ISIS Because Words Have No Meaning

This is no war—it’s a ‘major counterterrorism operation.’ OK, Mr. Secretary of State, sure. We’ll believe that when we believe Saudi Arabia has an ‘extensive’ border with Syria.

09.11.14 11:30 PM ET

Good news, everyone: America is not at war with ISIS.

According to Secretary of State John Kerry, President Obama’s newly announced (and possibly illegal) war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria is not a war at all—it’s merely a large-scale act of counterterrorism.

“If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with [ISIS], they can do so, but the fact is that it’s a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts,” Kerry said Thursday on CNN. “I don’t think people need to get into war fever on this,” he told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan.

Kerry made similar comments a year ago, when the Obama administration was strongly considering bombing Syria over the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attacks. “We don’t want to go to war,” Kerry said during a September 2013 exchange with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). “We don’t believe we are going to war in the classic sense of taking American troops and America to war. The president is asking for the authority to do a limited action that will degrade the capacity of a tyrant who has been using chemical weapons to kill his own people.”

It is true that this latest round of airstrikes and other actions against ISIS is not a war in the classic sense. It isn’t as flashy or big-budgeted as past wars, and significantly fewer boots are on the ground. It is not a war in the sense that war has not been declared, but by that standard, the one that Kerry fought in (that disastrous one that served as the basis of three Oliver Stone movies) wasn’t a war, either.

But Kerry, Obama, and others in the administration insist this is not a war.

In addition, Kerry maintained Thursday that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force—which authorized the use of military force against al Qaeda following 9/11—applies to targeting ISIS, despite the rift between the jihadist organizations. (ISIS grew out of al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate.) “This group is and has been al Qaeda,” Kerry said. “By trying to change its name, it doesn’t change who it is, what it does.” This statement flies in the face of the Obama administration’s own declaration that al Qaeda had already been “decimated.”

Meanwhile, when Yahoo! News’ Olivier Knox asked White House press secretary Josh Earnest, “What does victory look like here?” in the fight against ISIS, he replied: “I didn’t bring my Webster’s dictionary with me up here.” And on Wednesday, a senior administration official told reporters that Saudi Arabia is an important partner in combating the threat from ISIS because the country “has an extensive border with Syria.” (It really, really does not.)

For the Obama administration, it’s been another day trip to Bullshit City.

Now enjoy a song: