(photo credit: ISLAMIC SOCIAL MEDIA)
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration aggressively defended its strategy to destroy Islamic State on Wednesday amid continued chaos in Paris, where local authorities disrupted a sleeper cell of terrorists planning a second attack on the city in five days.
Pushing its message to the public with a new social media campaign, the White House forcefully defended US President Barack Obama's plan to resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States. Accepting refugees from violent conflict, the administration argues, reflects a basic American commitment to human rights– and a longstanding tradition of accepting migrants from around the world.
The campaign, which includes the hashtag #RefugeesWelcome, new graphics and videos dispersed on Twitter and Facebook, also argues the threat posed by Islamic State– the wealthiest terrorist organization in history– has little to do with the inflow of refugees. Separately, the president has a plan to defeat the group through military, diplomatic and humanitarian work, they contend.
"We are not well-served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks," the president said at a press conference in Manila. "If there are concrete, actual suggestions to enhance this extraordinary screening process that’s already in place, we’re welcome– we’re open to hearing actual ideas."
Republican leadership, including over thirty governors, are pushing back against the president's plan to host refugees, after one jihadist attacker involved in the attacks against Paris on Friday was found to have smuggled himself into Europe through a refugee entry point in Greece.
Some candidates for the Republican nomination for president, as well, have suggested discriminating against Muslim refugees– as opposed to those fleeing Syria and Iraq from their Christian minorities.
"I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate," Obama continued. "ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West. And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop."
Democrats on Capitol Hill are pushing back against their Republican counterparts. Four senior Democratic senators on Wednesday said that, for too long, GOP leadership has been blocking the confirmation of two key national security posts at USAID and the Treasury Department.
Several Jewish groups have also condemned opposition to the refugee plan, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
"This country must not give into fear or bias by turning its back on our nation’s fundamental commitment to refugee protection and human rights," Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. "Now is precisely the time to stand up for our core values, including that we are a proud nation of immigrants. To do otherwise signals to the terrorists that they are winning the battle against democracy and freedom."
The House of Representatives successfully passed a resolution condemning the attacks in Paris on Wednesday, expressing solidarity with France.
While the resolution was largely condemnatory toward Islamic State, avoiding the political matter of handling the strategy for its destruction, it did note that the lower chamber "remains concerned regarding the flow of foreign fighters to and from the Middle East and West and North Africa and the threat posed by these individuals upon their return to their local communities."
"This resolution condemns, in the strongest terms, the horrific attacks in Paris," said House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce, Republican of California and author of the resolution with Democratic congressman Eliot Engel of New York. "And it makes clear that this cowardly act of terrorism reaffirms our commitment to defeating ISIS and its affiliates, which pose a growing threat to international peace and stability."