WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2015 —
Every American has a role to play in defeating terrorist extremists like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, President Barack Obama said in his weekly address to the nation today.
Americans, the president said, must remain vigilant, but must not give in to the fear that would change what we stand for as a nation.
“In San Bernardino, even as the community continues to grieve, people are refusing to be ruled by fear,” the president said, referring to the couple who opened fire at a holiday party, killing 14 and wounding 22.
“Faith communities have come together in fellowship and prayer,” Obama said. “Families lined the streets for the annual children’s Christmas parade—because we can’t let terrorists change how we live our lives.”
Service Members Doing Part
American service members are doing their parts to root out and kill the ideology. “Our men and women in uniform are stepping up our campaign to destroy ISIL,” the president said. “Our airstrikes are hitting ISIL harder than ever, in Iraq and Syria. We’re taking out more of their fighters and leaders, their weapons, their oil tankers. Our special operations forces are on the ground — because we’re going to hunt down these terrorists wherever they try to hide.”
It is not limited to Iraq and Syria. “In recent weeks, our strikes have taken out the ISIL finance chief, a terrorist leader in Somalia and the ISIL leader in Libya. Our message to these killers is simple — we will find you, and justice will be done,” he said.
The fight against ISIL is a whole-of-government effort, the president said. On Monday, he will review the military campaign against the group during a meeting at the Pentagon. Later, he will visit the National Counterterrorism Center, where he will review government efforts to prevent attacks and protect the homeland. “This week, the Department of Homeland Security will update its alert system to ensure Americans get more information, including steps that you and your communities can take to be vigilant and to stay safe,” he said.
But the effort cannot be limited to government or even a coalition of governments, the president said. “First, as always, we have to stay vigilant,” Obama said. “If you see something that seems suspicious, say something to law enforcement. Over the years, plots have been uncovered because someone saw something and spoke up.”
But the most important thing Americans can do is “stay true to who we are as Americans,” he said. “Terrorists like ISIL are trying to divide us along lines of religion and background. That’s how they stoke fear. That’s how they recruit.”
“Just as Muslims around the world have to keep rejecting any twisted interpretation of Islam, all of us have to reject bigotry — in all of its forms,” the president said. “I’ll say it again, prejudice and discrimination helps ISIL and it undermines our national security.”
He said most Americans are supporting their Muslim neighbors. “Political leaders across the spectrum — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — are standing up, forcefully, for freedom of religion,” he said. “Churches and synagogues are reaching out to local mosques—reminding us that we are all God’s children. Grateful citizens are saying thank you to our patriotic Muslim American service members and veterans.
“That’s the message I hope every Muslim American hears — that we’re all part of the same American family,” the president said. “It’s a message all of us can deliver—parents to our children, teachers to their students, leaders in politics and business and entertainment. Back in San Bernardino, people from across the community have joined in prayer vigils — Christians, Jews, Muslims and others. They’ve sent a powerful message — we’re all in this together. That’s the spirit we have to uphold. That’s what we can do — as Americans — united in defense of the country that we love.”