A chorus of Georgia elected officials Monday called for a halt to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state and nation, and some criticized the Obama administration's handling of the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, as Marne Week activities began on Fort Stewart, Maj. Gen. James Rainey, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, spoke to his soldiers, advising that they be ready for war after Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Officials seek ban on refugees
The top headline-getter Monday in Georgia was Gov. Nathan Deal, who announced he will not accept Syrian refugees into the state and called on President Barack Obama to suspend the resettlement program in the United States.
Since 2012, Deal has demanded that the federal government limit the number of refugees sent to Georgia.
“In light of the terror attacks in Paris, I’ve issued an executive order directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia,” Deal said in a news release. "Further, I call upon the Obama administration to work with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees recently resettled to ensure they do not pose a security threat to our citizens. Until the federal government and Congress conduct a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks, we will take every measure available to us at the state level to safeguard the safety of Georgians.”
Deal wrote a letter to Obama, elaborating on his concerns with the screening process for refugees. The governor pointed out a widely reported aspect of the attacks, “that at least one of the suicide bombers involved in Friday’s tragedy made his way to Europe from Syria under the claim of political refugee status.”
The Associated Press reported that it was not immediately clear whether the passport was real or fake, or whether it belonged to the suicide bomber. But, the report continues, as hundreds of thousands of people have fled Syria in recent months, trafficking in fake Syrian passports has increased.
National news reports indicate that Deal is one of more than 20 governors saying they won’t accept more Syrian refugees after the Paris attacks.
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., issued a statement applauding Deal’s decision and echoing the governor’s call for a halt to any U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees.
"While we are a nation of immigrants, a full background investigation is essential to any immigrant's path into our nation,” Carter said. “Currently, we do not have the ability to sufficiently vet Syrian refugees to determine the likelihood of a refugee engaging in terrorist activities once in the United States.
“…I strongly urge President Obama to completely halt the Syrian refugee plan immediately until we know how to properly handle this very serious threat,” Carter continued. “Our No. 1 priority must always be the safety of the American people."
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., went further, saying Obama “should stop any refugees from coming into our country until we have assurances that effective safeguards are in place to prevent radical terrorists from using the system to their advantage.”
“The American people don’t have enough information about the refugee vetting process, which is initiated by the United Nations,” Perdue said. “Our top priority should be to defeat ISIS completely and protect every American and Georgian, no matter where they are in the world.”
Georgia’s senior senator, Republican Johnny Isakson, stopped short of calling for a ban on refugees but did say the screening process needs to be “rigorous.”
“Refugees come to this country from all over the world seeking safety, often fleeing terrible situations such as the current crisis in Syria,” he said. “However, we cannot be naïve and think that those who seek to destroy our liberty will not try to exploit our generosity. Our screening process should be rigorous, and we cannot allow an increase to the number of refugees coming to our country until this administration puts forth a strong strategy for ensuring that radical jihadists are kept out of the United States.”
Obama’s strategy criticized
Georgia’s senators didn’t stop with the refugee situation, but also criticized the president’s handling of the Islamic State since it burst onto the international scene in 2014, declaring itself to be a caliphate, taking over swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, ruthlessly killing people in terrorist acts and posting execution-style killings of Americans and other prisoners online.
“President Obama continues to miss the mark when it comes to combating ISIS,” Perdue said. “Coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris and around the world prove that the threat from ISIS continues to grow. These attacks demonstrate that ISIS has not been contained in their ability to wage war against the West and will stop at nothing to deliver terrorism to our homeland.”
Georgia’s freshman senator blamed the Islamic State’s rise at least partially on Obama’s “failed foreign policy in the region.”
Isakson said the terrorist group needs to be eliminated.
“As I have said repeatedly, the United States must take the fight to ISIL,” he said. “We should exercise Article 5 of the NATO accord to engage the entire free world against terror. What happened in Paris could happen anywhere, and we must stop it now.
“President Obama and his administration continue to cling to a strategy that is viewed as weak and unclear by both our enemies and our allies,” Isakson continued. “It is a strategy of containment and complacency toward the threats and horrific actions of terrorist groups. The president should change our military’s mission so that we can finally eliminate and destroy ISIL.”
Is war looming?
Maj. Gen. Rainey did not issue statements like the elected officials’, nor did he make any official pronouncements Monday.
However, in his first public event since returning from Afghanistan with the last of the 3rd ID’s headquarters soldiers last week, Rainey did touch on the current world situation. He did so while offering opening remarks to soldiers who have converged on Fort Stewart this week for Marne Week, which includes a series of sporting events, the Division Run and the Division Ball.
“I believe this is the best division in the Army, that you are the best soldiers in the Army,” Rainey said Monday morning at the start of the run. “And I believe that we’re probably going to war sometime on our watch. In fact, I’m sure we’re going to end up going to war on our watch.
“You all watch the news this weekend?” he said. “Most of you have served several times before. The world is full of really bad people. There’s still only one country on the superpower list. I checked it this morning, still us. Just Google it and trust me. All right? So the world’s full of people that hate us. They all live on the land. That’s why we got an Army. This is the best division in the Army. So I’m a simple guy, but I think we’re going to go to war on our watch.”
Correspondent Lewis Levine contributed to this report.