NPR logo Obama On The Islamic State: 'We Will Destroy This Terrorist Organization'

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Obama On The Islamic State: 'We Will Destroy This Terrorist Organization'

In no uncertain terms, President Obama promised to destroy the Islamic State.

"We are intensifying our strategy on all fronts, with local partners on the ground. We are going to keep on rolling back ISIL in Iraq and in Syria, and take out more of their leaders and commanders so that they do not threaten us," Obama said Sunday, using an acronym for the Islamic State. "We will destroy this terrorist organization."

Obama spoke at the end of a nine-day trip to Turkey, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Obama also addressed the debate over Syrian refugees in the United States, saying that "prejudice and discrimination helps ISIL and undermines our national security." Treating people differently because of race or religion, he said, would be a "betrayal of our values."

Obama said that the U.S. already has a strict vetting process for Syrian refugees being resettled in the United States. About the legislation making its way through Congress, he added:

"My hope, though, is, is that now that we've got some time to catch our breath and take a look at this carefully, people understand that refugees who end up in the United States are the most vetted, scrutinized, thoroughly investigated individuals that ever arrive on American shores; that the process that's been constructed over the course of several administrations on a bipartisan basis is extraordinarily thorough and currently takes between 18 to 24 months for somebody to be approved.

"And so although, on its face, the House legislation simply says, well, we can just certify — and this is not along the lines of some of the more radical proposals that we were hearing earlier in the week from some presidential candidates — the fact of the matter is, is that if it gums up the work so much, then effectively you don't end up seeing any refugees admitted. If you layer it with more and more bureaucracy, that doesn't actually make us safer because it doesn't do a better job of screening but simply makes it almost impossible to process individuals who are coming in, then you're effectively ending the refugee program for people who desperately need it.

"And when I referred to a betrayal of our values, I was being very specific about some of the commentary that was made that would suggest, for example, that we might let Christians in but not Muslims; that we — somehow we're so fearful that a 4-year-old orphan might be let in. And those of you who joined me to the refugee center yesterday and you saw those kids, that's who we're talking about. If you are a parent and you saw those kids, and you thought about what they had gone through, the notion that we couldn't find a home for them anywhere in the United States of America, that is contrary to our values.

"And the good news is, is that the overwhelming majority of the people who know that we are screening and all the precautions that are already taken — if they saw those kids, they'd say, yeah, we need to do right by those children."