Thomas Wictor

We must kill them

We must kill them

Excerpt from the testimony of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (Retired), former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), telling the House Armed Services Committee that when it comes to the Islamic state, our only option is to kill them.


Today I have the unhappy task of informing you that according to every metric of significance, Islamic extremism has grown over the last year, whether it be the scale and scope of ISIS and its associated movements, the number of violent Islamist groups, the territory which these groups control, the number of terrorist attacks these groups perpetrate, the massive numbers and suffering of refugees and displaced persons due to these Islamist groups—that’s approximately 15 million people—the amount of kidnapping and rape of women and children by these groups, the numbers of casualties they inflict, their broad expansion and use of the Internet—which is very serious—or just their sheer barbarism that we’ve witnessed.

I can draw no other conclusion than to say that the threat of Islamic extremism has reached an unacceptable level and that it is growing. We are at war with violent and extreme Islamists, both Sunni and Shia, and we must accept and face this reality. This enemy has an ingrained and unshakable vision of how the world and society should be ordered, and they believe that violence is a legitimate means of bringing about this ideal state.

The violent Islamist is serious, devout, committed, and dangerous. His ideology justifies the most heinous, inhumane actions imaginable, and he will not be reasoned with, nor will he relent.

This enemy must be opposed, they must be killed, they must be destroyed, and the associated extremist form of the Islamic ideology must be defeated wherever it raises its ugly head.

Mideast Iraq

There are some who counsel patience, arguing violent Islamists are not an existential threat and therefore can simply be managed as criminals. I respectfully and strongly disagree. I’ve been in the theaters of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years, faced this enemy up close and personal, and I have seen firsthand the unrestrained cruelty of this enemy.

They may be animated by a medieval ideology, but they are thoroughly modern in their capacity to kill and main as well as precisely and very smartly message their ideas, intentions, and actions via the Internet.

In fact they are increasingly capable of threatening our nation’s interests and those of our allies. Furthermore it would be foolish for us to wait until our enemies pose an existential threat before taking decisive action. Doing so would only increase the cost in blood and treasure later for what we know must be done now.

Our violent and extremely radical Islamic enemies must be stopped. To that end I offer the following three strategic objectives.

First, we have to energize every element of national power, similar to the effort during World War II—or during the Cold War—to effectively resource what will likely be a multigenerational struggle. There is no cheap way to win this fight.

Second, we must engage the violent Islamists wherever they are, drive them from their safe havens, and kill them. There can be no quarter and no accommodation for this vicious group of terrorists. Any nation-state that offers safe haven to the enemies must be given one choice: To eliminate them, or to be prepared for those contributing partners involved in this endeavor to do so.

We do need to recognize that there are nations who lack the capability to defeat this threat and will likely require help to do so inside of their own internationally recognized boundaries. We must be prepared to assist those nations.


Third, we must decisively confront the state and nonstate supporters and enablers of the violent Islamist ideology and compel them to end their support to our enemies or be prepared to remove their capacity to do so. Many of these are currently considered partners of the United States. This must change. If our so-called partners do not act in accordance with internationally accepted norms and behaviors or international law, the United States must be prepared to cut off or severely curtail economic, military, and diplomatic ties. We cannot be seen as being hypocritical to those we are partnering with to defeat radical Islam.

Finally, in pursuit of these objectives, I fully support Congress’s constitutional role in providing an authorization for the use of military force [AUMF]. This authorization should be broad and agile but unconstrained by unnecessary restrictions—restrictions that today cause not only frustration in our military, our intelligence, and diplomatic communities but also significantly slow down the decision-making process for numerous fleeting opportunities.

It is important, however, to realize that such an authorization is neither a comprehensive strategy nor a war-winning one. If there is not a clear, coherent, and comprehensive strategy forthcoming from the administration, there should be no authorization.

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We need to be very clear in this AUMF that may come out of an agreement between the legislative and executive branches here.

When we give our military commanders a mission, we should allow them to execute that mission and not overly constrain them with approved authorities but then [have them] come back to the administration for permission.

So if we authorize the use of force to do something, with these many-times fleeting opportunities that our military forces see, and then they have to come back up through a bureaucratic process to get permission even though there is an authority given to them, then either we need to review those authorities or those permissions, or we need to change the commanders, because apparently we don’t trust them to do the job that we have given them to do. So that’s a real problem today.

Give the commanders the authority to execute the mission that they have been given. If they are not the right people, remove them and put somebody else in there that can do that. Otherwise, allow them to do the things that they have been assigned, tasked, and are very capable of doing in what is currently the AUMF that we have.

We have become so overly bureaucratic in coming up through the system to get permission to basically do things that frankly colonels on the battlefield or captains at sea are very capable of doing.

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