Graphic videos showing the beheading of two American journalists by Islamist militants are intended to draw the U.S. into an excessive response, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) warned Thursday.
"The world knows that the United States is a country that is — it believes in its strength, OK?" Ellison said in an interview with CNN. "And they're hoping that we will have a response in excess of what is necessary."
"It's important for us to not go beyond what is warranted by the facts," Ellison said. "It's very important for us to do what is necessary, but not more than is necessary, because they're hoping to be able to go to somebody and say, 'See, you've been aggrieved. Your family was a collateral damage. Your family was mistreated in some way. So then come join us.' That is one of the ways they try to recruit, and we should not help them in that endeavor."
On Wednesday, President Obama vowed to "degrade and destroy" the group to the point that it was no longer a threat to Iraq, the region, or the United States. Vice President Biden, speaking hours later, vowed to pursue the terrorists responsible for the killing of U.S. reporters "to the gates of hell."
But the administration so far has refused calls to expand an airstrike campaign against ISIS into Syria, and operations in Iraq remain limited to humanitarian missions and efforts to protect U.S. diplomats serving in the country.
President Obama has repeatedly ruled out sending ground forces back into Iraq, although the White House has not explicitly denied that special forces might be operating there.
Ellison on Thursday said Iraqis should take responsibility for securing their own country.
"It must be young Iraqi men and women and people — Iraqis of all ages, defending their country," Ellison said. "Now, if we're going to support it, it should be diplomatically, politically, and there might be a role for air support, but this has got to be their fight because we do not want to help them say, well, hey, we're being invaded by the United States again."
Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress, represents a district that is home to at least two U.S. citizens who have traveled to the region to fight for ISIS. But the Minnesota lawmaker told CNN those individuals were not representative of the communities in his district.
"We're talking about two individuals. One of them is African-American. One of them is Somali, allegedly," Ellison said. "So I don't want to overblow the problem."
Still, the congressman said he was "concerned" about the radicalization and that it was important "to argue to people that whatever grievance you may have with U.S. foreign policy or anything like that, these things can be addressed" through peaceful protest and constitutional process.
"To take up arms for a foreign army that is terrorist in its organization like ISIS is unacceptable, and we cannot tolerate it," Ellison said.