By Mike Lillis - 06/12/14 04:29 PM EDT
The United States has no obligation to return to help Iraq quell a galloping Islamic insurgency, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.
Pelosi characterized the escalating violence as "very troubling" and suggested the "failed policy" of the Bush administration set the stage for this month's successful push by Sunni militants, who have seized several cities with hopes of taking Baghdad.
"I don't think this is our responsibility, but I do think that we were irresponsible going into Iraq for a variety of other reasons," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.
"I don't think there's any appetite in our country for us to become engaged in any more military activity in Iraq," she said. "It doesn't matter why, it is a fact. The American people have been exhausted with wars."
Pelosi hearkened back to 2002, accusing the Bush administration of attacking Iraq "on a false premise that they knew not to be true."
"[They] told the American people the war would pay for itself, it'd be over soon, we'd be greeted by rose petals, that we had to go in there ... because the smoking gun might be a nuclear plume," she said. "Of course, it was not true, and they knew it not to be true."
As a result, Pelosi charged, the military mission was diverted to Iraq from Afghanistan, "where we should have just finished the job."
"Instead we take up another war, and here we are," she said. "War begets war. It's just not a good idea."
Paraphrasing Hannah Arendt, the 20th century political philosopher, Pelosi suggested the U.S. invasion in 2003 might have contributed to the current insurgency.
"People think that one more act of violence is going to end violence, but it's like a flywheel. One act of violence provokes another act of violence, and here we are," she said. "I think this represents the failed policy that took us down this path 11 years ago."
In their quest toward Baghdad this week, the Sunni militants — many representing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an offshoot of al Qaeda — have overrun the major cities of Mosul and Tikrit.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked the Obama administration to launch airstrikes against the Sunni militants, according to multiple reports, a request the administration has so far resisted.
Republicans have been quick to blame Obama's foreign policy for Iraq's deterioration, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warning Thursday that "the progress made there is clearly in jeopardy."
"The president celebrated our exit from Iraq as a hallmark of his foreign policy agenda, but our focus should be instead on completing our mission successfully," Boehner told reporters in the Capitol. "And I would urge the president, once again, to get engaged before it’s too late."
President Obama on Thursday said he won’t "rule out anything" in his effort to stop the insurgency.
"I don’t rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter," he said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dodged questions Thursday on whether Obama would seek congressional approval to launch airstrikes against Iraq in response to the surge in violence.
"We would have to get back to you on how that would proceed if that decision were made," Carney said.
Earlier, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called on Obama to use airstrikes to halt the progress of the extremist groups.
Pelosi, however, seemed to dismiss the option of using U.S. military force in any capacity.
"The Sunni-Shiite fight is really an ancient one. ... I don't know what our going in does about that," she said. "Are we going to refight the war that we just got out of?"