(CNSNews.com) - Asked if the violence against Christians in the Middle East should be classified as genocide, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said, "I don't know that we have to put a word on it."
"Look, what's happening to Christians in the Middle East in that area is horrific. What's happening to Muslims is horrific," Sanders told a Democrat town hall hosted by Fox News Monday night.
"It is disgusting. You know -- I don't know that we have to put a word on it, but when you have a group, I mean, what can we say about these people. They are killing children because they are going to school. Girls who are going to school, they're putting girls in sexual slavery. This is barbarism and we have to destroy ISIS."
Sanders was asked by a first-generation Chaldean-American man how his foreign policy would address ISIS' plans to "perpetuate genocide" on religious minorities in the Middle East.
"All of us, I think, can agree that ISIS is a barbaric organization that has to be destroyed. The question is, how do we do it most effectively?" Sanders responded.
"One of the differences between Secretary Clinton and myself is, I voted against the war in Iraq. She voted for the war in Iraq.
"In many ways, a lot of the turmoil and the instability that we're seeing right now resulted from that disastrous decision. The lesson that I have learned from the war in Iraq is that the United States cannot and should not do it alone. We have got to work in a coalition.
"King Abdullah of Jordan, I think, made a very profound statement a couple of months ago. He said, what's going on there right now is a war for the soul of Islam, and the people who have got the most effectively deal issue are the Muslim nations themselves.
"They are the ones on the ground who are going to have to destroy ISIS, and I agree with that. I will do everything that I can to keep American troops out of perpetual warfare in the Middle East. But I do believe that along with a coalition of the major countries on Earth, U.K., France, Russia, I believe we should support the Muslim troops on the ground with air attacks, with military equipment, and with all of the help that we can provide.
"But it should not be our troops on the ground for many, many reasons."
(Sanders' rival Hillary Clinton said in December that she now considers ISIS' violence against Christians to be genocide -- "because we now have enough evidence.")
The U.S. State Department faces a March 17 deadline for decided whether to designate ISIS as perpetrators of genocide.
At the White House on Monday, spokesman Josh Earnest said such a designation "requires...a rather precise interpretation of the law."
"But that certainly does not undermine how seriously we take the atrocities that have been committed by ISIL in Iraq and in Syria. We have seen people be targeted because they are a minority -- either a religious and ethnic or racial minority, and this administration has taken aggressive steps to protect religious minorities in Iraq in Syria.
"We've expressed our concern on a number of occasions about Christians being targeted by ISIL because of their religious views," Earnest said.
"The president has described that as effectively an assault on all people of faith. So the president takes that very seriously and there's even military action the president has ordered to try to protect religious minorities and -- so this is something the president takes quite seriously.
"But as relates to the genocide designation, that's something that State Department attorneys will have to take a close look at and I don't want to get ahead of -- or interfere in their process."
The House Foreign Affairs Committee last week passed a bipartisan resolution declaring that atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State terrorists “against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
House Panel Passes Resolution Declaring ISIS Targeting of Christians, Other Minorities ‘Genocide’
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