By Lauren Carroll /

President Barack Obama meets with representatives from the five Arab countries plus Iraq who have participated in air strikes against ISIS in Syria. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

In light of recent U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, some say the voters who put President Barack Obama into office in 2008 didn’t sign up for this.

On CNN’s State of the Union Sept. 28, political commentator LZ Granderson said Obama is losing favor among his base supporters because of his recent foreign policy decisions. In 2008, they were tired of the wars started under former President George W. Bush and were hoping that a new president would bring them to a close.

“They voted for him because he was supposed to end these wars and stop bombing people,” Granderson said. “And when you look at the raw numbers, three times as much Special Forces were used than ‘W.’, twice as many strikes (on) countries that are predominantly Muslim. Those were not the numbers that his staunch progressive base voted for.”

Last week, we fact-checked the New Yorker’s Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, who tweeted, “Countries bombed: Obama 7, Bush 4.” We rated that claim True.

Granderson’s claim that there have been “twice as many strikes (on) countries that are predominantly Muslim” is similar to Lizza’s — but with the added caveat that these are Muslim countries, so we decided to check it out again.

The tally

When we compared Bush and Obama last week, Lizza sent us this list of countries that had been bombed by each president:

Bush: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia.

Obama: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria.

We asked Granderson for additional evidence. He cited the same numbers as Lizza, and pointed to a supporting CNN article.

We found little reason to challenge the nations Lizza and Granderson named. If anything, they shortchanged both presidents.

There’s no question about airstrikes in Afghanistan and Iraq — Bush launched wars in both countries, and airstrikes have continued there under Obama.

Drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have been in the news for a long time, with or without official acknowledgment.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit news service based at City University London, maintains a running list of U.S. military actions in a number of countries, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, based on press and official reports. By its tally, American drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Somalia occurred under both Bush and Obama.

In the case of Yemen, we found evidence of just one airstrike there under Bush — back in 2002, reported by BBC News and Time magazine. This would increase Bush’s total to five countries, but the strikes have been much more frequent under Obama.

The air attacks on Libya that helped topple Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 under Obama are well documented. In March 2011, the United States and British warships fired more than 100 cruise missiles to destroy Libyan air defenses.

And, of course, there’s now Syria.

We also found some unconfirmed reports of drone attacks on suspected militant camps in the Philippines in 2006 and 2012, reported by the New York Times and an expert at the Brookings Institute.

If these reports are accurate, the totals for Bush and Obama would rise by one. The final, maximum number would be Bush 6: Obama 8.

Predominantly Muslim

Granderson is correct to say these countries are all predominantly Muslim (with the exception of the Philippines, which is not included in his tally). We found at a Pew report that said each of the seven countries with confirmed airstrikes under Obama are more than 90 percent Muslim, as of 2010.

Afghanistan: 99.8 percent

Iraq: 98.9 percent

Pakistan: 96.4 percent

Somalia: 98.6 percent

Yemen: 99.0 percent

Libya: 96.6 percent

Syria: 92.8 percent

The Philippines, on the other hand, is just 5.1 percent Muslim. For comparison, the United States is 0.8 percent Muslim, according to the Pew report.

Our ruling

Granderson said Obama has conducted “twice as many strikes (on) countries that are predominantly Muslim” as Bush.

By Granderson’s count — Bush four countries, Obama seven countries — it’s a little less than twice (1.75 times to be exact). While you can make arguments that both Bush and Obama have bombed additional countries, we think Granderson — and Lizza before him — are using reasonable figures based on what’s publicly known.

Granderson’s claim is accurate but could use the caveat nearly twice. As such, we rate it Mostly True.


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