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Obama’s Confused Self-Contradictory War on Terror Speech
Posted By Daniel Greenfield On May 23, 2013 @ 6:09 pm In The Point | 19 Comments
If the Benghazi talking points were reduced to completely dishonest paragraphs by progressive political reviews, Obama’s End of Terror speech today looks like it was taken apart and put back together by entire committees.
It’s confused, self-contradictory and lacks any coherent message except self-congratulations. The tone and content are completely inappropriate a month after the Boston bombings. And the message is even more broken.
Hardly does Obama begin speaking, then he pulls back to safe ground for some Iraq War bashing. Obama is only really comfortable when blaming Bush for things, but his entire “new” strategy is Bush’s old polished up strategy– for which he gives the President of the United States no credit.
What’s clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. This carried grave consequences for our fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and – to this day – our interests in a vital region.
And in some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.
Err okay… and so…
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.
What we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP –the most active in plotting against our homeland. While none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11 they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.
Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was defeated under Bush. Obama just admitted that. Al Qaeda in Pakistan is not going anywhere. Al Qaeda breaking up into affiliates is also old news.
Finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States. Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin; a plane flying into a building in Texas; or the extremists who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City – America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our time.
The thing that all three of those cases have in common is that the perps weren’t Muslims. Was the guy who flew a plane into a building in Texas really radicalized? In what ideology exactly?
But then Obama goes on to say…
Deranged or alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Confusingly, Obama does use the term “Jihad”, though he prefaces it with violent. After just writing out Muslim terrorists from the big picture.
But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.
This sounds logical, but it’s actually gibberish. Most attacks will never be 9/11. But the Clinton Administration’s policy of ignoring terrorism is what led to 9/11.
“Smartly and Proportionally” is code for scaling down efforts and avoiding attacks that might result in collateral damage. It’s another way of saying “Let the terrorists win.”
In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.
Until the Taliban take over shortly after we withdraw. From the combat mission or non-combat mission or however Obama wants to describe the final withdrawal.
Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.
The War on Terror, obviously, was a series of targeted efforts. What else could it have been? An actual war on scary things?
It’s like giving a speech about the War on Drugs and saying that we shouldn’t have a boundless war on all chemical compounds, but only on some specific recreational drugs. It’s as insightful as beginning a speech by reading the dictionary definition of your theme.
Obama defends drone strikes, correctly, as being both right and legal…
Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense
All that is true. But then why does Obama insist on trying captured terrorist leaders in civilian courts? Either we are at war or we aren’t.
And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance.
Shouldn’t we indeed first be concerned with effective and legal tactics? And isn’t the first responsibility of the military and its commanders to protect Americans… rather than to seek out wise and moral tactics on mountaintops in Tibet?
In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. However, by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.
If I read this correctly, then post-2014, American soldiers will still be in Afghanistan, providing “training”, but even their limited air support now, will be taken away from them.
This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.
But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team
Obviously. The insistence of some Republicans on trying to “out-liberal” Obama in this regard was a sad spectacle.
a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
Well yes. Wars have to be finished. But Obama’s smart and proportional war will always be unfinished because it’s minimalistic and never gets to the heart of the enemy.
So Obama is criticizing his own strategy as unsustainable. But he’s refusing to admit why.
So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism, from North Africa to South Asia. As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred.
Appeasement. In other words.
This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists.
Violent extremists took over Egypt and Libya because of Obama’s support for these transitions. Libya is up next.
We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements – because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism.
For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.
But has all the money we plowed into Pakistan done any more good than the money spent on Iraq? That’s the question.
The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence.
The Muslim communities in America are dominated by Islamist groups that support terrorism. And Obama’s strategy of watering down law enforcement, hiding the truth and outsourcing terrorism prevention to CAIR led to the Boston bombings.
Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.
It’s actually the best possible endorsement of their strategy because it makes terrorism that much easier.
That means that – even after Boston – we do not deport someone or throw someone in prison in the absence of evidence
Because saving a bunch of kids is only truly important when it comes to abolishing the Second Amendment. Otherwise their parents don’t get the same “vote” that the Newtown families did.
So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
Wars only end when you win or surrender. Obama isn’t planning to win. That leaves one option.
In Iraq, we turned over thousands of prisoners as we ended the war. In Afghanistan, we have transitioned detention facilities to the Afghans, as part of the process of restoring Afghan sovereignty. So we bring law of war detention to an end, and we are committed to prosecuting terrorists whenever we can.
The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
Freeing terrorists is a time-tested approach? Well then good news. We freed lots of terrorists from Gitmo. Most of them are back in the terrorist trade.
Terrorist tested. Obama approved.
In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.
What rule of law? Obama admitted that we are at war. Do enemy combatants get tired in civilian courts?
During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people –almost $1 million per prisoner.
As opposed to Supermax where it’s more like $80,000 a year. But considering the extra security any terrorist prison will require, the hunger strikes and the constant lawsuits, it’ll probably be much higher in civilian confinement.
As President, I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries, or imprisoning them in the United States. These restrictions make no sense.
No sense at all.
Why won’t Congress let Hussein transfer prisoners over to countries that will free them and let them go back to being terrorists?
Also why can’t we free all the serial killers in prison? Congress is just so mean sometimes. They make no sense.
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO.
Let my terrorists go…
Even after we take these steps, one issue will remain: how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
Once we close Gitmo, we’ll figure out what to do with all the terrorists we’ll have to set free.
Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?
Our Founders foresaw us hanging pirates. Not force feeding them out of fear that they might lose too much weight.
America, we have faced down dangers far greater than al Qaeda. By staying true to the values of our founding, and by using our constitutional compass, we have overcome slavery and Civil War; fascism and communism.
Clearly Obama isn’t too familiar with the measures used during the Civil War, WW2 and the Cold War. As one example, FDR had Nazi infiltrators sentenced by a military commission and shot… after a brief smoking break.
And that was a war we won by mass bombardment of enemy cities which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. And Obama is bawling his eyes out over force feeding terrorists in Gitmo.
In just these last few years as President, I have watched the American people bounce back from painful recession, mass shootings, and natural disasters like the recent tornadoes that devastated Oklahoma
But they have yet to bounce back from his first year in office.
I think of Lauren Manning, the 9/11 survivor who had severe burns over 80 percent of her body, who said, “That’s my reality. I put a Band-Aid on it, literally, and I move on.”
I think of the New Yorkers who filled Times Square the day after an attempted car bomb as if nothing had happened.
I think of the proud Pakistani parents who, after their daughter was invited to the White House, wrote to us, “we have raised an American Muslim daughter to dream big and never give up because it does pay off.”
One of these things is not like the other.
Our victory against terrorism won’t be measured in a surrender ceremony on a battleship, or a statue being pulled to the ground. Victory will be measured in parents taking their kids to school; immigrants coming to our shores
Yes, we’ll win when more Tsarnaevs keep showing up and living on welfare while plotting terrorist attacks. Obama’s definition of winning is as grounded in reality as Charlie Sheen’s.
And long after the current messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the brutal despots, deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter history – the flag of the United States will still wave
Now that just sounds Islamophobic.
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