In the May 5th GOP presidential debate in South Carolina, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) addressed several issues related to the war on terrorism. The Congressman said: Continue reading
Obama Has Won the War on Terror Debate — for the American Right
The Obama Administration has maintained, renewed or expanded many of Bush’s War on Terror policies. Now that Obama agrees with Bush on these issues, they are being forgotten by the left. The liberals screamed about these issues from 2002 through 2008, but now there is complete silence and the old slogans have been abandoned.
President Obama’s national security decisions have demonstrated the radical left was wrong, and George W. Bush always had a valid response to America’s global challenges. In just two years Obama has ignored practically all the national security planks in the 2008 Democratic platform.
If there is a difference between Obama and Bush in this area, it is difficult to find. Obama has continued some of Bush’s domestic policy such as the tax cut extension and presidential signing statements, but the major similarities concern a phrase the President refuses to say, “the war on terror.”
“There’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president. I don’t think it’s even fair to call it Bush Lite. It’s Bush. It’s really, really hard to find a difference that’s meaningful and not atmospheric. . . You’ve got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram in Afghanistan, and although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.” – Gen. Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA and the NSA, Bush Administration
Obama’s Afghan surge had overwhelming support from conservative lawmakers, and they are also backing the President’s decision to implement a no fly zone in Libya. Among some of the other notable changes few foresaw in 2008 are:
- Democrats had super majorities in the House and Senate in 2009, and they could have easily fulfilled their promise to repeal the “unconstitutional” Patriot Act. They not only renewed it, but they enhanced it.
- Liberals said Bush made end-runs around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to implement a “lawless” Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Now the Obama Justice Department says the TSP can be used under the constitutional authority of the commander in chief.
- Obama has fully implemented Bush’s Iraq Status of Forces Agreement.
- Liberals claimed the Bush administration was illegally spying on American citizens with the NSA’s “warrantless surveillance” program. The confirmation of former Bush NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden was opposed by then Sen. Obama because “he had overseen the illegal NSA spying program.” Now Obama no longer believes the program is illegal.
- Keeping Open the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, although he promised to close it on his first full day in office.
- Treatment of detainees and torture. Both rendition and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) are still legal and available for use. The EIT authorization was withdrawn by Bush and Obama formally ended the program, but he can bring it back at any time.
- Attorney General Eric Holder now says waterboarding is not torture. He pointed out that thousands of American soldiers, during training, received similar water-boarding and other interrogation methods over the past 15 years.
- Committing U.S. forces to combat without Congressional approval (the left called it cowboy diplomacy).
- Predator drone attacks on terrorists targets have continued.
Where Are the Liberals Now?
The left never really cared about national security policy, and for them it was always partisan politics. Liberal author Glenn Greenwald makes a similar argument in Salon:
Obama has single-handedly eliminated virtually all mainstream debate over these War on Terror policies. At least during the Bush years, we had one party which steadfastly supported them but one party which claimed (albeit not very persuasively) to vehemently oppose them. At least there was a pretense of vigorous debate over their legality, morality, efficacy, and compatibility with our national values.
Those debates are no more. Even the hardest-core right-wing polemicists — Gen. Hayden, the Heritage Foundation, Dick Cheney — now praise Obama’s actions in these areas. Opposition from national Democrats has faded away to almost complete nonexistence now that it’s a Democratic President doing these things.
What was once viewed as the signature of Bush/Cheney radicalism is now official, bipartisan Washington consensus: the policies equally of both parties and all serious people. Thanks to Barack Obama, this architecture is firmly embedded in place and invulnerable to meaningful political challenge. . . I genuinely believe that Obama and the Democratic Party owe a heartfelt, public apology to Bush, Cheney and the GOP for all the harsh insults they spewed about them for years based on policies that they are now themselves aggressively continuing.
Obama has won the War on Terror debate — for the American Right. And as Dick Cheney’s interview last night demonstrates, they’re every bit as appreciative as they should be.
The Bush Economic Record
President George W. Bush came into office with a recession and left with one, but his overall record is admirable. For 24 quarters we had steady growth, a record not matched by any other President. The Bush tax cuts rescued the economy and provided the nation with low unemployment and continued growth for 5½ straight years. The Dow Jones reached an all time high, and the tax cuts got America out of the dot com recession. Continue reading
In an in-depth interview published exclusively today on its website, former CIA Director Michael Hayden (2006 – 2009) made a number of newsworthy observations. Hayden is a retired Air Force four-star general and previously served as Director of the National Security Agency. Continue reading
Gen. David Patraeus of Central Command is correct in condemning the abuses at Abu Gharid prison in Iraq. Those unauthorized activities which resulted in jail time for the soldiers involved. They did hurt America’s image.
Patraeus is also correct regarding the effectiveness of enhance interrogation techniques. The best testimony come from Adm. Dennis Blair, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. He is the one who has pointed out that most of what we know about al-Qaeda came from using those techniques on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. Blair said, “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country. I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”
Last year then presidential candidate Barack Obama called the Military Commissions being used to hear the cases of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay “an enormous failure.” Now he is accepting the Bush Administration’s thesis that civilian courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favored by Bush.
President Obama is also in agreement with Bush that terror suspects should be viewed as enemy fighters. Other areas of common ground are Obama’s decision to oppose the release of prisoner abuse photographs, supporting the indefinite detention for some detainees, and restoring Military Commissions.
He denounced this “shadow justice system” in 2007 and said civilian courts were the best option. After the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision gave terrorists habeas corpus rights, Obama laid into the Bush Administration’s “legal black hole” and “dangerously flawed legal approach,” which “undermines the very values we are fighting to defend.” Now Obama has reversed himself.
It will be interesting to watch Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal defend the new Military Commissions in court. In 2007 he wrote in “Slate,” “Military commission trials are not ‘equal justice’: For the first time since equality was written into our Constitution, America has created one criminal trial for ‘us’ and one for ‘them.’ Whatever else might be said about the Guantanamo courtroom, it will never symbolize America or what it is about.”
The Military Commissions Act was passed by Congress and it respects our obligations under the Geneva Convention. Congress took this initiative because of its belief that the Constitutional provision guaranteeing habeas corpus does not apply to alien enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States. Provisions in the Act removing habeas corpus does not apply to United States citizens. The Congress then concluded that this law does not conflict with the Constitution.
It is difficult to see how Obama will be able to close the Guantanamo facility by the end of the year as he has promised. Congressional opposition to bringing the prisoners to the United States is also increasing. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) said Guantanamo Bay was the best venue to try terror suspects. “Given the disruption and potential dangers caused by bringing terror suspects into American communities, the secure, modern courtroom at Guantanamo Bay is the appropriate place for commission proceedings,” McConnell said. The camp still holds 241 inmates from 30 different countries.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now denying knowing U.S. officials used waterboarding. However, a Washington Post story describes an hour-long 2002 briefing in which Pelosi was told about enhanced interrogation techniques in graphic detail. Former Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra (MI), who is now the panels ranking Republican says “if she did not know, she was not paying attention in the meetings. . . I’m puzzled, I don’t understand what she’s trying to say. I don’t have any sympathy for her — she’s the Speaker of the House; there should be some accountability. She shouldn’t be given a pass.” She is the only participant who did not hear “waterboarding.” Former CIA Director Porter Goss says she must be suffering from amnesia. Goss, who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Pelosi was the ranking member, said: “The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists. I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues.”
The members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees knew what was being done at Guantanamo. They supported it at the time. Now they want to be able to say “we didn’t know what was happening” to score some political points. Pelosi attended 30 briefings, and Hoekstra says “the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”
Another official present at the early briefings told the Post, “there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.'”
Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO), ranking member of the Senate intelligence panel, called the Pelosi comments “frightening.” “The idea that a 10-year veteran of the intelligence committee would just rubber-stamp a program she thought was illegal or morally wrong is frightening, especially when the claim comes from a member who has never been afraid to challenge publicly the Bush administration. As members of Congress we have the constitutional authority and responsibility to take serious our oversight role.” Speaker Pelosi now wants the prosecution of Bush administration officials who signed off on the use of the techniques. President Obama previously said he was opposed to such prosecution, but now says it is up to Attorney General Eric Holder. Pelosi supports the creation of a “Truth Commission” to root out wrongdoing by the Bush administration on interrogations — putting her at odds with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Obama, who want the matter dealt with exclusively by congressional committees. Former Secretary of State James Baker said the type of panel Pelosi is seeking would America in the business of “criminalizing policy differences.”
In addition to waterboarding, Pelosi’s entire record on Iraq definitely puts her in the category of the hard core left. The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003. While President Bush argued that he did not need congressional approval, ultimately both houses of Congress approved a resolution authorizing him to do so. The House vote of 10/10/02 was 296-133, and Pelosi opposed the war from the outset. Pelosi said Iraq had WMD but that did not matter to her. Some lawmakers were falsely claiming Iraq had a nuclear weapons stockpile, but if this had been true it would have made no difference to Pelosi.
From her work on the Intelligence Committee, Pelosi was well aware of the WMD issue. On 12/16/98 Pelosi said:
“As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”
On 11/17/02 Pelosi stated: “Saddam Hussein certainly has chemical and biological weapons. There’s no question about that.” She followed that up on 10/10/02 by saying: “I come to this debate, Mr. Speaker, as one at the end of 10 years in office on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was one of my top priorities. I applaud the President on focusing on this issue and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein. … Others have talked about this threat that is posed by Saddam Hussein. Yes, he has chemical weapons, he has biological weapons, he is trying to get nuclear weapons.”
Pelosi participated in numerous Iraq WMD briefings. Along with everyone else she assumed Saddam Hussein had them. Her argument was that Iraq should not be attacked because then Saddam would use his WMD. In October of 2002 she said: “I want to call to the attention of my colleagues a statement about Saddam’s use of chemical and biological weapons that was just declassified and sent to the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The question is: If we initiate an attack and he thought he was an extremist or otherwise, what is the likelihood in response to our attack that Saddam Hussein would use chemical and biological weapons? This is a letter from George Tenet, the head of the CIA to the committee. The response: Pretty high, if we initiate the attack.” She said we should not put our troops in harms way.
It also made no difference to Speaker Pelosi if Iraq invaded another country. On 1/12/91 the Congress authorized the use of military force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. The votes were 52-47 in the Senate and 250-183 in the House of Representatives.