It’s an honor to return to the National Defense University. Here, at Fort McNair, Americans have served in uniform since 1791– standing guard in the early days of the Republic, and contemplating the future of warfare here in the 21st century.
[WOTN Editor comments in bold, and brackets.]
For over two centuries, the United States has been bound together by founding documents [I think he's referring to the Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and Bill of Rights] that defined who we are as Americans, and served as our compass [No, they're not just a compass, they define the RESTRICTIONS on government of what it can and can not do.] through every type of change. Matters of war and peace are no different. Americans are deeply ambivalent about war, but having fought for our independence, we know that a price must be paid for freedom. From the Civil War,
to our struggle against fascism, and through the long, twilight struggle of the Cold War, battlefields have changed, and technology has evolved. But our commitment to Constitutional principles [Those aren't just "principles." The Constitution is the SUPREME LAW, of the land, superceding Congressional legislation, Executive orders, and international treaty.] has weathered every war [though perhaps not every "peace, or the current administration], and every war has come to an end. [All but four have been won. Two of those "ended" without a Victory are now on the record of the current politician in chief.]
With the collapse of the Berlin Wall [Due to the strong defense built by Reagan, breaking the economic and military back of the Communist Empire], a new dawn of democracy took hold abroad, and a decade of peace and prosperity arrived at home [when Clinton not only cashed in the "peace dividiend," but sold the security stock which had paid it]. For a moment, it seemed the 21st century would be a tranquil time. Then, on September 11th 2001, we were shaken out of complacency. Thousands were taken from us, as clouds of fire, metal and ash descended upon a sun-filled morning. This was a different kind of war. No armies ['only" Islamist terrorists that stole the planes of civilian companies and crashed them into civilians of the entire world] came to our shores, and our military was not the [ONLY] principal target. Instead, a group of terrorists came to kill as many civilians as they could.
Meanwhile, we strengthened our defenses – hardening targets, tightening transportation security, and giving law enforcement new tools to prevent terror. Most of these changes were sound. Some caused inconvenience. But some, like expanded surveillance, raised difficult questions about the balance we strike between our interests in security and our values of privacy. 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. [Which was and remains in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and the Law of Land Warfare.]
After I took office, we stepped up [retreated from] the war against al Qaeda, but also sought to change its course[by ceding the blood soaked victories we had won]. We relentlessly targeted al Qaeda’s leadership [or claimed to do so, without basis]. We ended the war in Iraq [allowing it to fall prey to the current onslaught of Islamist terrorism], and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan [of denying the facts], and increased our training of Afghan [Taliban] forces [without vetting them, so they could shoot our now unarmed Troops]. We
unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts [which are not a part of armed conflict and the Law of Land Warfare, as per the Geneva Conventions], worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with [demands to comply to] Congress.
Today, Osama bin Laden is dead [due to the intelligence developed before this administration, and the risks accepted by Warriors, not politicians watching it on a video screen], and so are most of his top lieutenants. [killed during the previous administration] There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States [as the enemy has changed tactics to numerous small scale attacks], and our homeland is more secure [BS!, attacks are on the rise, and more prolific than anytime in our history]. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. [despite the fact that the enemy has not surrendered, or ended the war] Our alliances are strong [though weaker than they have been in over a decade], and so is our standing in the world. [BS, the Syrians saw that our threats mean nothing, the Israeli's don't think we have their back, and the European allies only want our free equipment.] In sum, we are safer because of our efforts. [If only that were true. We are not, and we won't be for the years or decades it takes to rebuild our military.]
Now make no mistake: our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth. We must recognize, however, that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one [single attack] that came to our shores on 9/11. [to many small attacks such as Ft Hood, Little Rock, Times Square, Boston, and Benghazi] With a decade of experience to draw from, now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions – about the nature of today’s threats, and
how we should confront them. [And who is capable of leading Our Military, and Our People to VICTORY, not submission.]
These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits [due to UN-Constitutional domestic pork barrel spending] and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and
their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home [which the administration now wants to pay for their own health care, and remove their 2nd Amendment rights, while suppressing their 1st Amendment rights] . From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the [administration] type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. [But instead, this politician in chief will retreat from the enemy, curtail the God-Given Rights and Liberties of Citizens, and leave them naked to the attacks of the enemy at home and abroad, as civilians, or employees of the government.] To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face. [And being willing to clearly state that the enemy is Islamism, that openly states it will butcher all those that won't convert, and rape women of their enemy (us), that will rob banks, and throw acid in the faces of Muslim women that dare to learn to read, that calls for the deaths of those that dare speak or write or draw, in a way they don't like.]
Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat [and rising in Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Dagestan, Uzbekistan, Britain, France, Egypt, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, and so many other places, including Pakistan and Afghanistan]. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety [BS. They love death, even their own, more than we love life.] than plotting against us. [They've gone from mere hopes of plots to actually carrying them out, on our streets, in Boston, in NYC, and in London.] They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. [But they did.] They have not carried out [just one, but many] a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates [and denials by politicians that Islamist terrorists have committed terrorism, but rather claims by the administration that Ft Hood was "work place violence" and Benghazi was "spontaneous protest" and the Boston Bombing was what?]. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda’s [subordinate] affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP –the most active in plotting against our homeland. [the same one that directed the Ft Hood attack and the Boston Bombing] While none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11 they have continued to plot [and succeed in implementing] acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. [and the Times Square bombing and Ft Hood and Boston]
Unrest in the Arab World has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria [and Egypt and Tunisia, due to the actions of the current US Administration, which asked the Egyptian military to commit a coup and ordered allied leaders to abdicate to Islamists]. Here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we confront state-sponsored networks like Hizbollah that engage in acts of terror [in fighting Al-Qaeda's attempt to overthrow the Syrian dictator] to achieve political goals. Others are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. While we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. That means we will face more localized threats like those we saw in Benghazi [where Al-Qaeda "affiliates" on orders of Al-Qaeda attacked our Consulate], or at the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives [Al-Qaeda subordinates killed peaceful western civilians] – in loose affiliation with regional networks – launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their [international terrorist] operations.
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 [15 years ago] – America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our time. Deranged or alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. [Especially when they are given training and motivation from the very same Islamist terrorist organizations that hi-jacked and flew commercial jetliners into the WTC and Pentagon on 9/11/01.] That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. 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. [And our muted or lack of response emboldened the Islamist terrorist enemy, which decided on ever more spectacular attacks, even if it meant that they lost a few hundred dollar mud huts to million dollar cruise missiles.] 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. [Or as this speech denotes, we did not learn that lesson.]
Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don’t arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. [i.e. the cause of converting every human being on Earth to Islam, or cutting their throats.] Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.
Nevertheless, this ideology persists, and in an age in which ideas and images can travel the globe in an instant, our response to terrorism cannot depend on military or law enforcement alone. [No, the National Leadership or rather the political partisanship can have an extremely detrimental effect on the results of the sacrifices Our Troops make.] We need all elements of national power to win
a battle of wills and ideas. So let me discuss the components of such a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. First, we must finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.
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 [without a Victory]. 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. [As the rising tide of Islamist terrorism in Iraq demonstrates in the wake of premature retreat.]
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. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.
Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in prison in New York [glad to hear that you finally admitted that Somali pirates are part of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network]. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic. [and ended up with the US Administration putting an allied agent that helped us at risk, by telling the world 'how smart they were.]
But despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to gain a foothold in some of the most distant and unforgiving places on Earth. They take refuge in remote tribal regions. They hide in caves and walled compounds. They train in empty deserts and rugged mountains.
In some of these places – such as parts of Somalia and Yemen – the state has only the most tenuous reach into the territory. In other cases, the state lacks the capacity or will to take action. It is also not possible for America to simply deploy a team of Special Forces to capture every terrorist. And even when such an approach may be possible, there are places where it would pose profound risks to our troops and local civilians– where a terrorist compound cannot be breached without triggering a firefight with surrounding tribal communities that pose no threat to us, [if they're shooting at Our Troops, they aren't civilians and they ARE the enemy.] or when putting U.S. boots on the ground may trigger a major international crisis. [Invading a Sovereign Nation's airspace is just as much an act of war, according to International Law, as is sending in a special operations team. Killing people in a foreign country is just as much an act of war if the person pulling the trigger is a lawyer in the White House, or an experienced Soldier on the battlefield.]
To put it another way, our operation in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden cannot be the norm. The risks in that case were immense [to the SEALS that went in] the likelihood of capture, although our preference, was remote given the certainty of resistance; the fact that we did not find ourselves confronted with civilian casualties, or embroiled in an extended firefight, was a testament to the meticulous planning and professionalism of our Special Forces [SEALs, not Special Forces, which are Army. Members of the Special Operations forces.]– but also depended on some luck [While the humble SEALs will confess to luck, politicians sitting behind a video screen watching them take those risks don't get to downgrade their succeses, which come from sweat laden experience, and blood fallen brothers with "some luck."] . And even then, the cost to our relationship with Pakistan – and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory [rather the encroachment of their sovereignity by our drones]– was so severe that we are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership. [In 2008, animosity of the Paki people towards the US was at all time lows. In 2012, the Obama Administration had managed to return it to previous highs.]
It is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones. As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions – about who is
targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law; about accountability and morality. [International Law may not directly address the issue of pilotless planes, but it does make clear that flying a plane into a Sovereign Nation's airspace and dropping explosives, IS an act of war. No where in international law, does it say that if the pilot is outside the plane does the country flying the plane not commit an act of war when it does so.]
Let me address these questions. To begin with, our actions are effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, “we could lose the reserves to the enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives.” Other communications from al Qaeda operatives confirm this as well. Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers, and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots
have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.
Moreover, America’s actions are legal. [The use of drones in enemy territories, in declared combat zones, and when approved by allied nations in their own territory is legal. The use of drones against others is an act of war, and is not authorized.] 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, [oops, you said last year that the Taliban wasn't the enemy, and that was why you were leaving Afghanistan, without defeating them.] 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 why are you "ending" the war while they are not defeated?!?!"] So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.
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. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world
away also demands the discipline to constrain that power – or risk abusing it. That’s why, over the last four years, my Administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists [that allowed the use of drones to kill American Citizens in an allied country and the release of Islamist terrorists to belligerent nations, and the forced the release of Islamist terrorists into reluctantly allied nations]– insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.
In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops [2009 would have been a good time to start that. Five years of undermining them means they'd love to see a change of policy.] until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets [so, you admit Al-Qaeda is still there!], but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces [Oh yeah, those Taliban forces you said weren't our enemy in 2008, but admit in this speech are the enemy, and always have been. Why are you retreating again? Because the Taliban are massing?] . However, by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same [No, force protection needs will be greater, while counter-terrorism capacity will be near non-existent] need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes. [So, in addtion to retreating the Troops, you'll also reduce the drone strikes in the most target rich of environments. Oh yeah, there'll be few Troops to tell you where the enemy is.]
Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. [So, you admit al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb (west), Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Hezbollah in Syria are actually part of Al-Qaeda, but claim that Libyan commercial TV is as well!] Even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists - our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set. [Yeah, if I believed half of that, I wouldn't be spending the time to comment on any of this. If you believe half of that, you probably haven't gotten this far into the speech.]
This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us [I don't even believe you have a conscious at this point. If you did, you would not ask Congress for permission to screw Our Troops, and would not allow Shinsucki to do so when they are in the VA system.] as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. [The ENEMY killed civilians. VERY few were killed purposely, or even collaterally by US Forces. Less than 1%. YOU know that Mr. Obama.}
But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes. [So why the hell are you retreating from the enemy that is killing Our Own Citizens, as well as foreign citizens at the rate of thousands a month?]
Where foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop terrorism in their territory, the primary alternative to targeted, lethal action is the use of conventional military options. As I’ve said, even small Special Operations carry enormous risks. Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise
than drones, [NO, they are not. Piloted planes carry a far more varied payload, and include ALL of the drone explosive options.] and likely to cause more civilian casualties [Again, completely false.] and local outrage [Killing civilians, or populaces that are convinced that . And invasions of these territories [particularly drone strikes] lead us to be viewed as occupying armies; unleash a torrent of unintended consequences; are difficult to contain; and ultimately empower those who thrive on violent conflict. So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths[No, it is not, because a human looking down the barrel of a gun is far more capable of discerning hostile intent, than a lawyer looking over the shoulder of someone watching a video screen half a world away.], or to create enemies in the Muslim world. The result would be more U.S. deaths, more Blackhawks down, more confrontations with local populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids that could easily escalate into new wars. [BS! It would lead to politicians having to more carefully calculate the necessity of a lethal mission, weighing the risk of loss of human life, and their ability to explain that necessity to the American people.]
So yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life. Indeed, our efforts must also be measured against the history of putting American troops in distant lands among hostile populations. In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a war [murdered by the enemy] where the boundaries of battle were blurred. In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the courage and discipline of our troops, thousands of civilians have been killed [by the enemy, not by the hands of Our Troops! I'm really tiring of having to point that out to the guy is supposed to be leading Our Troops, but instead decides to imply they are murderers]. So neither conventional military action, nor waiting for attacks to occur, offers moral safe-harbor. Neither does a sole reliance on law enforcement in
territories that have no functioning police or security services – and indeed, have no functioning law.
This is not to say that the risks are not real. Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies, and impacts public opinion overseas. Our laws constrain the power of the President, even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. [It would be nice if you would start complying with that oath.] The very precision of drones strikes, and the necessary secrecy involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism. [Is that why you have used them so prolifically against our allies?]
For this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. [When!?!?] After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP. [So, are you denying that you targeted the other 3, or saying that you didn't know who all was in the targeted location? That wouldn't be precise in the latter case, but the former seems to be your MO, i.e. denying the obvious.]
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. [But you just admitted that you did target an American, and now that it wasn't Constitutional to do so. Nor did you go through the proper procedure of revoking his citizenship, before killing him in a non-combat situation.] 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. That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, and helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack. His last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out Awlaki. [Let's not forget that he also commanded the FT Hood Shooter, and the Times Square Bomber, and many others, that you have declared "work place violence" or "lone wolves."]
Of course, the targeting of any Americans raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes – which is why my Administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed, and briefed the Congress before this strike as well. But the high threshold that we have set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life. Alongside the decision to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way, the decision to use force against individuals or groups – even against a sworn enemy of the United
States – is the hardest thing I do as President. But these decisions must be made, given my responsibility to protect the American people. Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice.
For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but
may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or
Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
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. Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better. But our security and values demand that we make the effort. This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya [in two of which the current Administration successfully caused an Islamist rise to power, far worse than that which it replaced] – because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We must strengthen the opposition [primarily Al-Qaeda, at this point] in Syria, while isolating extremist elements – because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism. We are working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians – because it is right, and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies [such as China, which has overtaken America, while capitalizing our debt, and silencing our factories], upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship – because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with peoples’ hopes, and not simply their fears.
Success on these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will also require resources. I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures – even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent. 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.
America cannot carry out this work if we do not have diplomats serving in dangerous places. Over the past decade, we have strengthened security at our Embassies, and I am implementing every recommendation of the Accountability Review Board which found unacceptable failures in Benghazi. I have called on Congress to fully fund these efforts to bolster security, harden facilities, improve intelligence, and facilitate a quicker response time from our military if a crisis emerges. [The military was ready. It was the politicians that said no, that the military could not respond, in Benghazi.]
But even after we take these steps, some irreducible risks to our diplomats will remain. This is the price of being the world’s most powerful nation, particularly as a wave of change washes over the Arab World. And in balancing the trade-offs between security and active diplomacy, I firmly believe that any retreat from challenging regions will only increase the dangers we face in the long run. [And yet you have demanded retreat in Iraq and in Afghanistan, while leaving diplomats to the hands of Islamists in Cairo and Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11.]
Targeted action against terrorists. Effective partnerships. Diplomatic engagement and assistance. Through such a comprehensive strategy we can significantly reduce the chances of large scale attacks on the homeland and mitigate threats to Americans overseas. As we guard against dangers from abroad, however, we cannot neglect the daunting challenge of terrorism from within our borders. [It will help if you will admit the fact that those "home grown" "lone wolf" terrorists are taking their orders and inspiration from the very same Islamist terrorist enemy, Al-Qaeda, as you are retreating from in Afghanistan.]
As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the Internet increase its frequency and lethality. Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home. To address this threat, two years ago my ADdministration did a comprehensive review, and engaged with law enforcement. 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. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties [how about ending the encrouchment of Americans' Constitutional Rights as well], is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.
Indeed, thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home. That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent abuse. That means that – even after Boston – we do not deport someone or throw someone in prison in the absence of evidence. That means putting careful constraints on the tools the government uses to protect sensitive information, such as the State Secrets doctrine. And that
means finally having a strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Board [NO, the Rights of Citizens can be removed only by due process of the Justice System, by a jury AND judge, while enemy combatants have no right or expectation of trial, unless they have committed war crimes.] to review those issues where our counter-terrorism efforts and our values may come into tension.
The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a
media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice Guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th. [The 1st Amendment does not protect the media from breaking the law. It does protect their right to free speech, equally with my own and every other citizen's. The 4th protects their right to be secure in their papers, just as it does mine and everyone elses, including from the IRS.]
All these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact – in sometimes unintended ways – the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing.
The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. [BS. It is stronger than it ever was, precisely because you have retreated, while denying its strength.] Groups like AQAP[i.e. Al-Qaeda] must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. 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. [Wars end by Victory or Surrender. Any other "end" is a continuation of the war.] That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands. [We have a Republic, with democratic elections, not a democracy, and NO, "the democracy" does not demand that.]
And that brings me to my final topic: the detention of terrorist suspects.
To repeat, as a matter of policy, the preference of the United States is to capture terrorist suspects. When we do detain a suspect, we interrogate them. And if the suspect can be prosecuted, we decide whether to try him in a civilian court or a Military Commission [Only war criminals get a trial in war. Common combatants are released ONLY at the end of hostilities, and are not criminals. War criminals are tried, in order to imprison them beyond the end of the war. THAT is International Law, i.e. the Geneva Conventions.]. During the past decade, the vast majority of those detained by our military were captured on the battlefield. 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. The original premise for opening GTMO – that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention – was found unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law. Our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a
terrorist will end up at GTMO. [They won't cooperate when they know that the terrorists they turn over will be released back into their streets to kill more of their citizens.] During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people –almost $1 million per prisoner. And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep GTMO open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home. [How long will that take to add up to a single 9/11? Yes, it does cost money to house foreign prisoners of war. It costs even more when the politician in chief is buying them the most expensive dates and million dollar soccer fields.]
As President, I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries [that's called "rendition" which you campaigned against.] before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries,[Congress finally did something right, but I'll credit you for signing the limitations on your plans.] or imprisoning them in the
United States. These restrictions make no sense. After all, under President Bush, some 530 detainees were transferred from GTMO with Congress’s support. When I ran for President the first time, John McCain supported closing GTMO. No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States. Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism-related offenses, including some who are more dangerous than most GTMO detainees. Given my Administration’s relentless pursuit of al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened. [Except that is a complete waste of money to put terrorists in an overcrowded facility when the one they're in is 80% empty, except that releasing them will put them back in the war against us, except that putting them in US prisons will give them a recruiting ground for other Islamist terrorists. I could go on.]
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.
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.
I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – ten years from now, or twenty years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no
crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country. 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 sense of justice is stronger than that. We have prosecuted scores of terrorists in our courts. That includes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; and Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square. It is in a court of law that we will try Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, is as we
speak serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison here, in the United States. In sentencing Reid, Judge William Young told him, “the way we treat you…is the measure of our own liberties.” He went on to point to the American flag that flew in the courtroom – “That flag,” he said, “will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom.”
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. 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
tornados that devastated Oklahoma. These events were heartbreaking; they shook our communities to the core. But because of the resilience of the American people, these events could not come close to breaking us. 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.”
I think of the wounded warriors rebuilding their lives, and helping other vets to find jobs.
I think of the runner planning to do the 2014 Boston Marathon, who said, “Next year, you are going to have more people than ever. Determination is not something to be messed with.”
That’s who the American people are. Determined, and not to be messed with.
Now, we need a strategy – and a politics –that reflects this resilient spirit. 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; fans taking in a ballgame; a veteran starting a business; a bustling city street. The quiet determination; that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of fear – that is both our sword and our shield. 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 from small-town cemeteries, to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.
Thank you. God Bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.