I watched Obama’s speech about national security live today. There were parts which were much better than anything I ever expected to hear from any American Presiident. Like this:
I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts ?” they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.
There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. Indeed, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law ?” a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter-terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.
So the record is clear: rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That is why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign. And that is why I ordered it closed within one year.
All of which was simply great, and what a huge improvement! At last there seems to be some intelligence and common sense applied.
But from the rest of his speech, it appeared military tribunals will resume, detainees will not in fact have access to normal judicial institutions, and some will continue to be detained without trial.
Most of all, how can he understand that torture and Guantanamo recruit for terrorism, but not understand that bombings of civilian areas in Southern Afghanistan recruit for terrorism?
It is something of a conundrum, whether Obama is a good man hemmed in, or whether he is simply a better salesman for US military dominance than the last one. Having watched him today, I am inclined to give him some further credit.