Besides getting a comically prolonged what-for over the Guantanamo Bay detention center by Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin, President Obama addressed the nation on National Security and stuff. Herewith, some takeaways:
1. Yeah, if we could we’d arrest terrorists… but we can’t. Usually.
Obama made numerous references to the US government’s preference of capturing, detaining and prosecuting terror suspects rather than killing them.
“Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists.”
“America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them.”
“I would have detained and prosecuted [U.S. citizen/known terrorist] Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t.”
“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.”
2. Remember those guys that did 9/11? They won’t be hurting us again (because they are dead).
POTUS would like to remind you that we’ve kicked some serious ass in the last 10 years. So much so that the guy’s we’re fighting now aren’t even the same dudes. You’re welcome?
“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. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.”
3. Using drones is legal, it’s just not always the best, most well-liked option.
“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.”
4. But sometimes using drones is the best option! Besides, you guys are counting civilian casualties wrong.
One of the biggest criticisms of drone warfare has been civilian casualties. But Obama would like to make it clear that his numbers are more right than yours.
“Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.”
“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.”
“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”
5. He’d like to close Gitmo but, you know, Congress won’t let him. Also please get that woman off my back about it.
This is what everyone was really waiting for and as much an anti climax as ever. Despite widely reported hunger strikes and some of the most persistent heckling of all time, today just wasn’t the day.
“The original premise for opening GTMO – that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention – was found unconstitutional five years ago.”
“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.”