Obama’s War On Terror Speech: Reax II


From Jane Mayer’s write-up of Obama’s speech:

What kind of solution for indefinite detention can be arrived at, however, Obama left for later. It won’t be easy. As Joseph Margulies, clinical professor at Northwestern University Law School and lead counsel in the first Guantánamo case in the Supreme Court, noted, “The devil is in the details.” Obama’s speech has, at least, put the right questions on the table. Even Margulies, who has been critical of Obama for not doing more to close Guantánamo in the past, admitted he was “excited” by the speech. He said, “All the high-flying rhetoric about values and ‘who we are,’ and national identity is great.” But, he said, “Unless he follows up on it, it’ll all be for naught.” Much of the burden of moving forward, however, is not in Obama’s hands. Within minutes of his speech, conservatives on Capitol Hill had already begun jumping on him for having a “pre-9/11 mindset”—as if, somehow, the 9/11 mindset should last forever.

Daniel Klaidman reports on first steps the administration is taking:

So for many advocates of closing the detention facility, who Obama appoints inside the White House will be a key measure of his commitment [to closing Gitmo]. “The president has the authority to close Guantanamo,” says Thomas Wilner, a prominent Washington lawyer who has argued landmark cases at the Supreme Court on behalf of Gitmo detainees. “What he’s got to do is act and put the full authority of the White House behind getting the prison closed.”

Wilner and his allies may soon get some good news. A White House official confirmed to The Daily Beast that Obama has asked his chief counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, to handle the day-to-day responsibilities for Guantanamo. Monaco has daily access to the president and clout within the national-security bureaucracy. She also has deep experience dealing with the Guantanamo conundrum. When she first joined the administration in 2009 as a senior Justice Department official, she worked on Gitmo.

Fallows celebrates Obama’s call to wind down the War on Terror:

I am long on record in arguing that, even though America will continue to face threats and endure attacks including from Islamic-motivated extremists, it needs to move off the open-ended, permanent-war footing that was used to justify invasions and constraints on civil liberties. Yes, there will still be attacks, perhaps (I hope not) even as horrific as the recent one in London. But we do not let the tens of thousands of annual highways deaths justify banning cars; nor the toll of alcohol justify a new Prohibition; nor take an absolutist approach to a range of other risks, starting with guns. So too with “terror” risks. We cannot end them, but we don’t have to be driven mad by them.

Mary Ellen O’Connell was unsatisfied by Obama’s defense of the drone program:

The President attempted to defend drone use for several reasons other than legality. He said there are places where it is difficult, expensive, or dangerous to send special operations forces. Yet people everywhere know—as a matter of common sense and decency—that you cannot use military force because the police forces of a state are weak or because it is expensive or dangerous to send your own police or military to act under police rules. The reasons for this are already codified in international law.

Freddie deBoer wants more than words:

We have lived with this “war on terror” for a third of my life. And liberals: speeches do not walk the dog anymore. The time for flowery speeches is over. It’s time for action. Saying “we’re going to end the AUMF eventually” is not enough. Talking about closing Guantanamo is not enough. It has to actually happen. Like Anthony Romero of the ACLU says, actions are more important than words. If Obama actually closes Guantanamo, I promise I will applaud. If Obama actually reduces or ends the drone campaign, I will celebrate. But those specific policies will only be valuable if they are part of a broad attempt to end the hostilities between the United States and the Muslim world. Given that every Muslim terrorist who announces their motives says that they are based on our incursions into the Muslim world, that can only happen if we withdraw.

Yes and yes. My support yesterday for the arguments of the speech is, of course, contingent on actual progress. Friedersdorf is in the same ballpark:

All things considered, Thursday’s developments were an improvement on the status quo. Obama constrained himself rhetorically in ways he hadn’t before, expressed agreement with core civil libertarian critiques, and signalled that future policy will shift in that direction as a result. But talk is cheap, Obama has a history of breaking promises to civil libertarians, and drone strikes remain surrounded in enough secrecy that it will remain difficult to verify what’s going on. Moreover, policies implemented at the president’s prerogative can be changed on his determination too. There remains an urgent need for Congress to step into the breach and constrain the president, even if only in the ways that Obama says that he has constrained himself.

Agreed. But this Congress? Good luck. My thoughts here. Earlier reax here.