Obama limits the war on terror

Stephen Ontko

As one of his earliest decisions of his administration, President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and other foreign CIA interrogation facilities and called for an end to harsh interrogation tactics such as waterboarding.

This first strategic move of Obama as commander in chief has established a dangerous precedent of complacency after the worst terrorist attack in American history. This is in addition to ceasing military commission trials to unlawful enemy combatants, the New York Times reported on Jan. 21. Obama’s campaign preference for these cases to move to federal courts from military commissions.

As John Yoo, a former Department of Justice official during George Bush’s administration wrote in a column in the Wall Street Journal Jan. 29, change from military to civilian court systems would severely impede counterterrorism efforts. As a result, strains on the military would increase through the need to gather enough evidence to justify detaining terrorists. This would take resources away from gathering intelligence on the al-Qaeda network and future attacks. Intelligence gathering will be extremely difficult now that Obama demands an end to all coercive interrogations.

Obama and other liberals believe that America’s principles are better at deterring Islamic supremacists than interrogations, nevermind that it is those very principles they are at war with while they are apprehended and refuse to provide critical intelligence to U.S. authorities.

Al-Qaeda Islamic supremacists will continue to refuse to talk to U.S. personnel as long as interrogation techniques are confined to that of the Army Field Manuel, at Obama’s request. But even during the Bush administration, enhanced interrogation techniques weren’t used lightly – only on high-level al-Qaeda officials who had important information they weren’t sharing.

NBC reported Sept. 13, 2007, that only 13 of 15 top al-Qaeda officials were subjected to intense interrogation techniques, with less than 100 suspects in CIA facilities, according to Bush’s CIA Director Michael Hayden (who also stated these facilities accounted for 70 percent of the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate information on terrorism).

The article went on to report that top al-Qaeda officials spoke only after aggressive interrogations. Abu Zubaydah, who supposedly coordinated terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, told authorities of an impending terrorist attack, and would not further elaborate until he was waterboarded. Ramzi bin al Shibh, an alleged facilitator of the 9/11 attacks, gave information with just the threat of waterboarding.

Zubaydah, the first high-level al-Qaeda member to be captured, along with bin al Shibh, as USA Today reported Dec. 15, 2007, are the operatives who gave the information that enabled the seizure of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, educated in American higher education and the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, would require a couple of sessions of waterboarding before he would speak to interrogators, NBC reported. KSM was of greater strategic importance to al-Qaeda than Osama bin Laden, and possibly any other al-Qaeda official.

An L.A. Times Feb. 6, 2008 article ties Abu Zubaydah to the 9/11 attacks, and quotes Hayden as saying that for the five years after 9/11, 25 percent of human intelligence sources originated from Zubaydah and Mohammed.

Obama stated that American ideals alone are all that is necessary to defeat terrorism. Al-Qaeda prisoners, however, are already at Gitmo due to the fact that they have already been fighting American principles.

Obama isn’t leaving much confidence that he won’t eliminate military commissions, which would legally equate ordinary American citizens into the same legal system with the same rights as al-Qaeda.

Obama doesn’t have enough confidence in his country’s values over al-Qaeda’s to allow the CIA to engage in interrogations that may seem questionable. No one wants to engage in techniques that are reminiscent to torture despite liberal accusations, but preserving our ideals and saving lives may require it – even as extreme interrogations in and of themselves are not desired.

It is better that we engage in acts that our values would find difficult to perform peripherally than to be conquered by an Islamic supremacist worldview that would constrain us into the most fundamental lamentations.

Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].