The last few weeks have highlighted significant obstacles to the Administration's efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Karzai, whose rule is already overshadowed by widespread allegations of corruption and vote-tampering, has encountered new difficulties in working with the Afghan Parliament. The President and his team must maintain focus, holding the Afghan government, and more importantly itself, accountable, creating the conditions for a transition away from a large-scale military presence, and resisting the calls for limitless commitment that Al Qaeda is happy to promote.
Eight years ago today America was attacked. Today we pause to look back and honor those who died as well as those who struggled and sacrificed to defend us on that day and ever since. As we look back, it is worth remembering how eight years ago the world rose united in grief and support, and how Americans rose to support each other and to turn new attention to foreign affairs. But this year, significant steps from the Obama administration have changed the way we fight terrorism – changes that are making us safer today and in the future, and once again inviting the world to stand beside us united.
Dick Cheney returned to the airwaves on Sunday to provide a full-throated defense of torture. No senior conservative or nonpartisan national security figures have echoed Cheney’s concerns, exposing them for what they are – attempts to politicize national security by accusing the Administration of the same. Unfortunately, while the national security community has not taken up these fringe views, many conservatives have.
Last Thursday, the Obama administration released classified Bush-era legal memos in an effort to turn the page and provide transparency on the policy of torture pursued by the Bush administration. In response, Bush administration officials, worried about their failed reputations and legacy, vigorously attacked the Obama administration – claiming that revealing Bush-era torture techniques makes America less safe. With the release of these memos, conservatives have revealed their true colors, moving the debate from whether “enhanced interrogation” constitutes torture to simply arguing that torture works and that the United States should torture.
Today Congress begins consideration of the nomination of Leon Panetta to be the new head of the CIA – a man who knows as well as anyone how intelligence becomes policy and how intelligence resources are allocated, to join an Administration that has made explicit commitments to better-manage intelligence gathering and ensure that it is embedded within our constitutional values.
Today, President Obama is signing a number of Executive Orders that
will end the Bush administration’s practices of torture and enhanced
interrogation techniques, close secret CIA prisons around the world,
and close down the prison at Guantanamo over the next year. We need a clear break with Bush's failed policies, and we need to clear away harmful myths about them.
Events this week underline the real legacy of the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq: a country still tormented by bombings, a dysfunctional political system threatened by power plays and instability, and at home a troubling history of high-level executive branch misuse of intelligence in the run-up to the war.