US president Barack Obama on Thursday said the country was at a crossroads and it needed to redefine the war against terrorism. It cannot be a boundless “global war on terror”.
In a widely anticipated speech, Obama said “this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Though al Qaeda’s core stands on the path to defeat, he said, no president can promise to end terrorism. The new threat comes from affiliates and home-grown radicals. “America is at a crossroads,” the president said in a widely anticipated speech, adding, “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.
The use of drones, which he defended as more effective than “conventional airpower or missiles”, for instance, will be brought under increased oversight. He discussed the use of drones, which has spiked during his presidency, at some length. He explained why, for instance, he ordered the strike on Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011.
After listing terror plots Awlaki launched against the US, Obama said, “I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took him out.” The death triggered a national debate.
There have been suggestions to constitute a special court to authorize these strikes. Or an executive body.
Obama referred to them in his speech, and pointed to problems. But, he said, “I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these and other options for increased oversight.”
The President also renewed the call to shut down the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison facility, which he tried before but was thwarted by congress.
“GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law,” Obama said, adding prisoners cleared of charges will be sent back to their respective countries. And the rest will be tried here on US soil.