Category Archives: Terrorism

Trump, to Save Presidency, Expand Powers, Sets Himself on Path to be War President

Memorial Day Parade, Long Island, NY. Where are the parades for the peacemakers? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This weekend we properly honor the millions who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation since the Revolutionary War, which established us as a free and independent nation founded upon “We the People” as its governing principle.

But where are the parades for the peacemakers who just as equally keep us free, independent, who are the shield to our values and our way of life? Where are the parades for the diplomats, the professors and teachers, the scientists and researchers, the doctors and nurses and social workers?

Donald Trump, on his first overseas trip, has expressly shown his values, as epitomized in the $110 billion military deal he signed with Saudi Arabia, embracing Saudi Arabia as an ally in the fight against ISIS but ignoring Saudis’ role in 9/11 and in funding the schools that breed anti-Israel and jihadist ideology and terrorism. And it is clear in how in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, he fomented hostility against Iran even as the Iranians overwhelmingly reelected President Rouhani, a moderate who has shifted even further away from the hard-liners in pursuing better alliances with the West.

Trump doesn’t care because he needs an enemy to march against, to battle against. That is his unifying principle, he thinks, to gain position for Israel among the Sunni-majority nations, and resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict – not with diplomacy but with militancy.

(How fitting that Trump was welcomed to Saudi Arabia with a traditional dance of the Najd region, that is typically performed to celebrate victory in war. Trump was in the middle of the melee, along with his top aides Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon and photographers and videographers captured him swaying to the drumbeat-fueled chanting.)

Trump’s budget just released by henchman, OMB Director Mike Mulvaney, shows his priorities and his values: 10% increase ($54 billion) to the military (to $603 billion), slashing an equal amount from domestic programs (to $462 billion) – accomplished by slashing health care spending and defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Food Stamps and Meals on Wheels and Public Broadcasting, student loans, Social Security disability program, environmental programs altogether, and significantly rebalancing the budget already bloated in favor of the defense industry. (The United States already spend more on Defense than the next 7 countries combined, a list that includes Russia and China.)

It is not just the domestic programs that go toward everyday Americans that are cut, it is also dramatically slashing diplomacy in favor of war.

Trump’s budget calls for nearly 30% cut in allocations for the State Department (from $38.8 billion to $27.7 billion), which was already so pressed for funding, it had trouble paying for the level of security that might have prevented the Benghazi tragedy. And, oh yes, dramatically cutting foreign aid, including cruelly expanding the Global Gag Rule from denying aid not just to family planning services that don’t explicitly censure abortion, but ALL global health assistance programs including HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria and global health security.

Trump (and the Republicans because this is really Paul Ryan’s budget) would cut programs for health, climate change and environment that counter famine, drought and flooding, foreign aid and diplomacy. This would do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to violent conflict, but rather add gasoline to the fire of seething discontent, both abroad and at home.

And that’s because Trump craves to be a War President. He sees that War Presidents can enact martial law, erase personal liberties, suspend habeus corpus, promote torture as an instrument of national security, suspend a free press. He can be the unquestioned, unchallenged, adored autocrat.

Why didn’t he condemn Turkey President Erdogan’s goons for beating up American protesters in Washington DC? Because he is smacking to do the same thing, to have an excuse to crack down on free speech, free press, free assembly.

For Trump, military power is the path to unfettered domestic control. After all, the hot-war in Iraq (as opposed to the less flashy missions to route out the Taliban who were shielding Osama bin Ladin in Afghanistan) worked so well for Bush/Cheney to get their tax cuts. Indeed, Trump is close to reigniting that war, by sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

Trump has installed generals in traditionally civilian roles in charge of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, while installing the most inept, inexperienced, corrupt to head agencies most directly involved in domestic programs (housing, environment, interior, health and human services, education, commerce).

Recently, when he was in a well-publicized video chat with NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station, in response to a statement of the importance of international cooperation to achieve such milestones as a Mars mission, Trump, without missing a beat, remarked on the “military applications of space.” Who does that?

He showed his predilection when, on Day 1, he told the CIA “we may have a second chance at getting at Iraq’s oil” because, you know, he learned  when he was a boy that “to the victor belongs the spoils.” He also complained that the US doesn’t win wars anymore.

His intense interest in spending on costly military hardware is telling because, barring Trump instigating a new hot war, the next war will be fought in cyberspace, and the battlefield will be the electric grid, the financial networks and the utility plant. Our main enemy now consists of some tens of thousands of militant terrorists, including lone wolves recruited over the internet and under the spell of radical ideology, who could pop up anywhere with a home-made bomb in a backpack, a machete, or a truck to ram into a crowd of pedestrians, but won’t be defeated by sending in bombers or brigades.

Nonetheless, Trump wants to explode the domestic budget – cutting billions from programs which benefit everyday Americans – to pay for military hardware.

Why? Because for Trump, the $ is Almighty. Spending money on clean energy and sustainability is an investment toward a better future; spending money on bombs has to be constantly replenished. I wonder how much that spending will come back to him as profit – he already profited on the stocks he owned when he spent $80 million on the 59 Tomahawk missiles exploded in the staged attack on a Syrian air base which actually did not harm the base or the planes. It will definitely profit him, though, as a payoff to his donors.

In theater when you show a gun in the first act, it will absolutely be used by the third act. But let’s examine why: this gives Trump the big shiny, flashy, muscular objects that feed his narcissism. But also, it expands his virtually unlimited power as Commander-in-Chief (a function he has already proved completely inept at), while domestic programs are much more controlled by Congress. But by expanding the military in the way he intends, he continues to show that his “vision” is based on the world of the 1950s and 1960s. Hence his renewed interest in expanding, not reducing nuclear weapons.

Trump is upping US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Where is the outrage over the service members and civilians and allies (like the Russian soldiers) who have been lost in flawed, failed missions orchestrated by the most inept Commander-in-Chief this country has ever had, who casually gives a “go” for a raid over dinner, without consultation or consideration of the ramifications? Imagine if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were in office, there would be mobs with pitchforks flooding the streets, demanding resignation or impeachment.

The real worry is that he will use North Korea as his means to become a War President, just as Bush/Cheney used fictional WMD, conflated with 9/11, to invade Iraq. Unfortunately for Trump, South Korea has just elected a “sunshine” president who favors engagement with North Korea, which may result in Kim Jong-un tamping down his own saber-rattling.

But Trump’s saber-rattling against Iran will only bolster North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons because they see what happens when an autocrat gives them up or doesn’t have them: Libya. Ukraine. Iraq. Iran. If he were truly interested in diplomacy, he would realize that.

He’s not interested in diplomacy or human rights or for that matter, American values.

Asked about his failure to extract human rights reforms as a condition for the $110 billion sale of armaments ($350 billion over 10 years), Trump said, “We have to defeat these forces of evil [Islamic radical terrorism]. Only then can you create the conditions to really allow human rights to flourish.”

“The glaring absence of human rights from Trump’s agenda will only embolden further violations in a region where governments flout the rights of their own people in the name of the fight against terror, and violate international humanitarian law in conflicts fueled on large part by US arms transfers,” said Amnesty International.

Trump’s reaction to the Saudi deal? “That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs”

And in remarks with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Trump said , “One of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment because nobody makes it like the United States. And for us that means jobs and it also means frankly great security back here, which we want.”

Trump is the Arms-Dealer-In-Chief.

Trump also is content to brush aside human rights in negotiating new trade deals.

“Mr. Trump has dispensed with what he considers pointless moralizing and preachy naïveté. He has taken foreign policy to its most realpolitik moment in generations, playing down issues of human rights or democracy that animated his predecessors, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His ‘America First’ approach focuses not on how other nations treat their people but on what they can do for the United States,” Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times (April 4, 2017).

Trump’s only value is that The $ is Almighty, greenbacked by military might.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Trump Muslim Travel Ban Will Hurt US Standing in World, National Security, Economy at Home

Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Trump’s Muslim ban barring travelers, students, businesspeople, immigrants, refugees from seven countries makes a mockery of all the Statue of Liberty stands for © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

In one stroke of his pen, Trump overturned and violated foundational American principles and values enshrined in the Constitution that bars favor or disfavor for any religion, that guarantees due process of law and that every person deserves equal justice under law. His ban on travel, immigration and refugee asylum goes against American history and heritage as a nation built by immigrants, many who came as refugees fleeing war and persecution. It ignores the many instances in American history when government violated its own principles, such as its original sins, the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Africans, going on to the Chinese Expulsion, the Japanese internment, the ramifications of turning back boatloads of Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Trump would like to go back to those bad ol’ days.

And he did it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Note: Trump’s statement released on Friday failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism, clearly the imprint of White Nationalist Steve Bannon, Trump’s key advisor.)

Trump, through his dismissive foreign policy tweets concerning NATO, nuclear weapons, climate change, indeed his entire America First policy – reinforced by the new UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in a defiant, “You have our back or we’re taking names” threat; his trade war launched with Mexico which likely will spread to China and others, his stance to pull the US out of global climate action – will turn the US into a pariah among nations, opening the way for China to step up influence in Mexico (a Pacific nation), and Africa, and Russia in the Middle East and Eastern Europe (after all, who will stop Putin’s push to establish a new Soviet Empire?).

The immoral, unconstitutional, anti-American, and ultimately self-destructive impacts of Trump’s Muslim Ban will not make the United States safer, but rather feeds into radical Jihadists’ war cry against the Crusader West, not to mention the misery, anxiety it has imposed on thousands of immigrants and refugees who have already suffered the terror of war and the trauma of leaving homelands, sending them back into dangerous and desperate circumstance.

The callous disregard for the toll on humans because of the horrendous way the order was rolled out – making the first two weeks of the Obamacare roll out look like the 1969 moon landing – gives proof to the lie of Trump as a “businessman” rather than King of Debt who drove his businesses into the ground, while screwing the workers and contractors, and raises real terror than he will in fact run the country as he ran his businesses.

There has been superb reporting on the individuals caught in Trump’s limbo. But I want to focus on the economic and social impacts of undermining travel and tourism, reviving anti-Americanism abroad and undermining the appeal of the United States as a destination.

Trump, with an America First philosophy, says he wants to expand economy and jobs, lower the trade deficit, but his policies already are guaranteed to damage one of the nation’s most vigorous, reliable engines of economic growth, jobs and social mobility, lifting minorities and women into the middle class, not to mention international goodwill: international travel.

Indeed, tourism is part of trade. Travelers coming into the United States are an “import,” and the dollars spent here go a long way to reducing the trade deficit. How much? According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.

Just as Trump unleashed his ban – catching up people who were already in transit, many after years of vetting, and even green card holders and legal residents who happened to be traveling outside US – I was at the Javits Center for the New York Times Travel Show, a stunning gathering of travel suppliers and representatives from around the world and people who sell travel and value travel.

I stopped at a booth of an operator who organizes trips to Iran (earlier, Iran was cited as one of the “hot” new destinations for Americans, along with Cuba). In response to Trump’s ban on all arrivals from Iran, Iran retaliated with a ban on Americans coming in (Iraq is now talking about expelling Americans, where we have some 5,000 troops, already primed to hate Americans after Trump told the CIA he would like a “second chance at getting Iraq’s Oil” after all, “to the victor belong the spoils.”).

Cuba is another destination that Americans have been flocking to since Obama normalized relations and eased travel restrictions – a way to succeed where 50 years of isolation have failed, to introduce a taste for democracy to Cubans living under a Communist dictatorship. Now that is up in the air.

“If [Trump] makes it look like Mexico is the enemy, people will stop traveling to the enemy,” Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group said on a “State of the Travel Industry” panel. “That would hurt us badly, but it would also hurt the United States. Most importantly, it would hurt the humanity and the morals and the principles of the United States.”

Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, a travel agency company, noted that on a trip to Mexico recently, he found Mexicans who normally take ski vacations in Aspen and Vail are going to Vancouver, Canada, instead.

The 20% tariff that Trump proposes against Mexico (which would be paid for by American consumers, not Mexico), the second largest trading partner with the US which supports 6 million US jobs,  will likely be retaliated with a tariff on American goods, making them more expensive and unaffordable for Mexicans, whose economy will likely be devastated (already the currency is taking a hit), and further destabilizing the country.

Trump’s domestic and foreign policies have a singular theme: disruption and destabilization. And he doesn’t care who is killed or how many suffer. A bully takes pleasure out of terrorizing vulnerable people.

In just his first few days occupying the Oval Office, Trump has managed to overturn the goodwill, and foment anti-Americanism. A travel insurance company actually came out with an alert to travelers to be more aware. The headline: “What to Be Aware of When Traveling in the Apocalypse; APRIL Outlines Simple Precautions for Traveling in a Post-Trump World”

“It’s not our role to influence or pass judgment on the political process in America, but regardless of personal opinions on Trump’s presidency, travel counselors recall the anti-American sentiments prevalent during the George W. Bush administration. They are therefore cognizant of shifting perceptions of Americans internationally,” explained Jason Schreier, CEO of APRIL USA.

“Vacationing is a staple of American society and one of the primary ways Americans enrich themselves culturally. World events should not deter one from traveling, but vacationers need to be aware of their vulnerabilities and protect themselves accordingly.” Sad.

The value of international tourism goes beyond economic growth, jobs and tax receipts, though these are vitally important – but in essence literally brings peoples together. American travelers are unofficial ambassadors of American values and ideas, fostering good will. In the same vein, Americans who meet people face to face, where they are no longer “others” to be feared, but rather seen as human beings more similar than different. Travelers are the first line of diplomacy, the first line or promoting peace and cooperation.

President Obama understood this, which is why he encouraged young people to study, work and travel abroad and created mechanisms to help them find opportunities to do that; why he encouraged foreign students to attend our schools, to foster people-to-people exchanges, and why he eased restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Trump’s ill-conceived and executed travel & immigration ban is heinous (the chaoic, dysfunctional way it was rolled out – without even consulting his new Defense and Homeland Security Secretaries, without instruction to Customs and Border Patrol agents, making the roll out of Obamacare look like the 1969 Moon Landing), a violation of law (due process, religious freedom) and American values and morals. And though Trump justifies it as keeping Americans safe, it is not designed to do that – none of the 7 countries that are banned have ever been connected to terrorism on US soil, while the countries that have (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan) were not part of this ban. Not to mention that his wall along the Mexico border (where hysterical rightwing conspiracy theorists have said that ISIS has infiltrated) would do nothing to block the actual war-weary refugees that welcoming Canada has taken in.

Trump excuses his callous and grotesque policy as “extr-e-e-e-me vetting.” But these refugees already go through batteries of screening – at least 18 federal agencies – in an intensive process that takes years. And through all of this, Trump has not actually said what he would add to the process to make it more secure. The fact is, none of the refugees that have come through the process set out by the Obama Administration have had anything to do with terrorism in the US. What is happening in Europe, with the flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees that flowed through the continent, has nothing to do with what is happening in the US.

Trump’s America First foreign policies (trade, climate action, weakening NATO for example) are intended to isolate the United States, to put up our own Iron Curtain, our own Bamboo Curtain so that an autocrat can keep its people in darkness, ignorance, fear and insecurity and therefore malleable and controllable, which is what dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, and the Iranian Ayotollahs.

“President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers,” writes Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in the Washington Post. “It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.”

As for terror, let’s compare the number of Americans killed on American soil as overt acts of radical jihadist terrorism (as opposed to domestic terrorism, such as anti-abortion, anti-Muslims) including the Boston Marathon, San Bernadino and Orlando: there have been 15 deaths since 9/11, compared to 445,000 killed by gun violence on US soil. Toddlers are more lethal than terrorists, killing one person a week.

As for the number of foreign infiltrators, immigrants or refugees who participated in terror attacks in the US? The Washington Post reporting on a study by nonpartisan think tank New America Foundation, of 400 individuals charged with or credibly involved in jihad-inspired activity in the U.S. since 9/11 2001, 197 were U.S.-born citizens, 82 were naturalized citizens, and 44 were permanent residents; just 11 were on a non-immigrant visa, 8 were illegal immigrants, and 12 had refugee status.

Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among the countries that issued travel advisories against travel to the US over concerns about epidemic gun violence, mass shootings, police violence, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.

Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, was quoted in USA Today (“Overseas Travel Warnings about USA Mount”) saying she had no plans to visit the US anytime soon, “They need to get rid of their guns. It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”

Yet Trump bases an unconstitutional ban on refugees, immigrants, green card and visa holders on a slogan of “protecting the safety of Americans”. But if he cared that much for Americans’ health, welfare, national security and safety, he would be signing executive orders for sensible gun restrictions starting with “No Fly, No Buy,” and smart-guns, instead of proposing a “Guns Everywhere” policy; he would be expanding the public option instead of repealing the Affordable Care Act to save tens of thousands of premature, needless death and suffering, and spending money to create vaccines against Zika and Ebola; and he would be expanding trade instead of putting up barriers and launching trade wars, to uplift people around the world from deprivation and poverty rather than exacerbating destabilizing income inequality.

Trump has demonstrated that he intends to rule as he campaigned, by stoking fear and terror and insecurity. That may well serve another goal: keeping Americans insulated from the world so they are kept in darkness and ignorance and malleable to his policies.

That is not a recipe to “Make America Great Again,” nor keeping Americans safe. That is a recipe for widening violence and terror as well as economic insecurity. There will be a domino effect, through the global economy, just as the US mortgage crisis triggered a global meltdown, starting with retaliatory policies such as trade tariffs and travel bans.

The anti-globalism, anti-trade isolationism implicit in Trump’s populism is quite frightening. The undermining of global institutions which effectively prevented World War III – the United Nations, European Union, NATO, even the international cooperation in outer space – edges us closer to the existential apocalypse given the technological capacity in the control of a single person.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

For Obama, Counterterrorism Means ‘Right Makes Might – That’s How We’ll Protect Our Constitution Against all Threats, Foreign and Domestic’

President Barack Obama: “We have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Barack Obama: “We have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This speech by President Barack Obama at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida spelling out his administration’s approach to counterterrorism may well be one for the history books: a kind of place marker to where we were when Donald Trump came to power and overturned everything. People will be pining for the days when the Commander-in-Chief could give a cogent statement describing mission, success, and reaffirming American values and respect for life. – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Here is a highlighted transcript:

Good afternoon, everybody.  I was just told that was going to be the last “Hail to the Chief” on the road, and it got me kind of sentimental.  I want to first and foremost say thanks to all of you.  Just before I came here, I was able to visit with some of the men and women from MacDill Air Force Base, Central Command, our Special Operations Command to thank them for their extraordinary service.  And so to you and your families, and to the extended family of American servicemembers, let me say that our nation owes you an unbelievable debt of gratitude.  We are grateful for you, and will be praying for you over the holidays.  (Applause.)

As you know all too well, your mission — and the course of history — was changed after the 9/11 attacks.  By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years.  For eight years that I’ve been in office, there has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans.  And on January 20th, I will become the first President of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war.  (Applause.)  Now, we did not choose this fight, but once it came to us, the world saw the measure of our resolve.

The most solemn responsibility for any President is keeping the American people safe.  In carrying out that duty, I have sent men and women into harm’s way.  I’ve visited troops around the globe.  I have met our wounded warriors, and I’ve grieved with Gold Star families.  I know better than most that it is because of your service and your sacrifice that we have been able, during these eight years, to protect our homeland, to strike crippling blows against terrorist networks, and fortify our friends and our allies.  So today, I’d like to reflect on that work, and talk about the foundation that we will leave for the next administration.

I came to this office with a set of core convictions that have guided me as Commander-in-Chief.  I believe that the United States military can achieve any mission; that we are, and must remain, the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  I believe that we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally when necessary, against any imminent threats to our people.  But I have also insisted that it is unwise and unsustainable to ask our military to build nations on the other side of the world, or resolve their internal conflicts, particularly in places where our forces become a magnet for terrorists and insurgencies.  Instead, it has been my conviction that even as we focus relentlessly on dismantling terrorist networks like al Qaeda and ISIL, we should ask allies to do their share in the fight, and we should strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security.

And these convictions guided the policies we pursued both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When I took office, the United States was focused overwhelmingly on Iraq, where nearly 150,000 American troops had spent years fighting an insurgency and helping to build a democratic government.  Meanwhile, al Qaeda had regrouped in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was actively planning attacks against our homeland.  So we brought nearly 150,000 troops home from Iraq, consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the previous administration, and we surged our efforts along with our allies in Afghanistan, which allowed us to focus on dismantling al Qaeda and give the Afghan government the opportunity to succeed.

And this focus on al Qaeda — the most dangerous threat to the United States at the time — paid dividends.  Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda — the organization that hit us on 9/11 — is a shadow of its former self.  (Applause.)  Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted.  Its leadership has been decimated.  Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed.  Osama bin Laden is dead.  (Applause.)  And, importantly, we have built a counterterrorism capability that can sustain this pressure against any terrorist network in South Asia that might threaten the United States of America.  That was because of the work of our outstanding servicemembers.

Moreover, that early decision to strengthen our efforts in Afghanistan allowed us to build the capacity of Afghans to secure and defend their own country.  So today, there are less than 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan.  Instead of being in the lead against the Taliban, Americans are now supporting 320,000 Afghan security forces who are defending their communities and supporting our counterterrorism efforts.

Now, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture.  The situation in Afghanistan is still tough.  War has been a part of life in Afghanistan for over 30 years, and the United States cannot eliminate the Taliban or end violence in that country.  But what we can do is deny al Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future, which is why we have worked not only with their military, but we’ve backed a unity government in Kabul.  We’ve helped Afghan girls go to school.  We’ve supported investments in health care and electricity and education.  You have made a difference in Afghanistan, and America is safer for it.  (Applause.)

Of course, the terrorist threat was never restricted to South Asia, or to Afghanistan, or Pakistan.  Even as al Qaeda has been decimated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the threat from terrorists metastasized in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  And most dangerously, we saw the emergence of ISIL, the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq, which fights as both a terrorist network and an insurgency. 

There’s been a debate about ISIL that’s focused on whether a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq back in 2011 could have stopped the threat of ISIL from growing.  And as a practical matter, this was not an option.  By 2011, Iraqis wanted our military presence to end, and they were unwilling to sign a new Status of Forces Agreement to protect our troops from prosecution if they were trying to defend themselves in Iraq.  

In addition, maintaining American troops in Iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to ISIL’s rise — a government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits, and a hollowing out of Iraq’s security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014.  In fact, American troops, had they stayed there, would have lacked legal protections and faced a choice between remaining on bases or being drawn back into a sectarian conflict against the will of Iraq’s elected government or Iraq’s local populations.

But circumstances changed.  When ISIL made substantial gains first in Mosul and then in other parts of the country, then suddenly Iraqis reached out once again for help.  And in shaping our response, we refused to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that have helped to give rise to the organization that became ISIL in the first place.

We conditioned our help on the emergence of a new Iraqi government and prime minister that was committed to national unity, and committed to working with us.  We built an international coalition of nearly 70 nations, including some of Iraq’s neighbors.  We surged our intelligence resources so that we could better understand the enemy.  And then we took the fight to ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, not with American battalions but with local forces backed by our equipment and our advisors and, importantly, our Special Forces.  In that campaign, we have now hit ISIL with over 16,000 airstrikes.  We have equipped and trained tens of thousands of partners on the ground.

And today, the results are clear:  ISIL has lost more than half its territory.  ISIL has lost control of major population centers.  Its morale is plummeting.  Its recruitment is drying up.  Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it.  (Applause.)

As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqi troops and coalition support.  That’s the largest remaining city that it controls.  Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Raqqa is being squeezed.  We have attacked ISIL’s financial lifeline, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and cash reserves.  The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL.  We’re taking away its safe havens.  (Applause.)  And we’ve accomplished all this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War.  (Applause.)

So the campaign against ISIL has been relentless.  It has been sustainable.  It has been multilateral.  And it demonstrates a shift in how we’ve taken the fight to terrorists everywhere from South Asia to the Sahel.  Instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we’ve built a network of partners. 

In Libya, where U.S. airpower has helped local militias dislodge a dangerous ISIL cell.  In Mali, where U.S. logistics and intelligence support helped our French allies roll back al Qaeda branches there.  In Somalia, where U.S. operations support an African Union-led force and international peacekeepers.  And in Yemen, where years of targeted strikes have degraded al Qaeda in the Peninsula.

And these offensive efforts have buttressed a global effort to make it harder for terrorist networks to breach our defenses and spread their violent ideologies.  Working with European allies who have suffered terrible attacks, we’ve strengthened intelligence-sharing and cut in half the flow of foreign fighters to ISIL.  We’ve worked with our tech sector to supports efforts to push back on terrorist messages on social media that motivate people to kill.  A recent study shows that ISIL’s propaganda has been cut in half.  We’ve launched a Global Engagement Center to empower voices that are countering ISIL’s perversion of Islam, and we’re working closely with Muslim-majority partners from the Gulf to Southeast Asia.

This is your work.  We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years.  That’s the bottom line.

No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland.  (Applause.)  And it’s not because they didn’t try.  Plots have been disrupted.  Terrorists have been taken off the battlefield.  And we’ve done this even as we drew down nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today there are just 15,000.

New partnerships have been built.  We’ve respected the rule of law.  We’ve enlisted our values in this fight.  And all of this progress is due to the service of millions of Americans like you — in intelligence and in law enforcement, in homeland security, in diplomacy, in the armed services of the United States of America.  It’s thanks to you — (applause) — thanks to you.  

Now, to say that we’ve made progress is not to say that the job is done.  We know that a deadly threat persists.  We know that in some form this violent extremism will be with us for years to come.  In too many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, there has been a breakdown of order that’s been building for decades, and it’s unleashed forces that are going to take a generation to resolve.  Long-term corruption has rotted too many nation-states from within.  Governance is collapsing.  Sectarian conflicts rage.  A changing climate is increasing competition for food and water.  (Applause.)  And false prophets are peddling a vision of Islam that is irreconcilable with tolerance and modernity and basic science.  And in fact, every one of these trends is at play inside of Syria today.

And what complicates the challenge even more is the fact that for all of our necessary focus on fighting terrorists overseas, the most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment, directed from abroad.  They’ve been carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online.

These deranged killers can’t inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11, but the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston, in San Bernardino, in Fort Hood and Orlando, that pain continues to this day.  And in some cases, it has stirred fear in our populations and threatens to change how we think about ourselves and our lives.

So while we’ve made it much more difficult — you have made it much more difficult — to carry out an attack approaching the scale of 9/11, the threat will endure.  We will not achieve the kind of clearly defined victory comparable to those that we won in previous wars against nations.  We won’t have a scene of the Emperor of Japan and Douglas MacArthur in a surrender.  And the reason we won’t have that is because technology makes it impossible to completely shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies.  And somebody who is trying to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous, particularly when we live in a country where it’s very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon. 

So rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs, or deploying more and more troops, or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.

In the time remaining, let me suggest what I think should guide this approach.  First of all, a sustainable counterterrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective.  The terrorist threat is real and it is dangerous.  But these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order.  They are not.  They are thugs and they are murderers, and they should be treated that way.  (Applause.)   Fascism threatened to overrun the entire world — and we had to wage total war in response.  Communism threatened not only to overturn a world order, but threatened nuclear holocaust — so we had to build armaments and alliances to contain it.  Today’s terrorists can kill innocent people, but they don’t pose an existential threat to our nation, and we must not make the mistake of elevating them as if they do.  That does their job for them.  It makes them more important and helps them with recruitment.

A second and related point is that we cannot follow the path of previous great powers who sometimes defeated themselves through over-reach.  By protecting our homeland while drawing down the number of troops serving in harm’s way overseas, we helped save resources, but more importantly, we saved lives.  I can tell you, during the course of my eight years, that I have never shied away from sending men and women into danger where necessary.  It’s always the hardest decision I make, but it’s one that I’ve made where the security of the American people is at stake.  And I’ve seen the costs.  I’ve held the hands of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed.  I’ve met the caskets of the fallen at Dover.  And that’s why I make no apologies for only sending our troops into harm’s way when there is a clear mission that is achievable and when it is absolutely necessary.

Number three, we need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness; in the long term, it is our greatest strength.  (Applause.)  The whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing the nature of who we are and our democracy.  And the fact is, people and nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear.  These terrorists can never directly destroy our way of life, but we can do it for them if we lose track of who we are and the values that this nation was founded upon.  (Applause.)

And I always remind myself that as Commander-in-Chief, I must protect our people, but I also swore an oath to defend our Constitution.  And over these last eight years, we have demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values.

We prohibited torture, everywhere, at all times — and that includes tactics like waterboarding.  And at no time has anybody who has worked with me told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence.  (Applause.)  When we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law.  Our Article III courts have delivered justice faster than military trials.  And our prisons have proven more than capable of holding the most dangerous terrorists.

Consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully interrogated, and prosecuted in civilian courts.  Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square.  Dzohkar Tsarneyev, the Boston Marathon bomber.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber.”  American juries and judges have determined that none of these people will know freedom again.  But we did it lawfully.  And the wheels of justice right now are turning for others — terrorists like Ahmed Warsame, an al-Shabaab commander, and Abu Khatalla, accused leader of the Benghazi attacks.  We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are.

And, in fact, our success in dealing with terrorists through our justice system reinforces why it is past time to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  This is not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many military leaders.  During my administration, we have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees to foreign governments, with safeguards to reduce the risk of them returning to the battlefield.  And we’ve cut the population in Gitmo from 242 to 59.  The politics of fear has led Congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the United States — even though, as we speak, we imprison dangerous terrorists in our prisons, and we have even more dangerous criminals in all of our prisons across the country; even though our allies oftentimes will not turn over a terrorist if they think that terrorist could end up in Gitmo; even though groups like ISIL use Gitmo in their propaganda.  So we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to keep fewer than 60 people in a detention facility in Cuba.  That’s not strength.  Until Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor.  (Applause.)

Number four, we have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists.  For example, in a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it’s often impossible to capture them, or to count on local governments to do so.  And that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike.  So we have taken action under my command, including with drones, to remove terrorists from the battlefield, which protects our troops and has prevented real threats to the American people.  (Applause.)

Now, under rules that I put in place and that I made public, before any strike is taken outside of a warzone, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.  And while nothing is certain in any strike, and we have acknowledged that there are tragic instances where innocents have been killed by our strikes, this is the highest standard that we can set.  Nevertheless, we still have critics who suggest that these strikes are wrong.  And I say to them, you have to weigh the alternatives.  Drone strikes allow us to deny terrorists a safe haven without airstrikes, which are less precise, or invasions that are much more likely to kill innocent civilians as well as American servicemembers.

So the actions that we’ve taken have saved lives at home and abroad.  But the point is, is that we do have to be careful to make sure that when we take actions, we’re not alienating local populations, because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists.   

Number five, transparency and accountability serve our national security not just in times of peace, but, more importantly, in times of conflict.  And that’s why we’ve made public information about which terrorist organizations we’re fighting and why we’re fighting them.  We’ve released assessments of non-combatants killed in our operations, taken responsibility when mistakes are made.  We’ve declassified information about interrogation methods that were wrong so we learn from past mistakes.  And yesterday, I directed our government for the first time to release a full description of the legal and policy frameworks that guide our military operations around the world. 

This public information allows for a more informed public debate, and it provides a potential check on unfettered executive power.  The power of the presidency is awesome, but it is supposed to be bound by you, our citizens.  (Applause.)  But here’s the thing:  That information doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t work if the people’s representatives in Congress don’t do their jobs, if they’re not paying attention.  (Applause.)

Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago — 15 years ago.  I had no gray hair 15 years ago.  (Laughter.)  Two years ago, I asked Congress, let’s update the authorization, provide us a new authorization for the war against ISIL, reflecting the changing nature of the threats, reflecting the lessons that we’ve learned from the last decade.  So far, Congress has refused to take a vote. 

Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war.  (Applause.)  That’s not good for our military, it’s not good for our democracy.  And, by the way, part of the reason that’s dangerous is because today, with our outstanding, all-volunteer force, only one percent of the population is actually fighting.  (Applause.)  Which means that you are carrying the burden.  Which means that it is important for us to know what it is that we’re doing and have to explain what we are doing to the public, because it becomes too easy to just send one percent of the population out to do things even if they’re not well thought through.

If a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of Congress should at least have the courage to make clear where they stand -– not on the sidelines — (applause) — not on cable TV shows, but by fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force against the threats that we face today.  That’s how democracies are supposed to work.

Number six, alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy.  Terrorists would love to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international coalitions, and ends conflicts, and stops the spread of deadly weapons.  It would make life easier for them; it would be a tragic mistake for us. 

Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot.  We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program.  That’s not just my assessment, that’s the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal.  We’ve secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they fall into the hands of terrorists.  We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program.  All of these steps have helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe.  Those are the result of diplomacy.  And sustained diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling the in Middle East, from Yemen, to Syria, to Israel and Palestine.  And if we don’t have strong efforts there, the more you will be called upon to clean up after the failure of diplomacy.

Similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies.  Our generals, our commanders understand this.  This is not charity.  It’s fundamental to our national security.  A dollar spent on development is worth a lot more than a dollar spent fighting a war.  (Applause.)

This is how we prevent conflicts from starting in the first place.  This is how we can ensure that peace is lasting — after we’ve fought.  It’s how we stop people from falling prey to extremism — because children are going to school and they can think for themselves, and families can feed themselves and aren’t desperate, and communities are not ravaged by diseases, and countries are not devastated by climate changes.

As Americans, we have to see the value of empowering civil societies so that there are outlets for people’s frustrations, and we have to support entrepreneurs who want to build businesses instead of destroying.  We have to invest in young people because the areas that are generating terrorists are typically having a huge youth bulge, which makes them more dangerous.  And there are times where we need to help refugees who have escaped the horrors of war in search of a better life.   (Applause.)  Our military recognizes that these issues of governance and human dignity and development are vital to our security.  It’s central to our plans in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  Let’s make sure that this wisdom is reflected in our budgets, as well.

And finally, in this fight, we have to uphold the civil liberties that define us.  Terrorists want us to turn on one another.  And while defeating them requires us to draw upon the enormous capabilities of all of our government, we have make sure changes in how we address terrorists are not abused.  This is why, for example, we’ve made extensive reforms in how we gather intelligence around the world, increasing oversight, placing new restrictions on the government’s ability to retain and search and use certain communications so that people trust us, and that way they cooperate and work with us.

We don’t use our power to indiscriminately read emails or listen to phone calls just targeted at folks who might be trying to do us harm.  We use it to save lives.  And by doing so, by maintaining these civil liberties, we sustain the confidence of the American people and we get the cooperation of our allies more readily.  Protecting liberty — that’s something we do for all Americans, and not just some.  (Applause.)

We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam.  But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military.  (Applause.)

If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative.  It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill.  If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we’re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we’ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend.

So let my final words to you as your Commander-in-Chief be a reminder of what it is that you’re fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for.  The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom.  We’re a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose.  The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special ID card, or prove that they’re not an enemy from within.  We’re a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule, here in our own country and around the world.

We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it.  The universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority, to live in a society that’s open and free, that can criticize a President without retribution — (applause) — a country where you’re judged by the content of your character rather than what you look like, or how you worship, or what your last name is, or where your family came from — that’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.

We are a nation that stands for the rule of law, and strengthen the laws of war.  When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial.  Some couldn’t understand that; it had never happened before.  But as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg says, “I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior.”  And by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world.  We held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others.

We are a nation that won World Wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated.  We helped them rebuild.  We didn’t hold on to territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead.  Our Greatest Generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace, and extend prosperity, and promote cooperation among nations.  And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our own freedom.

In other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope, and not fear.  A country that went through the crucible of a Civil War to offer a new birth of freedom; that stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the hills of Iwo Jima; that saw ordinary people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights.  That’s who we are.  That’s what makes us stronger than any act of terror. 

Remember that history.  Remember what that flag stands for.  For we depend upon you — the heirs to that legacy — our men and women in uniform, and the citizens who support you, to carry forward what is best in us — that commitment to a common creed.  The confidence that right makes might, not the other way around.  (Applause.)

That’s how we can sustain this long struggle.  That’s how we’ll protect this country.  That’s how we’ll protect our Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic.

I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others.  It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Commander-in-Chief.  I thank you for all that you’ve done, and all that you will do in the future.  May God bless you.  May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Dueling Campaigns: Candidates Describe Their Plan to Defeat ISIS, Keep Americans Safe

 Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton clash in the second presidential debate © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton clash in the second presidential debate © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In the second debate, Donald Trump answered the first question, ‘Are you both modeling positive and appropriate behaviors for today’s youth?’ by attacking Hillary Clinton and saying, “I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We are going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.” 

Here is what the presidential candidates offer as their plan to defeat ISIS, as provided by their respective campaigns:

Hillary Clinton Has A Plan To Defeat ISIS, Keep Americans Safe

“The threat we face from terrorism is real, urgent, and knows no boundaries. Hillary Clinton knows that ISIS cannot be contained, it must be defeated.  Doing so takes more than empty talk and a handful of slogans. It takes a real plan, real experience, and real leadership. Donald Trump lacks all three. He won’t even say what his plan to defeat ISIS is,” the Hillary for America campaign stated.

Hillary Clinton has laid out a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS and keep Americans safe at home.  She understands that it’s not enough just to take out specific groups or leaders – we must have a comprehensive strategy to win the long game against the global terrorist network and its ideology.

  • First, we need to protect our homeland, including by surging our intelligence to ensure law enforcement has the information they need to detect and disrupt plots, working with Silicon Valley to shut down terrorist propaganda and disrupt their recruitment efforts online, and keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  Hillary has also proposed establishing a “lone wolf” task force to identify and stop radicalized individuals who may or may not have contact and direction from any formal organization.
  • Second, we need to lash up with our allies to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists.  This means targeted efforts to root out ISIS hubs and affiliates and preventing terrorist organizations from establishing hubs elsewhere, choking off the networks that facilitate their growth and expansion.
  • Third, we have to take the terrorists plotting against us off the battlefield. Hillary was in the Situation Room as we set out a strategy to eliminate dozens of seniors leaders of al-Qaeda. Now, we have to do the same thing to ISIS, starting with the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And we need to take out ISIS’s strongholds in the Middle East by intensifying the coalition air campaign, supporting our partners on the ground, and pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive.

As we do all of this, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values or allowing us to be driven by fear to embrace policies that would actually make us less safe.  Hillary knows that all communities need to be engaged in the fight against ISIS.  As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.  American Muslims are on the front lines of efforts to combat radicalization, and we need to increase trust and cooperation with law enforcement.  Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. Hillary knows we should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them. And as we engage in this fight, we will be stronger with our allies and partners standing with us, particularly in the Muslim world, as we cannot win this fight alone.

Donald Trump’s Plan to Defeat ISIS and Make America Safe Again

Mr. Trump’s Plan To Defeat ISIS Will:

  • Work with our Arab allies and friends in the Middle East so they can lead the fight against the Islamic State
  • Aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, coordinate international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expand intelligence sharing, and engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting
  • Defeat the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism, just as we did in order to win the Cold War.

New screening procedures and enforcement of our immigration laws will:

  • Temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.
  • Establish a Commission on Radical Islam to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.

Mr. Trump’s Plan To Make America Respected And Safe Again

Peace through strength will be at the center of our foreign policy. We will achieve a stable, peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground.

We will focus on advancing America’s core national interests, promote regional stability, and produce an easing of tensions in the world. We will work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.

The Trump plan will rebuild our military, enhance and improve intelligence and cyber capabilities

We will end the current strategy of nation-building and regime change.

And we will ensure our security procedures and refugee policy take into account the security of the American people.

Hillary Clinton Campaign: Trump’s ‘Secret’ Plan To Defeat ISIS Is No Plan At All

Donald Trump has consistently claimed that he has a “secret” plan to defeat ISIS. As it turns out, the secret is that Trump has no plan. Instead, foreign policy experts agree, the ideas Trump has mentioned are dangerous and wrongheaded–and his anti-Muslim rhetoric and proposals are recruiting tools for ISIS and other terror groups.

Trump spent more than a year claiming he had a secret, foolproof plan to defeat ISIS.

  • May 2015: “I know a way that would absolutely give us guaranteed victory. I’m going to say it, I guess I’ll be forced to say it at some time, but I hate to say it.”
  • June 2016: “Trump rebuffed Fox News host Greta Van Susteren’s attempts to extract the details of his ‘foolproof’ plan… ‘If I win, I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to tell at some point”

Turns out, there is no plan.

  • Trump: “Immediately after taking office, I will ask my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS.”
  • Politico: “But on Tuesday night, Trump suggested that he is still in need of a plan.”
  • Washington Post: “Now we know what Trump’s ‘foolproof’ and ‘absolute’ plan for defeating ISIS is — to ask the generals to come up with a plan, quickly.

And foreign policy experts agree: Trump is playing into ISIS’ hands.

  • Why Trump Is the Islamic State’s Dream Candidate: “It is deeply ironic and disturbing that the Islamic State’s dream candidate is posturing as the tough-on-terrorism candidate. If voters can’t see through Trump’s con game, terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda will receive an unprecedented helping hand from America’s next president. Imagine what a conspiracy theorist — someone like Donald Trump — would make of that.”
  • Why ISIS is Rooting for Trump: “First, Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric plays into ISIS’ narrative of a bipolar world in which the West is at war with Islam. Second, ISIS hopes that Trump will radicalize Muslims in the United States and Europe and inspire them to commit lone-wolf attacks in their home countries. Third, ISIS supporters believe that Trump would be an unstable and irrational leader whose impulsive decision-making would weaken the United States.”
  • Why ISIS Supports Donald Trump: “Trump’s anti-Muslim proposals are likely to inspire and radicalize more violent jihadists in the U.S. and Europe… By demonizing Muslims, he feeds ISIS’s narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam.”

Obama at 9/11 Observance: ‘We stay true to the spirit of this day by defending not only our country, but also our ideals’

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the 10th anniversary 9/11 Commemoration at the site of the World Trade Center, New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush at the 10th anniversary 9/11 Commemoration at the site of the World Trade Center, New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, President Barack Obama spoke at the Memorial Observance Ceremony held at the Pentagon, in Arlington Virginia. Here is a transcript of his remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Scripture tells us, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you…write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Secretary Carter, Chairman Dunford, outstanding members of our Armed Forces, and most of all, survivors of that September day and the families of those we lost — it is a great honor, once again, to be with you on this day, a day that I know is still difficult, but which reveals the love and faithfulness in your hearts and in the heart of our nation.

We remember, and we will never forget, the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly — including 184 men, women and children here, the youngest just three years old.  We honor the courage of those who put themselves in harm’s way to save people they never knew.  We come together in prayer and in gratitude for the strength that has fortified us across these 15 years.  And we renew the love and the faith that binds us together as one American family.

Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but for the families who lost a piece of their heart that day, I imagine it can seem like just yesterday.  Perhaps it’s the memory of a last kiss given to a spouse, or the last goodbye to a mother or father, a sister or a brother.  We wonder how their lives might have unfolded, how their dreams might have taken shape.  And I am mindful that no words we offer, or deeds we do, can ever truly erase the pain of their absence.

The 10th anniversary commemoration of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The 10th anniversary commemoration of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And yet, you — the survivors and families of 9/11 — your “steadfast love and faithfulness” has been an inspiration to me and to our entire country.  Even as you’ve mourned, you’ve summoned the strength to carry on.  In the names of those you’ve lost, you’ve started scholarships and volunteered in your communities, and done your best to be a good neighbor and a good friend and a good citizen.  And in your grief and grace, you have reminded us that, together, there’s nothing we Americans cannot overcome.

The question before us, as always, is:  How do we preserve the legacy of those we lost?  How do we live up to their example?  And how do we keep their spirit alive in our own hearts?

Well, we have seen the answer in a generation of Americans — our men and women in uniform, diplomats, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals — all who have stepped forward to serve and who have risked and given their lives to help keep us safe.  Thanks to their extraordinary service, we’ve dealt devastating blows to al Qaeda.  We’ve delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  We’ve strengthened our homeland security.  We’ve prevented attacks.  We’ve saved lives.  We resolve to continue doing everything in our power to protect this country that we love.  And today, we once again pay tribute to these patriots, both military and civilian, who serve in our name, including those far away from home in Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Obama at dedication of September 11 Memorial at the site of the World Trade Center towers, New York City, May 2011 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama at dedication of September 11 Memorial at the site of the World Trade Center towers, New York City, May 2011 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Perhaps most of all, we stay true to the spirit of this day by defending not only our country, but also our ideals.  Fifteen years into this fight, the threat has evolved.  With our stronger defenses, terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller, but still deadly, scale.  Hateful ideologies urge people in their own country to commit unspeakable violence.  We’ve mourned the loss of innocents from Boston to San Bernardino to Orlando.

Groups like al Qaeda, like ISIL, know that we will never be able — they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America.  So, instead, they’ve tried to terrorize in the hopes that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other and that we change who we are or how we live.  And that’s why it is so important today that we reaffirm our character as a nation — a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background — bound by a creed as old as our founding, e pluribus unum.  Out of many, we are one.  For we know that our diversity — our patchwork heritage — is not a weakness; it is still, and always will be, one of our greatest strengths.  This is the America that was attacked that September morning.  This is the America that we must remain true to.

President Obama with Diane Wall and her family who lost family in the September 11 attacks, at dedication of September 11 Memorial. New York City, May 2011 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama with Diane Wall and her family who lost family in the September 11 attacks, at dedication of September 11 Memorial. New York City, May 2011 © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Across our country today, Americans are coming together in service and remembrance.  We run our fingers over the names in memorial benches here at the Pentagon.  We walk the hallowed grounds of a Pennsylvania field.  We look up at a gleaming tower that pierces the New York City skyline.  But in the end, the most enduring memorial to those we lost is ensuring the America that we continue to be — that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what’s best in us, that we do not let others divide us.

As I mark this solemn day with you for the last time as President, I think of Americans whose stories I’ve been humbled to know these past eight years — Americans who, I believe, embody the true spirit of 9/11.

It’s the courage of Welles Crowther, just 24 years old, in the South tower — the man in the red bandana who spent his final moments helping strangers to safety before the towers fell.  It’s the resilience of the firehouse on Eighth Avenue — patriots who lost more than a dozen men, but who still suit up every day as the “Pride of Midtown.”  It’s the love of a daughter — Payton Wall of New Jersey — whose father, in his last moments on the phone from the towers, told her, “I will always be watching over you.”

It’s the resolve of those Navy SEALS who made sure justice was finally done, who served as we must live as a nation — getting each other’s backs, looking out for each other, united, one mission, one team.  It’s the ultimate sacrifice of men and women who rest for eternity not far from here, in gentle green hills in perfect formation — Americans who gave their lives in faraway places so that we can be here today, strong and free and proud.  It’s all of us — every American who gets up each day, and lives our lives, carries on.  Because as Americans, we do not give in to fear.  We will preserve our freedoms and the way of life that makes us a beacon to the world.

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you…write them on the tablet of your heart.”  And how we conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation, we have the opportunity each and every day to live up to the sacrifice of those heroes that we lost.  May God bless the memory of the loved ones here and across the country.  They remain in our hearts today.  May He watch over these faithful families and all who protect us.  And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Starkest Contrast Between Clinton, Trump Comes in Plans to Defeat ISIS, Radical Jihadism

Hillary Clinton, at the Commander-in-Chief Forum aboard the USS Intrepid, managed to get out the broad outlines of her detailed, nuanced plan to defeat ISIS and Radical Jihadism, despite being cut off by moderator Matt Lauer © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, at the Commander-in-Chief Forum aboard the USS Intrepid, managed to get out the broad outlines of her detailed, nuanced plan to defeat ISIS and Radical Jihadism, despite being cut off by moderator Matt Lauer © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The stark contrast between the two major candidates for President could not be sharper as in their proposals to defeat ISIS and the scourge of terrorism. And it is probably the singular issue – shorthand – which stands in for the rest: a detailed, nuanced policy borne of first-hand experience and due diligence, and an off-the-cuff hyperbolic non sequitur. In essence, a plan versus no plan at all.

The outlines were presented during the Commander in Chief Forum where – despite moderator Matt Lauer’s best effort to cut off Clinton from her response, she stated:

“We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. They’ve taken back Ramadi, Fallujah. They’ve got to hold them. They’ve got to now get into Mosul.

“We’re going to work to make sure that they have the support — they have special forces, as you know, they have enablers, they have surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance help.

“They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria. We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops. So those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis.

“And, remember, when I became secretary of state, we had 200,000 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I’m very grateful that we have brought home the vast majority of those. We have a residual force, as you know, in Afghanistan. We have built up several thousands of the folks that I’ve talked about who are assisting in the fight against ISIS.

“But it is in our national security interest to defeat ISIS. And I intend to make that happen.

“And as part of it, we’re going after Baghdadi, the leader, because it will help us focus our attention, just like going after bin Laden helped us focus our attention in the fight against Al Qaida in the Afghanistan- Pakistan theater.”

Then, Clinton was asked, with just about a minute left of her time, how she would deal with “terror attacks on our soil,” either directed by ISIS or inspired by ISIS, and “Would your message as the next president of the United States or potential next president be to Americans that we simply are living in the reality that those attacks will happen? And can you guarantee people that after four years of a Clinton presidency, they will be safer on the streets of San Bernardino or Boston than they are today?”

Clinton responds, “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that that’s the result. I’m not going to, you know, promise something that I think most thinking Americans know is going to be a huge challenge, and here’s why. We’ve got to have an intelligence surge. We’ve got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe, out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analyzing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement.

“We also have to do a better job combating ISIS online, where they recruit, where they radicalize. And I don’t think we’re doing as much as we can. We need to work with Silicon Valley. We need to work with our experts in our government. We have got to disrupt, we have got to take them on in the arena of ideas that, unfortunately, pollute and capture the minds of vulnerable people. So we need to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground, and online, in cyberspace.

“And here at home, for goodness’s sakes, we have to finally pass a law prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in the United States of America. So we’ve got work to do. I know we can do that work. I’m meeting with a group of terror experts, counterterrorism experts.

“But I want to just say one additional thing… Matt Olsen, the former director of the National Center on Counterterrorism, has a great article out today saying the last thing we need to do is to play into the hands of ISIS. Going after American Muslims, defaming a Gold Star family, the family of Captain Khan, making it more difficult for us to have a coalition with Muslim majority nations that is not going to help us to succeed in defeating ISIS and protecting our American homeland.”

In contrast, Donald Trump denigrated the generals, suggested he would install his own generals and demand a plan within 30 days which may or may not be as good as his secret plan which he will not detail because it is better to be “unpredictable.” He suggested that ISIS would not exist at all if Obama had only seized Iraq’s oil reserves – “To the victor belong the spoils” – which actually would be a war crime and a violation of international and US law. And instead of saying what he would do (beyond convening a new pack of generals to come up with a plan), he only could attack Obama and Clinton. He also suggested that he was “shocked” after his classified briefing, that the briefers indicated that Obama had rejected their advice (something that would never have happened since briefers don’t give policy advice), and that if he were president, Osama bin Ladin would have been killed before the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Here are Trump’s remarks:

“Sure. I mean, part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in, we defeat somebody, and then we don’t know what we’re doing after that. We lose it, like as an example, you look at Iraq, what happened, how badly that was handled. And then when President Obama took over, likewise, it was a disaster. It was actually somewhat stable. I don’t think could ever be very stable to where we should have never gone into in the first place.

“But he came in. He said when we go out — and he took everybody out. And really, ISIS was formed. This was a terrible decision. And frankly, we never even got a shot. And if you really look at the aftermath of Iraq, Iran is going to be taking over Iraq. They’ve been doing it. And it’s not a pretty picture.

“The — and I think you know — because you’ve been watching me I think for a long time — I’ve always said, shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil.”

Lauer asks, “How were we going to take the oil? How were we going to do that?”

Trump replies, “Just we would leave a certain group behind and you would take various sections where they have the oil. They have — people don’t know this about Iraq, but they have among the largest oil reserves in the world, in the entire world.

“And we’re the only ones, we go in, we spend $3 trillion, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is, we get nothing. You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said: Take the oil.

“One of the benefits we would have had if we took the oil is ISIS would not have been able to take oil and use that oil to fuel themselves.”

Donald Trump, Republican candidate for President, on how he would defeat ISIS: “I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is...And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Donald Trump, Republican candidate for President, on how he would defeat ISIS: “I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is…And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Lauer then asks about Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS. “When we’ve met in the past and we’ve talked, you say things like I’m going to bomb the expletive out of them very quickly. And when people like me press you for details like that gentleman just said on what your plan is, you very often say, I’m not going to give you the details because I want to be unpredictable.”

“Absolutely. The word is unpredictable,” Trump interjects.

When Lauer asks whether Trump’s “secret plan” to defeat ISIS he has been “hiding this whole time” is actually “to convene my top generals and they will have 30 days to submit a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS,” Trump replies. “No. But when I do come up with a plan that I like and that perhaps agrees with mine, or maybe doesn’t — I may love what the generals come back with. I will convene…

“I have a plan. But I want to be — I don’t want to — look. I have a very substantial chance of winning. Make America great again. We’re going to make America great again. I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.

“And let me tell you, if I like maybe a combination of my plan and the generals’ plan, or the generals’ plan, if I like their plan, Matt, I’m not going to call you up and say, “Matt, we have a great plan.” This is what Obama does. “We’re going to leave Iraq on a certain day.”

Lauer presses, “But you’re going to convene a panel of generals, and you’ve already said you know more about ISIS than those generals do.”

Trump replies. “Well, they’ll probably be different generals, to be honest with you.”

Hillary for America campaign followed up with a reminder of the detailed plan Hillary Clinton introduced months ago: 

“The threat we face from terrorism is real, urgent, and knows no boundaries. Hillary Clinton knows that ISIS cannot be contained, it must be defeated,” Hillary for America campaign said in a statement. “Doing so takes more than empty talk and a handful of slogans. It takes a real plan, real experience, and real leadership. Donald Trump lacks all three. He won’t even say what his plan to defeat ISIS is.

Hillary Clinton has laid out a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS and keep American safe at home.  She understands that it’s not enough just to take out specific groups or leaders – we must have a comprehensive strategy to win the long game against the global terrorist network and its ideology.

First, we need to take out ISIS’s strongholds in the Middle East by intensifying the coalition air campaign, supporting our partners on the ground, and pursuing diplomacy to end Syria’s civil war and close Iraq’s sectarian divide, because those conflicts are keeping ISIS alive.

Second, we need to lash up with our allies to dismantle the global network that supplies money, arms, propaganda and fighters to the terrorists.  This means targeted efforts to root out ISIS hubs and affiliates and preventing terrorist organizations from establishing hubs elsewhere, choking off the networks that facilitate their growth and expansion.

And third, we need to harden our defenses at home, including by launching an intelligence surge to ensure law enforcement has the information they need to detect and disrupt plots, working with Silicon Valley to shut down terrorist propaganda online, and keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  Hillary has also proposed establishing a “lone wolf” task force to identify and stop radicalized individuals who may or may not have contact and direction from any formal organization.

“As we do all of this, we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values or allowing us to be driven by fear to embrace policies that would actually make us less safe.  Hillary knows that all communities need to be engaged in the fight against ISIS.  As the Director of the FBI told Congress recently, anything that erodes trust with Muslim-Americans makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.  American Muslims are on the front lines of efforts to combat radicalization, and we need to increase trust and cooperation with law enforcement.  Since 9/11, law enforcement agencies have worked hard to build relationships with Muslim-American communities. They are the most likely to recognize the insidious effects of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to help us block it. Hillary knows we should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them. And as we engage in this fight, we will be stronger with our allies and partners standing with us, particularly in the Muslim world, as we cannot win this fight alone.”

They also took note that various pundits have praised Clinton’s plan:

  • New York Times’ David Brooks: “This week we had a chance to watch Hillary Clinton respond in real time to a complex foreign policy challenge. On Thursday, six days after the Paris attacks, she gave a comprehensive antiterrorism speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The speech was very impressive. While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework, not only dealing with ISIS but also putting that threat within the crosscutting conflicts that are inflaming the Middle East.… [Clinton] is thoughtful and instructive on both the big picture and the right way forward.”
  • CNN: “Michael Desch, an expert in international security at Notre Dame University, said that Clinton’s speech was polished and showed her to be ‘head and shoulders’ above Republican candidates on framing an anti-ISIS strategy.”
  • US News & World Report’s Dave Catanese: “A strong performance delivered with the poise of an incumbent president”
  • Politico’s Roger Simon: “Hillary gives one of her best speeches ever on world terror. So presidential, they practically played ‘Hail to the Chief.’”
  • Defense One’s Kevin Baron: “[Clinton’s speech is the] Most comprehensive and detailed Mideast/Isis plans I’ve heard from any US leader so far, of late”
  • Quartz: “…talking about how to actually tackle Islamist extremism is complicated and politically fraught. It’s easier to play to fears about outsiders than to develop a substantive program. At least one US politician has given some thought to an idea about what to do: Presidential contender and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered a speech today (Nov. 19) outlining her plan to battle the nexus of Islamist ideology that ISIL has created in the Middle East’s failed states… It’s a cohesive approach…”
  • New York Times’ David Brooks: “This week we had a chance to watch Hillary Clinton respond in real time to a complex foreign policy challenge. On Thursday, six days after the Paris attacks, she gave a comprehensive antiterrorism speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The speech was very impressive. While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework, not only dealing with ISIS but also putting that threat within the crosscutting conflicts that are inflaming the Middle East.… [Clinton] is thoughtful and instructive on both the big picture and the right way forward.”
  • CNN: “Michael Desch, an expert in international security at Notre Dame University, said that Clinton’s speech was polished and showed her to be ‘head and shoulders’ above Republican candidates on framing an anti-ISIS strategy.”
  • US News & World Report’s Dave Catanese: “A strong performance delivered with the poise of an incumbent president”
  • Politico’s Roger Simon: “Hillary gives one of her best speeches ever on world terror. So presidential, they practically played ‘Hail to the Chief.’”
  • Defense One’s Kevin Baron: “[Clinton’s speech is the] Most comprehensive and detailed Mideast/Isis plans I’ve heard from any US leader so far, of late”
  • Quartz: “…talking about how to actually tackle Islamist extremism is complicated and politically fraught. It’s easier to play to fears about outsiders than to develop a substantive program. At least one US politician has given some thought to an idea about what to do: Presidential contender and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton delivered a speech today (Nov. 19) outlining her plan to battle the nexus of Islamist ideology that ISIL has created in the Middle East’s failed states… It’s a cohesive approach…”

Former CIA Chief, Major General, Govt Official Contrast Clinton Counterterrorism Strategy with Republicans

Hillary Clinton campaigning for president. Clinton has offered a detailed strategy for defeating terrorism while attacking Republican opponents saying,“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”  © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton campaigning for president. Clinton has offered a detailed strategy for defeating terrorism while attacking Republican opponents saying,“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and candidate for president, declared  “Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”

Today, Hillary for America held a press call to contrast the differences in the former Secretary of State’s approach to that of GOP hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in counterterrorism and offer a strong argument that Clinton brings the skills, experience and judgment to be president and commander-in-chief. The call featured former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, Major General Tony Taguba (ret.), and former senior U.S. government official Rand Beers built upon the address Clinton delivered yesterday at Stanford University, in which she detailed her strategy to defeat ISIS and terrorism. The officials addressed more broadly the challenges the nation faces, arguing that Clinton brings the experience and steady leadership that will be vital, in contrast to  the dangerous rhetoric and plans being peddled by the leading Republican presidential candidates.

“We are living at a time in the 21st century when the United States is facing an unprecedented number of threats and challenges in the world – serious flash points that threaten the security of the US – including a growing threat from ISIS-aligned terrorists who have proved a capability to strike at heart of Western Europe and who are a clear and present danger,” stated former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

“In addition, there are failed states such as in Yemen, breeding grounds for extremists. The regime in Iran which in spite of the nuclear agreement, continue to test missiles with “death to Israel’ painted on the side, which violate the ban. Iranians use cyberattacks to go after infrastructure. There is an unpredictable leader in North Korea, renewed challenges from Putin’s Russia, China’s territorial claims in South China Sea. And no question, we need to worry about battlefields of the future: cyberattacks that can be used by nation-states and terrorists to virtually cripple our country.

“To confront these challenges, US must provide strong leadership and must have a commander-in-chief with experience,  judgment, steady hand to keep us safe. The most qualified person to assume the duties and provide the necessary world leadership on Day 1 is Hillary Clinton. Her speech at Stanford [ about countering ISIS and terrorism],  which built on 5 previous speeches, outlined key objectives: intensify the military campaign against ISIS in Syria; go after their people, territory, infrastructure in Iraq. Keys to defeating ISIS include go after their leadership (announced today, ISIS’ #2 commander was killed, which is encouraging because we have to decimate ISIS leadership and remove them from territory, from Mosul to Rakka.

“We need a surge in intelligence and law enforcement to penetrate before there is an attack – beefing up intel is absolutely critical. We need to attack the global financial networks, recruitments networks. Lastly, we need to counter the narrative that brings new individuals to their cause.

“We don’t yet know the scope of network that carried out Brussels attacks, but American network, in close coordination with allies in Europe, NATO and the Mideast will be critical in the long term to defeat ISIS.

“[In this strategy], there is a clear contrast between Sec. Clinton’s approach which is serious, comprehensive and tough, to those proposals that are being proposed Republican candidates.

“The choice for president is the most important decision the American people will make, largely because the next president will be commander in chief and have the ability to decide between war and peace

“What we are hearing from the Republican side are dangerous, irresponsible proposals that will put our national security at risk, further divide us from the very allies we need to win war against ISIS.

“Trump’s plan is to torture people, bomb families, walk away from NATO, build walls around Muslims, keep Muslims out of the country. These are not serious proposals,  they are political slogans, not strategies for dealing with this threat. Reckless and won’t work.

“Ted Cruz’ recommendation that police officers infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods is hard to understand, sounds like violation of 4th amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and further antagonizes those who we need on our side.

Both [Republican] candidates offer  shoot-from-the-hip slogans that demonstrate a stunning lack of knowledge about security and our values.

“Thomas Jefferson believed a president’s first duty was to protect the nation. We need a president who will protect the nation, take the fight to terrorists in smart, effective way. I believe Secretary Clinton understands her first duty as president will be to protect the American people.”

Former Senior U.S. Government Official Rand Beers, who spent 42 years in government in counter insurgency, counter terrorism, counter narcotics, said, “I have deep concern with the remarks from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. I find the statements that Cruz is making about increased surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods is completely wrong headed . He thinks he’s found a solution for catching terrorists? His is a strategy that will create more terrorists.

“We know from the array of information about terrorist individuals who have been captured and brought to trial in this country that in each and every instance, there is some behavior that is noticed by a family member or friend or someone in religious community that is in fact a precursor of mobilization toward violence. What we need to do is create environment where those individuals will come forward, know who to come to. – law enforcement community and community leaders. Putting more enforcement, fomenting more reactions by the rest of America to the Muslim community is counter-productive. Our Muslim Americans are part of our critical line of defense, and need to be part of strategy.

“As a country, we are capable of keeping our people safe and living up to our values at the same time.

“What we are hearing from this election from the Republican opposition is simply appalling – banning Muslims, cordoning them off will simply not result in a successful strategy. Sec. Clinton understands this, has spoken out. Her comments make very clear that all these solutions proposed by other side will make matters worse.

“I have sat with Sec. Clinton in the Situation Room discussing counter-terrorism issues, and seen the steady, knowledgeable hand of a person who has studied these issues. Without a doubt, she is  the best candidate for president of US.”

Major General Tony Taguba (ret.), who led the investigations into torture by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, addressed his horror over the topic of torture once again entering the conversation. “It took this country almost 12 years, before the Senate Select Committee found use of torture is not very effective, and actually is counter productive. It led Senators McCain and Feinstein to co-sponsor landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforced the ban on torture, including waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, that Republican candidates are [now] saying is a tool.

“We cannot go back in time where we clearly violated our own laws, the Constitution, international laws – and broadcast throughout the world, especially to our enemies that a candidate, a future Commander-in-Chief  is more than happy, if not condone, torture and waterboarding in violation of our law and international law. It puts more of our troops, our nation in danger. I believe that Sec. Clinton’s approach of having a steady, measured hand in leadership – not use torture – but the strategy she has indicated is the way to fight terrorism…”

Asked what responsibility President Obama and Secretary Clinton might have for the “perils we see in the world,” Panetta said, ““These threats have developed over these last number of years, terrorism has metastasized. You can’t lay blame on any person. You have to confront the threat. We’ve been dealing with threat from North Korea for 60 years – you can’t lay that at anyone’s feet. Challenge from Russia, China. Look at the threats out there, everybody has to accept some responsibility but more importantly, accept the responsibility for having to deal with that. We need a president, a commander in chief, who can build relationships with other countries to confront these threats. These are not just threats against security of US, all are threats against the world.” The next commander in chief, he said, needs to be somebody who can build alliances to confront this very threat. “The only person is Sec. Clinton.”

Are Obama and Clinton responsible for the rise of terrorism? Panetta said, “Whether Boko Haram, al Shabaab, ISIS, Al Qaeda….. Terrorism has developed in those countries because of the conditions present in those countries – that kind of terrorism is something we need to confront not just on the military battlefield, but the root causes of what creates that kind of attraction to terrorism. One area we haven’t been as effective is how we go after the narrative, the root causes in the world that contribute to development of terrorism. That is something Clinton has said is important to defeat ISIS.”

Asked to comment on candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to combat terrorism, Beers said, “Sen. Sanders has a very distinct focus on the economy and a limited focus and perspective on international issues. Sec. Clinton has given a number of foreign policy speeches, specifically on terrorism, and has responded immediately in that arena to the major attacks that have occurred. Sen. Sanders does not have that background. Is more focused on the economy, and that is clearest indication – Sen. Clinton is the most capable candidate in terms of addressing the full range of issues, but particularly, the national security issues that face this country.”

Asked whether there is any validity to the claim that the rhetoric coming from Cruz and Trump is troubling to world leaders, Panetta said, “Almost everywhere I go, responsible leaders express deep concerns about the kind of rhetoric that they are hearing in campaigns from Trump and Cruz and it deeply concerns them that that kind of rhetoric is divisive and hurts our ability to develop the kinds of alliances we absolutely need in order to confront a dangerous enemy. I know the candidates sometimes think they are just talking to their voters in this country, but that is the worst mistake they can make, because the rhetoric they are using is damaging the US abroad, creating concerns about where this country is going in the future.”

See also:

HILLARY CLINTON: ‘DEFEAT ISIS THROUGH PRINCIPLED AMERICAN LEADERSHIP’

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Hillary Clinton: ‘Defeat ISIS Through Principled American Leadership’

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president, here at a NYC rally, laid out a detailed strategy to defeat ISIS © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president, here at a NYC rally, laid out a detailed strategy to defeat ISIS © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”

That small section from Hillary Clinton’s speech at Stanford University is getting a lot of play, but the former Secretary of State Democratic presidential candidate laid out an incredibly detailed, rational vision for defeating ISIS and terrorism  “through principled American leadership.”

The speech came in the wake of the terror attacks at the Brussels international airport and a metro station, reigniting American fears in a way that attacks in Turkey and in other parts of the world never seem to do.

In her speech, she refers to “radical jihadist terrorists<” rather than the term preferred by the Republican candidates, “Radical Islamists” – as if semantics  like “War on Terror” or “War on Drugs” or “political correctness” are the cause of the problem or the solution.

Instead, she detailed her strategy for defeating ISIS and the indispensable role of steady American leadership, of reinforcing our alliances, and of doing what actually works. Indeed, many point to the isolation, alienation and discrimination of the Muslim community in Brussels, with unemployment at 40%, as a reason why Belgium has sent some 1500 radicalized people to become trained by ISIS (some 400 have returned), while on a per capita basis, the US, with its well assimilated Muslim community, has had only a handful radicalized (indeed, there are more White Supremacists than radical jihadists).

Her speech was a rebuke to those who have responded to the terrorist attacks in Brussels exactly as its perpetrators would hope, trafficking in bigotry and bluster, and capitalizing on voters’ fears.

With an unequivocal rejection of such fear-mongering, she declared Americans “will not turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles.”

Here are highlights from her remarks on March 23, 2016:

“Yesterday’s attack in Brussels was the latest brutal reminder that our fight against ISIS and radical jihadist terrorism is far from finished.  More than 30 innocent people are dead — men and women hurrying to catch a plane or waiting for a train or meeting a loved one.  Hundreds more are wounded, including three Mormon missionaries from Utah, a U.S. Air Force Officer, his wife and four children, and other Americans.

“It’s understandable that Americans here at home are worried.  The threat we face from terrorism is real, it’s urgent, and it knows no boundaries.  Even as Brussels grieves, the memories of Paris and San Bernardino are painfully fresh as well.  On Saturday, a bombing in Istanbul killed four people, including two U.S.-Israeli dual citizens.  Many other places have been targeted by terrorists in the past year alone.  Hotels in West Africa.  Beaches in Tunisia.  A market in Lebanon.  A Russian passenger jet in the Sinai.

“ISIS is attempting a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities.  It beheads civilians. It enslaves, tortures, and rapes women and girls.   

“Walls will not protect us from this threat.  We cannot contain ISIS – we must defeat ISIS.

This will be one of the most important challenges facing the next President who takes office on January 20.  Our new Commander-in-Chief will walk into the Oval Office and find a world of hard choices and complex problems.  That president  will sit down at that desk and start making decisions that will affect the lives and livelihoods of every American and people around the world.  So the stakes could not be higher.

“Today, I want to emphasize three points:  First, we face an adversary that is constantly adapting and operating across multiple theaters, so our response must be just as nimble and far-reaching.  Second, to defeat this transnational threat, we need to reinforce the alliances that have been core pillars of American power for decades.  And third, we need to rely on what actually works, not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn’t make us any safer.

“Let’s begin by being clear about what we are facing: ISIS controls a shrinking but still sizeable territory in Iraq and Syria.  It leads a far-flung network that includes affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa, and cells in Europe, Asia, and even here in North America.  It’s also part of a broader ideological movement that includes other terrorist groups.  We need to do battle on all these fronts.

“Last year, in speeches in New York and Minneapolis, I laid out a three-part plan to defeat ISIS in the Middle East, around the world, and here at home.  Recent events have only reinforced the urgency of this mission.

“First, we do have to take out ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq and Syria.  We should intensify the coalition air campaign against its fighters, leaders, and infrastructure, step up support for local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground, and coalition efforts to protect civilians.  And pursue a diplomatic strategy aimed at achieving political resolutions to Syria’s civil war and Iraq’s sectarian divide.

Second, we must dismantle the global network of terror that supplies money, arms, propaganda, and fighters.   This means targeted efforts to deal with ISIS affiliates from Libya to Afghanistan.  It means going after the key enablers who facilitate illicit financial transactions and help jihadists arrange travel, forge documents, and evade detection.  And it means waging online battles with extremists to discredit their ideology, expose their lies, and counter their appeals to potential recruits in the West and around the world.

[If Republicans really were serious about defeating ISIS versus making President Obama look bad – -perhaps even inviting a terror attack here which they believe will bolster their ability to win back the White House – the Senate would have already confirmed the appointment of Adam Szubin’s as the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, the post in charge of tracking down and stopping the funds going to terrorist organizations.]

Third, we must harden our defenses and build our resilience here at home.  We need to counter each step in the process that can lead to an attack, deterring would-be terrorists and discovering and disrupting plots before they’re carried out.

“Our enemies are constantly adapting, so we have to do the same.  For example, Brussels demonstrated clearly we need to take a harder look at security protocols at airports and other sensitive so called “soft sites,” especially areas outside guarded perimeters.

“To do all this, we need an intelligence surge, and so do our allies.

“We also have to stay ahead of the curve technologically.  That does mean working with the brightest minds here in Silicon Valley to more effectively track and analyze ISIS’s social media posts and map jihadist networks online.  When other candidates talk about building walls around America, I want to ask them: How high does the wall have to be to keep the Internet out?

“And we also have to tackle a thorny challenge that is top-of-mind here in the Bay Area – navigating the security and civil liberties concerns surrounding the encryption of mobile devices and communications.

“Impenetrable encryption provides significant cybersecurity advantages, but may also make it harder for law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals to investigate plots and prevent future attacks.  ISIS knows this too.  At the same time, there are legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors – including terrorists – can exploit.

“There may be no quick or magic fix.  In the Apple case, the FBI may have found a work-around, but there will be future cases with different facts and different challenges.  So the tech community and the government have to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start working together to protect our safety and our privacy.  A National Commission on Encryption, like Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Mike McCaul are proposing, could help.  And our security professionals could use the advice and talents of technology professionals to help us figure out how we do stay ahead of the terrorists.

“Our fight against radical jihadist terrorists will be long, and there is very real risk of future attacks here at home.  But pursuing this comprehensive strategy will put us in the best position to defeat ISIS and keep our families and communities safe.  This is a very personal issue for me, having served as a Senator from New York on 9/11. Having seen the horrors that were produced by a well-planned and executed attack on our country, knowing how important it is that we do stay ahead of those who wish to do us great harm, without panic, without paranoia, but with resolve not to give in to the very behavior the terrorists are hoping to engender.

“We can’t let fear stop us from doing what’s necessary to keep us safe – nor can we let it push us into reckless actions that end up making us less safe.

“For example, it would be a serious mistake to stumble into another costly ground war in the Middle East.  If we’ve learned anything from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that people and nations have to secure their own communities.  We can, I argue, must support them, but we can’t substitute for them.

“It would also be a serious mistake to begin “carpet bombing” populated areas “into oblivion.”  Proposing that doesn’t make you sound tough, it makes you sound like you’re in over your head. Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.

“To do that, we need to strengthen America’s alliances in Europe, Asia, and around the world. And that is the second point I want to emphasize.

“On 9/11, NATO treated an attack against one as an attack against all.  On September 12, headlines across Europe, most notably in Le Monde proclaimed, “We are all Americans.”  There were very few planes in the air that day – but one was a British jet carrying the UK’s top national security leaders to Washington to offer any help they could.

“Now it’s our turn to stand with Europe.  We cherish the same values and face the same adversaries – so we must share the same determination.

“This is especially true at a time when Europe faces multiple overlapping crises, from President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, to the massive influx of refugees, to continuing economic challenges, to the rise of right-wing nationalist parties.  We have made so much progress together toward the goal of a Europe that is free, whole, and at peace, and we can’t risk letting it fall apart now.

“For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have understood that America’s alliances make us stronger.  Secretary Shultz compared the slow, steady work of building diplomatic relationships to gardening.  He knew that when you cultivate effective partners, you can can harvest real rewards.

“Allies extend our reach, share intelligence, provide troops in conflicts like Afghanistan, offer bases and staging areas around the world for our military, and serve as a bulwark against competitors like Russia and China.  And by the way, both Moscow and Beijing know our global network of alliances is a significant strategic advantage they can’t match.

“NATO, in particular, is one of the best investments America has ever made.  From the Balkans to Afghanistan and beyond, NATO allies have fought alongside the United States, sharing the burdens and the sacrifices.  In the 1990s, Secretary Perry helped guide NATO’s expansion based on the alliance’s core tenets of collective defense, democracy, consensus, and cooperative security.   They became known as the “Perry Principles,” and they’re still at the heart of what makes NATO the most successful alliance in history.

“Turning our back on our alliances, or turning our alliance into a protection racket, would reverse decades of bipartisan American leadership and send a dangerous signal to friend and foe alike.  Putin already hopes to divide Europe.  If Mr. Trump gets his way, it’ll be like Christmas in the Kremlin.  It will make America less safe and the world more dangerous.

“When it comes to the struggle against ISIS, we need our allies as much as ever.  We need them to be strong and engaged, for they are increasingly on the frontlines.  London, Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Istanbul – they’ve all been hit by terrorism.  And, as we saw when a terrorist cell in Hamburg carried out the 9/11 attacks, what happens in Europe has a way of making it to America.  So it’s essential that we have strong partners who can work with us to disrupt plots and dismantle networks in their own countries before they lead to attacks in ours.

“America needs European intelligence services working hand-in-hand with our own, including where they may have better reach and expertise like in North Africa.  We need European banks to stop terrorist financing.  We need European planes flying missions over Iraq and Syria, and European special forces helping train and equip local anti-ISIS forces on the ground.

“We need European diplomats and development experts working to improve governance and reduce the appeal of extremism across the wide arc of instability that stretches from West Africa all the way to Asia.  Together, we can do more — and more urgently — to support moderate voices and stand with Tunisians, Libyans, Kurds, and others in the region who are trying to do the right thing.

“And as we should, of course, be closely consulting with Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East, we also have to extend our consultations to Arab partners as well.

“All of this will make America safer and help defeat ISIS.

“There is much we can do to support our European partners – helping them improve intelligence and law enforcement, facilitating information sharing, working more closely at every level.  There’s also more they can do to share the burden with us.  We’d like to see more European countries investing in defense and security, following the example Germany and others have set during the Obama administration.

“The most urgent task is stopping the flow of foreign fighters to and from the Middle East.  Thousands of young recruits have flocked to Syria from France, Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.  Their European passports make it easier for them to cross borders and eventually return home, radicalized and battle-hardened.  We need to know the identities of every fighter who makes that trip and start revoking passports and visas.

“Stemming this tide will require much better coordination among every country along the way.  Right now, many European nations don’t even alert each other when they turn away a suspected jihadist at the border or when a passport is stolen.  And Turkey, a NATO ally, still has more work to do to control the border where most foreign fighters cross into Syria.

“After the Paris attack, France and Belgium pledged to move forward together on reforms, but that’s difficult without the European Union.  In January, the EU announced a new integrated counterterrorism center.  But intelligence cooperation still lags and the EU keeps delaying a vote to share traveler information between member states.  It’s actually easier for the United States to get flight manifests from EU nations than it is for EU nations to get them from their own neighbors, thanks to an agreement the U.S. negotiated when I was Secretary of State.

“There also has to be a special emphasis on identifying and investing in the hot spots — the specific neighborhoods, prisons and schools, where recruitment happens in clusters, as we’ve seen in Brussels.  And it’s time to make good on the promise of establishing a new unified European Border and Coast Guard to strengthen the continent’s external borders, which are under unprecedented pressure from refugees and migrants.

“Now this is a heart-breaking crisis.  Last year, the world was horrified by the photo of a drowned toddler lying on a Turkish beach.  In the months since then, hundreds more children have died trying to reach safety.  We’ve seen Europe and Syria’s neighbors in the Middle East struggle under the weight of this challenge.  It’s too big for any one country or even continent to handle alone.  I’m glad that the EU and Turkey are now working closely together, and the United States should do whatever we can to support that.

“The only truly effective answer is to go to the source, end the conflict that is displacing all these people.  So we have to support and maintain the ceasefire in Syria.  And we should also work with our coalition partners and opposition forces on the ground to create safe areas where Syrians can remain in the country rather than fleeing toward Europe.   

“In the meantime, it would be wrong to shut our doors to orphans or to apply religious tests for people fleeing persecution.  That’s not who we are.   But of course we have to be vigilant in screening and vetting everyoneWe can’t allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and humanitarian obligations.  But we also have to be smart and vigilant about how we process people into our country: it would be doubly cruel if ISIS can not only force families from their homes and but also prevent them from ever finding new ones.

“And that brings me to my third point: In our fight against radical jihadism, we have to do what actually works.   

 

“One thing we know that does not work is offensive, inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes all Muslims.  There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in this country.  These Americans are a crucial line of defense against terrorism.  They are the most likely to recognize the warning signs of radicalization before it’s too late, and the best positioned to block it.

“Last year in Minneapolis, I met parents, teachers, imams, and others in the Somali-American community who are working with law enforcement and mental health professionals to intervene with young people at risk of being radicalized.  Efforts like that deserve more local and national support.

“Since 9/11, law enforcement has worked hard to build trustful and strong relationships with American Muslim communities.  As the Director of the FBI told Congress, anything that erodes that trust makes their job more difficult.

“We need every American community invested in this fight, not fearful and sitting on the sidelines.  So when Republican candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals, and for racially profiling predominantly-Muslim neighborhoods, it’s wrong, it’s counter-productive, it’s dangerous.  As a spokesman for the New York Police Department pointed out last night, that kind of blanket bigotry would treat the city’s nearly 1,000 Muslim police officers as threats.  “It’s hard to imagine a more incendiary, foolish statement,” he said.

“Commissioner Bill Bratton of the NYPD was even more blunt this morning.  He said Senator Cruz “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.” 

“Demonizing Muslims also alienates partners and undermines moderates we need around the world in the fight against ISIS.  There’s been a lot of talk from both Republicans and Democrats about the importance of building coalitions with Muslim nations.  Having actually done this, I can tell you, insulting allies and partners is not a good way to start.

“Another thing we know that does not work, based on lots of empirical evidence, is torture. Many intelligence, military and law enforcement experts have attested to this fact. It also puts our own troops and increasingly our own civilians at greater risk.

“I’m proud to have been a part of the administration that banned torture after too many years in which we had lost our way. And if I’m President, the United States will not condone or practice torture anywhere in the world.  Even when we’re up against opponents who don’t respect human life or human rights, torture is not the right choice.  As Senator John McCain has said, the high standard to which we hold ourselves “isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us.  It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”

“America is a great nation.  And this is a time for American leadership.  Smart, strong, steady leadership.

“No other country can rally allies and partners to defeat ISIS and win the generational struggle against radical jihadist terrorism. Only the United States can mobilize common action on a global scale in defense of our people and our values.

“America doesn’t cower in fear or hide behind walls.  We lead and we succeed. 

“Throughout our history, we have stared into the face of evil and refused to blink.  Whether it was Fascism, the Cold War, and or hunting down Osama bin Laden.  And we will defeat ISIS too.  No enemy or adversary should ever underestimate the determination of the American people.

“I will never forget what it was like to arrive in Brussels for the first time as Secretary of State in March of 2009. I was on my way to NATO. NATO headquarters was buzzing.  Hundreds of young people at the European Parliament had stood and cheered, not for me, but for the idea of American leadership – for the promise of an alliance that delivered unprecedented peace and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

“That’s what we need to remember today.  Americans cannot and I believe will not turn on each other, turn on our allies, or turn away from our principles.

“We’re in it for the long haul.  And that means We’re going to work together.  And we’re going to prevail.

This may be another one of the long struggles we have confronted from time to time in our history; but like all the rest of those, if we can forge a bipartisan consensus, if we can bring our people to understand what this struggle means to us, if we can maintain our alliances and our partnerships, we will be successful.

“And that will benefit not only our country but the world. And that, when you boil it down is what American leadership has to be about.

_____________

News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama Administration Details New Cybersecurity National Action Plan

Indian Point Nuclear Plant: cyber attacks on utilities, power plants, nuclear facilities can be more lethal and disrupting than an invading army. The White House has just issued a fact sheet detailing its Cybersecurity National Action Plan © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: cyber attacks on utilities, power plants, nuclear facilities can be more lethal and disrupting than an invading army. The White House has just issued a fact sheet detailing its Cybersecurity National Action Plan © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

FACT SHEET: Cybersecurity National Action Plan

Taking bold actions to protect Americans in today’s digital world

The next War to End All Wars will likely be fought in cyberspace, rather than by invading armies. Cybersecurity is critical line of defense, but also raises issues of privacy – from government as well as criminals. The Obama Administration has just issued a Cybersecurity National Action Plan which, among other things, creates a Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity as well as a permanent Federal Privacy Council.  It includes expanding upon the President’s 2014 BuySecure Initiative to strengthen the security of consumer data. Here is a fact sheet from the White House detailing the Cybersecurity National Action Plan:

From the beginning of his Administration, the President has made it clear that cybersecurity is one of the most important challenges we face as a Nation, and for more than seven years he has acted comprehensively to confront that challenge.  Working together with Congress, we took another step forward in this effort in December with the passage of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which provides important tools necessary to strengthen the Nation’s cybersecurity, particularly by making it easier for private companies to share cyber threat information with each other and the Government.

But the President believes that more must be done – so that citizens have the tools they need to protect themselves, companies can defend their operations and information, and the Government does its part to protect the American people and the information they entrust to us.  That is why, today, the President is directing his Administration to implement a Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) that takes near-term actions and puts in place a long-term strategy to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.

The Challenge

From buying products to running businesses to finding directions to communicating with the people we love, an online world has fundamentally reshaped our daily lives.  But just as the continually evolving digital age presents boundless opportunities for our economy, our businesses, and our people, it also presents a new generation of threats that we must adapt to meet.  Criminals, terrorists, and countries who wish to do us harm have all realized that attacking us online is often easier than attacking us in person.  As more and more sensitive data is stored online, the consequences of those attacks grow more significant each year.  Identity theft is now the fastest growing crime in America.  Our innovators and entrepreneurs have reinforced our global leadership and grown our economy, but with each new story of a high-profile company hacked or a neighbor defrauded, more Americans are left to wonder whether technology’s benefits could risk being outpaced by its costs.

The President believes that meeting these new threats is necessary and within our grasp.  But it requires a bold reassessment of the way we approach security in the digital age.  If we’re going to be connected, we need to be protected.  We need to join together—Government, businesses, and individuals—to sustain the spirit that has always made America great.  

Our Approach

That is why, today, the Administration is announcing a series of near-term actions to enhance cybersecurity capabilities within the Federal Government and across the country.  But given the complexity and seriousness of the issue, the President is also asking some of our Nation’s top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of government to study and report on what more we can do to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.  Bold action is required to secure our digital society and keep America competitive in the global digital economy.

The President’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) is the capstone of more than seven years of determined effort by this Administration, building upon lessons learned from cybersecurity trends, threats, and intrusions.  This plan directs the Federal Government to take new action now and fosters the conditions required for long-term improvements in our approach to cybersecurity across the Federal Government, the private sector, and our personal lives.  Highlights of the CNAP include actions to:

  • Establish the “Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.” This Commission will be comprised of top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of Government – including members to be designated by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership.  The Commission will make recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to strengthen cybersecurity in both the public and private sectors while protecting privacy; maintaining public safety and economic and national security; fostering discovery and development of new technical solutions; and bolstering partnerships between Federal, State, and local government and the private sector in the development, promotion and use of cybersecurity technologies, policies, and best practices.
  • Modernize Government IT and transform how the Government manages cybersecurity through the proposal of a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund, which will enable the retirement, replacement, and modernization of legacy IT that is difficult to secure and expensive to maintain, as well as the formation of a new position – the Federal Chief Information Security Officer – to drive these changes across the Government.
  • Empower Americans to secure their online accounts by moving beyond just passwords and adding an extra layer of security.  By judiciously combining a strong password with additional factors, such as a fingerprint or a single use code delivered in a text message, Americans can make their accounts even more secure.  This focus on multi-factor authentication will be central to a newNational Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign launched by theNational Cyber Security Alliance designed to arm consumers with simple and actionable information to protect themselves in an increasingly digital world.  The National Cyber Security Alliance will partner with leading technology firms like Google, Facebook, DropBox, and Microsoft to make it easier for millions of users to secure their online accounts, and financial services companies such as MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and Venmo thatare making transactions more secure.  In addition, the Federal Government will take steps to safeguard personal data in online transactions between citizens and the government, including through a new action plan to drive the Federal Government’s adoption and use of effective identity proofing and strong multi-factor authentication methods and a systematic review of where the Federal Government can reduce reliance on Social Security Numbers as an identifier of citizens.
  • Invest over $19 billion for cybersecurity as part of the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget.  This represents a more than 35 percent increase from FY 2016 in overall Federal resources for cybersecurity, a necessary investment to secure our Nation in the future.

Through these actions, additional new steps outlined below, and other policy efforts spread across the Federal Government, the Administration has charted a course to enhance our long-term security and reinforce American leadership in developing the technologies that power the digital world.  

Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity

For over four decades, computer technology and the Internet have provided a strategic advantage to the United States, its citizens, and its allies.  But if fundamental cybersecurity and identity issues are not addressed, America’s reliance on digital infrastructure risks becoming a source of strategic liability.  To address these issues, we must diagnose and address the causes of cyber-vulnerabilities, and not just treat the symptoms.  Meeting this challenge will require a long-term, national commitment.

To conduct this review, the President is establishing the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, comprised of top strategic, business, and technical thinkers from outside of Government – including members to be designated by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership.  The Commission is tasked with making detailed recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections throughout the private sector and at all levels of Government, to protect privacy, to maintain public safety and economic and national security, and to empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology will provide the Commission with support to allow it to carry out its mission.  The Commission will report to the President with its specific findings and recommendations before the end of 2016, providing the country a roadmap for future actions that will build on the CNAP and protect our long-term security online. 

Raise the Level of Cybersecurity across the Country

While the Commission conducts this forward looking review, we will continue to raise the level of cybersecurity across the Nation.

Strengthen Federal Cybersecurity

The Federal Government has made significant progress in improving its cybersecurity capabilities, but more work remains.  To expand on that progress and address the longstanding, systemic challenges in Federal cybersecurity, we must re-examine our Government’s legacy approach to cybersecurity and information technology, which requires each agency to build and defend its own networks.  These actions build upon the foundation laid by the Cybersecurity Cross-Agency Priority Goalsand the 2015 Cybersecurity Strategy and Implementation Plan.

Ø  The President’s 2017 Budget proposes a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund, as a down payment on the comprehensive overhaul that must be undertaken in the coming years.  This revolving fund will enable agencies to invest money up front and realize the return over time by retiring, replacing, or modernizing antiquated IT infrastructure, networks, and systems that are expensive to maintain, provide poor functionality, and are difficult to secure.

Ø  The Administration has created the position of Federal Chief Information Security Officer to drive cybersecurity policy, planning, and implementation across the Federal Government.  This is the first time that there will be a dedicated senior official who is solely focused on developing, managing, and coordinating cybersecurity strategy, policy, and operations across the entire Federal domain.

Ø  The Administration is requiring agencies to identify and prioritize their highest value and most at-risk IT assets and then take additional concrete steps to improve their security.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security, the General Services Administration, and other Federal agencies will increase the availability of government-wide shared services for IT and cybersecurity, with the goal of taking each individual agency out of the business of building, owning, and operating their own IT when more efficient, effective, and secure options are available, as well as ensuring that individual agencies are not left on their own to defend themselves against the most sophisticated threats.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security is enhancing Federal cybersecurity by expanding the EINSTEIN and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation programs.  The President’s 2017 Budget supports all Federal civilian agencies adopting these capabilities.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security is dramatically increasing the number of Federal civilian cyber defense teams to a total of 48, by recruiting the best cybersecurity talent from across the Federal Government and private sector.  These standing teams will protect networks, systems, and data across the entire Federal Civilian Government by conducting penetration testing and proactively hunting for intruders, as well as providing incident response and security engineering expertise.

Ø  The Federal Government, through efforts such as the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, will enhance cybersecurity education and training nationwide and hire more cybersecurity experts to secure Federal agencies.  As part of the CNAP, the President’s Budget invests $62 million in cybersecurity personnel to:

o   Expand the Scholarship for Service program by establishing a CyberCorps Reserve program, which will offer scholarships for Americans who wish to obtain cybersecurity education and serve their country in the civilian Federal government;

o   Develop a Cybersecurity Core Curriculum that will ensure cybersecurity graduates who wish to join the Federal Government have the requisite knowledge and skills; and,

o   Strengthen the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program to increase the number of participating academic institutions and students, better support those institutions currently participating, increase the number of students studying cybersecurity at those institutions, and enhance student knowledge through program and curriculum evolution.

Ø  The President’s Budget takes additional steps to expand the cybersecurity workforce by:

o   Enhancing student loan forgiveness programs for cybersecurity experts joining the Federal workforce;

o   Catalyzing investment in cybersecurity education as part of a robust computer science curriculum through the President’s Computer Science for All Initiative.

Empower Individuals

The privacy and security of all Americans online in their daily lives is increasingly integral to our national security and our economy. The following new actions build on the President’s 2014 BuySecure Initiative to strengthen the security of consumer data.

Ø  The President is calling on Americans to move beyond just the password to leverage multiple factors of authentication when logging-in to online accounts.  Private companies, non-profits, and the Federal Government are working together to help more Americans stay safe online through a new public awareness campaign that focuses on broad adoption of multi-factor authentication.  Building off the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign and efforts stemming from the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, the National Cyber Security Alliance will partner with leading technology companies and civil society to promote this effort and make it easier for millions of users to secure their accounts online.  This will support a broader effort to increase public awareness of the individual’s role in cybersecurity.

Ø  The Federal Government is accelerating adoption of strong multi-factor authentication and identity proofing for citizen-facing Federal Government digital services.  The General Services Administration will establish a new program that will better protect and secure the data and personal information of Americans as they interact with Federal Government services, including tax data and benefit information.

Ø  The Administration is conducting a systematic review of where the Federal Government can reduce its use of Social Security Numbers as an identifier of citizens. 

Ø  The Federal Trade Commission recently relaunchedIdentityTheft.Gov, to serve as a one-stop resource for victims to report identity theft, create a personal recovery plan, and print pre-filled letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses, and debt collectors.

Ø  The Small Business Administration (SBA), partnering with the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy, will offercybersecurity training to reach over 1.4 million small businesses and small business stakeholders through 68 SBA District Offices, 9 NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers, and other regional networks across the country. 

Ø  The Administration is announcing new milestones in the President’s BuySecure Initiative to secure financial transactions.  As of today the Federal Government has supplied over 2.5 million more secure Chip-and-PIN payment cards, and transitioned to this new technology the entire fleet of card readers managed by the Department of the Treasury.  Through government and private-sector leadership, more secure chip cards have been issued in the United States than any other country in the world. 

Enhance Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience

The national and economic security of the United States depends on the reliable functioning of the Nation’s critical infrastructure.  A continued partnership with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure will improve cybersecurity and enhance the Nation’s resiliency.  This work builds off the President’s previous cybersecurity focused Executive Orders on Critical Infrastructure (2013) and Information Sharing (2015).

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy are contributing resources and capabilities to establish a National Center for Cybersecurity Resilience where companies and sector-wide organizations can test the security of systems in a contained environment, such as by subjecting a replica electric grid to cyber-attack.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security will double the number of cybersecurity advisors available to assist private sector organizations with in-person, customized cybersecurity assessments and implementation of best practices.

Ø  The Department of Homeland Security is collaborating with UL and other industry partners to develop a Cybersecurity Assurance Program to test and certify networked devices within the “Internet of Things,” whether they be refrigerators or medical infusion pumps, so that when you buy a new product, you can be sure that it has been certified to meet security standards.

Ø  The National Institute of Standards and Technology is soliciting feedback in order to inform further development of itsCybersecurity Framework for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity.  This follows two years of adoption by organizations across the country and around the world.

Ø   Commerce Secretary Pritzker cut the ribbon on the new National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a public-private research and development partnership that will allow industry and government to work together to develop and deploy technical solutions for high-priority cybersecurity challenges and share those findings for the benefit of the broader community.

Ø  The Administration is calling on major health insurers and healthcare stakeholders to help them take new and significant steps to enhance their data stewardship practices and ensure that consumers can trust that their sensitive health data will be safe, secure, and available to guide clinical decision-making.

Secure Technology

Even as we work to improve our defenses today, we know the Nation must aggressively invest in the science, technology, tools, and infrastructure of the future to ensure that they are engineered with sustainable security in mind.

Ø  Today the Administration is releasing its 2016 Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Strategic Plan.  This plan, which was called for in the 2014 Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, lays out strategic research and development goals for the Nation to advance cybersecurity technologies driven by the scientific evidence of efficacy and efficiency.

Ø  In addition, the Government will work with organizations such as the Linux Foundation’s Core Infrastructure Initiative to fund and secure commonly used internet “utilities” such as open-source software, protocols, and standards.  Just as our roads and bridges need regular repair and upkeep, so do the technical linkages that allow the information superhighway to flow.

Deter, Discourage, and Disrupt Malicious Activity in Cyberspace

Better securing our own digital infrastructure is only part of the solution.  We must lead the international effort in adopting principles of responsible state behavior, even while we take steps to deter and disrupt malicious activity.  We cannot pursue these goals alone – we must pursue them in concert with our allies and partners around the world.

Ø  In 2015, members of the G20 joined with the United States in affirming important norms, including the applicability of international law to cyberspace, the idea that states should not conduct the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property for commercial gain, and in welcoming the report of a United Nations Group of Governmental Experts, which included a number of additional norms to promote international cooperation, prevent attacks on civilian critical infrastructure, and support computer emergency response teams providing reconstitution and mitigation services.  The Administration intends to institutionalize and implement these norms through further bilateral and multilateral commitments and confidence building measures.

Ø  The Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is increasing funding for cybersecurity-related activities by more than 23 percent to improve their capabilities to identify, disrupt, and apprehend malicious cyber actors.

Ø  U.S. Cyber Command is building a Cyber Mission Force of 133 teams assembled from 6,200 military, civilian, and contractor support personnel from across the military departments and defense components.  The Cyber Mission Force, which will be fully operational in 2018, is already employing capabilities in support of U.S. Government objectives across the spectrum of cyber operations.

Improve Cyber Incident Response

Even as we focus on preventing and deterring malicious cyber activity, we must also maintain resilience as events occur.  Over the past year, the country faced a wide array of intrusions, ranging from criminal activity to cyber espionage.  By applying lessons learned from past incidents we can improve management of future cyber incidents and enhance the country’s cyber-resilience.

Ø  By this spring, the Administration will publically release a policy for national cyber incident coordination and an accompanyingseverity methodology for evaluating cyber incidents so that government agencies and the private sector can communicate effectively and provide an appropriate and consistent level of response.

Protect the Privacy of Individuals

In coordination with the information technology and cybersecurity efforts above, the Administration has launched a groundbreaking effort to enhance how agencies across the Federal Government protect the privacy of individuals and their information.  Privacy has been core to our Nation from its inception, and in today’s digital age safeguarding privacy is more critical than ever. 

Ø  Today, the President signed an Executive Order that created a permanent Federal Privacy Council, which will bring together the privacy officials from across the Government to help ensure the implementation of more strategic and comprehensive Federal privacy guidelines.  Like cyber security, privacy must be effectively and continuously addressed as our nation embraces new technologies, promotes innovation, reaps the benefits of big data and defends against evolving threats.

Fund Cybersecurity

In order to implement these sweeping changes, the Federal Government will need to invest additional resources in its cybersecurity.  That is why the 2017 Budget allocates more than $19 billion for cybersecurity – a more than 35 percent increase over the 2016 enacted level.  These resources will enable agencies to raise their level of cybersecurity, help private sector organizations and individuals better protect themselves, disrupt and deter adversary activity, and respond more effectively to incidents.

Obama Visits Mosque to Deliver Speech Affirming Religious Tolerance as Core American Value

President Obama mentioned sports icon Mohammed Ali (here at the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative) in calling attention to the fact that Muslim Americans have been part of the nation's fabric since its founding © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
President Obama mentioned sports icon Mohammed Ali (here at the 2008 Clinton Global Initiative) in calling attention to the fact that Muslim Americans have been part of the nation’s fabric since its founding © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

President Barack Obama today traveled to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, his first visit to an American mosque as president, to deliver a remarkable speech affirming America’s religious tolerance. “We can’t be bystanders to bigotry.  And together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths.”

He spoke frankly as much to non-Muslims as Muslims about the need for non-Muslims to better know and appreciate how Muslims have been part of the American fabric since colonial times, and for Muslims to speak out for tolerance and be a force to counter those who would incite terrorism.

“We’re one American family.  And when any part of our family starts to feel separate or second-class or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation…

“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.  (Applause.)  And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.  And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.

“We’ve got to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.  (Applause.)  And just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world — (applause) — or when anti-Semitism is on the rise — because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault –sometimes by Muslims.  We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone.  (Applause.)  And that includes against Muslims here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  …

“…the best way for us to fight terrorism is to deny these organizations legitimacy and to show that here in the United States of America, we do not suppress Islam; we celebrate and lift up the success of Muslim Americans.  That’s how we show the lie that they’re trying to propagate.  (Applause.)  We shouldn’t play into terrorist propaganda.  And we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem.  That betrays our values.  It alienates Muslim Americans.  It’s hurtful to those kids who are trying to go to school and are members of the Boy Scouts, and are thinking about joining our military.

“That kind of mindset helps our enemies.  It helps our enemies recruit.  It makes us all less safe. … 

“…just as all Americans have a responsibility to reject discrimination — I’ve said this before — Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities. ..

“Our values must guide us in this work.  Engagement with Muslim American communities must never be a cover for surveillance.  (Applause.)  We can’t give in to profiling entire groups of people.  There’s no one single profile of terrorists.  We can’t securitize our entire relationship with Muslim Americans.  We can’t deal with you solely through the prism of law enforcement.  We’ve got to build trust and mutual respect.  That’s how we’ll keep our communities strong and our communities united.

“We are blessed to live in a nation where even if we sometimes stumble, even if we sometimes fall short, we never stop striving for our ideals.  We keep moving closer to that more perfect union.  We’re a country where, if you work hard and if you play by the rules, you can ultimately make it, no matter who you are or how you pray.  It may not always start off even in the race, but here, more than any place else, there’s the opportunity to run that race.

“We are one American family.  We will rise and fall together. It won’t always be easy.  There will be times where our worst impulses are given voice.  But I believe that ultimately, our best voices will win out.  And that gives me confidence and faith in the future.  (Applause.)

“After more than 200 years, our blended heritage, the patchwork quilt which is America, that is not a weakness, that is one of our greatest strengths.  It’s what makes us a beacon to the world.  It’s what led that mother who wrote to me — the one who worries about her young daughter — it led her to end her letter with hope, despite her fears.  She said, ‘I still believe in one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’.”  (Applause.)

Here is the speech, highlighted:

This mosque, like so many in our country, is an all-American story.  You’ve been part of this city for nearly half a century. You serve thousands of families — some who’ve lived here for decades as well as immigrants from many countries who’ve worked to become proud American citizens.

Now, a lot of Americans have never visited a mosque.  To the folks watching this today who haven’t — think of your own church, or synagogue, or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar.  This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and each other.  There’s a school where teachers open young minds.  Kids play baseball and football and basketball — boys and girls — I hear they’re pretty good.  (Laughter.)  Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts meet, recite the Pledge of Allegiance here.

With interfaith dialogue, you build bridges of understanding with other faith communities — Christians and Jews.  There’s a health clinic that serves the needy, regardless of their faith.  And members of this community are out in the broader community, working for social justice and urban development.  As voters, you come here to meet candidates.  As one of your members said, “just look at the way we live…we are true Americans.”

So the first thing I want to say is two words that Muslim Americans don’t hear often enough — and that is, thank you.  Thank you for serving your community.  Thank you for lifting up the lives of your neighbors, and for helping keep us strong and united as one American family.  We are grateful for that.  (Applause.)

Now, this brings me to the other reason I wanted to come here today.  I know that in Muslim communities across our country, this is a time of concern and, frankly, a time of some fear.  Like all Americans, you’re worried about the threat of terrorism.  But on top of that, as Muslim Americans, you also have another concern — and that is your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few.

The Muslim American community remains relatively small –several million people in this country.  And as a result, most Americans don’t necessarily know — or at least don’t know that they know — a Muslim personally.  And as a result, many only hear about Muslims and Islam from the news after an act of terrorism, or in distorted media portrayals in TV or film, all of which gives this hugely distorted impression.

And since 9/11, but more recently, since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, you’ve seen too often people conflating the horrific acts of terrorism with the beliefs of an entire faith.  And of course, recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country. 

No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged.  Here at this mosque, twice last year, threats were made against your children.  Around the country, women wearing the hijab — just like Sabah — have been targeted. We’ve seen children bullied.  We’ve seen mosques vandalized.  Sikh Americans and others who are perceived to be Muslims have been targeted, as well.

I just had a chance to meet with some extraordinary Muslim Americans from across the country who are doing all sorts of work.  Some of them are doctors; some of them are community leaders; religious leaders.  All of them were doing extraordinary work not just in the Muslim community but in the American community.  And they’re proud of their work in business and education, and on behalf of social justice and the environment and education.  I should point out they were all much younger than me — (laughter) — which is happening more frequently these days.  And you couldn’t help but be inspired, hearing about the extraordinary work that they’re doing.  But you also could not help but be heartbroken to hear their worries and their anxieties.

Some of them are parents, and they talked about how their children were asking, are we going to be forced out of the country, or, are we going to be rounded up?  Why do people treat us like that?  Conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children — not in this country.  Not at this moment.

And that’s an anxiety echoed in letters I get from Muslim Americans around the country.  I’ve had people write to me and say, I feel like I’m a second-class citizen.  I’ve had mothers write and say, “my heart cries every night,” thinking about how her daughter might be treated at school.  A girl from Ohio, 13 years old, told me, “I’m scared.”  A girl from Texas signed her letter “a confused 14-year-old trying to find her place in the world.”

These are children just like mine.  And the notion that they would be filled with doubt and questioning their places in this great country of ours at a time when they’ve got enough to worry about — it’s hard being a teenager already — that’s not who we are.

We’re one American family.  And when any part of our family starts to feel separate or second-class or targeted, it tears at the very fabric of our nation.  (Applause.)

It’s a challenge to our values — and that means we have much work to do.  We’ve got to tackle this head on.  We have to be honest and clear about it.   And we have to speak out.  This is a moment when, as Americans, we have to truly listen to each other and learn from each other.  And I believe it has to begin with a common understanding of some basic facts.  And I express these facts, although they’d be obvious to many of the people in this place, because, unfortunately, it’s not facts that are communicated on a regular basis through our media.

So let’s start with this fact:  For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.  And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam — peace.  The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum — peace be upon you.  And like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity.  Whoever wants to enter paradise, the Prophet Muhammad taught, “let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.”  (Applause.)  For Christians like myself, I’m assuming that sounds familiar.  (Laughter.)

The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are as diverse as humanity itself.  They are Arabs and Africans.  They’re from Latin America to Southeast Asia; Brazilians, Nigerians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians.  They are white and brown and black.  There’s a large African American Muslim community.  That diversity is represented here today.  A 14-year-old boy in Texas who’s Muslim spoke for many when he wrote to me and said, “We just want to live in peace.”

Here’s another fact:  Islam has always been part of America. Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim.  And even in their bondage, some kept their faith alive.  A few even won their freedom and became known to many Americans.  And when enshrining the freedom of religion in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, our Founders meant what they said when they said it applied to all religions.

Back then, Muslims were often called Mahometans.  And Thomas Jefferson explained that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom he wrote was designed to protect all faiths — and I’m quoting Thomas Jefferson now — “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan.”  (Applause.)

Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran. Benjamin Franklin wrote that “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”  (Applause.)  So this is not a new thing.

Generations of Muslim Americans helped to build our nation. They were part of the flow of immigrants who became farmers and merchants.  They built America’s first mosque, surprisingly enough, in North Dakota.  (Laughter.)  America’s oldest surviving mosque is in Iowa.  The first Islamic center in New York City was built in the 1890s.  Muslim Americans worked on Henry Ford’s assembly line, cranking out cars.  A Muslim American designed the skyscrapers of Chicago.

In 1957, when dedicating the Islamic center in Washington, D.C., President Eisenhower said, “I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution … and in American hearts…this place of worship, is just as welcome…as any other religion.”  (Applause.)

And perhaps the most pertinent fact, Muslim Americans enrich our lives today in every way.  They’re our neighbors, the teachers who inspire our children, the doctors who trust us with our health — future doctors like Sabah.  They’re scientists who win Nobel Prizes, young entrepreneurs who are creating new technologies that we use all the time.  They’re the sports heroes we cheer for -— like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon.  And by the way, when Team USA marches into the next Olympics, one of the Americans waving the red, white and blue — (applause) — will a fencing champion, wearing her hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is here today.  Stand up.  (Applause.)  I told her to bring home the gold.  (Laughter.)  Not to put any pressure on you.  (Laughter.)

Muslim Americans keep us safe.  They’re our police and our firefighters.  They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community.  They serve honorably in our armed forces — meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom.  Some rest in Arlington National Cemetery.  (Applause.)

So Muslim Americans are some of the most resilient and patriotic Americans you’ll ever meet.  We’re honored to have some of our proud Muslim American servicemembers here today.  Please stand if you’re here, so we can thank you for your service.  (Applause.)

So part of the reason I want to lay out these facts is because, in the discussions that I was having with these incredibly accomplished young people, they were pointing that so often they felt invisible.  And part of what we have to do is to lift up the contributions of the Muslim American community not when there’s a problem, but all the time. 

Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security — (applause) — because — it’s not that hard to do.  There was a time when there were no black people on television.  And you can tell good stories while still representing the reality of our communities.

Now, we do have another fact that we have to acknowledge.  Even as the overwhelming majority — and I repeat, the overwhelming majority — of the world’s Muslims embrace Islam as a source of peace, it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam.  This is the truth. 

Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL, they’re not the first extremists in history to misuse God’s name.  We’ve seen it before, across faiths.  But right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror.  They combine it with false claims that America and the West are at war with Islam.  And this warped thinking that has found adherents around the world — including, as we saw, tragically, in Boston and Chattanooga and San Bernardino — is real.  It’s there.  And it creates tensions and pressure that disproportionately burden the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Muslim citizens.    

And the question then is, how do we move forward together?  How do we keep our country strong and united?  How do we defend ourselves against organizations that are bent on killing innocents?  And it can’t be the work of any one faith alone.  It can’t be just a burden on the Muslim community — although the Muslim community has to play a role.  We all have responsibilities.  So with the time I have left, I just want to suggest a few principles that I believe can guide us.

First, at a time when others are trying to divide us along lines of religion or sect, we have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths:  We are all God’s children.  We’re all born equal, with inherent dignity. 

And so often, we focus on our outward differences and we forget how much we share.  Christians, Jews, Muslims — we’re all, under our faiths, descendants of Abraham.  So mere tolerance of different religions is not enough.  Our faiths summon us to embrace our common humanity.  “O mankind,” the Koran teaches, we have “made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” (Applause.)  So all of us have the task of expressing our religious faith in a way that seeks to build bridges rather than to divide.

Second, as Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths.  I already mentioned our Founders, like Jefferson, knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation — if it is free, if it is not an extension of the state.  Part of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda — for power, for control.  Freedom of religion helps prevent that, both ways — protects religious faiths, protects the state from  — or those who want to take over the state from using religious animosity as a tool for their own ends.

That doesn’t mean that those of us with religious faith should not be involved.  We have to be active citizenry.  But we have to respect the fact that we have freedom of religion. 

Remember, many preachers and pastors fought to abolish the evil of slavery.  People of faith advocated to improve conditions for workers and ban child labor.  Dr. King was joined by people of many faiths, challenging us to live up to our ideals.  And that civil activism, that civic participation that’s the essence of our democracy, it is enhanced by freedom of religion.

Now, we have to acknowledge that there have been times where we have fallen short of our ideals.  By the way, Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim — so I was not the first –– (applause.)  No, it’s true, it’s true.  Look it up.  (Laughter.)  I’m in good company. (Laughter.)

But it hasn’t just been attacks of that sort that have been used.  Mormon communities have been attacked throughout our history.  Catholics, including, most prominently, JFK — John F. Kennedy — when he ran for President, was accused of being disloyal.  There was a suggestion that he would be taking orders from the Pope as opposed to upholding his constitutional duties. Anti-Semitism in this country has a sad and long history, and Jews were exclude routinely from colleges and professions and from public office.

And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.  (Applause.)  And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up.  And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.

We’ve got to make sure that hate crimes are punished, and that the civil rights of all Americans are upheld.  (Applause.)  And just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world — (applause) — or when anti-Semitism is on the rise — because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault –sometimes by Muslims.  We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone.  (Applause.)  And that includes against Muslims here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So none of us can be silent.  We can’t be bystanders to bigotry.  And together, we’ve got to show that America truly protects all faiths.  

Which brings me to my next point:  As we protect our country from terrorism, we should not reinforce the ideas and the rhetoric of the terrorists themselves.  I often hear it said that we need moral clarity in this fight.  And the suggestion is somehow that if I would simply say, these are all Islamic terrorists, then we would actually have solved the problem by now, apparently.  (Laughter.)  Well, I agree, we actually do need moral clarity.  Let’s have some moral clarity.  (Applause.)

Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy.  They try to portray themselves as religious leaders and holy warriors who speak for Islam.  I refuse to give them legitimacy.  We must never give them that legitimacy.  (Applause.)  They’re not defending Islam.  They’re not defending Muslims.  The vast majority of the people they kill are innocent Muslim men, women and children.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, the notion that America is at war with Islam ignores the fact that the world’s religions are a part of who we are.  We can’t be at war with any other religion because the world’s religions are a part of the very fabric of the United States, our national character.  (Applause.)

So the best way for us to fight terrorism is to deny these organizations legitimacy and to show that here in the United States of America, we do not suppress Islam; we celebrate and lift up the success of Muslim Americans.  That’s how we show the lie that they’re trying to propagate.  (Applause.)  We shouldn’t play into terrorist propaganda.  And we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem.  That betrays our values.  It alienates Muslim Americans.  It’s hurtful to those kids who are trying to go to school and are members of the Boy Scouts, and are thinking about joining our military. 

That kind of mindset helps our enemies.  It helps our enemies recruit.  It makes us all less safe.  So let’s be clear about that. 

Now, finally, just as all Americans have a responsibility to reject discrimination — I’ve said this before — Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities. 

Here at this mosque, and across our country and around the world, Muslim leaders are roundly and repeatedly and consistently condemning terrorism.  And around the globe, Muslims who’ve dared to speak out have often been targeted and even killed.  So those voices are there; we just have to amplify them more.  (Applause.)

And it was interesting, in the discussion I had before I came out, some people said, why is there always a burden on us? When a young man in Charleston shoots African Americans in a church, there’s not an expectation that every white person in America suddenly is explaining that they’re not racist.  They can Everybody is assumed to be horrified by that act.  And I recognize that sometimes that doesn’t feel fair.

But part of the answer is to make sure that the Muslim community in all of its variety, in all the good works that it’s doing, in all the talent that’s on display, that it’s out there visible on a consistent basis — not just at a certain moment.  (Applause.)

But what is also true is, is that there is a battle of hearts and minds that takes place — that is taking place right now, and American Muslims are better positioned than anybody to show that it is possible to be faithful to Islam and to be part of a pluralistic society, and to be on the cutting-edge of science, and to believe in democracy.  (Applause.)

And so I would urge all of you not to see this as a burden, but as a great opportunity and a great privilege to show who you are.  To use a little Christian expression — let your light shine.  Because when you do you’ll make clear that this is not a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam.  This is a struggle between the peace-loving, overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world and a radical, tiny minority.  And ultimately, I’m confident that the overwhelming majority will win that battle.  (Applause.)  Muslims will decide the future of your faith.  And I’m confident in the direction that it will go.

But across the Islamic world, influential voices should consistently speak out with an affirmative vision of their faith. And it’s happening.  These are the voices of Muslim clerics who teach that Islam prohibits terrorism, for the Koran says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind.  (Applause.)  These are the voices of Muslim scholars, some of whom join us today, who know Islam has a tradition of respect for other faiths; and Muslim teachers who point out that the first word revealed in the Koran — igra — means “read” — to seek knowledge, to question assumptions.  (Applause.)

Muslim political leaders have to push back on the lie that the West oppresses Muslims, and against conspiracy theories that says America is the cause of every ill in the Middle East.  Now, that doesn’t mean that Muslim Americans aren’t free to criticize American — U.S. foreign policy.  That’s part of being an American.  I promise you, as the President of the United States, I’m mindful that that is a healthy tradition that is alive and well in America.  (Laughter.)  But like leaders everywhere, these leaders have been offering, and need to continue to offer, a positive vision for progress, and that includes political and economic progress.

And we have to acknowledge that much of the violence in places like the Middle East is now turning into fights between sects — Shia, Sunni and others — where differences are often exploited to serve political agendas, as I said earlier.  And this bloodshed is destroying Muslim families and communities, and there has to be global pressure to have the vision and the courage to end this kind of thinking and this approach to organizing political power.

It’s not historically unique.  It’s happened in every part of the world — from Northern Ireland to Africa, to Asia, to right here in the United States — in the past.  But it is something that we have to fight against.

And we know it’s possible.  Across the history of Islam, different sects traditionally have lived and thrived together peacefully.  And in many parts of the world they do today, including here in the United States.

Like people of all religions, Muslims living their faith in a modern, pluralistic world are called upon to uphold human rights, to make sure that everyone has opportunity.  That includes the aspirations of women and youth and all people.  If we expect our own dignity to be respected, so must we respect the dignity of others.  (Applause.)

So let me conclude by saying that as Muslim communities stand up for the future that you believe in, that you exhibit in your daily lives, as you teach your children, America will be your partner.  We will — I will — do everything I can to lift up the multiplicity of Muslim voices that promote pluralism and peace.  (Applause.)  We will continue to reach out to young Muslims around the world, empowering them with science and technology and entrepreneurship, so they can pursue their God-given potential, and help build up their communities and provide opportunity.  It’s why we will continue to partner with Muslim American communities — not just to help you protect against extremist threats, but to expand health care and education and opportunity — (applause) — because that’s the best way to build strong, resilient communities.

Our values must guide us in this work.  Engagement with Muslim American communities must never be a cover for surveillance.  (Applause.)  We can’t give in to profiling entire groups of people.  There’s no one single profile of terrorists.  We can’t securitize our entire relationship with Muslim Americans.  We can’t deal with you solely through the prism of law enforcement.  We’ve got to build trust and mutual respect.  That’s how we’ll keep our communities strong and our communities united.

As I was in discussion with the young people before I came in here, I said this will be a process.  Law enforcement has a tough job.  Some of these groups are specifically trying to target Muslim youth.  We’re going to have to be partners in this process.  There will be times where the relationship is clumsy or mishandled.  But I want you to know that from the President to the FBI Director, to everybody in law enforcement, my directive and their understanding is, is that this is something we have to do together.  And if we don’t do it well, then we’re actually not making ourselves safer; we’re making ourselves less safe.

And here, I want to speak directly to the young people who may be listening.  In our lives, we all have many identities.  We are sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters.  We’re classmates; Cub Scout troop members.  We’re followers of our faith.  We’re citizens of our country.  And today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the Internet, who are constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identities — as a Muslim, for example, or an American.  Do not believe them.  If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States:  You fit in here — right here.  (Applause.)  You’re right where you belong.  You’re part of America, too.  (Applause.)  You’re not Muslim or American.  You’re Muslim and American. (Applause.)

Don’t grow cynical.  Don’t respond to ignorance by embracing a world view that suggests you must choose between your faith and your patriotism.  Don’t believe that you have to choose between your best impulses and somehow embrace a world view that pits us against each other — or, even worse, glorifies violence.  Understand your power to bring about change.  Stay engaged in your community.  Help move our country forward — your country forward.  (Applause.)

We are blessed to live in a nation where even if we sometimes stumble, even if we sometimes fall short, we never stop striving for our ideals.  We keep moving closer to that more perfect union.  We’re a country where, if you work hard and if you play by the rules, you can ultimately make it, no matter who you are or how you pray.  It may not always start off even in the race, but here, more than any place else, there’s the opportunity to run that race.

And as we go forward, I want every Muslim American to remember you are not alone.  Your fellow Americans stand with you — just as Sabah described her friends after she decided that she was going to start wearing a hijab.  That’s not unusual.  Because just as so often we only hear about Muslims after a terrorist attack, so often we only hear about Americans’ response to Muslims after a hate crime has happened, we don’t always hear about the extraordinary respect and love and community that so many Americans feel.

I’m thinking about the seven-year-old boy in Texas who emptied his piggy bank to help a mosque that had been vandalized. (Applause.)  Or all the faith communities that rallied around Muslim Americans after the tragedy in Chapel Hill.  The churches and the synagogues standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their local mosques, including the woman carrying a sign saying “We love our Muslim neighbors.”  Think of our men and women in uniform who, when they heard that a little girl was afraid because she’s a Muslim, sent her a message — “I Will Protect You.”  (Applause.)

I want every American to remember how Muslim communities are standing up for others, as well.  Because right now, as we speak, there are Muslims in Kenya who saved Christians from terrorists, and Muslims who just met in Morocco to protect religious minorities, including Christians and Jews.  (Applause.)  The good people of this mosque helped this city move forward after the turmoil of last year.  Muslim Americans across the country helped African American churches rebuild after arson.

Remember the Muslim Americans in Boston who reached out to victims of the Marathon bombing; the Muslim Americans across the country who raised money for the families of San Bernardino; the Muslim Americans in Chattanooga who honored our fallen servicemembers, one of them saying, “in the name of God, the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, God bless our fallen heroes.”  (Applause.)

We are one American family.  We will rise and fall together. It won’t always be easy.  There will be times where our worst impulses are given voice.  But I believe that ultimately, our best voices will win out.  And that gives me confidence and faith in the future.  (Applause.)  

After more than 200 years, our blended heritage, the patchwork quilt which is America, that is not a weakness, that is one of our greatest strengths.  It’s what makes us a beacon to the world.  It’s what led that mother who wrote to me — the one who worries about her young daughter — it led her to end her letter with hope, despite her fears.  She said, “I still believe in one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  (Applause.)

May God’s peace be upon you.  May God bless the United States of America.

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