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.”
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