The Spectacle Blog

Obama and Moving Beyond 9/11

By on 6.17.08 | 9:53AM

Here's what Barack Obama had to say about in an ABC News interview regarding the Gitmo decision:

"What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated," Obama said.

I've always thought from the very beginning of this election that more than anything else, Barack Obama's candidacy was tapping into a desire among a growing part of the electorate to move into a post-post-9/11 world in which terrorism is no longer a central issue. This is what has scared me most about his candidacy. The only way terrorism can succeed is for civilization to become indifferent to its threat. Terrorists strike most effectively when we aren't paying attention. Normally, Obama's argument for moving on from 9/11 is subtle, as he promises to "turn the page" or end "the politics of fear." But now he is making the specific argument that we should go back to the 1990s way of handling terrorism, when it was treated as a criminal justice matter rather than part of a larger war. For him to cite the handling of the first WTC bombing is particularly discouraging.

Here's what the 9/11 Commission had to say about the aftermath of the first WTC bombing that Obama sees as an example of how he'd want to handle suspected terrorists:

An unfortunate consequence of this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort was that it created an impression that the law enforcement system was well-equipped to cope with terrorism. Neither President Clinton, his principal advisers, the Congress, nor the news media felt prompted, until later, to press the question of whether the procedures that put the Blind Sheikh and Ramzi Yousef behind bars would really protect Americans against the new virus of which these individuals were just the first symptoms.

Third, the successful use of the legal system to address the first World Trade Center bombing had the side effect of obscuring the need to examine the character and extent of the new threat facing the United States. The trials did not bring the Bin Ladin network to the attention of the public and policymakers.

Our old policies allowed terrorists to increase the frequency, boldness, and sophistication of their attacks while we were reactive. And now Obama offers "change" that would represent a return to the failed counterterrorism policies that were in place prior to 9/11.
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