On Thursday, President Barack Obama urged an end to the war against terrorism, which legally began once Congress reacted to the jihadi attack on the Twin Towers.
“Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue” through the use of courts and police, he announced in a speech at the National Defense University.
“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands,” he said.
Obama also acknowledged that the war war started by the jihadi ideology, which he called a “lie.”
But the president can’t end the war on terrorism by himself, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said. The war “is being waged against us” by jihadis, Bolton told Fox News after the speech. “Obama thinks of terrorism like a souped-up version of robbing a local Starbucks,” he said. Bolton argues that jihadis are motivated by a coherent, established idea of holy war for Islam, which urges near-perpetual war against non-Muslim governments.
Obama’s speech included repeated warnings against the use of force, repeated praise for the U.S. legal system, and repeated calls for tolerance of periodic terror strikes.
Much of the speech was directed at his progressive allies who have pressed for the release of more than 100 jihadis from the Guantanamo Bay prison, the end to missile strikes on jihadis overseas, and a rollback of the military’s role in U.S. foreign policy. Obama’s speech offered concessions to those progressive allies.
But he also offered some reassurance to the public, which overwhelmingly supports Guantanamo and drone strikes on jihadis. A Fox poll, for example, reported that 56 percent of Americans believe jihads are more threatening now than before September 2001.
Obama’s call for a one-sided end to the war was part of a speech in which he urged the closure of Guantanamo, amid pressure from the captured jihadis, many of whom are on hunger strike.
“History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it,” he said.
“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?” he asked.
Obama also indirectly praised a heckler who interrupted his speech to urge the release of numerous jihadis from Guantanamo.
“I’m going off script, as you might think here, [but] the voice of that women is worth paying attention to,” he said.
“Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she was not listening to me in much of what I said, but these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong,” he said.
But critics say the jihadis still at Guatanamo will likely rejoin jihadi groups if they’re released.
“They’re the worst of the worst,” said former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Obama also said the use of drones would be limited to attacks on people that pose a continued and imminent threat against the United States, and only when the terrorists can’t be captured or stopped by the local government. But the president did show some recognition of the jihad ideology roots in the Muslim communities, which he has ignored in previous speeches.
“Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause,” he said.
“Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts,” he said.
“Deranged or alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad,” he said, citing the April attack by two Muslims against the Boston Marathon.
“The best way to prevent violent extremism inspired by violent jihadis is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence,” Obama said.
“These partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family … the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam,” he said.
Obama has worked to use the state against “radicalism,” hand-in-hand with political and religious groups. (RELATED: Jihad experts decry White House terror training guidelines)