President Obama's Counterterrorism Speech: A Path to Change or More Rhetoric?

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Posted May 29, 2013

Interview with Matt Southworth, Iraq War Veteran and board member of Veterans for Peace, conducted by Scott Harris

drone

In the midst of growing concern and questions surrounding the Obama administration’s drone program targeting killing of terrorist suspects and a widespread hunger strike by detainees at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the president addressed the nation in a speech at Defense University in Washington, D.C. on May 23.

While justifying the conduct of the U.S. war against terrorism under his watch, Obama called for the eventual repeal the post-9/11 2001 Authorization for the use of Military Force that he said promotes "a perpetual wartime footing" and may give presidents too much power.

The president admitted and then defended the U.S. drone strikes – that have killed four American citizens – as he proposed tighter restrictions on the future use of drones to reduce civilian casualties. Obama also outlined his plans to make good on his unfulfilled 2008 campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, by lifting his own moratorium of transferring detainees to Yemen and appointing a new senior envoy to negotiate the release of additional prisoners to other nations.

At several points in the speech, peace activist Medea Benjamin, of the group Code Pink, interrupted the president to condemn the government’s drone program, to which Obama responded by saying, “That woman is worth paying attention to.” Congressional Republicans were predictably critical of the president’s revamping of counter-terrorism policy. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. declared, “The president’s speech … will be viewed by terrorists as a victory." Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Matt Southworth, an Iraq War veteran and board member of the group Veterans for Peace, who takes a critical look at President Obama’s recent speech reframing U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

Find links to Matt Southworth’s recent articles on U.S. wars abroad by visiting the Friends Committee on National Legislation at fcnl.org.

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