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Public Statements

Intellegence Assessment On Al-Qaida

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, the new intelligence assessment is a chilling reminder that the American people are less secure than we were on 9/11. According to press reports of the assessment, al-Qaida has reconstituted, rebuilt its training and command and control capabilities, and is better positioned to strike the West. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden and his top deputy are still on the loose.

If America is again attacked, it will be in no small measure a consequence of the Bush administration's failure to destroy al-Qaida at its roots in Afghanistan and to adequately secure the homeland. The decision to authorize and fight a misguided war in Iraq also created a new cadre of experienced terrorists bent on the destruction of the United States and our allies. The recent attacks in Britain are likely only the beginning of an Iraqi ``blowback,'' which may haunt us for years to come. Since we invaded Iraq, the number of Islamic extremist terrorist attacks--excluding those in Iraq and Afghanistan--has risen by 35 percent worldwide.

We cannot win a war against the terrorists if we are on the wrong battlefield. America must urgently begin redeploying from Iraq and take the fight more effectively to the enemy's home by destroying al-Qaida's leadership along the Afghan-Pakistan border, eliminating their command and control networks, and disrupting their funding. To counter their ability to rebuild these capabilities, we must convince Pakistan to pursue an effective strategy, with our assistance, to deny the terrorists sanctuary in Pakistan's northwest territories. We must also finish the job and secure Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent.

But it will take more than force to defeat this threat. It will take wisdom and patience to restore America's credibility in the Muslim world and reduce both passive and active support for extremists. We need to partner with the vast majority of Muslims in their struggle against those who would distort their religion, create oppressive theocracies, and kill innocents. We must demonstrate through action, not mere words, that America is not at war with Islam, and that we will stand with those Muslims who seek a better future.

Abu Ghraib served as a recruiting poster for violent Islamic extremists. Guantanamo has diminished America's standing in the Muslim world and with our closest allies. The needless violation of our civil liberties at home has damaged our moral authority abroad. All these actions have undercut our fight against terrorists. This is not America, this is not who we are. We must close Guantanamo, renounce torture, and respect the rule of law to be faithful to our own values, prosecute the war on terrorism more effectively, and begin to engender renewed admiration for America in the Muslim world. American values and liberties must be seen as a source of our strength, not as a liability, in the fight against terrorism.

Finally, we must take many long-overdue steps to better secure our homeland. We need to lock down loose nuclear material around the world, upgrade port, transport and chemical plant security, allocate homeland security dollars according to risk, and give local law enforcement the resources and intelligence support to help prevent rather than simply respond to terrorist attacks.

The administration argues this intelligence assessment proves its case for doing more of the same. On the contrary, the American people cannot afford more of the same. This intelligence assessment reminds us once again of the consequences of the decision to authorize and fight the war in Iraq, and to direct our resources away from the wider war on terrorism that was yet to be won. It underscores the urgent need for a new, more effective counter terrorism strategy at home and abroad.

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