The essence of Obama and Cheney
Thu, 05/21/2009 - 5:05pm
By Philip Zelikow
The two speeches on counterterrorism today by President Obama and former Vice President Cheney were each, in their way, exceptionally well-crafted addresses showcasing each man's rhetorical gifts. The two addresses repay careful study and comparison. But everything I could say to contrast the style and substance of the two speeches can be gleaned from this pair of quotations from them:
Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy. Apparently using the term 'war' where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we're advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as, quote, 'Overseas contingency operations.'
After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era -- that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to the application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out....
Now let me be clear: we are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. We do need to update our institutions to deal with this threat. But we must do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability.