It is impossible to overstate the damage inflicted upon our nation and the world by the previous administration’s words and actions. The GOP would like all of us to forget about the last administration and are now in the process of trying to re-write history. But, we must not let them. For if we do, history is bound to repeat itself.
The policies and rhetoric of the Bush Administration not only divided our nation and our allies, it united our enemies and increased their numbers, while depleting our treasury, driving us to the brink of bankruptcy, and irrevocably damaging our moral authority throughout the world, leaving hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children dead and thousands of Americans soldiers dead or maimed for life.
The former vice president, Dick Cheney, and most, if not all, of congressional Republicans persist on portraying the Obama Administration as weak on terrorism. They proclaim that the alleged Christmas day underwear-bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab, should have been treated as an enemy combatant and not read his Miranda rights, in spite of the fact, that that is exactly how the Bush Administration handled Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber.
They also continue to characterize our use of military force against al Qaida as a “war on terrorism,” despite the fact, that throughout the Bush Administration, Congress never declared war against anyone. Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution clearly states that Congress, and only Congress, can declare war.
If the truth were known, Congress has only formally declared war five times in our nation’s history. The last time Congress declared war was nearly seventy years ago on December 8, 1941. Since then, instead of formal declarations of war, the United States Congress has issued authorizations of force, such as the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” that greatly increased American participation in the Civil War between North and South Vietnam, and the "Authorization of the Use of Military Force" (AUMF) resolution that started the so-called “War in Iraq.”
On February 6, 2006, during testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Wartime Executive Power and the National Security Agency's Surveillance Authority, former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, in defending the Bush Administration’s use of executive power stated the following:
There was not a war declaration, either in connection with Al Qaida or in Iraq. It was an authorization to use military force. I only want to clarify that, because there are implications. Obviously, when you talk about a war declaration, you're possibly talking about affecting treaties, diplomatic relations. And so there is a distinction in law and in practice. And we're not talking about a war declaration. This is an authorization only to use military force.So, let us be clear. According to Alberto Gonzales and the Bush Administration we are not engaged in any war, no matter what Dick Cheney or any other apologist for the last administration tells you.
When Richard Reid, the so-called shoe-bomber, plead guilty on January 30, 2003, the presiding judge, William Young (a Republican appointee), told Reid:
We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.Well, personally, I don’t believe anyone could have said it better than Judge Young. Calling our struggle against terrorism a war when Congress has not declared it a war is way out of line. And calling terrorists enemy combatants is totally inappropriate. Shame on anyone, including the former vice president, Mr. Cheney, for elevating these tugs to a stature they do not deserve on par with the brave young men and women serving in our armed forces.
You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier, you are not – you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.
So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You're no warrior. I've known warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews were, and he said: "You're no big deal."
The time has come for the political fear mongering to stop, for all of us to recognize bin Laden and al Qaida for what they really are – a gang of international criminals and terrorists and nothing more.