(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/23/13) – The nation's largest Muslim civil liberties organization said today that it hopes President Obama's comments in a speech on national security policy, which expressed opposition to "boundless global war" as a pillar of American foreign policy, are translated into concrete reforms.The president's speech at the National Defense University outlined his administration's views on issues that included done warfare, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and efforts to combat violent extremism.
While the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed the president's pledge not to sign any legislation designed to further expand the existing Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which grants the president authority to combat al-Qaeda and the Taliban in response to the September 11 attacks, CAIR noted that the administration's interpretation of the existing AUMF is so broad it effectively treats the entire globe as a single battlefield.
"Inaction alone is not enough to walk back the decade-long expansion of executive authorities which have produced devastating and counterproductive war abroad and civil liberties violations at home," said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. "The Obama Administration must abandon its bloated interpretation of the existing AUMF to turn his words into meaningful actions."
Furthermore, though the president addressed criticism about drone strikes and reports of civilian casualties, CAIR said it disagrees with the president's assessment that there is no better alternative to pursuing violent extremists that would not result in "these heartbreaking tragedies."
In response, CAIR again called on the president to cease his reliance on drone strikes far from the battlefields, noting that even former General Stanley McChrystal has expressed concern that such strikes "undermin[e] America's foreign policy goals."
CAIR also cautioned against the president's proposal to review whether or not his administration would establish a "special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action" against drone strike targets as it raises serious constitutional issues about presidential, judicial authority and due process.
While CAIR welcomes the president's recommitment to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, as it has become, as he said, a "symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law," it remains cautiously optimistic as the president has yet to fulfill this six year old promise. CAIR additionally expressed concern that the closure of Guantanamo Bay would be accomplished by creating a comparable facility with the same inadequate judicial processes inside the United States.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees in Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. civilian courts.
CAIR welcomed the president's acknowledgement that the threat of homegrown violent extremism knows no single ideology, citing the 2012 Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin and 2010 attack in which a plane was flown into an IRS building in Texas.
CAIR agreed with the president that the United States must address all forms of violent extremism, regardless of ideology, proportionally to the criminal threat posed by such individuals and groups.
Finally, CAIR welcomed the president's pledge to "guard against any encroachments on [American Muslim] civil liberties" as it "is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.