One of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the United States today is the threat posed by Islamist terrorists like al Qaeda – especially if they manage to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
While the number of terrorists we face is relatively small – probably no more than a few thousand – the challenge of finding and stopping them is great. For starters, we need to avoid turning our Muslim friends and allies into enemies by violating their civil rights here in the United States and by invading Muslim countries abroad with little or no justification.
I believe the Bush Administration badly bungled the War on Terror. We should never have invaded Iraq. Instead, we should have focused our efforts and our scarce resources – like our military special forces units and Arabic translators – on tracking down al Qaeda and its supporters.
Moreover, we should have done a better job of putting together a coalition of nations to track down and neutralize al Qaeda. There was a tremendous amount of sympathy and support around the world for the United States in the wake of 9/11, and I believe the Bush administration squandered that resource by pursuing its misguided unilateral approach to fighting terrorism.
I believe that the Bush Administration made another serious misstep when it authorized inhumane and unusual interrogation tactics for terrorist suspects and sent some suspects to countries where a number of them have almost certainly been tortured. Not only has this Administration run roughshod over our treasured Constitutional rights, but it has destroyed our country’s reputation as a paragon of individual liberty and the rule of law and alienated important and potential allies around the world. It’s a harsh irony that most intelligence experts believe that torture and other questionable interrogation tactics usually produce inaccurate information.
I have also voted against reauthorization of several expiring provisions of the so-called Patriot Act, which reduce the privacy rights of Americans who may have done nothing illegal.
The death of Osama bin Laden was welcome news for the United States, but the threat of terrorism remains real, and the US Government must continue to work to prevent terrorist attacks and prepare our first responders to deal with any likely threats. I believe we can successfully do that without suspending or abridging the civil liberties we have historically enjoyed, and I am committed to doing so.