Obama's Final National Security Speech: 'Stigmatize Good, Patriotic Muslims,' and You Fuel Terrorism
President Obama emphasized the absence of another 9/11-scale attack on the homeland during his two terms in office and argued that acting "like this is a war between the United States and Islam" would result in more American deaths and "the loss of the very principles we claim to defend."
Speaking to service members at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa today, Obama highlighted policy moments during his tenure including the Iraq pullout and Afghanistan surge. He claimed that "by any measure, core al-Qaeda, the organization that hit us on 9/11, is a shadow of its former self."
In the Middle East, he noted, "most dangerously, we saw the emergence of ISIL, the successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq, which fights as both a terrorist network and an insurgency." He added that keeping U.S. forces in Iraq to help prevent the creation of the Islamic State "was not an option" since "Iraqis wanted our military presence to end."
The president blamed factors including "the government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits and a hollowing out of Iraq security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014."
Washington's response to the fall of Mosul refused, Obama said, "to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that have helped to give rise to the organization that became ISIL in the first place."
"The campaign against ISIL has been relentless, it has been sustainable, it has been multilateral, and it demonstrates a shift in how we've taken the fight to terrorists everywhere, from south Asia to the Sahel," he said. "Instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we've built a network of partners."
"No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland," Obama declared. "And it's not because they didn't try. Plots have been disrupted, terrorists have been taken off the battlefield."
The president acknowledged attacks on the homeland "carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online."
"These deranged killers can't inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11," he said. "But the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston and San Bernardino and Fort Hood and Orlando, that pain continues to this day. And in some cases, it has stirred fear in our populations and threatens to change how we think about ourselves and our lives."
"...Technology makes it impossible to completely shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies. And somebody who's trying to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous, particularly when we live in a country where it's very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon."