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Is Obama soft on terror?

Our Readers Who Comment are engaged in a somewhat uncivilized and occasionally fact-starved mud-slinging contest over whether the Obama Administration's reading of rights and providing counsel to the Christmas Day underwear bomber proves that it is soft on terrorism and national security.

Many praise the Bush Administration's use of Guantanamo Bay and military tribunals as the appropriate response. Others applaud the approach taken by Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama. But the heat of the conversation underlines the point that Scott Wilson and Anne E. Kornblut make in writing that national security policy is "likely to be a major issue throughout the midterm election year. "

Readers have filed more than 700 comments on the story as of this writing. Democrat-sounding posters attack the Bush Administration for its record and defend Obama for his. Republican-sounding posters see great weakness in the White House. A couple of self-identified Independents try to see both sides.

We'll start with the following exchange, which pretty well summarizes the more rational comments on both sides of the argument:

rrwickett wrote, "I would like at least one of the posters who I see on this and many other sites who claim that "Obama is setting us up for a major attack" to explain exactly how Obama is setting us up for a major attack. Do you think Bush was "setting us up for a major attack" because the shoe bomber was read his rights and tried in civilian court? If so why didn't we hear it then?"

To which jdcw replied, I don't believe Obama is setting us for a major attack. They are going to try no matter what. But what the President and [Attorney General Eric] Holder are doing is setting the stage for an incident where we capture someone with information about a major attack and we will not be able to protect our citizens because Holder will be there with our Miranda rights..."

seguintx wrote, "The administration is engaging in frantic damage control because it feels very vulnerable on the issue... What I'd really like to know is whether Adulmutallab is actually cooperating and providing actionable intelligence, or if this is White House spin. I hope an Intel Committee closes the door and asks for specifics."

cogito1 said, "The Obama administration has handled the "underwear bomber" skillfully and professionally, and has acquired valuable intelligence by doing so. Contrast this with the ignorant, clumsy rantings of certain Republican pols who can't think outside the Guantanamo/tribunal bag. I'm glad the Democrats are in charge of our security."

KD11 wrote, "...I'm an Independent voter. I strongly support Presidents Obamas response to terrorism. Treat the underwear bomber like a common criminal. Don't give him a chance to be honored as a solder. With Gitmo, give them all trials. It doesn't matter where or what kind of trial. If they're guilty lock them up someplace. It's a done deal. The important part is that they have a trial! How can Americans not understand that basic concept?..."

To which ProudTexan replied, "Yeah there is nothing this countries need more than a few more Al Queda trained radical muslem terrorist housed in our American prisons teaching Jihad classes to their fellow inmates who up for parole in 3 years. That is a brilliant idea!"

patrickmcconnell wrote, "I know every situation is different, but there are no standard guidelines as to whom to treat as an enemy combatant. How should Timothy McVeigh be treated today? Or the Unabomber? Is a connection to Al-Qaeda the only determining factor? If so, what happens if a domestic group that just hates the government starts blowing things up? This issue is becoming too much of a political issue and isn't fair to anyone within our civilian and military justice systems. Congress and the Administration need to work together to come up with clear guidelines!"

But powerange weighed in a couple of hours later by saying, "Dem libs can defend their handling of the Christmas terrorist and compare it to the shoe bomber....the shoe bomber's handling was a MISTAKE by the Bush Administration and rather than learn from that, the dem libs are making the same mistake....shoe bomber pleaded guilty and there was no trial...this Christmas dude will get the full O.J. treatment... other terrorists...only have to fear being read their Miranda rights...Leaderless in America continues"

g30rg3544 observed, "If this guy's lawyer is letting him talk to the Feds he has obviously been offered some kind of a deal."

gsms69 said, "So even if he is talking, how do you know he is telling the truth. And do we think that the enemy would not change any attack that they think the bomber might know about? Are we that naive? Holder is but are we?"

njva17420 wrote, "Isn't it about time that the morons on the right -- including some of these posters -- shut thair yaps and acknowledged that the Administration is doing a creditable job in this case? [Sen.] Susan Collins [R-Maine] and newby [Sen.] Scott Brown [R-Mass.] should pay attention to the facts before shooting their mouths off."

blert said, "Republicans really are behaving like idiots on this issue. Yes, I think we need to be tough on terror, and, yes, I think we need to call the government to task for not flagging this terrorist down before he got onto a flight carrying explosives. However, what Republicans are urging is to suspend the rule of law... Abdulmutallab deserves legal counsel and to be read his rights, just as any criminal suspect does, but a plea deal? That would not fit the crime, and it would be political suicide for Obama."

onexge wrote, "I'd have thought that a true conservative would want to conserve the bedrock principles of anglo-american jurisprudence enshrined in the Magna Carta - you know, that document by which the King of England conceded that he didn't have the right to lock up someone just because he or his bureaucrats felt like it - instead of casting them aside in a fit of panic..."

magnifco1000 said, "Look, if he were tortured like the guys at GITMO, do you really think he would say more then he has already? Where is the proof that torturing all those guys at GITMO made any difference in terms of intelligence collected anyway? Not only that, we know several, at least, committed suicide shortly after being tortured. This entire idea that the most productive way is to just beat the hell out of these guys is apparently the Republican response to "being tough on terror." Not only does it raise ethical concerns that America is doing this, but it also is highly dubious in terms of effectiveness."

powerange wrote, "...Ft Hood and the recruiting station murders were acts of terrorism and I'd say they were indeed "successful." Christmas dude would have been successful if he wasn't such a dud... thanks for the dem libs weak handling of terrorism. They have done nothing but encourage more of the same. 2010 elections start the reset."

We'll close with this somewhat irrational exchange:

Slager21 wrote, "...The folks who trained the underwear bomber were released from GITMO because of the pressure brought to bear by the anti-American liberal Democrat front organizations which umbrella with the ACLU. Now that the same liberals have ascended to power National Security has become like watching a bunch of 3 year olds playing with cat dung in a sand box for obvious reasons."

To which ozma1 replied, "Your completely evidence-free assertion is pretty comical given the amount of weird mental contortion you must have had to have done to write such. By the way, STILL love your highly insightful and intellectual way with words."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  February 4, 2010; 7:13 AM ET
 | Tags: Miranda, National Security, Obama, Terrorism, Waterboarding  
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Terrorists are not only arriving from foreign countries, they can be US citizens. War is war, whether the enemy is alien or a US citizen. We should deprive enemy combatants who are US citizens of their civil rights, as we deprive alien enemy combatants aliens of civil rights; they should be all sent to Guantanamo.

The war on terror is not the only war we have: we have a war on drugs. Criminals who sell drugs endanger no fewer lives than terrorists -- indeed they have made many more victims in the US than terrorists. We should deprive suspects in drug crimes of their civil rights, as we deprive suspected terrorists of their civil rights; they should all go to Guantanamo. This will also save a lot of scarse money, and reduce the deficit.

The war on crime can also benefit of the same approach: ship all suspected criminals to Guantanamo. This will be very effective in fighting crimes, and much less expensive. While we are at it, we should also stop this charade of Miranda rights: extreme sleep deprivation with none of this nonsense of being silent and having the right to a lawyer will surely help in the war on crime: we cannot afford to risk lives to crime, just because of quaint concerns about human rights: War is war.

In war, the president can take extraordinary measures. President Bush took such measures in the war on terrorism. I hope that President Obama will extend these measures to the war on drugs and the war on crime. We should also consider more drastic measures in the war on obesity.

Posted by: marc17 | February 11, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

First, 9/11 happened on Bush's watch. So we can infer that Republicans are softer on terrorism.

Next, Bush-Cheney's response to 9/11 was to invade relatively secular Iraq and spare the spawning ground of Wahabi extremism -- Saudi Arabia -- so as not to hurt their cronies in the oil business. So, campaign contributions were more important to them than the safety of the American people. That is hardly being tough on terrorism. The proper response would have been to bomb a substantial percentage of Saudi oil wells and take over another substantial percentage; pump oil free from the captured oil wells until the American people were satisfied that they had received sufficient reparation for the 9/11 attacks perpetrated largely by Saudi natives.

Again, the sensible course of action -- yes, "tough" action -- in Iraq and Afghanistan, would have been to go in, destroy the place, intimidate the populace to drive home the chilling message that if you harbor our enemies, we will inflict disproportionately large damage on you. Having done that, we should have withdrawn. Once the enemy is neutraized -- from attacking us -- what do we care about the type of government they have, or how they treat each other? That is not sufficient justification for sending thousands of poor young men and women from small towns and central cities to their death or dismemberment in a war that does not add to our security, only breeds more recruits for terrorism while placing our people squarely in harms way.

The only thing the Republicans are tough on is the welfare of hard working, tax paying, law abiding Americans.

Posted by: MoneyEyer | February 9, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

First: yes, the president is very soft on terror. I believe that he wants to protect Muslims. He was raised as a Muslim and at heart,no matter what he says, he is still one.
Second: If the dems can spend billions on wasteful projects and some that don't even exist, why can't they fund the space program. It is because the president does not want America to look or be strong. He is weak and he wants America to be weak! There is no other reason that I know of why we should not fund returning to the moon. We get a lot of good research out of each mission and it makes Americans proud.
Of course, if you are not a proud American, who cares about such? Therefore, I don't believe that the president is an American. No one in his right mind would spend over 1 million dollars to seal his birth certificate, if he even has one, and other documents unless they have something to hide! We would probably find out that he is a documented communist. Remember, his mentors were anti America, radicals, home grown terrorists, and his preacher for 20 years was also anti American! I believe he is very bad for America. He is ruining our economy and destroying the dollar!

Posted by: hankster6 | February 6, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

media driven controversy followed by media driven polls about the controversy, follwed by another media driven controversy, followed with another poll....
we the people have to stop this vicious cycle. who out there votes because of what a poll says? polls questions are confusing in their vagueness, and can be construed and spun either way. in a national election how can the opinions of 1700 randomly called people have any accuracy when predicting what 120,000,000 voters are going to do? in Nov/08, the results were alot further apart then what the polls predicted. Be responsible for gathering your info from different sources. I used to go to Townhall just to read what the other side was saying and thinking. Now I don't need to, cause wapo gives the GOP free rein to spew whatever without fact checking.

Posted by: katem1 | February 4, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

amazingly doug feaver didn't mention any of the comments that take the reporters to task for doing the GOP's work for them. They automatically make the WH defend against these factless assertions, instead of digging for and reporting on FACTS!!!!!
rates right down there with using suppositions in news article titles. News is supposed to be what happened, not what one person thinks is going to happen, that's op-eds, and the line is almost non-exsistant between them on these pages of the once reputable WaPo.

Posted by: katem1 | February 4, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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