Current State of the War on Terror

Current State of the War on Terror

In March 2006, President Bush reauthorized the Patriot Act, despite major debate and delay in Congress. Eventually, though some of the provisions expired, much of the original act, including deferral of warrants, remained in the revised act.

The war on terror is still a relatively young initiative, having officially been contained entirely within the presidency of George W. Bush. With the November 2006 ascension of the Democratic Party in Congress, the direction of the war on terror is likely to shift dramatically, since many members of Congress have criticized Bush's war on terrorism, on the grounds that the justification for starting the war has only ever been applied retroactively, as new facts come to light.

When the U.S. first invaded Iraq in 2003, for example, the president's rationale was that Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda, a claim that was later debunked by improved intelligence. Later, the rationale was to get rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be nonexistent.

Critics have argued that U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have galvanized terrorist groups by more clearly defining the United States as their enemy, and have also inspired ire from the international community. When the Palestinian group Hamas won the majority of the seats in the Palestinian Authority's parliament in early 2006, the United States withdrew all its support for the PA, because Hamas has been classified as a terrorist group, thus leading to further tension in Israel.

Under the current Obama administration debates on the "war on terror," which some now term the "Overseas Contingency Operation," continues to rage on. President Obama has sent mixed signals as to how far he wants to distance himself from his predecessor. He has condemned harsh interrogation techniques and torture of alleged terrorists, and he has announced the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He has stated that closing Guantanamo will ensure a safer America in the long run because he views it as a recruiting tool for terrorists. The President has argued that the prison, which has held hundreds of detainees for years without charges or trials, motivates U.S. enemies overseas. Critics of this policy, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, have denounced the President's plans, and called him reckless in pursuing such actions. The prison has not been completely shut down, and various legal and congressional challenges have kept it open despite Obama's efforts.

Additionally, President Obama has continued to prosecute the war on terror in much the same way as the former President Bush. The Administration has continued the transfer of prisoners to other countries without any legal rights. Further, Obama's administration has continued to use the state secrets doctrine as a means to withhold sensitive information from public view. And it has not rejected outright the future use of military commission trials. President Obama's policies on the war on terror have thus been called "Bush redux."

It will be of great importance to observe the policy direction of the Obama administration in regards the "war on / operation against" terror. Will the U.S. be victorious or will this become another quagmire for the U.S.? Only time will tell.

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