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Obama: Fighting a Smarter War on Terror

Ashwin Madia – Interim Chairman of Posted: 05/ 6/11 12:04 PM ET

What is becoming clear, following the killing of Osama bin Laden, is that President Obama is fighting the war on terror in a smarter way than we had been. Two huge developments — from the use of key intelligence that came from means that didn’t include torture, to the president’s decision to not release photos of a dead bin Laden — demonstrate a much more deliberate way of fighting this war. In doing so, the president continues to make America safer.

In January, 2009, just after taking office, President Obama banned the use of torture by the CIA. It was a move previously endorsed by Leon Panetta, who would become the head of the CIA, and was also heartily endorsed by General David Petraeus, who would go on to lead the war effort in Afghanistan, and recently was himself named to head the CIA. Of ending torture, Petraeus said that the move “sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.” has been strongly against torture since the last administration started to use it. How the CIA operates directly impacts the reception that America receives around the world, and how willing others are to work with us or against us. For our troops fighting in the warzone, America’s reputation means a lot.

Now, in light of the death of bin Laden, we are reminded again that torture not only hurts the U.S., but doesn’t necessarily help us find and kill our enemies.

From January 2009 all the way through the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. did not receive any intelligence via torture. We were able to get key information for two and a half years, without torturing. And even while the U.S. was still using torture, non-torture techniques netted us some of the biggest clues we needed. For instance, the names of Osama bin Laden’s couriers were obtained from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed under standard interrogation.

Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

The most recent key decision by the president was to not release the photo of a dead bin Laden. Like the decision to ban torture, the president made the right, deliberate move. While some on Capitol Hill urged him to release the photo to put to bed conspiracy theories, Sarah Palin argued the photo should be released to somehow scare terrorists. Both arguments are short-sighted and wrong.

At a time when we have hundreds of thousands of troops in the field, now is not the time to inflame tensions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, by “spiking the football,” as the president said. Doing so only endangers our troops, and never will placate those who are prone to believe conspiracy theories, anyway. We have all the evidence we need that Osama bin Laden is dead. Indeed, today, al Qaeda even confirmed the kill, with no photo released. There is simply no reason to parade around a picture of his head, like some prize, no matter how satisfying it may feel to do so.

Every American felt intense pain on 9/11. A desire for vengeance is understandable, and a picture of Osama bin Laden with a gaping bullet hole in his eye would undoubtedly bring some sense of satisfaction to many Americans. But, when we elect a president, we elect someone that we trust will not succumb to instincts like those. We elect someone who will be smart, who will be deliberate, and will do what is right for America’s security, and our troops’ well-being.

When it comes to the war on terror, we certainly have that in President Barack Obama. It’s why Osama bin Laden is dead, and America is and continues to be made safer.

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