WASHINGTON - Cautiously welcoming his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay and restrict the use of drone attacks as part of a new anti-terror strategy, US Muslims have urged President Barack Obama to translate his pledges into action.
"The Obama Administration must abandon its bloated interpretation of the existing Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) to turn his words into meaningful actions," Gadeir Abbas, Staff Attorney of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net."Inaction alone is not enough to walk back the decade-long expansion of executive authorities which have produced devastating and counterproductive war abroad and civil liberties violations at home.
Obama unveiled a new strategy on Thursday, May 23, in which he offered a roll back on some of the most controversial aspects of the so-called war on terror.
In his speech, Obama pledged not to sign any legislation designed to further expand the existing AUMF, which grants the president authority to combat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in response to the 9/11 attacks.
He also narrowed the scope of the targeted killings by unmanned drones and announced steps toward closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.
Obama said that the United States was at a crossroad and must move on from the counterterrorism policies deployed after the 9/11 attacks to confront a new era of diverse global threats.
"A perpetual war -- through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments -- will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways," he said.
We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us," Obama said, warning that some post-9/11 tactics like enhanced interrogation of terror suspects had "compromised our basic values."
Pledging to close the Guantanamo Bay, Obama said the detention camp "has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law."
CAIR urged Obama to cease his reliance on drone strikes far from the battlefields, referring to concerns expressed by former General Stanley McChrystal that these strikes "undermine America's foreign policy goals."
As for Guantanamo, the leading Muslim group called on Obama to fulfill his six-year old promise to shut the facility.
It expressed concerns that the closure of Guantanamo would be accomplished by creating a comparable facility with the same inadequate judicial processes inside the US.
But Obama's new strategy has drawn fire from rival Republicans, saying the new policy would endanger US security.
"We are still in a long, drawn out conflict with Al-Qaeda," said Senator John McCain, Obama's rival in the 2008 presidential race, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"To somehow argue that Al-Qaeda is quote 'on the run,' comes from a degree of unreality that to me is really incredible."
Obama's critics on Capitol Hill also criticized the Democrat leader for making his announcement on the end of the war on terror after the Boston bombing.
"This war will continue whether the president acknowledges it or not," House Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul said in a statement.
"The president's policies signal a retreat from the threat of Al-Qaeda, which has decentralized and spread throughout the world," he said, adding that the administration's "return to a pre-9/11 counterterrorism mindset puts American lives at risk."
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce was also critical.
"Now is not the time to abandon robust efforts to keep Americans safe," Royce said.
"Al-Qaeda and its affiliates were not on their heels last year, and they clearly are not now."
Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, slammed Obama's speech as "a victory for the prisoners at Guantanamo.
"They see a light at the end of the tunnel," he told AFP.
"I've been a strong advocate of keeping Guantanamo open, sending more prisoners down there to be detained and interrogated so we can gather intelligence."
Driven by promises of closing Guantanamo Bay and ending anti-Muslim policies endorsed by the George W. Bush administration, Muslims overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the 2008 election.
But five years in the Oval Office, many of Obama's promises have been left unmet.
The Guantanamo Bay, in which hundreds of detainees are being held without trials, remains open.
In 2011, Obama signed into law a four-year extension of controversial anti-terror powers under Patriot Act.
The Obama administration has also continued policies seen targeting the Muslim community such as police surveillance on the minority and their worship places.
Obama has also adopted some controversial policies such as the secret kill list of terror suspects, which fuelled fears among many Americans.
Muslims and Arabs have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between seven to eight million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net