In a hallmark speech last week, President Obama unilaterally declared the war on terror over. The end of that war, Obama stated, meant we could return to the halcyon days of the Clinton-era law enforcement, during which America experienced a spate of terrorist attacks ranging from the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 to the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 to the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 to the USS Cole bombing in 2000. What justified Obama's announcement?
Nothing, except his need to pacify his leftist base. With scandals brewing on the home front -- the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative non-profits, the Department of Justice targeting of journalists -- President Obama must shore up his left or face the prospect of being an early lame duck.
Meanwhile, the Benghazi scandal simmers in the background, a reminder that President Obama's Middle East policy has not quelled terror but emboldened it across the region.
And so President Obama had to spin. And spin he did. He explained that America had compromised her basic values "by using torture to interrogate our enemies and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law."
Mere sentences later, he claimed credit for the death of Osama Bin Laden -- a killing that would not have happened without the intelligence provided by Guantanamo Bay and extreme interrogation methods.
More importantly, Obama said, "the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11." How, exactly? According to Obama, "the threat today is more diffuse" than it was before 9/11 -- a provably false claim, considering that al-Qaida always had affiliates, allies and terrorist competitors across the globe. The threat of terrorism predated 9/11 and always went further than al-Qaida (Hezbollah, not al-Qaida, attacked Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, and Yassar Arafat's Black September, not al-Qaida, attacked the Berlin Olympics in 1972).
But in order to justify his attempts to cut national defense funding and shut down Guantanamo Bay without a viable alternative, Obama announced that the war on terror had changed on a fundamental level.
There was another reason Obama labeled the war on terror transformed: It allows him to claim that Benghazi was a black swan attack, different in kind from attacks that preceded it, and therefore unpreventable. He termed Benghazi a "localized threat." He said it was not directed by al-Qaida (actually, it was directed by Ansar al Shariah, an al-Qaida ally in Libya). He compared it to the Boston Marathon bombings repeatedly, trying to turn it into a random case of Islamists acting alone.
Perhaps this is a mere attempt at diversion from the president. Perhaps he doesn't mean what he says. Or perhaps he's dooming America to a future of increased terrorism, state-sponsored, organized or disorganized, all to avoid scandal now.