Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Edwards to Offer Anti-Terror Plan Criticizing Bush and Democratic Rivals"

The Trail (WaPo):
With the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks looming, John Edwards will present a stark assessment of the country's struggle against terrorism Friday, saying the nation is less safe than it was six years ago and calling for a new worldwide organization to combat the threat.
In a speech at Pace University in Lower Manhattan, and with an introduction from a Sept. 11 widow and activist Kristen Breitweiser, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate is planning to propose creating a "Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization." This would serve as a kind of modern-day NATO, giving member countries a way to better track terrorists' communications, recruiting and financing, on the theory that breaking up plots requires cross-border cooperation, as shown in Germany's foiling of an alleged plot this week.

"There is now only one key question we must ask ourselves: Are we any closer to getting rid of terrorism than we were six years ago? And the terrible answer is no, we're further away," Edwards is expected to say.

Edwards's speech will further stir debate in an area that has featured some of the sharpest exchanges on the Democratic side so far, as candidates seek to criticize President Bush's approach against terrorism while at the same time also trying to avoid sounding like as though they will adopt a less forceful tack. In a July speech, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he would be willing to invade Pakistan to pursue Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders even without Pakistan's approval, a statement that some of his rivals criticized as rash.

In today's speech, Edwards is expected to sound a less-explicit warning, saying, "if the Pakistani government fails to take care of the problem of al-Qaeda, we will." He is also expected to sharply criticize those that say, as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) did in one debate, that the country is safer than it was prior to before 2001. And he will once again call into question Bush's framing of the struggle against terrorism as a "war," saying that this overly emphasizes military rather than investigative tactics and plays into terrorists' hands -- an argument that has already won him ridicule from Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani.

"Islamic extremists wanted to frame the conflict with the U.S. as a war of civilizations, and the Bush administration, stuck in a Cold War mentality, happily complied," Edwards plans to say.

The new structure is needed, say those advising Edwards, given that NATO does not include many countries in which Islamic terrorists operate, and given that other international bodies, such as the UN and Interpol, include countries that have contributed to the world terror threat. To belong to the new international body, countries would have to pledge to tough criteria for pursuing extremists or terrorism financing within their own borders, and nations that declined to take part would be singled out, which could encourage more assistance from nations such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, Edwards's advisers say.

"There has been a reluctance about really cracking down on countries," said Gordon Adams, an international relations professor at American University advising Edwards. "This is a way of saying, 'Are you prepared to step up to this question and really make your policy stick or are you not?'."

Other measures in Edwards' strategy will include providing 1,000 scholarships to promote better language skills in the diplomatic and intelligence corps, greater emphasis on "human intelligence" generally, and more focus on staving off radicalism in Muslim communities within America.

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