John Edwards on 9-11: 'We Should Treat It As An Act of War'
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards rejected the “metaphor” of the “war on terror” that America has been fighting since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But appearing on ABC News on September 11, 2001, just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Edwards left no doubt how he felt the country should respond to al Qaeda’s terrorism, declaring “We should treat it as an act of war.”
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ABC’s World News last night and Good Morning America this morning offered no coverage of Edwards’ 9/11 flip-flop. A report on Edwards’ speech posted on ABCNews.com offered no hint that Edwards had used their airwaves on 9/11 to push for a “war” response to terrorism, i.e., a war on terror.
Instead, ABC’s Raelyn Johnson offered a mild summary of Edwards’ new anti-war on terror stance, including his claim that the “war on terror” is a “discredited ideological pursuit.”
In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Edwards framed the current situation in Iraq around Bush administration policies that he opines have strained the military and increased the threat of terrorism, specifically the global war on terror.Reading the entire speech (posted at RealClearPolitics.com), Edwards plainly argued that the “war on terror” reaction to 9/11 was a mistake that has only aided our enemies:
“We need a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq American military that is mission-focused on protecting Americans from 21st century threats — not misused for discredited ideological pursuits,” said Edwards.
“The question is, what should replace the war on terror?” he asked.
By framing this as a “war,” we have walked right into the trap that terrorists have set--that we are engaged in some kind of clash of civilizations and a war against Islam.But back on September 11, 2001, Edwards — who had only been in the Senate for a few months — managed to snare Barbara Walters for an interview in which he boasted about the work he’d done to beef up American security, and vowed that the terrorists would see a “resolute,” “powerful” response.
The “war” metaphor has also failed because it exaggerates the role of only one instrument of American power — the military. This has occurred in part because the military is so effective at what it does. Yet if you think all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.
When Walters asked if that meant war, Edwards replied that if the attacks were proven to be the work of another state, it would certainly be war, and that in any event “I think we should treat it as an act of war.”
An excerpt from ABC’s live coverage, from around 10:05pm EDT on September 11, 2001:
BARBARA WALTERS: Senator Edwards, you’ve had concern now for quite a while about terrorist attacks and had wanted more security. What should have been done?
SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: Well, actually, Barbara, there are some of us who have been working on some legislation--a law that’s directed at doing specifically that. Senator Graham, Bob Graham, Dianne Feinstein and I along with others, have drafted legislation before this incident occurred that does three things. One, puts more resources, more money into fighting terrorism, counter-terrorism. Two, coordinates all of the federal agencies, and I think there are 41 of them that are involved — who are involved in counter terrorism; it creates a terrorism czar, to oversee that effort. And third, gives the director of the CIA more legal authority to do what needs to be done to fight terrorism.
I might add, Barbara, I think that the people who have committed this act — these acts on the United States, who killed all those innocent men and women and children today, underestimate the American people. And I think what they’re about to find out is the American people are strong, they are courageous, and they are resolute. And our response will be powerful.
WALTERS: Is this war?
Sen. EDWARDS: I think when--whenever we see the kind of attack we saw on the United States to--today, certainly if it were state sponsored it would be war. And I think we should treat it as an act of war.
WALTERS: How do we combat this kind of terrorism?
Sen. EDWARDS: We need more money spent on combatting terrorism, which is such a serious threat to the American people. We need to coordinate, to make sure that all of our agencies are working together in a coordinated fashion to fight these folks. And number three, we need to make sure that the legal authority is in place so that the director of the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency, can do what’s necessary to fight these people.