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Obama Sees Sunset on Sept. 11 War Powers in Drone Limits

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, in referring to U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for winding down the U.S. war on terror, stated that
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, in referring to U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for winding down the U.S. war on terror, stated that "our enemies are emboldened all over the planet." Photographer: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Republican lawmakers denounced Democratic President Barack Obama’s plan for winding down the U.S. war on terror, calling it a misguided approach that undermines national security.

Obama’s May 23 policy speech, which urged an end to the broad war powers Congress approved to fight al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was portrayed by Republicans as a lack of resolve in the face of terrorism threats worldwide.

“At a time when we need resolve the most, we are sounding retreat,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “Our enemies are emboldened all over the planet. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is coming back with a vengeance.”

The president said he would curtail drone strikes and push for an eventual closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. The speech called for a ratcheting-down of the war on terrorism, with Obama saying that the U.S. may be drawn into more wars unless the nation moderates its stance.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama, as well as the Republican Bush administration, failed to talk honestly about the scope of the global threat posed by terrorism. The president’s speech missed the mark, he said.

“I think it’s just stunningly, breathtakingly naive,” Gingrich, a Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Defying Reality

Calling it the most significant foreign policy address ever given by Obama, Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said on “State of the Union” that he couldn’t disagree more with the president.

“I found many parts of it disturbing for many reasons,” McCaul said. “I think the rhetoric sort of defies the reality in terms of the threat level that we’ve all been briefed on.”

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, backed the president, saying basic values and freedoms may be compromised in a never-ending war-like atmosphere.

“I’m not going to take lightly the terrorism threat against the U.S.,” Durbin said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “But if we are constantly thinking of this in the context of war, we stand at risk of doing things which compromise our values and freedoms.”

The president said he will tighten the rules governing who can be targeted in strikes by U.S. drones, which are unmanned aircraft. He said he’ll also ask Congress to lift restrictions on transferring Guantanamo detainees to other countries and lift a moratorium on transfers to Yemen. The speech came weeks after Obama renewed his 2009 pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo, in the face of objections from Congress, and as a hunger strike at the facility has led to the force-feeding of 30 prisoners.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Armour in Washington at sarmour@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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