Obama Says US 'Breaking the Back' of ISIS

The president trumpeted his national security record.

BySerena Marshall and Jordyn Phelps
December 06, 2016, 4:50 PM

— -- President Barack Obama trumpeted his national security record today at Florida's MacDill Air Force Base, saying the U.S. is "breaking the back of ISIL" and has diminished the profile of terrorists, calling them "thugs" and "murderers."

"No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. And it's not because they didn't try," he said, pointing to the intelligence gathered at MacDill.

The president used the speech to target President-elect Donald Trump's experience and desire to use waterboarding as an interrogation technique.

Obama said staying "true to our laws" strengthens America and prohibiting torture like waterboarding has not decreased intelligence gathering.

"We prohibited torture," he said. "And at no time has anybody who has worked with me told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence."

He took a veiled shot at Trump and his terrorism policies by hailing diplomatic solutions like the Iran nuclear accord as a strategy that has made America safer. Obama made a point of saying he is the first president to "serve two full terms during a time of war" while knocking Congress for pursuing terrorists in a way that he said could breed more terrorism.

"We have to fight terrorists in a way that doesn't create more terrorists," he said. "If a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of Congress should at least have the courage to make clear where they stand — not on the sidelines, not on cable TV shows but fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force."

The president also criticized the notion of a religious test in America and labeling ISIS as representative of all Muslims, which Trump has done on the campaign trail and as president-elect.

"We are fighting terrorists who claim to be fighting on behalf of Islam — but they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world," Obama said. "And they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the U.S. military."

"Let my final words to you as commander in chief remind you of what you are fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for," he continued. "The United States of America doesn't impose religious tests as the price for freedom. We are a country that was founded so they could practice their faiths as they choose."

"We are a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted," he added. "A society that is open and free that can criticize a president without retribution."

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