President Barack Obama Friday warned America risked its security when it compromised its values, seeking support for his bid to sketch a new legal framework for anti-terror policies.
Obama used the backdrop of the US Naval Academy graduation ceremony to argue that founding US ideals must guide the future battle against terrorism, a day after trying to quell raging debate over Guantanamo Bay in a major speech.
"We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to -- not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe," Obama told 30,000 graduating navy cadets and family members.
"When America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops."
Obama told the graduates they would face a "full spectrum of threats" from 18th century-style piracy to cyber terrorism.
"As long as I am your commander-in-chief, I will only send you into harm?s way when it is absolutely necessary," Obama said, in an apparent veiled criticism of the Bush administration war in Iraq, which the president has argued was unnecessary.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, which Obama has ordered shut by next January, had to be closed because it had become a "taint" on the image of the United States.
"The truth is, it's probably one of the finest prisons in the world today. But it has a taint," Gates told NBC television's "Today" program during a visit to New York.
"The name itself is a condemnation. What the president was saying is, this will be an advertisement for Al-Qaeda as long as it's open," he said.
"I'm very proud of him, he's going to pilot training," McCain, himself an academy graduate, told Fox News on Thursday.
McCain, tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam after his jet was shot down, is a major player in the Guantanamo debate, and could emerge as a cross-party ally for Obama, as he strives to shutter the camp.
But McCain was critical of Obama's speech on Thursday, accusing him of making an announcement with great fanfare in January that he would close the camp, without planning properly what to do with the inmates.
"Frankly, the president's speech, where he said he was going to consult with Congress -- that's not a policy," McCain told Fox.
Obama on Thursday vowed no retreat on closing Guantanamo Bay, branding the prison a "mess" and charging that Bush-era anti-terror tactics were rooted in fear and ideology.
He also raised the prospect of holding the most dangerous Al-Qaeda detainees indefinitely in US "super-max" jails, in a speech designed to recapture the initiative in a row over his national security policies.
Obama took on critics on the right who believe "anything goes" in the fight against terrorism, and rebuked allies on the left who he said believed that in all cases transparency should triumph over national security.
Moments later, former vice president Dick Cheney hit back with his own speech at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, vehemently justifying the Bush approach, including harsh CIA interrogations derided by critics as torture and setting up Guantanamo outside the US legal framework.
Source: AFP American Edition