Neoconservatives invented the terror war, but Obama liberalism normalized it, at which point, mainstream journalists stopped asking questions.
Arun Kundnani, “The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.”
If the war on terror was the stuff of high-profile debates about war, torture, and surveillance in the Bush years, under President Obama it became a matter of bureaucratic routine, undramatic and unopposed. Although Obama was elected on a wave of opposition to Bush’s war on terror, he then failed to take the US in a fundamentally different direction; the administration thereby effectively neutered any remaining opposition and made permanent what had been a “state of emergency.” The minor shifts that did occur were largely already in train in the closing years of the Bush administration. Obama continued along the same track with the same aim in mind: to find ways to continue projecting force in the Middle East and to maintain a national security state at home—but without the noisy and divisive political conflicts that had plagued Bush from 2003 onward. Thus, the US military occupation of Iraq was wound down while the war in Afghanistan, where the number of US troops was trebled, was presented as the “good war.” The number of prisoners at Guantánamo was decreased by around a third, but the 171 who remained were slated for indefinite detention in what was now a permanent internment camp. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama attempted to draw a line through the clash of civilizations imagery of the post-9/11 period and offered instead a picture of respectful dialogue between cultures. But he did so without offering any of the changes in US foreign policy that would give such rhetoric substance. The PATRIOT Act was renewed and the state secrets doctrine was invoked to protect Bush-era officials from prosecution for their torture policy. Extraordinary rendition was wound down, while extrajudicial killings were stepped up. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called it the “new normal.” The very banality of counterterrorism discourse secured its ideological power much more effectively than the confrontational rewriting-the-rules strategy of the Bush years.