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The US Response to Brussels: Obama for Unity, Clinton for Tighter Security, Trump for Torture

President Obama addressed the attacks in Brussels during his trip to Cuba Tuesday morning, as the candidates to replace him discussed how they would respond to terror.
(Alejandro Ernesto/EPA)

American politicians are reaching out to European allies on Tuesday morning, reaffirming the country's commitment to the continent in response to the deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels today.

President Obama, who is currently in Cuba for the first US presidential trip to the country in nearly a century, has been briefed on the attacks in Brussels and is huddling with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and other members of his national security team in Havana. He addressed the attacks in a speech in the city this morning.


"This is another reminder that the world must unite," Obama said. "We must be together, regardless of nationality or race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism."

Obama said that the US will do "whatever is necessary" to bring the Belgium attackers to justice, but spent just a few minutes on the attacks before moving on to his prepared remarks on the US's relationship with Cuba.

Related: Dozens Killed by Multiple Explosions in Brussels Airport and Subway

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the US presidential race, told NBC Tuesday morning that it is more important than ever that the US reaffirm its commitment to its European allies in the wake of "what looks to be fairly sophisticated, coordinated attacks" in Brussels.

"These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed," Clinton said in an emailed statement Tuesday morning. "Today's attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world."

Asked on NBC how she would work differently as president to prevent future attacks, Clinton focused on security.

"We have been confronting the threat of terrorism for quite some time. And this is the way that a terrible manifestation of it. We have to tighten our security… It's unrealistic to say that we are going to completely shut down our borders to everyone, it would stop commerce for example and that's not in anybody's interests," Clinton said, in an implicit response to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's comments earlier Tuesday morning.


As news of the attacks emerged, Trump told CNNand NBC that the US should use waterboarding and torture techniques to get information out of those responsible for the attacks in Brussels and future incidents of terrorism.

"If they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding," Trump said Tuesday. "You have to get the information from these people. And we have to be smart and we have to be tough."

Clinton rejected the use of torture, saying that is ineffective. But added that the US needs to give law enforcement "all the tools they need," without getting more specific. Clinton also raised the spectre of the San Bernardino attack in the US last year, referencing the dispute between US law enforcement and Apple over how to get access to the phone of one of the suspected terrorists responsible for the attack.

"I just can't believe that we can't find a reasonable path forward here trying to help our law enforcement professionals," she said.

Related: Donald Trump: Suspected Terrorist Arrested in Brussels Should be Waterboarded

Senator Ted Cruz, who is currently running in second place in the Republican presidential primary, spoke about the Brussels attack in a last-minute press conference in Washington, DC.

"This is a war," Cruz told reporters.

The senator blamed the attack on an "extreme strain of Islam" and called on the US to use "full force and fury" against ISIS.

Cruz also added that President Obama should cut his trip in Cuba short immediately and either come home or go straight to Brussels. Appearing on Fox News, Ohio Governor John Kasich, who is also running for president as a Republican, echoed Cruz's sentiments. Kasich called for Obama to come home from Cuba and "assert global leadership immediately."


In a written statement, the Ohio governor said that the US "must strengthen our alliances as our way of life and the international system… comes under challenge from these and other actors of evil."

In a written statement posted on Facebook, Cruz said this attack was not an "isolated incident," using an oft-repeated campaign line criticizing Obama on his response to terrorism.

"Radical Islam is at war with us. For over seven years we have had a president who refuses to acknowledge this reality. And the truth is, we can never hope to defeat this evil so long as we refuse to even name it. That ends on January 20, 2017, when I am sworn in as president. We will name our enemy — radical Islamic terrorism. And we will defeat it," Cruz wrote.

Related: In Photos: The Aftermath of Brussels Terror Attacks

Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination, also offered his condolences to the victims of the attack in statement Tuesday. Sanders urged cooperation between international allies to combat the terrorist threat.

"Today's attack is a brutal reminder that the international community must come together to destroy ISIS," Sanders's statement read. "This type of barbarism cannot be allowed to continue."

Members of Congress also addressed the attacks on Tuesday morning, offering prayers for Brussels and promising retribution for terrorists.

We stand arm-in-arm and heart-to-heart with the people of Brussels in the face of this mindless, wanton violence. Hate will not triumph.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer)March 22, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan offered a brief statement Tuesday morning, saying that the House of Representatives stands in "solidarity" with Brussels.

We must confront this threat together. We must defend democracy, and defeat terror. — Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan)March 22, 2016

This story is breaking and will be updated.