FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Excerpt: "Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding 'kill list,' poring over terrorist suspects' biographies on what one official calls the macabre 'baseball cards' of an unconventional war.'

President Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a campaign fundraiser in Denver, 05/23/12. (photo: AP)
President Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a campaign fundraiser in Denver, 05/23/12. (photo: AP)



Obama's Secret 'Kill List'

By Jo Becker, Scott Shane, The New York Times

29 May 12

 

his was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.

President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.

"How old are these people?" he asked, according to two officials present. "If they are starting to use children," he said of Al Qaeda, "we are moving into a whole different phase."

It was not a theoretical question: Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret "nominations" process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding "kill list," poring over terrorist suspects' biographies on what one official calls the macabre "baseball cards" of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises - but his family is with him - it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

"He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go," said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. "His view is that he's responsible for the position of the United States in the world." He added, "He's determined to keep the tether pretty short."

Nothing else in Mr. Obama's first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president's own deep reserve.

In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama's evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda - even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was "an easy one."

His first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a "Whac-A-Mole" approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers.

The administration's failure to forge a clear detention policy has created the impression among some members of Congress of a take-no-prisoners policy. And Mr. Obama's ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.'s strikes drive American policy there, saying "he didn't realize his main job was to kill people," a colleague said.

Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president's attempt to apply the "just war" theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.

But the strikes that have eviscerated Al Qaeda - just since April, there have been 14 in Yemen, and 6 in Pakistan - have also tested both men's commitment to the principles they have repeatedly said are necessary to defeat the enemy in the long term. Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants; in his 2010 guilty plea, Faisal Shahzad, who had tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square, justified targeting civilians by telling the judge, "When the drones hit, they don't see children."

Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. "The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town' - reminded me of body counts in Vietnam," said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war.

Mr. Blair's criticism, dismissed by White House officials as personal pique, nonetheless resonates inside the government.

William M. Daley, Mr. Obama's chief of staff in 2011, said the president and his advisers understood that they could not keep adding new names to a kill list, from ever lower on the Qaeda totem pole. What remains unanswered is how much killing will be enough.

"One guy gets knocked off, and the guy's driver, who's No. 21, becomes 20?" Mr. Daley said, describing the internal discussion. "At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?"

'Maintain My Options'

A phalanx of retired generals and admirals stood behind Mr. Obama on the second day of his presidency, providing martial cover as he signed several executive orders to make good on campaign pledges. Brutal interrogation techniques were banned, he declared. And the prison at Guantánamo Bay would be closed.

What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes. They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric. Instead, he was already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit.

It was a pattern that would be seen repeatedly, from his response to Republican complaints that he wanted to read terrorists their rights, to his acceptance of the C.I.A.'s method for counting civilian casualties in drone strikes.

The day before the executive orders were issued, the C.I.A.'s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, had called the White House in a panic. The order prohibited the agency from operating detention facilities, closing once and for all the secret overseas "black sites" where interrogators had brutalized terrorist suspects.

"The way this is written, you are going to take us out of the rendition business," Mr. Rizzo told Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Obama's White House counsel, referring to the much-criticized practice of grabbing a terrorist suspect abroad and delivering him to another country for interrogation or trial. The problem, Mr. Rizzo explained, was that the C.I.A. sometimes held such suspects for a day or two while awaiting a flight. The order appeared to outlaw that.

Mr. Craig assured him that the new president had no intention of ending rendition - only its abuse, which could lead to American complicity in torture abroad. So a new definition of "detention facility" was inserted, excluding places used to hold people "on a short-term, transitory basis." Problem solved - and no messy public explanation damped Mr. Obama's celebration.

"Pragmatism over ideology," his campaign national security team had advised in a memo in March 2008. It was counsel that only reinforced the president's instincts.

Even before he was sworn in, Mr. Obama's advisers had warned him against taking a categorical position on what would be done with Guantánamo detainees. The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president's order showed that the advice was followed.

Some detainees would be transferred to prisons in other countries, or released, it said. Some would be prosecuted - if "feasible" - in criminal courts. Military commissions, which Mr. Obama had criticized, were not mentioned - and thus not ruled out.

As for those who could not be transferred or tried but were judged too dangerous for release? Their "disposition" would be handled by "lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies - rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention - that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

But a year later, with Congress trying to force him to try all terrorism suspects using revamped military commissions, he deployed his legal skills differently - to preserve trials in civilian courts.

It was shortly after Dec. 25, 2009, following a close call in which a Qaeda-trained operative named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had boarded a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb sewn into his underwear.

Mr. Obama was taking a drubbing from Republicans over the government's decision to read the suspect his rights, a prerequisite for bringing criminal charges against him in civilian court.

The president "seems to think that if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war," former Vice President Dick Cheney charged.

Sensing vulnerability on both a practical and political level, the president summoned his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., to the White House.

F.B.I. agents had questioned Mr. Abdulmutallab for 50 minutes and gained valuable intelligence before giving him the warning. They had relied on a 1984 case called New York v. Quarles, in which the Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a suspect in response to urgent public safety questions - the case involved the location of a gun - could be introduced into evidence even if the suspect had not been advised of the right to remain silent.

Mr. Obama, who Mr. Holder said misses the legal profession, got into a colloquy with the attorney general. How far, he asked, could Quarles be stretched? Mr. Holder felt that in terrorism cases, the court would allow indefinite questioning on a fairly broad range of subjects.

Satisfied with the edgy new interpretation, Mr. Obama gave his blessing, Mr. Holder recalled.

"Barack Obama believes in options: ‘Maintain my options,' " said Jeh C. Johnson, a campaign adviser and now general counsel of the Defense Department.

'They Must All Be Militants'

That same mind-set would be brought to bear as the president intensified what would become a withering campaign to use unmanned aircraft to kill Qaeda terrorists.

Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. "The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,' " a top White House adviser recounted.

In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a "near certainty" that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.

The president's directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because "the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration," said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush.

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. "Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization - innocent neighbors don't hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs," said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama's trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the "single digits" - and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it "guilt by association" that has led to "deceptive" estimates of civilian casualties.

"It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants," the official said. "They count the corpses and they're not really sure who they are."

'A No-Brainer'

About four months into his presidency, as Republicans accused him of reckless naïveté on terrorism, Mr. Obama quickly pulled together a speech defending his policies. Standing before the Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, he mentioned Guantánamo 28 times, repeating his campaign pledge to close the prison.

But it was too late, and his defensive tone suggested that Mr. Obama knew it. Though President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate, had supported closing the Guantánamo prison, Republicans in Congress had reversed course and discovered they could use the issue to portray Mr. Obama as soft on terrorism.

Walking out of the Archives, the president turned to his national security adviser at the time, Gen. James L. Jones, and admitted that he had never devised a plan to persuade Congress to shut down the prison.

"We're never going to make that mistake again," Mr. Obama told the retired Marine general.

General Jones said the president and his aides had assumed that closing the prison was "a no-brainer - the United States will look good around the world." The trouble was, he added, "nobody asked, ‘O.K., let's assume it's a good idea, how are you going to do this?' "

It was not only Mr. Obama's distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have "a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen - without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen."

In fact, both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the attorney general, Mr. Holder, had warned that the plan to close the Guantánamo prison was in peril, and they volunteered to fight for it on Capitol Hill, according to officials. But with Mr. Obama's backing, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, blocked them, saying health care reform had to go first.

When the administration floated a plan to transfer from Guantánamo to Northern Virginia two Uighurs, members of a largely Muslim ethnic minority from China who are considered no threat to the United States, Virginia Republicans led by Representative Frank R. Wolf denounced the idea. The administration backed down.

That show of weakness doomed the effort to close Guantánamo, the same administration official said. "Lyndon Johnson would have steamrolled the guy," he said. "That's not what happened. It's like a boxing match where a cut opens over a guy's eye."

The Use of Force

It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government's sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects' biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.

This secret "nominations" process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia's Shabab militia.

The video conferences are run by the Pentagon, which oversees strikes in those countries, and participants do not hesitate to call out a challenge, pressing for the evidence behind accusations of ties to Al Qaeda.

"What's a Qaeda facilitator?" asked one participant, illustrating the spirit of the exchanges. "If I open a gate and you drive through it, am I a facilitator?" Given the contentious discussions, it can take five or six sessions for a name to be approved, and names go off the list if a suspect no longer appears to pose an imminent threat, the official said. A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan, where that agency conducts strikes.

The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name. He signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on the more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan - about a third of the total.

Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America's image and derail diplomacy.

"He realizes this isn't science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence," said Mr. Daley, the former chief of staff. "The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process."

But the control he exercises also appears to reflect Mr. Obama's striking self-confidence: he believes, according to several people who have worked closely with him, that his own judgment should be brought to bear on strikes.

Asked what surprised him most about Mr. Obama, Mr. Donilon, the national security adviser, answered immediately: "He's a president who is quite comfortable with the use of force on behalf of the United States."

In fact, in a 2007 campaign speech in which he vowed to pull the United States out of Iraq and refocus on Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan - even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn's campaign bluster. (Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had become "Dr. Strangelove.")

In office, however, Mr. Obama has done exactly what he had promised, coming quickly to rely on the judgment of Mr. Brennan.

Mr. Brennan, a son of Irish immigrants, is a grizzled 25-year veteran of the C.I.A. whose work as a top agency official during the brutal interrogations of the Bush administration made him a target of fierce criticism from the left. He had been forced, under fire, to withdraw his name from consideration to lead the C.I.A. under Mr. Obama, becoming counterterrorism chief instead.

Some critics of the drone strategy still vilify Mr. Brennan, suggesting that he is the C.I.A.'s agent in the White House, steering Mr. Obama to a targeted killing strategy. But in office, Mr. Brennan has surprised many former detractors by speaking forcefully for closing Guantánamo and respecting civil liberties.

Harold H. Koh, for instance, as dean of Yale Law School was a leading liberal critic of the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies. But since becoming the State Department's top lawyer, Mr. Koh said, he has found in Mr. Brennan a principled ally.

"If John Brennan is the last guy in the room with the president, I'm comfortable, because Brennan is a person of genuine moral rectitude," Mr. Koh said. "It's as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war."

The president values Mr. Brennan's experience in assessing intelligence, from his own agency or others, and for the sobriety with which he approaches lethal operations, other aides say.

"The purpose of these actions is to mitigate threats to U.S. persons' lives," Mr. Brennan said in an interview. "It is the option of last recourse. So the president, and I think all of us here, don't like the fact that people have to die. And so he wants to make sure that we go through a rigorous checklist: The infeasibility of capture, the certainty of the intelligence base, the imminence of the threat, all of these things."

Yet the administration's very success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo.

"Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets," said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the intelligence committee. "They are not going to advertise that, but that's what they are doing."

Mr. Obama's aides deny such a policy, arguing that capture is often impossible in the rugged tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen and that many terrorist suspects are in foreign prisons because of American tips. Still, senior officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon acknowledge that they worry about the public perception.

"We have to be vigilant to avoid a no-quarter, or take-no-prisoners policy," said Mr. Johnson, the Pentagon's chief lawyer.

Trade-Offs

The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration's "false choice between our safety and our ideals."

But he has found that war is a messy business, and his actions show that pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision.

One early test involved Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The case was problematic on two fronts, according to interviews with both administration and Pakistani sources.

The C.I.A. worried that Mr. Mehsud, whose group then mainly targeted the Pakistan government, did not meet the Obama administration's criteria for targeted killing: he was not an imminent threat to the United States. But Pakistani officials wanted him dead, and the American drone program rested on their tacit approval. The issue was resolved after the president and his advisers found that he represented a threat, if not to the homeland, to American personnel in Pakistan.

Then, in August 2009, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, told Mr. Brennan that the agency had Mr. Mehsud in its sights. But taking out the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Panetta warned, did not meet Mr. Obama's standard of "near certainty" of no innocents being killed. In fact, a strike would certainly result in such deaths: he was with his wife at his in-laws' home.

"Many times," General Jones said, in similar circumstances, "at the 11th hour we waved off a mission simply because the target had people around them and we were able to loiter on station until they didn't."

But not this time. Mr. Obama, through Mr. Brennan, told the C.I.A. to take the shot, and Mr. Mehsud was killed, along with his wife and, by some reports, other family members as well, said a senior intelligence official.

The attempted bombing of an airliner a few months later, on Dec. 25, stiffened the president's resolve, aides say. It was the culmination of a series of plots, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam.

Mr. Obama is a good poker player, but he has a tell when he is angry. His questions become rapid-fire, said his attorney general, Mr. Holder. "He'll inject the phrase, ‘I just want to make sure you understand that.' " And it was clear to everyone, Mr. Holder said, that he was simmering about how a 23-year-old bomber had penetrated billions of dollars worth of American security measures.

When a few officials tentatively offered a defense, noting that the attack had failed because the terrorists were forced to rely on a novice bomber and an untested formula because of stepped-up airport security, Mr. Obama cut them short.

"Well, he could have gotten it right and we'd all be sitting here with an airplane that blew up and killed over a hundred people," he said, according to a participant. He asked them to use the close call to imagine in detail the consequences if the bomb had detonated. In characteristic fashion, he went around the room, asking each official to explain what had gone wrong and what needed to be done about it.

"After that, as president, it seemed like he felt in his gut the threat to the United States," said Michael E. Leiter, then director of the National Counterterrorism Center. "Even John Brennan, someone who was already a hardened veteran of counterterrorism, tightened the straps on his rucksack after that."

David Axelrod, the president's closest political adviser, began showing up at the "Terror Tuesday" meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president's other aspirations and achievements.

In the most dramatic possible way, the Fort Hood shootings in November and the attempted Christmas Day bombing had shown the new danger from Yemen. Mr. Obama, who had rejected the Bush-era concept of a global war on terrorism and had promised to narrow the American focus to Al Qaeda's core, suddenly found himself directing strikes in another complicated Muslim country.

The very first strike under his watch in Yemen, on Dec. 17, 2009, offered a stark example of the difficulties of operating in what General Jones described as an "embryonic theater that we weren't really familiar with."

It killed not only its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and left behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents. It was hardly the kind of precise operation that Mr. Obama favored. Videos of children's bodies and angry tribesmen holding up American missile parts flooded You Tube, fueling a ferocious backlash that Yemeni officials said bolstered Al Qaeda.

The sloppy strike shook Mr. Obama and Mr. Brennan, officials said, and once again they tried to impose some discipline.

In Pakistan, Mr. Obama had approved not only "personality" strikes aimed at named, high-value terrorists, but "signature" strikes that targeted training camps and suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants.

But some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist "signature" were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees "three guys doing jumping jacks," the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers - but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.

Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well.

"We are not going to war with Yemen," he admonished in one meeting, according to participants.

His guidance was formalized in a memo by General Jones, who called it a "governor, if you will, on the throttle," intended to remind everyone that "one should not assume that it's just O.K. to do these things because we spot a bad guy somewhere in the world."

Mr. Obama had drawn a line. But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when C.I.A. analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence. And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory.

Today, the Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. Officials say the criteria are tighter than those for signature strikes, requiring evidence of a threat to the United States, and they have even given them a new name - TADS, for Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes. But the details are a closely guarded secret - part of a pattern for a president who came into office promising transparency.

The Ultimate Test

On that front, perhaps no case would test Mr. Obama's principles as starkly as that of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and Qaeda propagandist hiding in Yemen, who had recently risen to prominence and had taunted the president by name in some of his online screeds.

The president "was very interested in obviously trying to understand how a guy like Awlaki developed," said General Jones. The cleric's fiery sermons had helped inspire a dozen plots, including the shootings at Fort Hood. Then he had gone "operational," plotting with Mr. Abdulmutallab and coaching him to ignite his explosives only after the airliner was over the United States.

That record, and Mr. Awlaki's calls for more attacks, presented Mr. Obama with an urgent question: Could he order the targeted killing of an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial?

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.

Mr. Obama gave his approval, and Mr. Awlaki was killed in September 2011, along with a fellow propagandist, Samir Khan, an American citizen who was not on the target list but was traveling with him.

If the president had qualms about this momentous step, aides said he did not share them. Mr. Obama focused instead on the weight of the evidence showing that the cleric had joined the enemy and was plotting more terrorist attacks.

"This is an easy one," Mr. Daley recalled him saying, though the president warned that in future cases, the evidence might well not be so clear.

In the wake of Mr. Awlaki's death, some administration officials, including the attorney general, argued that the Justice Department's legal memo should be made public. In 2009, after all, Mr. Obama had released Bush administration legal opinions on interrogation over the vociferous objections of six former C.I.A. directors.

This time, contemplating his own secrets, he chose to keep the Awlaki opinion secret.

"Once it's your pop stand, you look at things a little differently," said Mr. Rizzo, the C.I.A.'s former general counsel.

Mr. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director and now an adviser to Mr. Obama's Republican challenger, Mr. Romney, commended the president's aggressive counterterrorism record, which he said had a "Nixon to China" quality. But, he said, "secrecy has its costs" and Mr. Obama should open the strike strategy up to public scrutiny.

"This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that's not sustainable," Mr. Hayden said. "I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain't a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe."

Tactics Over Strategy

In his June 2009 speech in Cairo, aimed at resetting relations with the Muslim world, Mr. Obama had spoken eloquently of his childhood years in Indonesia, hearing the call to prayer "at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk."

"The United States is not - and never will be - at war with Islam," he declared.

But in the months that followed, some officials felt the urgency of counterterrorism strikes was crowding out consideration of a broader strategy against radicalization. Though Mrs. Clinton strongly supported the strikes, she complained to colleagues about the drones-only approach at Situation Room meetings, in which discussion would focus exclusively on the pros, cons and timing of particular strikes.

At their weekly lunch, Mrs. Clinton told the president she thought there should be more attention paid to the root causes of radicalization, and Mr. Obama agreed. But it was September 2011 before he issued an executive order setting up a sophisticated, interagency war room at the State Department to counter the jihadi narrative on an hour-by-hour basis, posting messages and video online and providing talking points to embassies.

Mr. Obama was heartened, aides say, by a letter discovered in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. It complained that the American president had undermined Al Qaeda's support by repeatedly declaring that the United States was at war not with Islam, but with the terrorist network. "We must be doing a good job," Mr. Obama told his secretary of state.

Moreover, Mr. Obama's record has not drawn anything like the sweeping criticism from allies that his predecessor faced. John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama's liberal reputation and "softer packaging" have protected him. "After the global outrage over Guantánamo, it's remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians," said Mr. Bellinger, who supports the strikes.

By withdrawing from Iraq and preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan, Mr. Obama has refocused the fight on Al Qaeda and hugely reduced the death toll both of American soldiers and Muslim civilians. But in moments of reflection, Mr. Obama may have reason to wonder about unfinished business and unintended consequences.

His focus on strikes has made it impossible to forge, for now, the new relationship with the Muslim world that he had envisioned. Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president.

Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies.

Mr. Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. "It is the politically advantageous thing to do - low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness," he said. "It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term."

But Mr. Blair's dissent puts him in a small minority of security experts. Mr. Obama's record has eroded the political perception that Democrats are weak on national security. No one would have imagined four years ago that his counterterrorism policies would come under far more fierce attack from the American Civil Liberties Union than from Mr. Romney.

Aides say that Mr. Obama's choices, though, are not surprising. The president's reliance on strikes, said Mr. Leiter, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, "is far from a lurid fascination with covert action and special forces. It's much more practical. He's the president. He faces a post-Abdulmutallab situation, where he's being told people might attack the United States tomorrow."

"You can pass a lot of laws," Mr. Leiter said, "Those laws are not going to get Bin Laden dead."

 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
+26 # Activista 2012-05-29 11:13
Good article at the right time. Drones are terrorist weapons of choice - USA started. Just to record when the US Media will scream - WHY?
 
 
+35 # WestWinds 2012-05-29 11:46
I find a great irony in all of this. The Right won't cut the Defense Budget spending and is driving us into the ground with it, but they eviscerate Mr. President for going after anyone associated with Al Quaida or the Taliban. Go figure. Just goes to show the chaos and conflicting messages that exists between the ears of Right-wings supporters.
 
 
+6 # futhark 2012-05-29 14:50
Maybe we should just quit talking about "right-wingers" and "left-wingers", as if the range of political orientations could be accurately mapped on a one-dimensional spectrum. Maybe we need to classify politicians as jingoists and peace seekers. Obama is a jingoist. Ron Paul is a peace seeker. Transcend the notion of the linear political spectrum. It has been abused by the military-indust rial marionettes like Barack Obama to gain political support for inhumane and ultimately counterproducti ve policies under cover of representing the peace community.

Nothing ironical about it. Just think beyond the line.
 
 
+10 # Old Man 2012-05-29 16:16
Quoting WestWinds:
I find a great irony in all of this. The Right won't cut the Defense Budget spending and is driving us into the ground with it, but they eviscerate Mr. President for going after anyone associated with Al Quaida or the Taliban. Go figure. Just goes to show the chaos and conflicting messages that exists between the ears of Right-wings supporters.

The only thing between their ears is "Air".
 
 
+7 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-29 19:56
There's been quite a bit of praise from the right for Obama's continuing and expanding of Bush/Cheney aggression.

“There’s been a powerful continuity between the 43rd and the 44th president…You’v e got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram [in Afghanistan]. And although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.”
-Michael Hayden (former Bush NSA and CIA Director)

"The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. . ."
-Jack Goldsmith (former Bush OLC lawyer)

"In terms of a lot of the terrorism policies — the early talk, for example, about prosecuting people in the CIA who’ve been carrying out our policies — all of that’s fallen by the wayside. I think he’s learned that what we did was far more appropriate than he ever gave us credit for while he was a candidate."
-Dick Cheney

Romney, Bachmann, and Gingrich all praised his assassination program during GOP debates.
 
 
+5 # Doubter 2012-05-29 20:22
If you "kill by the sword," you might do well to remember you are subject to being killed by the (double edged) sword.
 
 
0 # Phlippinout 2012-05-31 07:32
One can only hope!
 
 
+5 # cypress72 2012-05-29 11:51
This article proves that Obama, at the very least, mislead the Country during the 2008 campaign and the Left thought that they were Electing a "peace President" when in-effect they Elected Bush 3 when it comes to the war on terror. I did not vote for Obama because I thought that he was just too "slick" but I applaud his efforts to track down these scum and send them to their ultimate meeting with Allah.
 
 
+20 # maddave 2012-05-29 12:51
Oh, come on, you guys! You don't believe for even a second that Obama (or any other high level elected or appointed official) does his own homework and selects the assassination-t arget-for-today , do you? These targets are the product of military-, political- and financial-intel ligence wonks whose jobs are to ferret out and designate folks-to-be-wac ked. (And yes, I said "financial" because ALL wars are financial, no exceptions!)

And once the wonks-in-the-ba ck-rooms have come up with their most likely candidates, you can rest assured that they and their supervisors will present their recommendations in such a light that Obama's or DOD's approving the strikes is a no-brainer - an absolute national security necessity.

These are big guys big time playing video games in which the pay-offs are for keeps! What we have to be ready for are the pay-BACKS, for they will come in one form or another!
 
 
-9 # Linda 2012-05-29 12:16
I have one thing to say about this article BS ! Funny how the author is coming out with this now when Obama is running for a second term !
 
 
+22 # Archie1954 2012-05-29 12:19
It's too bad that presidents have to lose their own souls to do their job.
 
 
+9 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-29 19:59
They don't have to. They choose to.
 
 
+54 # linkedout 2012-05-29 12:31
So what the hell good is a "kill list" that doesn't include Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh?
 
 
+30 # noitall 2012-05-29 13:19
K.R. and R.L. are the mascots of the TRUE TERRORISTS against what our fathers fought and died for in this country. The people that place profits over the longevity of this country and the equality of all; not only those who can afford it.
 
 
-10 # HowardMH 2012-05-29 13:50
The Koch Brothers and their Billions are the real culprets. Rove and Limbaugh are just puppets for them.

Also, Obama the Wimp is just a puppet of Wall Street so what chance have we got?

Check your mailbox!

Just wanted to let you know - today I received my 2012 Social Security
Stimulus Package.

It contained two tomato seeds, cornbread mix, a prayer rug, a machine to
blow smoke up my ass, 10 discount coupons to KFC and an "Obama Hope &
Change" bumper sticker.

The directions were in Spanish.

Hope you get yours soon.
 
 
+7 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-29 20:02
Quoting linkedout:
So what the hell good is a "kill list" that doesn't include Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh?


What good is a democracy if citizens don't take it seriously enough to fight for it? And I'm not talking about drones. I'm talking about demanding real democracy from our representatives , rather than making jokes about our president illegally claiming and exercising tyrannical powers.
 
 
+9 # MidwestTom 2012-05-29 12:46
When do they turn the drones on those who appose Washington?
 
 
+13 # noitall 2012-05-29 13:22
They already have the "drones" names are the likes of homeland security, the cops of every town, the military, etc.
 
 
+6 # humanmancalvin 2012-05-29 13:44
MidwestTom...yo u surely mean the Radical Right Insurgency. Glad to have you on board with the rest of us Libtards.
 
 
+32 # howardb4 2012-05-29 13:00
I find nothing really new in how the 'rulers' of the USA. whether republican and/or democrat, lie, deceive, mislead, spin, and with their corrupt mind-set, have for decades, turned this country into this planet's most murderous country in modern times. We continually invade other sovereign nations under the most juvenile of lying mantles that this American population has allowed itself to be manipulated by. We have literally killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, destroyed the infrastructure of those countries, lied to our own military as to the purpose for their dying and murdering others. I can go on and on, but to what purpose? More than the majority of Americans actually believe the American military is defending our national security and just gobble up the intense patriotic B.S.
And now we have this lying murdering President, supported by an equally lying murdering congress who has taken our national criminality to new heights of willingness to act outside of any humane understanding of human behavior.. And the worst is, that we sit back and support and nurture this quite demonic behavior.

We have become the 'Beast Of The Planet' and so deservedly. And I perceive the worst is yet to come.
 
 
+5 # Peacedragon 2012-05-29 13:08
What is the history here? Have other presidents ordered the deat of particular people?
 
 
+4 # wrodwell 2012-05-29 13:09
President Obama's Drone Strike Initiatives remind me of the NIxon/Kissinger secret bombing strikes in Cambodia that were justified in order to disrupt and destroy North Vietnamese base camps and their supply routes into South Vietnam, thus theoretically shortening the war. Since the Cambodians didn't do anything about the North Vietnamese presence, President Nixon decided he had to, a similar bind that President Obama faces in Yemen and Pakistan. However, when Nixon's "secret war" became known it caused outrage in America because it was perceived as a widening of the unpopular conflict, not a reduction of it as promised by Nixon. President Obama justifies drone attacks in order to prevent future Al Queda attacks on the United States - and also to send a message for past attacks and possible future plans that there are no hiding places anywhere. (I call it "Seeing Eye Counter-Terrori sm.") My guess is drone strikes are also used in order to spare using CIA or Seal hit men on the ground so as to avoid having human intelligence compromised via capture. Still, CIA personnel are surely stationed in Yemen and Pakistan acting as drone guidance operatives when targets are identified. (From whence comes the urgent secret messages that such and such a target is briefly available for termination?) If you were President and faced with such difficult decisions, what would you do - eliminate a potential threat - or allow it? When all is said and done, war is a very dirty business indeed.
 
 
+16 # HowardMH 2012-05-29 13:33
Obama the Wimp. Wall Street Banks Investigation
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Isn’t Department of Homeland Security (DHS) part of the “GOVERNMENT”. Why should we be the least bit surprised about the DHS wanting to squash Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
During the Savings and Loan mess 15 or so years ago there were over 1000 agents assigned to investigate, and over 1000 Felony convictions. The Current Economic Crisis (Wall Street Mess) is according to MSNBC Dylan Ratigan Show on 27 Feb 2012, 70 times larger, so doing the math, there should be many many Thousands of FBI Agents assigned, not the 120 that have assigned since 2007. So far there has been ZERO Elite Felons convicted. Have you figured out yet that Obama the Wimp is totally bought and paid for by Wall Street?
OWS is a thorn in the “GOVERNMENT’s” side and they want it GONE!
Support the 99ers, the only chance we have left. Go 99ers Go!
 
 
+20 # Replicounts 2012-05-29 13:52
Serial killers? Loose in the White House?

The Obama administration has effectively assumed the legal right to kill anyone, anywhere, any time, with no public process -- just because it wants to. Any prohibition against killing Americans in the U.S. will last only until the government cares to change it.

Future administrations may be far worse. Political rivals and other leaders will be killed here in the U.S., as well as there in Asia and Africa. The surest safety is to keep your head down, don't do anything that stands out from the crowd. (I'm 71, have less to lose.)

The most cost-effective way to safeguard Americans would be to stop preying on other countries. That's not on the table, because the purpose of wars is to help corporations make money.

Why does Homeland Security need hundreds of millions of hollow-point rounds -- enough to kill every man, women, and child in the country? These bullets are banned in war like the dum dums they resemble. Their only significant use by DHS is to slaughter Americans.
 
 
+5 # 666 2012-05-30 06:44
while I agree this article is largely election-year propaganda, a careful read reveals many, many disturbing political & psychological issues... a sophistic self-righteousn ess shielded in religious rhetoric but lacking in true higher ethical principles. A case in point:

"It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

This is exactly the same principle that produced the NDAA "battlefield america" law: guilty until innocent, damn the constitution, the kill list comes first. And if it looks ethically improper, we'll just redefine the ethical guidelines.... (that's 1984). To those who sat around in the mentioned briefing contemplating a successful attack, should try contemplating the implications of the above paragraph at home: "Police stop Bank Robber (economic terrorist); high school cluster bombed; 400 enemy combatants also killed"
 
 
-2 # humanmancalvin 2012-05-29 13:54
This kind of decimates the rights sob of President Obama being "soft on terror." Although any thinking person knows that facts never stand in the way over in GOPville. I would hate to have the presidents job, period. These decisions have to be hand wringing excruciating to make. Al Qaeda/Taliban is without question the enemy of the USA, pretty damn hard to argue differently after 9/11. My preference is there is never another war of any sort, but the reality is there are groups of people bent on destruction of this country & these groups must be dealt with harshly. A 17 year old girl is as likely to fall for the religious propaganda & strap a bomb to her chest as any grown man of the same mindset so to rule her out as a target is foolish if proof is in place. Iraq:ridiculous error, they never threatened the US. The above mentioned do threaten & carry out their threats so they must be dealt with. I'm glad an adult occupies the Oval Office.
 
 
+9 # cordleycoit 2012-05-29 14:08
First: Are we executing people remotely on American Soil?. That is a must ask question since W, Bush started the killing of children we must now be vigilant and aware that the realtionship of citizen to government has been changed by Obama. Kill one American child kill how many?
Second: Since we now kill without the benefit of trial our government becomes a Tyranny, not a Republic. Now the President must tell us what he will simply Kill for saying or doing. We have a right to know.
Third:And of course how long does the public allow this to happen? It will take time and time is a real number of children, bystanders relatives of the targets dying with them.
This will soon become a monologue because asking these questions must be punishable by death.
 
 
+12 # dick 2012-05-29 14:25
I wish Obama would get some Wall St. "trading cards" & target 52 or so criminal execs for indictment. If he can get tough enough to overlook civilian casualties overseas, why can't he get tough enough to prosecute his crooked pals? Because he's on their payroll?
 
 
+10 # Smiley 2012-05-29 14:32
Drone warfare makes us look like weak cowards. Long term It's like Br'er Rabbit fighting the tar baby. Every "terrorist" we kill probably creates five more. The whole concept of this as a "WAR" on terrorism is a huge mistake. These people should be brought to justice for CRIMINAL actions, not given equal status as warriors. Our country should be an example for respecting basic human rights and government that respects the law. I do not want for President of my country a person who deems himself judge, jury and executioner. I fear he is creating a much scarier and less free world for our children.
 
 
+4 # Doubter 2012-05-29 20:35
"Every "terrorist" we kill probably creates five more."
Do you ever think "they" don't want to risk running out of enemies?
Good thing, too, for you can be sure they'll start killing us as soon as they run out of bearded enemies.
 
 
0 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-29 14:36
Wait until he figures out he can kill rich people who don't donate enough money to him, or too much to his opponent -- or his opponent. Someone complains? Bam!

It works for lots of other 'leaders' around the wolrd in through history.
 
 
-6 # maddave 2012-05-29 18:42
Hey! I was under the impression that this site was intended for the use of sane and rational individuals. This comment of yours, bluepilgrim--- which is completely devoid of anything resembling humor, sarcasm or good taste---puts the lie to THAT canard.
 
 
+7 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-29 19:15
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" _George Santayana
 
 
+1 # maddave 2012-05-30 11:28
Upon re-reading, perhaps i wrote in too much haste . . . My background often precluded my grappling with the realm of the possible . . . the heinously possible.
 
 
+2 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-30 11:57
It's difficult to take it all in. The mind rebels at accepting how bad things are and how bad they can get: none of want to think this can happen.

Just how bad it could get is uncertain, but so far it doesn't look good.

I actually don't expect any presdint to be an absolute dictator in the sense of a real god-emperor or Hitler, although possible, but becoming part of and the public face of a close knit oligarchy doesn't seem unlikely -- it depends on how much power one person can get within internal circles of power and how much opposition could be mounted among the most powerful of the oligarchy, and how much rivalry there is. (Even Hitler had a few attempts to assasinate or overthrow him by members of the ruling party.)

Intersting side note: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_Plot
 
 
+10 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-29 20:12
I assume you are not arguing that Obama's kill list is sane or rational. Since he's already claimed and exercised this authority, which is immoral, illegal (and, arguably, not rational), why would you assume that he (or a successor) wouldn't use this power in a manner that was more widely regarded as insane? – particularly since politicians of both parties have been incrementally expanding policies of aggression over the last decade.

What bluepilgrim suggested may seem beyond the pale right now, but 10 years ago, so would a kill list.
 
 
+5 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-29 21:39
Seriously, what is to constrain Obama or a successor from doing that? Morality? Legalisty? Reasonableness? Those are altready out the window. Only political problems, and those can be dealt with both by propaganda and by murder itself.

It's hardly unknown for a despot to have a meeting with all his rivals in the room, have his private army come in (and we already have those two -- hired mercenaries and 'special agents') -- take his rivals out back, and shoot them. It's happened many times, and when it has, who was brave enough to object?

The question is one of internal policis and support: is their a cabal with some power who would support it? Given what we have already seen that doesn't seem to be at all out of the question. Then just label someone an enemy of the state, a terrorist, or accuse them of sedition -- it's happened many times.

Even in the US people have had similar treatment, publically, except it's been limited to putting them in jail. But now it can all be done under the secrecy of 'national security'. Assasination of political rivals in the US is not new either -- it's just been more covert than in other countries. If this were to happen, who would report on it? The corporat emedia? Whistle blowers (who Obama has been attacking at record rates)?

Uh, oh! National emergency declared -- continuity of government invoked and the Constitution suspended. All that is in place, ready to happen now.
 
 
+2 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-30 02:49
I'm not disagreeing with you.
 
 
+1 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-30 05:35
My response was to maddave.
 
 
+2 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-30 09:40
I understood that -- I was just expanding the point. Thanks.
 
 
+1 # maddave 2012-05-30 11:29
Acknowledged, above.
 
 
-1 # jwb110 2012-05-30 11:15
Quoting Stephanie Remington:
I assume you are not arguing that Obama's kill list is sane or rational. Since he's already claimed and exercised this authority, which is immoral, illegal (and, arguably, not rational), why would you assume that he (or a successor) wouldn't use this power in a manner that was more widely regarded as insane? – particularly since politicians of both parties have been incrementally expanding policies of aggression over the last decade.

What bluepilgrim suggested may seem beyond the pale right now, but 10 years ago, so would a kill list.

This is an insane and irrational war inherited from a previous administration. The War on Terror is a bit of Bush jingoism that leaves this country with a War on No National Borders and that means it will always be non-conventiona l warfare. Cheney was the fellow that first said,"there will always be collateral damage.", so be too quick to point fingers.
I don't like the system any more than the average American. That said, the President is the Commander-in-Ch ief and he is sworn to protect the country. It is my guess that this is a two prong approach that takes a perceived and real army of occupation and slowly removes it from the middle east while still protecting the country.
As for the Presidents liberal law professor status, the laws he protects and defends are US laws and that is where it stops and that is where it is most endangered from within.
 
 
+3 # Stephanie Remington 2012-05-31 18:10
If you inherit a gun you don't have to go out and shoot people.

The kill list is all Obama's.

You are wrong about what the Commander-in-Ch ief is sworn to protect. The oath of office he swore is, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

It doesn't say anything about "protecting the country." Obama swore to protect the CONSTITUTION. And he broke that oath -- many, many times.

If so many people weren't so "quick to point fingers" at those of us who accurately call foul he might not have been able to cause so much damage.
 
 
+16 # walt 2012-05-29 14:40
This still shocks me from a president in whom we had hoped for real change. He is more a war-monger than Bush. And sadly, it's all done just to prove himself politically to those who love to taunt him and the Democrats for being "weak on defense."

The administration is shaming our country and the American people every time they launch a drone attack at someone identified as a "suspect." That's a nice and easy way to deal with problems, but it unfortunately lacks any semblance of legality or decency. In a word, we have taken the low ground even while we protest similar attacks against our own.

It appears now that the US President can be at will the judge, jury and executioner all in one!

What has America become??
 
 
+9 # Doubter 2012-05-29 20:36
Mass murderer.
 
 
+12 # RMDC 2012-05-29 14:45
From what I read, the targets in Yemen are not anyone who opposes the US or are any threat to the US. They oppose the Saudi Royal family. Obama is now acting as the hit man for the Saudi King, killing the enemies of one of the most corrupt royal families on earth.

the drone strikes in Somalia are to support the US campaign of genocide, to depopulate the nation so that the US can build its headquarters for AfriCom there. These strikes are doubly criminal.

I voted for Obama in 2008 just because I did not think he was capable of this sort of criminality. I knew Bush, Cheney, McCain would love to pull the trigger on anyone they wished. I thought Obama was better. But he is not. He's vicious and bloodthirsty murderer just like all of his predecessors. I will never vote for him again. I hope Romney whips his sorry ass and sends him back to Chicago. When that happens, I's sure Obama will start palling around with Bush, just the way clinton did.
 
 
+11 # Capn Canard 2012-05-29 15:48
RMDC, It is an embarassment to me as well. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me...
 
 
+8 # Capn Canard 2012-05-29 15:45
The USA is getting close to the point of no return. If and when (and I believe "when" more than "if") then it is all downhill from there. The point where we've reached the climax of that exponential curve and then it all starts to plunge downward as the whole economic system collapses... Those with money/wealth are counting on it to get very ugly. I don't believe that needs to get quite that ugly. Good luck.
 
 
+4 # 666 2012-05-30 06:54
absolutely. how do we end this war and stop terrorism? At the moment, we and Israel use the ground-war approach: "keep killing them until they submit, no matter how many nor how long you must fight". This article neglected to cite the stats about the rise of terrorism incidents. Treating a war on terrorism like a ground war was the mistake in Vietnam. The soldiers won all the battles, but the govt lost the war...
 
 
0 # rogermeister 2012-05-29 16:13
This NYT article is obscene. Educate yourselves for God's sake! The implications of this idiotic NYT article are eloquently expressed here in "A Love Letter to Death Squads" by Chris Floyd: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/29/the-nyts-love-letter-to-death-squads/
 
 
+10 # lnason@umassd.edu 2012-05-29 17:16
Is it better to cause one's suspected enemies distress or to kill them?

The hypocrisy of criticizing torture while unilaterally assassinating enemies who have never been convicted in a court of law leaves me speechless.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+8 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-29 19:51
Keep in mind that the enemy killed who was an American citizen was guilty, by evidence, only of speaking out against the US -- only a political enemy. His 'crime' was speech.

This is the power of absolute despotism -- there is nothing left to attain to once someone can be murdered by an arbitray hit, as a mob boss may order. Now it is merely a matter not of getting that power but consolidating it (and that will be by a gradual creep in excercising this power, as the other boiling frogs indicate).
 
 
+7 # DofG 2012-05-29 17:18
We are going down the same self destructive path as the Romans. And the construct of that path is this need to control the world without understanding the world nor "Self", which are one and the same! So you start with a noble idea, as did the Roaman, which was a republic and you end up with men calling themselves "gods" to justify their every whim in order to preserve the state. Or, you start with a democratic republic, but instead of following the substantive principle on which the foundation rests, you actually use it as a ruse for global hegemony and call it "exceptionalism ". So what will the next demigod as president do as the arbiter of life and death-start domestic killings to preserve the "homeland"? Or,are we already doing this?

Notwithstanding self defense, using homicide as a solution to the conflicts to preserve life reflects our lack of understanding life itself, especially considering the fact that "nothing can be created nor destroyed"!
 
 
-2 # Skippydelic 2012-05-29 17:28
Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

There's no doubt that President Obama has gone the way we all hoped he *wouldn't* go, but at the same time, what *realistic* options has he had in a post-9/11 world? Given how mercilessly he's been hammered by the right-wingers since day one, if he did *anything* that made him look like anything *less* than a rabid hawk, he would have been *crucified*!

So now that they've pushed him into *their* game - and make no doubt about it, this IS the GOP's game plan, and has been ever since PNAC released their 'New Pearl Harbor" plan - how much of a *real* choice does Obama have? Regardless of who's 'in charge', the GOP is *still* calling the shots!

If Obama hadn't been handed *2 wars* - and remember, ol' Dubya made *sure* that the responsibility for ending those wars was left to Obama - would he have engaged in all this militaristic overkill?
 
 
+9 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-29 19:57
He could have acted legally. He could have refrained from starting (or helping to start) an aggressive war on Libya, and de facto on Pakistan. He could refrain from aggressive war on Syria and Iran and Somalia.

This is not 'just the GOP' -- this the empire, acting as it always has, and following the plan of the fascists.

Smell the coffee. (And watch 'The Power Principle' videos.)
 
 
-1 # Skippydelic 2012-05-30 15:00
I agree he could have acted legally; no question there.

I'm *definitely* not happy with Obama in this, but if, as you say, "this is the empire, acting as it always has, and following the plan of the fascists", then why not place the *ultimate* blame on those fascists?
 
 
+4 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-30 17:24
I don't think blame or guilt has to be divided around like a piece of pie; it can be shared like freeware file and lots of people can get it without diminishing the whole.
In law, if six gangsters shoot at someone and kill him, they are all guilty of murder -- AND we can recognize the evils of criminal gangs.
 
 
+2 # Skippydelic 2012-05-31 01:02
I'm not sure I'd say I'm thinking about blame/guilt being *divided* as much as I want to see *everyone* who's guilty be held accountable in the end.

Should Obama be held accountable for his 'kill list'? ABSOLUTELY!

Should anyone and everyone else who had a hand in it - *especially* the previous Administration - be held accountable for *their* part in it? Again, ABSOLUTELY!
 
 
+10 # Patrice Ayme 2012-05-29 18:49
The words are hard to find. This is not just bad, not just insane, self defeating.

It's a new state in the deconstruction of civilization. The USA is behaving like a criminal tyranny. One man ordering assassinations, worldwide, standing there for all to see, according to his whim. The Assassin In Chief.

And the worst part, is that Obama really believe this is the best morality has to offer. And most of the country agrees with him.
 
 
+9 # The Saint 2012-05-29 20:28
I've supported a lot of politicians over the years who lost elections but were winners for their principles. I thought I was finally voting for a winner but Obama has become a loser--he has betrayed the principles he supposedly stood for.Like Bill Clinton. And I don't want to hear any more of the usual apologies for his lackluster defense of the workers in this country and his lack of imagination in foreign policy. This article just confirms the failure.
 
 
+8 # indio007 2012-05-29 20:56
Anyway you cut it, Obama is a murderer. God I wish for once one of these killers that hide behind their "office" would get convicted by a jury of their peers.
 
 
0 # Carbonman1950 2012-05-29 21:47
I abhor the killings, but if these extra-judicial and un-constitution al killings are Obama's policy, it is only right that he should make each decision himself. Bush who apparently also had this policy, forced others to issue the kill orders.
 
 
+3 # tomo 2012-05-30 00:21
One can read this article as the story of Obama learning on the job, and passing from a youthful period of black- and-white to a mature period of abiding grey. I read it much more simply as a story of Obama selling out. I think the real calculus going on in Obama's mind as he scrutinizes his list is: "What will my political opponents do to me if I don't order a drone strike on this guy--even if it means killing his family and a lot of his neighbors about whom I know nothing?" Obama's opponents who want to see more killings are bad guys. Every time Obama sells out to the bad guys he does a bad thing. Only bad people--people who like to see bad things done--should vote for Obama in 2012.
 
 
0 # Artemis 2012-05-30 03:39
I ask myself constantly, who are Obama's advisors? Who are the people he listens to? Either he is a terrible disappointment as a political analyst or he is being swayed by the wrong people.
 
 
+5 # Dale 2012-05-30 08:53
All this makes Obama the #1 world terrorist. In the America Under Bush construction of a New World Order, the United States became a Super Rogue State. The Super Rogue declared its right to use unilateral preemptive military means against whatever nation or political group deemed to present a challenge to imperial design. The Super Rogue used economic and military aid to construct and fortify Client Rogues that pursued policies of official terrorism. The Super Rogue used terrorist means to wage a War on Terrorism. The root causes of the terrorism of the victims, the oppressed, the desperate was totally ignored. Terrorists were to be exterminated, initiating an escalating chain of violence. The Super Rogue violated international law, established treaties, and human rights at will and with impunity and celebrated these violations as bringing freedom and democracy. With Barack Obama´s ascendance to the Presidency his supporters were hopeful of real change. This has not happened and under Obama will not happen.
 
 
+3 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-30 13:28
http://consortiumnews.com/2012/05/30/the-moral-challenge-of-kill-lists/
The Moral Challenge of ‘Kill Lists’
May 30, 2012
Exclusive: Counterterroris m adviser John Brennan has been called President Obama’s “priest” as they wrestle with the moral dilemma of assembling a “kill list” of “bad guys,” a role that recalls how established religions have justified slaughters over the centuries, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.


By Ray McGovern

In an extraordinary article in Tuesday’s New York Times, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” authors Jo Becker and Scott Shane throw macabre light on the consigliere-cum -priestly role that counterterroris t adviser John Brennan provides President Barack Obama.
[...]
 
 
-2 # brux 2012-05-30 23:10
None of this do I like, BUT, this is the military's domain, and Obama and every other President needs their goodwill and has to work with these people who have a fair amount of condescension and contempt for the government. I think he does what they say until he has a damn good reason not to, like when they blow it, then he can come down on them.

As far as strategies, they hate us anyway, they think the US and the West, even Russia and probably China are all inferior infidels, and that they at some point are destined to rule the world,

I may be biased, but the only rule the world narrative that has made any sense to me was the US manifest destiny in the name of democracy - but which is tending towards joke status these days. At some point it is going to happen - so if so, then it better be someone as good or better than the US.
 
 
-2 # oldibtgdy 2012-05-31 10:16
Two Points:
a)By invading in force as the previous administration did, millions of innocent muslin civilians were turned into refugees and hundreds of thousands were killed or wounded. The result: the rise of a growing insurgency among the formerly non-aligned indiginous population. Obama re-crafted the conflict into the focussed attack on Al Qaeda the previous administration had promised, but not delivered. It became dangerous to support Al Qaeda and rise within its ranks. Either you'd be tracked and killed by a drone, or your neighbors would chase you out of their neighborhood. American boots on the ground en masse extended the conflict and broadened the enemy's support among the indigenous population against Bush's "war on Islam".

2)Had the previous administration not already committed hundreds of thousands of American troops to our hideously wrong invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan, do you really think Obama would have gone in? If you do, you must be nuts. It never would've happened. The only reason Obama saw fit to fight in either country is because we were already there. "Cutting and running" was not an option. Redefining the mission to avoid civilian injury/death was the only intelligent option he had. And he's done it extremely well in the face of intransigent, unpatriotic resistance from those who got us there in the first place.

Whether you like him or not, Obama's done this about as well as it could've been done. An end's in sight.
 
 
0 # Innocent Victim 2012-05-31 17:37
The best assessment of Barack Obama was posted on youtube in October of 2008, before the nomination. It is an anonymous opinion by one "Ali Sina". It seemed a bit radical then, but it has been so well confirmed since. Have a listen!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLQ5rlvPlzM
 
 
+2 # Martintfre 2012-06-01 10:05
Obombya has a longer kill list then all the other Nobel peace prize winners combined!
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN