A year ago, when President Obama signed his executive order to close Guantanamo he said: “the message we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly; we are going to do so effectively; and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.”
It is now plain that Obama’s solution to the dilemma of how to interrogate and incarcerate suspected terrorists is chillingly simple: kill them.
The Obama administration’s kill-first policy relies first and foremost on this fact: the United States can act with impunity. Indeed, a president who was welcomed by the world largely because he was seen as the antithesis of his predecessor, appears in fact to believe that under the protection of a cool and sophisticated persona he has latitude to go further than Bush — as though the former president’s greatest failing was his style.
The Washington Post reports:
When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.
The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.
The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified operation and other sensitive matters. But the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.
The Nabhan decision was one of a number of similar choices the administration has faced over the past year as President Obama has escalated U.S. attacks on the leadership of al-Qaeda and its allies around the globe. The result has been dozens of targeted killings and no reports of high-value detentions.