Obama’s take-no-prisoners approach to terrorism

After Barack Obama began his presidency by deciding to close Guantanamo and ban torture, Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU said:

These executive orders represent a giant step forward. Putting an end to Guantanamo, torture and secret prisons is a civil liberties trifecta, and President Obama should be highly commended for this bold and decisive action so early in his administration on an issue so critical to restoring an America we can be proud of again.

What later became apparent was that Obama had less interest in civil liberties than he has in resolving the legal complications of dealing with terrorist suspects.

Should suspected terrorists be tried in civilian or military courts?

Should they be detained inside or outside the United States?

What kind of legal protections do they deserve when being interrogated?

What constitute legal interrogation methods?

For Obama, all of these questions have a simple answer: whenever possible, terrorist suspects should be killed rather than taken into detention.

He will never articulate his policy in such brutal and simple terms, but by this point the policy of the US government should be clear.

What has become apparent over the last two and a half years is that George Bush and Dick Cheney would have faced little or no criticism if there had been just one subtle difference in their approach to governance: had they been Democrats they could have avoided the political messiness of using torture and instead been global vigilante purists and said America will kill its enemies whenever and wherever we find them.

So, as Dick Cheney now applauds Obama, he does so with an apparent sense of envy and resentment.

But note also, Cheney is still promoting an old-school approach when he says: “I think you’ve got to go through the process internally, making certain it’s reviewed by the appropriate people in the Justice Department — that they take a good careful look at it — but I think they [the Obama administration] did all that in this case.”

Well, from what we know at this point, that careful review process was either not applied to Samir Khan, or, if it was applied, concluded he could not be targeted — but he got assassinated in any case.

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