Obama's 'Kill List' a Silver Bullet for GOP; Hypocritical President Puts Politics First

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael S. Smith II, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Few observers of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate would have expected him to adopt counterterrorism policies that would make his legacy look like the imperial presidency he fiercely criticized on the stump. Mr. Obama's actions in fighting terrorism as president have led his far-left base to cast worse aspersions on his legacy than that of his predecessor.

In an expose focused on the president's reliance on extrajudicial killing to prosecute his administration's war on al Qaeda, Esquire writer Tom Junod has coined a term the captures just what Mr. Obama's legacy may be: the lethal presidency.

Mr. Junod's piece ties a show-stopping bow around the incongruity of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Obama's use of the same tactics he deplored before taking office. Mr. Obama has used drones to kill members of al Qaeda, its supporters and those who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, including American citizens. The Obama administration's penchant for leaking details about its kill/capture campaign shows reliance on a program members of the counterterrorism community expected to be suspended his first day on the job. In the past, Mr. Obama's attorney general portrayed CIA agents as criminals for employing controversial interrogation tactics on known terrorists. This same man now defends killing suspected terrorists rather than capturing them and assessing their guilt in court.

In Mr. Obama's defense, killing suspected terrorists is far less messy than capturing them and increasing the detainee populations at installations such as Guantanamo Bay, which the president promised to shutter years ago. Killing them also mitigates the risk that inhumane interrogation techniques employed by superpatriots that the president's team have depicted as thugs might end up tarnishing Mr. Obama's record.

Although the president's hawkishness on this front is commendable, his policies in this vein do not necessarily reflect a statesman's stewardship of American interests. Nor should these killings necessarily inspire confidence in Mr. Obama's aptitude for protecting America from threats posed by terrorist groups like al Qaeda or, for that matter, bring applause from Republicans.

It is quite conceivable these actions may be viewed one day as examples of political expediency prompting the president to shirk his top responsibility: protecting Americans from threats both foreign and domestic. Indeed, even if these operations can be viewed as deterrents in the eyes of some of the terrorists' prospective recruits, there is much to suggest that the president's overemphasis of the kill feature of the program is only emboldening our enemies' will to engage in a long war against us.

Some counterterrorism sources became frustrated with the previous administration's occasional slowness to act on targeting leads. However, they also are dissatisfied with both the current administration's loose-lipped handling of sensitive information about targeted killings and its response to Pakistan's imprisonment of a key source in the killing of Osama bin Laden. …