March 2, 2010
|Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.|
On September 14 in Somalia, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a long-sought link between al-Qaida and its East African allies, was in a vehicle bombed by a helicopter flying from an American ship off the Somali coast. As Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick reported in a front-page Washington Post story — “Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts” (Feb. 13) — another U.S. helicopter “set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of (Nabhan’s) remains for DNA verification.”
That news story offered a telling consequence: “the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.” And a senior military officer, careful not to give his name, lamented: “We wanted to take a prisoner. It was not a decision that we made.”
That decision came from Obama, our commander in chief, who, as I’ve previously reported, has authorized in his first year more such assassinations than Bush and Cheney in their last years. The result, as the Washington Post noted, “has been dozens of targeted killings and no reports of high-value detentions.”
After all, there can be no fierce arguments about whether a charred corpse should be tried in a federal civilian court or by a military commission. Some American citizens, believed to be highly connected to al-Qaida or its affiliates, are also on these “hit” lists. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, pilotless U.S. drone planes have perpetrated these assassinations.
Thanks to the First Amendment, an increasing number of these summary executions have been revealed in the Washington Post and on the Internet. The executive branch alone decides who shall die instantly. And there are no defense attorneys to raise objections, even when an American citizen is marked for oblivion.