It turns out there’s a whole book coming out about the Kill List – Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency by Daniel Klaidman. (I would have known about this if I watched Morning Joe but, luckily I read the New Yorker story and got caught up.) It’s due out in June but Newsweek has published an excerpt:
Sometimes called “crowd killing,” signature strikes are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Obama struggled to understand the concept. Steve Kappes, the CIA’s deputy director, offered a blunt explanation. “Mr. President, we can see that there are a lot of military-age males down there, men associated with terrorist activity, but we don’t always know who they are.” Obama reacted sharply. “That’s not good enough for me,” he said. But he was still listening. Hayden forcefully defended the signature approach. You could take out a lot more bad guys when you targeted groups instead of individuals, he said. And there was another benefit: the more afraid militants were to congregate, the harder it would be for them to plot, plan, or train for attacks against America and its interests.
Obama remained unsettled. “The president’s view was ‘OK, but what assurances do I have that there aren’t women and children there?’?” according to a source familiar with his thinking. “?‘How do I know that this is working? Who makes these decisions? Where do they make them, and where’s my opportunity to intervene?’?”
Did he really mean that it’s OK about the boys — but what about the women?
The president had come a long way in a short time. Schooled as a constitutional lawyer, he had had to adjust quickly to the hardest part of the job: deciding whom to kill, when to kill them, and when it makes sense to put Americans in harm’s way. His instincts tilted toward justice and protecting the innocent, but he also knew that war is a messy business no matter how carefully it is conducted. He saw the drones as a particularly useful tool in a global conflict, but he was also mindful of the possibility of blowback.
In this overheated election season, Obama’s campaign is painting a portrait of a steely commander who pursues the enemy without flinching. But the truth is more complex, and in many ways, more reassuring. The president is not a robotic killing machine. The choices he faces are brutally difficult, and he has struggled with them—sometimes turning them over in his mind again and again. The people around him have also battled and disagreed. They’ve invoked the safety of America on the one hand and the righteousness of what America stands for on the other.
Stop right there. … “The hardest part of the job: deciding whom to kill, when to kill them” — When did we put THAT in the job description?
This story isn’t at all different from the NY Times version but it’s interesting that the Times obviously didn’t do their research in a vacuum. As disgusting and disturbing as it is, it seems this really is a story President Obama wants told — and told before the conventions too. They must think we’re going to like it a lot.
I don’t think so.
Thursday’s Kill List Reading List:
The Huffington Post shares the episode of Morning Joe where he and his colleagues discuss the NY Times & Newsweek stories and The Kill President. It’s scarily-sickeningly fascinating. And I still hate it.
Cleaning Up Obama’s Dark Side by Glen Ford
THE PRESIDENT’S KILL LIST by Amy Davidson, New Yorker
The “Kill List” Is a Shiny Object by emptywheel
And finally The American Extremist point of view: