Back in the old days, when Barack Obama was one of the hopefuls trying to get his party's presidential nomination, he was asked a specific question: does the American constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charge as unlawful enemy combatants? The would-be candidate's response was unequivocal, rejecting the idea that there was any such power. No wonder, then, that so many people were startled when it emerged last week that the Obama administration has authorised not only the detention but the "targeted killing" of an American citizen, the extremist Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.How could this be? Wasn't Obama supposed to usher in an era of sunshine and kittens? She valiently tries to make sense of it:
At the beginning of his presidency, Obama appeared to row back from the Bush administration. Even Bush himself has had second thoughts, admitting a couple of years ago that he regretted his emotional post-9/11 outburst about bin Laden. Now the Obama administration has taken the risk of announcing a possible assassination of an American citizen in advance, a move so extraordinary that it prompts several lines of speculation.Except, of course, Obama would ordinarily have no need to fear any such leaks from the Democrat-favouring press. Unless, of course, the bloom is off the rose for them now, too?
One is that Obama is deliberately trying to break with the CIA's murky past; if the President has been persuaded that such desperate measures must be adopted, he may believe it's better to have the whole thing out in the open rather than risk a series of damaging leaks.
Another possibility is that an operation to seize or kill Awlaki is imminent, and public opinion is being prepared for its inflammatory consequences in Muslim countries.Getting the retaliation in first? Such hope! Such change!
A young civil rights lawyer called Barack Obama would have had strong views, I suspect, about imposing an extra-judicial death penalty on an American citizen who hasn't even had a trial. But that was in another country, so to speak; and besides, that idealistic youth is now President of the United States.Or perhaps, Joan, in the heat of the moment, you convinced yourself that Obama was something different from just another politician?
But don't worry. You certainly weren't alone...