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From 'Rule of Law' to 'Hit List': NY Times Lauds Obama at War

"The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process." Well, that's certainly a judicious use of judicious by William Daley. The former White House chief of staff was addressing the inevitability of collateral damage inherent in President Barack Obama's principal war strategy against al-Qaeda: killing suspected terrorists by firing missiles from unmanned drones that scour faraway skies over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. This was about halfway through the New York Times' rambling 6,300-word testimonial to Obama's unparalleled splendor as a wartime commander-in-chief.

You see, for all the precision of modern weaponry, it turns out error is simply unavoidable: sometimes the wrong targets get hit and the wrong people get killed by our armed forces and the presidents who command them. Fog of war, and all that. For many years -- specifically, from October 2001 through January 19, 2009 -- the Times saw this inevitability as grist for scandal. But suddenly, the Gray Lady has evolved, just like its heroically "pragmatic" commander-in-chief. Collateral killings are just the way it goes -- and if Obama camouflages what the Left used to insist were civilian casualties by a post facto declaration that everyone killed was a "combatant," the Times has suddenly decided that, far from crying out for a war crimes investigation, this just proves his lawyerly brilliance.

After all, it is the end result of a "judicious process." That's judicious, not judicial. Of course, time was when candidate Obama, his campaign surrogates, and the Times would have scoffed at the notion that the executive branch was capable of judiciously prosecuting the battle, determining who was the enemy, and taking action to kill or capture and detain. Sure, from 1787 through 2001, presidents may have been trusted with plenary control over war-fighting. But that was then. Now, according to the Bush-deranged Left, the "rule of law" demanded a judicial process. Terrorists don't wear uniforms -- a willful violation of the laws of war that the Left converted into a presumption of innocence. Thus, progressives told us, to hold suspected terrorists, let alone kill them, based on nothing more than a unilateral executive branch determination, no matter how "judicious," was a shredding of the Constitution and a profound violation of international law.

Now that the president's name is Obama, though, "judicious" executive unilateralism is more than enough to justify killing -- and not only in an emergency: the Times depicts Obama as the don, meeting weekly with his consiglieri to decide who lives and who dies.

Eleven years into post-9/11 combat operations and facing a tough reelection fight, it has conveniently dawned on the Obama Left that when the nation is threatened and takes up arms, the risk of error shifts from the government, which bears it in peacetime law-enforcement operations, to "the enemy." For the Times -- whose epic account of Obama at war begins with a portentous "This was the enemy" -- enemy is the term now in vogue for what, heretofore, were known merely as "young Muslim men," subjected either to indefinite detention without trial or to being slain under ambiguous circumstances in Bush's "war on terror," which was really a "war against Islam." Now that those young Muslim men are being detained or killed by Obama, it is remarkable to discover what a mortal threat to the United States they really are. And it further turns out that, while our intelligence community does the best it can, warfare requires our combat forces to take action without the certainty of meticulously tested courtroom evidence -- and that's suddenly okay, too: When people are plotting to mass-murder Americans, the Times wants you to know that we can't afford to wait until we have proof that will satisfy a jury; they need to be rubbed out, pronto.

What is most astonishing in the story co-authored by Jo Becker and Scott Shane is its rationalization of the president's naivete and amateur-hour missteps. In the revisionist history, these are seen as emblematic of the Omniscient One's duplicity -- which the reporters, far from finding offensive, portray as the president's most praiseworthy attribute. "Bush lied and people died"; Obama lies and ... it is his unmatched attorney's mind at work.

Thus does the Times celebrate what in the retelling is Obama's knowing deception -- not his ideologically driven recklessness -- in ceremoniously pronouncing, on his second day in office, that Gitmo would be closed and that he would make good on other campaign commitments to turn the clock back, back to Clintonian courtroom counterterrorism and away from Bush-era reliance on the laws of war. Even as the Times and the rest of the Left deliriously swooned, we now discover that Obama was furtively inserting "a few subtle loopholes" in his first executive orders, "already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit." An outrage? No, the Times sees this as just "the deft insertion of some wiggle words" by "a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters [ACM: the Times, for one], was never carried away by his own rhetoric." The Paper of Record, which spent years obsessing over 16 words in Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, now builds sleight-of-hand into the president's job description.

And why not? Why shouldn't the Times' preferred commander-in-chief be afforded the same loose acquaintance with the truth that the paper allows itself? For how else could it publish paragraphs such as this:

The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.”

In point of fact, we learn in the course of the article (as if we did not know already) that the drone is not all that precise: It often takes lives and destroys property beyond its narrow targets. Furthermore, because the Obama administration, in its demagoguery against Gitmo and Bush detention policies, has nullified the options of capturing and interrogating jihadists, "our ideals" now apparently include killing people we could have taken alive -- and whose intelligence we could have exploited to save American lives. And if those people happen not to be the people we were trying to kill, Obama just counts them as terrorists anyway -- as long as they fit the administration's profile for Muslim terrorists.