Under Obama, the War on Terror hasn't claimed as many victims. But like George W. Bush, he is ignoring international law and brazenly bypassing Congress.
Barack Obama has taken more power than allowed by the U.S. Constitution. It is war, so he can do that; the explanation that he has assumed some of it directly from his predecessor leaves him quite visibly standing there as a macho and not as a usurper. That's useful in an election year. But it is not a matter of the U.S. president, the person, but instead the office. That laws of war and international law are being stretched beyond recognition has prompted the highest U.N. officials, who specialize in these questions, to make an inquiry — a mild reaction, but still.
The legal system in the U.S. is in danger. Namely because the U.S. Congress never approved the deployment of combat drones and special troops although Article Eight of the Constitution assigns it the sole right to declare and finance war. Currently, the president is making decisions on his own, based on the decisions of his predecessor. With that, he is raising his office above the Constitutionally-defined framework.
War on Terror
The operations pertain to suspected terrorists whose activities could endanger the U.S. The evaluation by means of photos, bugged telephone conversations and occasionally by on-site spies, however, do not represent proof (at least not most of the time), but instead only evidence. On this basis, the president personally decides who is to be killed, mostly by means of unmanned planes (drones).
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees, however, that no one can "be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law." A trial is now being replaced by an internal briefing, together with the president who makes a verdict without defense or even legal counsel. An opinion of the Supreme Court, largely kept secret, allows that. The justices have capitulated to the executive branch. The president is prosecutor and judge; the division of power, which is the essence of all democratic systems, is superseded. Likewise in the targeted execution of the radical preacher al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen living in Yemen.
The president's practice of targeted executions in the War on Terror is questionable in regard to international law. The executors of the presidential decisions are ignoring the national integrity of Pakistan in two ways: They bomb targets in Pakistan and use air bases (including secret ones) without regard for Pakistan's national sovereignty. The drone war and the special teams are further eroding the already questionable democratic order in Pakistan. Barack Obama is allowing this sort of "global war on terror," at least when it comes to executions by means of drones, to be carried out more intensively than his predecessor George W. Bush.
Cyber War as the Next Step
From the viewpoint of Washington, he is successful. Almost all al-Qaida deputies and many representatives of Taliban groups have been liquidated. Significantly fewer U.S. soldiers were killed. On the other hand, the number of civilian victims is considerably surpassing the number of killed militants, and that is being concealed. Men fit for military service who lose their lives as "collateral damage" are classified from case to case as perpetrators. Because anyone who acts suspiciously gets on the "kill list" (called "signature strikes" in jargon), without name, marital status or other details being known in the president's circle, it doesn't attract further attention.
These precedents give rise to unpleasant concerns, and another type of war is apparently getting by without objection: cyber war. Computer viruses like Stuxnet and Flame, implemented against the alleged civil nuclear installations of Iran, are weapons. The U.S. and Israel have developed them and are implementing them purposefully. That is incomprehensible according to articles of law, but there is simply no responsible international law. As a result, the powers claim to be permitted to do this; however, they threaten any offending country that does the same with retribution by missiles. The avenger is looking more and more like the perpetrators.
These are all answers to — indeed beastly — acts of terror and reactions to the assumption that the Iranian leadership is lying when they call their own nuclear program exclusively civilian. The countermeasures, if one wants to call them that, override indispensable parts of the system of values in their planning and execution. Barack Obama, who is consciously assuming responsibility, is a highly qualified lawyer. And it is bad enough. What will become of it, asks the newspaper of intellectuals The New Yorker, if a scoundrel becomes his successor? At recent examples, at memories of Richard Nixon and some (thrown-out) Republican presidential candidates, warning signals are going off.
Edited by Jonathan Douglas