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Obama'+ char(39) +'s grand civilising mission.

IMAGINE you had a button that, if pressed, could obliterate anyone on the planet you wished to kill. What would you do with an object of such immense power? Well, if you were President Barack Obama, all you do is tell your legal aides to produce a brief that jumps through enough rationalising hoops to make you feel comfortable pressing the button on a regular basis.

A leaked memo from the Department of Justice has revealed a legal rationale so staggeringly self- deluding in its scope, that it would make George W Bush blush.

When news emerged last year of Obama's ' kill list', which the President himself supervises, it was pitched to the media as a way of the anti- Bush working to put institutional checks and constraints on formidable executive power.

When the re- election- tinted glasses were taken away, however, it became clear that Obama has managed to become one of the most imperial Presidents in the history of the free world -- at least in terms of his willingness to kill people who aren't on a battlefield.

This approach was laid bare with the killing of Anwar al- Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who had been accused of helping recruit and train terrorists. Obama okayed a drone hit on al- Awlaki, as he had done with numerous other people on his kill list.

But there was one key difference -- this target was an American citizen. And he had been denied his right to a trial beforehand, a Constitutional protection for any citizen of the United States. The recently leaked DoJ memo attempts to set out the legal basis for such a violation of rights.

It pitches the whole world as the battlefield of a Bush- esque War on Terror, giving the executive extraordinary powers. Of course, it insists that any potential target would have to pose an " imminent threat of violent attack" against the US -- making it seem like the only people who will be killed are the next suicidal hijackers.

But, in almost the same breath, the memo goes on to say that the condition of an imminent threat " does not require the US to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future." The question of due process offers up the most outrageous answer of the memo. All that needs to be done to offer a targeted American citizen his constitutional rights is for an " informed, high- level" US government official to decide that he needs to be killed. There is no difference between the prosecution and the judge; the executive is empowered to decide whom to accuse and whom to execute.

There was a time when the great colonial powers felt the need to justify their actions across the world as a ' mission to civilise', no matter how barbaric they actually were on ground. Obama might be trying to assuage his own conscience, and that of his country, with legal memos that justify all of his actions -- but there's no disguising the actual damage done every time he presses the big red button.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 10, 2013
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