Scahill (Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, 2007), the Nation magazine's national security correspondent, questions the legality and command methods of the ongoing war against al-Qaida.
Focusing on the career of Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen and reported al-Qaida leader killed by a drone in Yemen, and the evolution of special forces–led global strikes, the author seeks to establish his case that Barack Obama's military policies are best seen as a continuation of the policies of George W. Bush. He characterizes the death of Awlaki as an “assassination by his own government” and insists that Obama's policies “keep intact many of the most aggressive counterterrorism policies of the Bush era.” Scahill traces the arc of Awlaki's career, from the aftermath of 9/11, when he appeared to be a spokesman for moderate American Muslims, to the government's later determination that he was a terrorist leader operating from Yemen. For the author, the surveillance and other methods employed to track and kill Awlaki exemplify the continuation of Bush's policies in the war on terror. He shows how, after 9/11, laws governing covert and clandestine operations were subverted to shut out oversight from Congress and competition from the intelligence community and the military chain of command. Scahill demonstrates how al-Qaida members found refuge in Yemen from November 2001 onward, while Bush's administration concluded agreements with the country's government. However, the author does not consider the possibility that the end of the Iraq war, the death of Osama bin Laden and the overthrow of governments that assisted the Bush administration’s secret prisons and torture constitute a change in policy. Scahill’s case against the Bush administration's practices is firmer than his assertion that Obama is following the same policy, and he fails to consider the difficulties of unwinding Bush's legacy.
Not always convincing, but a surefire hit for fans of Blackwater and studded with intriguing, occasionally damning material.