Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency

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9780547547893: Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency
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Is Barack Obama an idealist or a ruthless pragmatist? He vowed to close Guantánamo, put an end to coercive interrogation and military tribunals, and restore American principles of justice, yet in his first term he has backtracked on each of these promises, ramping up the secret war of drone strikes and covert operations. Behind the scenes, wrenching debates between hawks and doves—those who would kill versus those who would capture—have repeatedly tested the very core of the president’s identity.

Top investigative reporter Dan Klaidman has spoken to dozens of sources to piece together a riveting Washington story packed with revelations. As the president’s inner circle debated secret programs, new legal frontiers, and the disjuncture between principles and down-and-dirty politics, Obama vacillated, sometimes lashed out, and spoke in lofty tones while approving a mounting toll of assassinations and kinetic-war operations. Klaidman’s fly-on-the-wall reporting reveals who has his ear, how key national security decisions are really made, and whether or not President Obama has lived up to the promise of candidate Obama. Readers making up their minds about him during the 2012 election year will turn to Kill or Capture to decide.

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Book Description:

HMH hardcover, 2012, previous ISBN 978-0-547-54789-3

From the Inside Flap:

How has President Obama waged the global war on terror? With one hand tied behind his back—and the other dealing death sentences to hundreds of individuals around the world

Based on hundreds of interviews with men and women throughout the White House and the national security establishment, Kill or Capture is the most revealing and important book yet about the Obama presidency. Bringing readers inside the Oval Office, the Situation Room, the CIA, and other “sensitive compartmentalized information facilities” (SCIFFs), Dan Klaidman offers a startling new portrait of our forty-fourth president. While President Obama allows his “team of rivals” to battle endlessly—to the point of White House shouting matches, Oval Office end runs, and constant confusion about the president’s inclinations—the president has quietly transformed into one of the most lethal and involved “deciders” in our history. He has personally reviewed countless targets of drone strikes, approving or vetoing killings on a case-by-case basis. He has overseen a transformation from warfare to “lawfare,” whereby lawyers throughout the administration are setting military policy, reviewing operations, and vetting the decisions of the top brass. He has intentionally placed limits on his own power, saying such things as, “You never know whether Mitt Romney is going to be president four years from now. I have to think about how someone like Mitt Romney would use that power.”

The toll on his staff and cabinet secretaries has been extraordinary. Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to quit in 2010, only to be told by Valerie Jarrett that he simply could not. Many of the idealists who came to Washington in hopes of rolling back the policies of the Bush administration have accomplished little aside from banging their heads against walls, and have departed in defeat. The political operatives who refer to themselves as “Tammany Hall”—including Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and their successors—have made life extremely difficult in the West Wing. 

Kill or Capture reveals the two faces of President Obama: the constitutional lawyer-in-chief, and the cold-blooded killer.

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