It was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, intense deliberation by lawyers working for President Obama and turf fights between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., whose parallel drone wars converged on the killing grounds of Yemen. For what was apparently the first time since the Civil War, the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy and without a trial.
Now some might want to say "But Bush..." -- but Bush didn't order or carry out the killing of American citizens without trial.
And one might want to say "But Lincoln..." -- but Confederates killed during the Civil War were actively engaged in combat operations when they were killed.
Was Obama right to target Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan? I think the argument for taking out al-Awlaki was overwhelming, and Khan was apparently collateral damage in the same strike.
On the other hand, what of Abdulrahaman al-Awlaki, who was seemingly killed for no reason other than he was his father's son. A White House spokesman said at the time, the American teen should have chosen a more responsible father -- but given that the son's death came two weeks after the father's, is that even a justification? And what of the fact that the son -- who was apparently eating at an outdoor cafe -- could not have been constitutionally subjected to the death penalty if he had, in fact, been captured and put on trial for some offense?