28 March 2010

State-backed assassination

State-backed assassination — the extrajudicial killing of an enemy outside a war zone — has long been regarded as illegal and immoral. Yet that principle is now being undermined as governments increasingly turn to the bomb and bullet rather than the law to destroy their adversaries.

In 1976 President Ford issued an executive order banning political assassinations. When Mossad launched Operation Wrath of God, tracking down and killing the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the Munich Olympics massacre in Lebanon, France and Norway, the US was sharply critical.

n July 2001, the US Ambassador to Israel declared: “The United States Government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassination ... They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

After 9/11, George W. Bush was granted broad executive powers to combat terrorism around the world, and under Barack Obama the programme of killing using drones has accelerated sharply...

America’s preferred euphemism is “targeted killing”; on the ground the procedure is called “find, fix and finish”. The Obama Administration prefers the term “elimination” to “assassination”, yet that is what is taking place...

The legal basis for drone strikes is also murky. Assassination may be justifiable in time of war, but the CIA is a civilian organisation, and the US is not at war with Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. Winston Churchill was acutely aware of the dangers inherent in political assassination. Presented with an opportunity to attempt to kill off Hitler in 1942, he declined...
More in the op-ed piece at the link.


  1. Works for me on a retest. Try again.

  2. Actually though, I find that there is a difference between going after Al Queda et al and, for example, going after the Soviet leaders in the past. The difference? In one case we are talking about a STATELESS organization (such as Al Queda), and in the other we are talking about someone sponsored by a state. If we could treat these people as part of a state that's one thing, but to stop these Al Queda people in regions where we cannot put boots on the ground, then we have to shut them down by other means, such as assassination. Do we have any other choice?


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