Is it an amoral quagmire or a moral quagmire to assassinate charismatic madmen who happen to lead a nation threatening the security and well-being of other nations?
Few would argue now that assassinating Hitler and Mussolini before they brought a second World War upon the earth would have been a bad thing.

MadmenMadmen


Nipping that kind of terror in the bud before it blossoms to engulf the
world in madness can have great and wanted consequences beyond the
immediate immorality of a state-sponsored assassination of another
nation’s leaders.

Madmen

History
is clear of mind and clean of conscience — but what about the now?
What about tomorrow?

Is it appropriate with our modern-day morality for
one government to prosecute the assassination of another?

Madmen

Hugo Chavez pondered that question aloud recently on a trip to the United States:

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez accused his American
counterpart George W. Bush overnight of ordering his assassination for
calling the US leader the devil during his speech at the United Nations
this week.
“The devil appears very sulphurous, and a few people say that he has
given the order to kill me,” Chavez said during a speech before
scientists in western Venezuela.

Fidel Castro has been a target for assassination:

In October 1997, US coastguards intercepted a boat off
Puerto Rico, carrying weapons, ammunition and military supplies.
One of the men on board is alleged to have said they were on their way
to the island off the Venezuelan coast to assassinate the Cuban leader.

In 2001, Israel told the BBC of their open assassination policy:

The Israeli Government of Ariel Sharon is, like its
predecessors, committed to the policy of assassinating individuals who
it believes pose a threat to its citizens.
Palestinian officials say that about 60 individuals have been
assassinated since the start of the current Palestinian uprising, or
intifada, in September last year – several belonging to Yasser Arafat’s
political faction Fatah.
Israeli officials have at times boldly admitted that the policy exists
and is being pursued vigorously….

Recently officials have indicated that the Israeli army is being given
a freer hand to carry out targeted killings of Palestinian activists.
The policy has come in for criticism domestically and internationally.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International has called the
assassinations extra judicial killings. The policy has even been
challenged in the Israeli high court….

Israel has a long history of assassination operations targeting
individuals.
Most famously, in 1987 in Tunisia, Israel assassinated Abu Jihad, the
PLO’s military leader and second in command.

Some believe Yasser Arafat was the victim of a state-sponsored assassination via blood poisoning:

But how is he dead? The circumstances, the timing, the
method, the exiled ‘wife’ whisking him off to Paris; all
extraordinarily suspicious when the pieces are all put together. Just
an old man who caught the flu and quickly deteriorated despite teams of
doctors and the best medical care?

Or like Caesar of old — done in by
his long-time enemies and some insiders he thought to be his friends?
We’re not dealing here with casual and easily discredited ‘conspiracy
theories’. Rather we’re dealing with a great deal of historical and
circumstantial evidence few remember as well as some crucial factual
clues unknown beyond Palestinian circles.

Is turnabout fair play?

NEW YORK (CNN) — Associates of Osama bin Laden might have
plotted to assassinate President Clinton when he visited the
Philippines in 1994, a U.S. official told CNN.
The United States was aware of the planned attempt before the president
left for the Philippines and as a result, security around the president
was intensified, the official said Tuesday.

Is it possible one nation’s leader can simultaneously be another
nation’s “charismatic madman” and, if so, what is to be done to
reconcile the admiration of one nation’s people against the threat to
the security of another nation’s prosperity?
Is the only true method of protection and reconciliation from madness a
state-sponsored assassination?

23 Comments

  1. “Is it an amoral quagmire or a moral quagmire to assassinate charismatic madmen who happen to lead a nation threatening the security and well-being of other nations?”
    If someone from the present day, knowing what the people would have done, travelled back in time to assassinate the “madmen” who are not yet in power, it is unlikely that history would view the assassins as heros. It is also entirely possible that the time was ripe for “madmen” to be in power leaving the position open for someone potentially worse, as difficult as that might be to imagine, to come in power.
    “Is the only true method of protection and reconciliation from madness a state-sponsored assassination?”
    Is there not a bit of madness in the question? Fear can become paranoia which could lead to the “assassination” of many leaders and their citizens.

  2. I’m with AS. I’m sure that most people would have taken the easy way and assassinated Hitler, if they had realized what a danger he was the world.
    That’s the bad thing about evil leaders. They usually get into power and set their plans into motion in such a way that the danger isn’t noticed until they have the ability to carry through their plans.
    People in Europe thought they could appease Hitler.
    The same thing happens today.
    If we were to decide to go after dangerous world leaders, would we have agreement on who should be taken out?
    Also, if we take out someone, what happens? Does it put someone else more evil into power or set some doomsday plan into effect?
    On a lighter note, our silly friend to the south, Hugo Chavez, doesn’t need to worry. I see Chavez as just a guy who needs some attention — the Saturday Night Live skit aired recently captured what most people think of him perfectly.
    Most of our current problems will end once we switch to E-85 and other alternative fuels. That might be the easiest way to take out a bunch of threats.

  3. Killing is not a permanent solution – it cannot be. But the problem is – change through non-violence takes ages to succeed – sometimes it even fails.
    India witnessed “Gandhi” to be assassinated, not by some other foreign fanatic but by an Indian. The ‘killer’ was sentenced to death afterwards. Did that stop the so called chain of “assassination”? Two of the most vibrant prime ministers of India were murdered in last 20 years.
    “How to stop Hitler” is a pertinent question, but I think it is more important to find the cause that gives birth to a Hitler.

  4. To have a nation propose assassination means it has already found the individual guilty and set the terms of guilt without fair trial.
    To think that assassinating Bin Laden would reduce the threat to our own national security is a touch naïve. Those we view as terrorists under his leadership believe their work to be part of a jihad. To kill without trial would instantly make him a martyr adding fuel to the fire. Also it is known that the terrorist group operates under several factions. Who’s to say that another person within those factions will not come into power with bolder attacks?
    One may view state sanctioned assassinations as extracting a cyst before it becomes a malignant cancer, but what if approaching it in this manner would cause it to grow faster?
    I am by no means proposing that we do nothing, merely that we examine the possibilities and proceed with caution.

  5. Chris —
    The problem with A S’ argument is that Hitler was a mad threat upon the publication of his “Mein Kampf” autobiography in 1925:

    Mein Kampf has also been studied as a work on political theory. For example, Hitler announces his hatred in Mein Kampf toward what he believed to be the twin evils of the world: Communism and Judaism. Moreover, he states that his aim is to eradicate both from the face of the earth. The new territory that Germany needed to obtain would properly nurture the “historic destiny” of the German people; this goal explains why Hitler invaded Europe, both East and West, before he launched his attack against Russia. Laying Germany’s chief ills on the parliamentary government, he announces that he wants to completely destroy that type of government.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf
    The second he was in national power was the second he should have been eliminated. There was plenty of time for a surgical Hitler remedy. As for someone madder taking his place — who would that have been?
    His own people tried to kill him in 1944:

    Germany’s leaders have paid tribute to the plotters who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler 60 years ago.
    At the spot where they were executed, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder commended their bravery, while President Horst Koehler laid a wreath.
    On 20 July 1944, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg planted a bomb during a meeting at Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia, which is now Poland.
    The bomb, in a briefcase, exploded but Hitler survived virtually unscathed.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3908431.stm#godown
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3908431.stm

  6. Hi Katha —
    President Sadat of Egypt was felled by assssins who did not like his plan for peace in the Middle East.
    I believe it is generally agreed the vicious punishment put upon Germany by the rest of the free world at the end of WWI is what led to a Hitler rise in national pride to create WWII.

  7. A S —
    Isn’t Bin Laden already guilty? He has confessed to his crimes. He admits his role in 9/11. What would a trial prove, except that we are a nation of laws? But at what cost? The loss of the World Trade Center and its people in September of 2001?
    The fact that the United States had a plan to assassinate Bin Laden in July 2001 speaks to the validity that assassination can be an effective national policy to put an end to the threat from a charismatic madman.
    It has been argued in Bob Woodward’s new book “State of Denial” – by a variety of government insiders — that if Bin Laden has been killed in July 2001, 9/11 would not have happened.
    You didn’t respond to the Israeli issue.

  8. I did not address the Israeli issue because “the policy of assassinating individuals who it believes pose a threat to its citizens” is not my position and I feel no obligation to reconcile my views to their policy. Additionally, I am not particularly familiar with the laws and customs governing their nation.
    The U.S., however, has a policy of innocent until proven guilty. And admission of guilt does not mean one is actually guilty of the crime. Remember the admission of John Mark Karr and his involvement the death JonBenet.
    Support of state sanctioned assassinations, a war on an individual, is quite similar to support of a nation taking a pre-emptive strike on another nation because of a possible threat or worse…
    Remember the groups that claimed to be Pro-Life yet took it upon themselves to remove the threat of abortion doctors on the would-be-citizens or unborn children.
    It is a slippery slope which can easily be warped. If you can argue that Hitler was a mad threat on the publication of “Mein Kampf”, then his camp can argue that what he perceived as the “twin evils” was a threat which needed to be eradicated, which he systematically did through the brainwashing of young minds.
    At the same time, I am not saying that we should take a passive approach to this. Bin Laden was a threat before 9/11 and there was intelligence indicating is position. Why was he not taken into custody?

  9. A S —
    Are you arguing that Predator drones armed with missiles and GPS-guided bombs are not methods for state-sponsored assassination?
    In Mein Kampf, Hitler set out his entire plan for world domination and destruction and the eradication of the Jews. The error made was no one believed him.

    On January 13, 2006 US CIA-operated unmanned Predator drones launched four Hellfire missiles into the Pakistani village of Damadola, about 7 km (4.5 miles) from the Afghan border, killing at least 18 people. The attack targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri who was thought to be in the village. Pakistani officials later said that al-Zawahiri was not there and that the U.S. had acted on faulty intelligence.[12]
    On June 7, 2006, US Forces dropped one laser-guided bomb and one GPS-guided bomb on a safehouse north of Baqubah, Iraq, where Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was believed to be meeting with several aides. His death was confirmed the next day.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination#United_States
    According to the Woodward book, Bin Ladin was not assassinated in July 2001 because Condi Rice did not believe the intel that he was a credible threat and she made no recommendation to the president for action.
    For even more information, I direct you to this page —

    Because the amount of reporting is so voluminous, only a select fraction can be chosen for briefing the president and senior officials. During 2001, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet was briefed regularly regarding threats and other operational information relating to Usama Bin Ladin.1 He in turn met daily with President Bush, who was briefed by the CIA through what is known as the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). Each PDB consists of a series of six to eight relatively short articles or briefs covering a broad array of topics; CIA staff decides which subjects are the most important on any given day. There were more than 40 intelligence articles in the PDBs from January 20 to September 10, 2001, that related to Bin Ladin. The PDB is considered highly sensitive and is distributed to only a handful of high-level officials.

    http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/911Report_Ch8.htm
    — for confirmation that “The System was Blinking Red” and the opportunity for assassination was available, but missed and it would not be missed if repeated today.

  10. “Are you arguing that Predator drones armed with missiles and GPS-guided bombs are not methods for state-sponsored assassination?”
    How are you reading this from what I wrote?
    “In Mein Kampf, Hitler set out his entire plan for world domination and destruction and the eradication of the Jews. The error made was no one believed him…
    “Bin Ladin was not assassinated in July 2001 because Condi Rice did not believe the intel that he was a credible threat and she made no recommendation to the president for action.”
    The failure was not that we did not sanction an assassination. The failure was inaction.

  11. You said this:

    The U.S., however, has a policy of innocent until proven guilty. And admission of guilt does not mean one is actually guilty of the crime. Remember the admission of John Mark Karr and his involvement the death JonBenet.

    I think that overlooks the fact that our national policy is now to hunt down terrorists wherever they are and kill them. That is assassination. That’s what our president said. We do it via predator drones and helicopters and smart bombs. There is no trial. There is no “innocent until proven guilty.” We decide who the terrorists are and we kill them. They can include heads of state.
    The failure in not stopping 9/11 was the failure to quickly act on the intel and on the advice of those who were paid to know their stuff and then assassinate Bin Laden in Afghanistan. We knew where he was in July 2001. The price for getting it done was $500 million. He was ours for the killing.

  12. Have you forgotten that I also mentioned that “Support of state sanctioned assassinations, a war on an individual, is quite similar to support of a nation taking a pre-emptive strike on another nation because of a possible threat”? It should, therefore, be clear that I am of the persuasion that policy of “innocent until proven guilty” should be held above the dictates of present leadership.

  13. Your question was whether or not I was arguing that Predator drones armed with missiles and GPS-guided bombs are methods for state-sponsored assassination? I never made an argument of that kind.
    The original questioned posed was a matter of morality not merely and examination of the current reality. Just because the current leadership does something to pre-empt existing policies does not make its actions morally justifiable, legally perhaps, but not morally.

  14. The problem is, when do you classify someone a madman worthy of assassination? If you do so too early, you’d probably just have another madman step up to the plate. I don’t think we could have assassinated Hitler prior to 1938 without breeding resentment within Germany.