sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is Assassination Justified?

Is planned political assassination a rational and desirable course for a nation to chart? That is the question. One of the answers from a practical point of view is that it's desirable IF you don't get caught murdering somebody for political purposes (for the benefit of the state sponsoring the assassination). If you are caught or are suspected based on some evidentiary circumstances, is it worth the risk to the sponsor nation? 

Does it come down to cost-benefit analysis?

Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) is going to trial in New York City per the Obama Administration and Holder Justice Department at some point of time in the future. If the US had known about his planning efforts toward the attack on September 11, 2001, would preemption by way of state sponsored assassination of KSM have been justified? Would it have been worth it to have removed Osama Bin Laden (OBL) in the same method?  

I'm speaking of reading the tea leaves effectively and being able to proactively deal with a serious problem. There are some who argue that the United States should have assassinated Saddam Hussein rather than invading Iraq. The argument there was that nobody knew if the person who took his place would have been better or worse. We could have kept eliminating until we found somebody who wasn't as "bad" but that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of most people.

Assassinations that keep us out of a war (and vast loss of life and national treasure) on balance seem to be justified. By the same measure, assassinating Adolph Hitler in 1937 would have left the world much better off. 

There is a high cost associated with planned political assassination. I'm not speaking of the actual operation and the expense of vetting intelligence and engaging in operational planning, direct action and escape/evasion following the killing. The POLITICAL cost of engaging in assassination as a matter of state sanctioned activity tends to make you a pariah. The Soviets and more recently the Russians found that out, even though they tend to be a pariah nation anyway -- so you can argue successfully that it doesn't cost them as much as it would the Americans, British, Japanese or any other nation which takes the moral high ground to its citizens and to the international community.

Which brings us inevitably to Israel, which has participated in state-sponsored assassination since before it was founded in 1947 with the Partition of Palestine. The Irgun (Irgun Tsvai-Leumi) and Stern Gang historically and the MOSSAD in more recent times acted as the tip of the spear for Israeli assassinations. One difference between Israel and other nations is that the MOSSAD usually wants their enemies to know (Hamas as a recent example) who pulled the trigger. MOSSAD also has a habit of planning and green-lighting the target themselves without prime ministerial approval - the PM could loose heart and change his/her mind even after the order is granted... Israel is not out to win popularity contests, and much like the Russians, they look for success first. Israel has a better position in the West than the Russians do and a lot of what they have done has been 'overlooked' up to and including situations such as the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967.

Arab nation-states such as the PLO have engaged in both targeted and many random planned political murders (blowing up school busses as well as targeted killings such as the assassination of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Bob Baer (author and former intelligence official) comments on the January 20, 2010 assassination of Hamas shot caller Mahmoud al-Mabhouh:
Nearly the entire hit was recorded on closed-circuit TV cameras, from the time the team arrived at Dubai's airport to the time the assassins entered Mr. Mabhouh's room. The cameras even caught team members before and after they donned their disguises. The only thing the Dubai authorities have been unable to discover is the true names of the team. But having identified the assassins, or at least the borrowed identities they traveled on, Dubai felt confident enough to point a finger at Israel. (Oddly enough several of the identities were stolen from people living in Israel.)
Dubai had on its side motivation—Mr. Mabhouh had plotted the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers and reportedly played a role in the smuggling of Iranian arms into Gaza. And none of this is to mention that the Mabhouh assassination had all the hallmarks of an Israeli hit: a large team, composed of men and women, and an almost flawless execution. If it had been a Russian hit, for instance, they would have used a pistol or a car bomb, indifferent to the chaos left behind.
After Dubai released the tapes, the narrative quickly became that the assassination was an embarrassing blunder for Tel Aviv. Mossad failed spectacularly to assassinate a Hamas official in Amman in 1997— the poison that was used acted too slowly and the man survived—and it looks like the agency is not much better today. Why were so many people involved? (The latest report is that there were 26 members of the team.) Why were identities stolen from people living in Israel? Why didn't they just kill Mr. Mabhouh in a dark alley, one assassin with a pistol with a silencer? Or why at least didn't they all cover their faces with baseball caps so that the closed-circuit TV cameras did not have a clean view?
The truth is that Mr. Mabhouh's assassination was conducted according to the book—a military operation in which the environment is completely controlled by the assassins. At least 25 people are needed to carry off something like this. You need "eyes on" the target 24 hours a day to ensure that when the time comes he is alone. You need coverage of the police—assassinations go very wrong when the police stumble into the middle of one. You need coverage of the hotel security staff, the maids, the outside of the hotel. You even need people in back-up accommodations in the event the team needs a place to hide.
I can only speculate about where exactly the hit went wrong. But I would guess the assassins failed to account for the marked advance in technology. Not only were there closed-circuit TV cameras in the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated and at the airport, but Dubai has at its fingertips the best security consultants in the world. The consultants merely had to run advanced software through all of Dubai's digital data before, during and after the assassination to connect the assassins in time and place. For instance, a search of all cellular phone calls made in and around the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated would show who had called the same number—reportedly a command post in Vienna. It would only be a matter then of tracking when and where calls were made from these phones, tying them to hotels where the team was operating or staying.
Not completely understanding advances in technology may be one explanation for the assassins nonchalantly exposing their faces to the closed-circuit TV cameras, one female assassin even smiling at one. They mistook Dubai 2010 for Paris 1992, and never thought it would all be tied together in a neat bow. But there is no good explanation why Israel, if indeed it was behind the assassination, underestimated the technology. The other explanation—the assassins didn't care whether their faces were identified—doesn't seem plausible at all.

Today (post 9/11), the US targets people in areas where it is engaged in conflict with unmanned arial vehicles and eliminates them through the use of Hellfire Missiles. Sometimes people standing nearby die too and occasionally they hit the wrong target (file under: You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs). Do we want to call that planned political assassination or war fighting - I leave it to you, the blog reader to sort it out.

I personally shed no tears for the spilt Jihadi blood - but I do understand that all this racks up a cost that the United States and its citizens often don't grasp fully.

Is planned political assassination justified?

Obama HATES the British

Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the final nail in the coffin of US-British relations? 
 -- More of that later.

It's difficult to fathom that Barack Hussein Obama could offend our British friends and allies more than he has. So far he has not urinated on the Union Jack (in public) but he's done just about everything else. Before I move on to the latest political insult in the Falkland Islands, let's review what he's done to Alienate Great Britain over his last year in office.

Barack Hussein Obama has effectively erased the "special relationship" enjoyed between the US and Great Britain. In Washington, they're treated callously where over the past hundred years, they enjoyed a special place in American political thinking. When the Prime Minister met with Barack Hussein Obama a year ago, Obama said, "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."

Barack Hussein Obama has relentlessly supported the Treaty of Lisbon and other measures which would eliminate national sovereignty for European nations. The British feel their sovereignty is not a negotiable item. Obama says that it is.

Barack Hussein Obama and his administration has refused to recognize the contribution that the British made in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's CLEARLY an insulting signal sent to the British who were the ONLY allies to send significant numbers of troops to support our efforts.

The British people loaned the US a bust of Winston Churchill in the aftermath of 9/11 as a token of solidarity and support. Barack Hussein Obama had it shipped back without telling the British Government it was coming. It's simply one in a long list of insults.

I won't go into the embarrassing DVD Collection matter presented by Barack Hussein Obama and his shrewish spouse slapping the Queen of England on the back, Barack Hussein Obama dodging the Prime Minister in New York last September or Robert Gibbs' attack on the British Press. Let's move on to the Falklands.

Argentina was celebrated a diplomatic coup yesterday in its attempt to force Britain to accept talks on the future of the Falkland Islands, after a two-hour meeting in Buenos Aires between Hillary Clinton and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Responding to a request from Mrs Kirchner for “friendly mediation” between Britain and Argentina, Mrs Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she agreed that talks were a sensible way forward and offered “to encourage both countries to sit down”.
Her intervention defied Britain’s longstanding position that there should be no negotiations unless the islands’ 3,000 inhabitants asked for them. It was hailed in Buenos Aires as a major diplomatic victory, but condemned in the Falklands.
In the Falklands, reaction to the meeting ranged from dismay to fury. “It’s outrageous after all the support we have given the United States,” said Hattie Kilmartin, a sheepfarmer’s wife. “They are not looking at the people who are actually living here and what they want, and it’s crazy that they are even contemplating going against us.” (Times On Line)

The Obama "smart diplomacy" juggernaut forges full-speed ahead!

One wonders: does the Obama administration deliberately try to screw up our foreign policy, or is it just a matter of ignorance and incompetence? This is painful reading: "Argentina celebrates diplomatic coup as Hillary Clinton calls for talks over Falklands." ...So much for the idea that foreign relations would be conducted better by women. Maybe a "wise Latina" would do better? Oh, wait...she's busy doing a supreme social justice gig.

It is simply beyond my comprehension why, in the name of "diversity" and social egalitarianism, we as a society have come to the point where we think this kind of tawdry identity politics should trump competence. In Obama's case, by shrewdly manipulating his race and gift for empty rhetoric, he was elected President of the United States.

It's hopelessly naive these days to expect the electorate to vote for a person based on what that person actually stands for or has accomplished; instead, these days most people respond to the looks of a candidate; or the carefully constructing image; or the negative campaign ads that slice and dice the other guy. Voters appear to be primarily influenced by botoxed faces and Hollywood-packaged good-looks rather than the content of any candidate's character or the scope of his or her experience.

Real personal integrity and character comes from having a consistent set of values and exhibiting behavior driven by those values. Today's classic narcissistically-driven politicians like Hillary and her famous husband; as well as the deeply flawed Obamessiah, can only flutter in the political winds, and zelig-like easily take on whatever characteristics their public care to project onto them. These are not the kind of people who can face real threats in the real world very effectively because they are not the kind of people who can effectively deal with threats they do not perceive as personal--why should they care much about any other kind, unless the polls indicate they should? 

The Mainstream Media/State-Controlled Media backs their play at all levels. Political bullies feel perfectly safe in viciously attacking and denigrating those who oppose them. And, you can see that Obama has no compunction about bullying and denigrating his opponents and making them into scapegoats for his own failures and incompetence. And, when it happens occasionally that a political adversary unexpectedly shoots back and won't go away, the bully easily falls back on the "victim" role and whines about "vast right-wing conspiracies" blames others, or sheds a few tears on cue and such.

To our steadfast British allies, all I can do is offer apologies for what America has become.