RANGER AGAINST WAR: Risky Business <

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Risky Business

Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror,
sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future.

--Adolph Hitler

An ideal form of government is democracy

tempered by assassination


Beneath this mask there is more than flesh.

Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy,

and ideas are bulletproof

--V for Vendetta

When is it right to use violence against a government? When can an individual or a group decide to kill a head of state and be morally justified?

The U.S. was conceived and born in a violent rebellion. Some argue the American Revolution evolved through the spectrum of conflict, ultimately ending in a conventional war decided by the force of arms. But it began as criminal activity against the Crown which developed into full-blown insurgency versus the legitimate authority of Great Britain.

The 20 Jul 44 plot to assassinate Hitler by a group of disaffected Germans depicted in the current film Valkyrie brings the topic to mind. In our own history, a U.S president sponsored a plan to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro, as well as authorizing a U.S. Embassy to support a coup in a foreign friendly government that ended in the assassination of President Diem of the Republic of Vietnam.

The Central Intelligence Agency has also sponsored and executed political assassinations in the past. Being a friendly head of state can be risky business.

We in the West have a Just War theory with implications extending to individual political murders. But whose yardstick for the execution applies? Do we use ones such as Cheney, Yoo, Addington, George Bush, Libby, Liddy, and North as our compass, or do historical prohibitions apply?

Post 9-11, the U.S. has openly employed violence in a reactive and knee-jerk manner. Could this approach ever apply to a justifiable political assassination? What are just causes to assassinate? Is it morally acceptable to terminate a national leader who has:

  • Run the national economy into the ground?
  • Aggressively invaded foreign regimes?
  • Established secret prisons?
  • Sanctioned torture in home country facilities?
  • Delivered prisoners to be tortured abroad?
  • Denied civil rights to citizens?
  • Unconstitutionally spied on his citizens?
  • Denied court access to prisoners?
  • Abrogated applicable treaties and conventions?
  • Transferred large sums from the treasury to private contractors?

When can there be said to be a preponderance of justification for such a radical action? Are there some few things that would absolutely break a Kantian contract with the governed? Or is assassination never a justifiable act?

Ranger does not espouse violence, but the question is a valid one.

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

lord knows i'm nobody's pacifist. i am a huge supporter of the pontential force multiplication aspects of a steady hand, high power rifle and killer optics.

political assaination is almost always a bad idea. the prospect of messy blowback and unintended consequence can be devastating. are there really people who are naieve enough to think that just because we have a head of state gunned down that we will instantly get what we want from the survivors?

not bloody likely. usually surrounding an event like that is chaos. purenty batshit crazed chaos. dangerous, unpredictable chaos. oh, and by the way, you just pinned that same circle and crosshairs on every. single. one. of. your. guys.

as a legitimate, and effective tool of warfare, you betchum red rider.

as a political tool in the bag of statecraft? surely you fucking jest.

not even in retribution for what has been done to this nation and our system. no. the proper response is in the courts. there would be no better ending to this story for the men who engineered the torture, the secret prisons, the lying us into two wars, all of that to be brought before the bar of justice and given the opportunity to defend themselves in an open court under the rule of laws and the eyes of the world.

give them the justice that they denied to so many. even if they ended up being acquitted it would be worth it.

and destroy their political base and movements with ballots. not bullets.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 12:14:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

What MB said, and, in addition, the Voltairean ideal of assassination as a check on democracy ONLY works if you have an actual functioning democracy.

In our case I believe that our democracy is partially or largely moribund; we are governed, instead, largely by the wealthy and the politically connected. Killing one rat doesn't deter the pack, any more than killing two Kennedys removed Kennedys from government or killing Bushes would mean the end of Bushes in government.

You kill the don, as MB points out, and what you get isn't a bright new day of lawfulness. You get another don. Or, worse, you get chaos as the don's made guys fight for the throne.

The problem, dear Ranger, is not in our Stars, it is in ourselves. We have allowed these malefactors of great wealth and power to evolve their own set of rules, rules whereby the Roves and the Blagojavic's (sp?) lie and cheat and get people killed and then walk away whistling.

No, the tool here is not the scope and the bullet. It is the brief and the motion and the summation and the perp-walk and the long, long stretch of empty years.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 12:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, "a" US president tried to kill Castro? LOL, I can name four that did that just off the top of my head!

Anyway, I think the greatest soldiers don't fight for each other, they fight for victory and its attendant glory. If victory means vaporizing Chairman Mao, so be it. I say win the fucking war.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

Well, I thin MB and Chief have covered the all the points I was thinking of when I read your question, Ranger, so I will go with historical examples.

Julius Ceasar.
They off'd him, dropped him right in the senate, stabbed him like he was pot roast being served at a state dinner, and all to protect the Republic.
The unfortunate thing was that the Republic was already dead, the road to imperial dynasty paved and waiting for hte next emperor to ascend.

Off goes the King's head, and pretty much everyone else who was in his court got cut short as well.
Finalized result?
Two hundred years of instability, a somewhat functional state that suffers from the mendacity of not admitting that their revolution didn't really produce the results they were hoping for.
Instead they exchanged one master for another.

The overall problem with violent changes in government is that there are long term consequences that destablize the nation for quite some time. Also, the violence opens doors that really should remain closed...let's call that a Pandora's box of opportunities we would all like to not deal with.

Btw, the last example is Russia.
Killing the Czar's was really a great idea...and things only got better for the average Russian afterwards...flowers, fruits, and joyous worker gardens that spoke of happiness, joy, and peace! Vast quantities of food in the workers paradise that everyone was well fed, and everyone was contented.

Too bad it never turned out like that for them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:50:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

MB and Chief,

Thanks for so clearly pointing out why assassination is no cure. As we are a people (ostensibly) under the rule of law, we are charged with bringing our grievances against the elected offenders in a court of law.

That is the only way to exercise, and thus keep vital, our democratic rights and responsibilities.

We ought not fall prey to Tacitus's warning:

"A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:52:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Juan Moment said...

When is it right to use violence against a government? When can an individual or a group decide to kill a head of state and be morally justified?

Damn fine question Ranger, and what a moral minefield. In the case of Count von Stauffenberg’s attempt at blowing up Adolf in July 44, without being an expert or something, the Fuehrer’s death would most likely have shortened the war and the existence of the dreadful concentration camps, possibly saving hundreds of thousands of lives. I am glad someone had a go at that monster, bummer it didn’t go as planned.

We should not forget the fact that using a ballot instead of a bullet is only possible if you actually get to have fair and free elections. Without that option, and lets face it, there are plenty of countries where the oppressed don’t get to vote, the concept of causing a dictator’s downfall via peaceful and democratic means is much harder to realise. Should some Karen people plot and execute the assassination of high ranking members of the Burmese military dictatorship, I’d understand. Should Jong Ill in NK find his end through a precisely fired projectile through his heart, I probably couldn’t help but smile.

In general I’d have to agree with MB and FDC though; assassinating heads of states is not a clever way to bring about regime change. Like in a shark’s jaw, the next row of teeth is already waiting to fill the gap.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 12:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys the long absent said...

Come now, Ranger. You know the answer...it is ok if you are a Republican. Whoops, wait....I have heard that so often of late it is nearly hard-wired in my head. ::::off to use a dremel tool VERY creatively::::

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 1:49:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

My disconnect with the 20 Jul 44 plot was that the reasons for the assasination were all wrong.It wasn't based on moral considerations but rather practical , tactical reasons.
Of course the standard StarTrek question is-what if Hitler were terminated in 33/37/39 etc.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 3:46:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous sheerahkahn said...

"My disconnect with the 20 Jul 44 plot was that the reasons for the assasination were all wrong.It wasn't based on moral considerations but rather practical , tactical reasons.
Of course the standard StarTrek question is-what if Hitler were terminated in 33/37/39 etc."

Ah, I think I see where you're coming from.
Interesting thread then.
If Hitler were terminated the first thing that would have happened is the securing of all communication assets, arrest all Hitler Loyalists and seclude them to a location for future disposition.
Next, release the news that Hitler had been terminated to the allied forces, and that a cease fire is being asked so that negotiations can begin.
Enter the diplomats.
Lessee, give or take a year for the shit to dry out, combat operations would still be going on the Russian front, but considering the beating the Russians were getting they would be up for a cease fire as well.
Fast forward another year, Germany agrees to remove all forces from Western Europe, and Eastern Europe.
Reparations for damages done to the neighboring countries...yada, yada...and the worst of all possible outcomes occurs:
The Nazi party remains intact, the Jew's are just as screwed as everyone else who didn't fit the Aryan mold, and an incredible machine of death is left standing.
German military technology and innovation continues to go through the ceiling, along with the engineering because they're not getting the supply lines cut anymore. Allowing them to refine their designs.
Germany not only rearms with the update equipment, but it's armaments are now superior to everyone elses. So, voila, we have an arms race not only with Russia, but with a very much intact German Reich possessing a modern Navy, a possibly superior Airforce, a top notch veteran army, an intact officer corps, and an SS force of very nasty and motivated individuals who will carry out the Party dictates.

You know, looking back on how it all played out...I'm kinda glad Hitler survived that attempt because things could be a whole hell of a lot worse off for everyone if the conspirators had succeeded.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 5:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Serving Patriot said...

In this elegant discussion, I can add only two points.

First, great props to Jim for quoting from one of my favorite movies. Another fine quote from V was people should not be afraid of their government; the government should be afraid of its people

And second, apropos a successful 20July1944 plot, one wonders if the Western Allies would have accepted any surrender from the plotters?? IIRC, the Allied war aim was Unconditional Surrender; would Churchill and Roosevelt have accepted terms less than this?


Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 7:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

"would Churchill and Roosevelt have accepted terms less than this?"

Churchill might have wanted to - he was always an opportunist and often a pragmatist. Roosevelt would probably have wanted to go along with his comrade-in-arms...but STALIN would not have. And that would have made all the difference.

Many German officers, late in the war, either suggested or implied that they would step aside and let the Western Allies rush to Berlin to keep the Red Hordes out. Stalin knew this, and being the paranoid SOB he was would have flipped at the merest hint of anything like it.

And keep in mind that the Western Allies had the memory of 1918 in mind. They wanted to ensure that the Germans were BEATEN in the field. No "DolchstoBlegende" for 1944, thanks.

So I suspect that Hitler's death in 1944 would have meant perhaps an end to the war in December 1944 rather than April 1945. Better? Maybe. But hard to say - let's say that the worst case occurs: Germans occer a seperate peace to the West, Stalin flips, throws Zhukov and Konev and rest of the boys west all the way to the Rhine. Patton fires up one of Zhukov's tank regiments, the wily old Belorussian kicks Patton's ass and the fight is on.

When the firing dies down all of central Europe, from the Rhine to the Don, is a smoking ruin, with a multi-million-man Russian occupation army dug in from Denmark to Italy...

Hypotheticals - fun, but who the hell knows?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Kootenay said...

I wonder if the assassination itself is what's important or if the "who" and "why" matter. For example, what would be different in Israel and Gaza today if Yitzak Rabin had been killed by a Palestinian rather than a right wing Israeli? Would there be any difference at all? A year ago I might have said that, had Rabin been assassinated by a Palestinian, the occupied territories might have been blockaded and bombed to shit, but of course since the murderer was an Israeli Jew that never transpired. Today, that would sound pretty stupid - ultimately, the result was the same. Does motive matter at all?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 11:47:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Good question. You make the presumption that the Israelis would have acted in some kind of mindless retribution had Rabin been assassinated by a Palestinian, but you don't know.

You have seen the Palestinians rejoice over murder, and so everything becomes a great muddle the the average watcher of events in The Middle East.

A democracy tries criminals, like assassins, in a court of law. We used to do that, and Israel is also a democracy. Now, things can get a little messy on the way to the courthouse, like with Mr. Oswald. But democracies don't go about smashing countries b/c of a crime (oops. The U.S. may have learned a lesson -- we'll see.)

What do you mean by this statement: "Today, that would sound pretty stupid - ultimately, the result was the same. Today, that would sound pretty stupid - ultimately, the result was the same." Are you drawing a linkage to the actions of Hamas against Israel and Israel's response, to Rabin's murder?

In assassination, motive matters, as does who and why. As our readers have indicated, one is not guaranteed regime change. If the system is democratic, as in Israel and the U.S., one can presume a fairly quick transfer of power (see JFK).

Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 1:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Kootenay said...

Hey Lisa - that sounded convoluted when I read it back to myself, even though I knew what I meant. I did indeed imply that Israel would have killed a lot of Palestinians if it had been someone from Gaza or the West Bank that assassinated Rabin. However, as things have turned out they have killed a whole lot of Palestinians anyway - hence my wondering whether in the long run it made any difference. It seems obvious to me that Rabin's assassination was a huge set-back in the quest for peace in Israel. You say "But democracies don't go about smashing countries b/c of a crime"...ummm...seems to be a whole lot of smashing going on right now. Over 1000 dead Palestinians, over 300 of those children, white phosphorus, all kindsa shit blowing up...schools and hospitals and warehouses where UN aid supplies are stored and water treatment and waste treatment facilities and power stations and mosques and pretty well every damned place where people with no place to run might try to take shelter in. Of course we can never know what might have been, but I tend to think that Yitzak Rabin was totally dedicated to the proposition of peace and stood a pretty good chance of making progress in that department. I guess that's why buddy killed him - come to think of it, if a Palestinian extremist had killed him it probably would've been for the same reason, so the motive would be the same, as the results seem to have been.

Perhaps a better example...IF Hitler had been assassinated, would it have made any difference who did it and why? Jim says "My disconnect with the 20 Jul 44 plot was that the reasons for the assassination were all wrong"...but do the reasons ultimately make a difference? Would the results of such a plot have been any different if it had been carried out by some revenge-seeking German Jew instead of a Nazi? This was a very good thread and it's really got me thinking. Is the whole concept of assassination fucked, or could it be a good alternative if it were done for the right reasons? Does the reason make any difference, or would the assassination have the same impact no matter who did it or why? Can I please travel back in time to 1999 and take down Dick Cheney, thereby saving a million Iraqis? (hey, it'd be worth a shot)

Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 11:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

If Hitler were killed it HAD TO BE A GERMAN to do the deed. Atonement and all that stuff-that would then provide a story that it was H. and not the good German people.This is a crock BUT the world still buys this myth.
If a Jew had killed H. then this would've only continued the anti-semitic cycle after the war. I won't elaborate. jim

Friday, January 16, 2009 at 10:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous RangerHazen said...

Hi Jim and Lisa,

Been awhile...I have often pondered the nature of this question. The conclusion I came to is that if the soon to be tossed into the shit can present Government had found some way to retain power then a large minority of Americans would have begun to understand the real meaning behind the right to bear arms. :)

Such as it is our Democracy still functions and I'll bet that some of those who thought they could forever bask in the glow of Executive Power may soon find themselves brought to justice.

Besides Dubya is already suffering the worst form of assasination next to a bullet to the brain... and that is charector assasination The Irony being he did it to himself. These last few days have brought a certain amount of empathy to the pathetic attempts by him to spin a "poshitive legacy" I think the worst pain any Leader can endure is the realization that no one listens to you any more and the roar of the hand picked and screened crowd can only be watched on old "hand picked and pre screened" DVDs.

I sure hope the boy has allot of brush to clear.... because he will be talking to only to the trees and special prosecutors once he skeedaddles back ta Craaawfud.

I hope you two are well and I am still here watching your six. :)

William Hazen

Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 6:39:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ranger Hazen,

It is so good to hear from you. (You were actually in my thoughts only yesterday.) Yes, Mr. Bush has engineered his own character assassination, hasn't he -- a legacy neither he nor we will ever escape.

I hope all is very well with you,


Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 7:18:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I only now saw your post.

It is always the radical fringe that wishes to put the kibosh on peace. thereby removing their raison d'etre.

That is very sad, that people hate and love dissension more than they do peace, but it is true. I know these people in my own life!

As for how the Israelis deal with Hamas: their terrorism situation is a far cry from the one we face. 9-11 was a discrete act which could have been countered well by intelligence, police and judicial work. Not so Israel. Their back is against the wall. Surrounded by enemies, and fanatics from within and without, their options are not good one.

Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 12:44:00 PM GMT-5  

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