Donald Trump’s decision to assassinate Iran Major General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was followed today by a missile attack on U.S. personnel in Iraq.
Air Bases hosting U.S. military personnel at Al-Asad and Erbil in western Iraq, were hit by multiply rockets, according to U.S. defense officials.
Trump’s decision shortly after being impeached and as his race for a second term heats up is inconsistent with American principles, international order, and morality in place since at least 1975.
In 1975, The Church Committee[i] found the United States implicated in several assassination plots. The Committee determined that assassination is incompatible with American principles, international order, and morality. They further concluded that it should reject assassinations as a tool of foreign policy.
There is no doubt that the United States Government has opposed and will continue to oppose those occupying leadership positions antagonistic to Democratic values. The Church Committee investigated alleged Untied States involvement in assassination plots in five foreign countries:
- Fidel Castro, Cuba.
- Patrice Lumumba, Congo (Zaire).
- Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo.
- Chile, General Rene Schneider.
- South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem.
The Committee asked if:
- Did the United States officials investigate, attempt, aid, and abet, or acquiesce in plots to assassinate foreign leaders?
- Did United States Officials assist foreign dissidents in the killing of foreign leaders?
- If involved, were such activities authorized, and if so, at what levels of Government?
- If authorized, were the assignation activities perceived to be lawful?
In the Fall of 1960, two CIA officials were asked by superiors to assassinate Lumumba. In early 1961, Congolese rivals killed Lumumba. The Church committee found no evidence linking the United States to the killing.
From 1960-1965, United States Government personnel plotted to kill Castro using underworld figures.
Dominican dissidents shot Trujillo on May 31, 1961. Government officials supported the dissidents, knew of the plot, and furnished weapons used to carry out the assignation.
Diem and his brother, Nhu, were killed on November 2, 1963, in the course of a South Vietnamese Generals’ coup. While the United States supported the coup, there is no evidence that American officials favored the assassinations. On October 25, 1970, General Schneider died of gunshot wounds inflicted earlier while resisting a kidnap attempt. The CIA supplied economic support and weapons to those opposed to Schneider, but the evidence was lacking that they anticipated the killed of Schneider during the abduction.
The Committee recognized that the use of coercion and violence increases the probability of loss of life. However, they made it clear that there is a significant difference between a coldblooded, targeted, intentional killing of an individual foreign leader and other forms of intervening in the affairs of foreign nations.
The Committee did not find that Presidents knew of or authorized the plots. However, that Presidents and others use plausible deniability tactics, and classifications to hide involvement. Nonetheless, President’s do bear responsibilities for the actions of subordinates. And the Committee criticized Administration officials for not ruling out assassinations, particularly after some officials had become aware of prior assassination plans and the establishment of a general assassination capability.
The committee condemned assassinations and rejected it as an instrument of American Policy. President Ford opposed political assassinations and stated that the administration would not use such means as an instrument of national policy. [ii]President Kennedy reportedly said: “We can’t get into that of thing, or we would all be targets.”[iii]
Former Director of Central Intelligence and his two predecessors testified that assassination should be banned. Richard Helms, who had been involved in an assassination plot before he became Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), said he had ruled out assassinations for both moral and practical reasons. Helms pointed out:
- It is impossible to keep anything like that a secret,
- The replacement may be worse.
- In agreement with Senator Frank Church (d-Ida), that It does grave political damage to the United States.
- Again, in agreement with Church that if we reserve to ourselves the prerogative to assassinate foreign leaders, we may invite reciprocal actin from foreign governments who reserve the same prerogative.
The Committee pointed out that present law makes it a crime to kill or to conspire to kill, a foreign official or foreign officials’ guest, while such a person is in the United States. (18 U.S. C. 1116-1117).
No standing Federal law criminalizes the assassination of a foreign official outside the boundaries of the United States. Nonetheless, Executive Order 11905, 12036, and 12333 [iv] do prohibit assassinations. Every administration has maintained these Orders since President Ford.
in 2001 Rep Bob Barr, R-Georgia introduced House Resolution 19 “Terrorist Elimination Act of 2001.” The Bill supported only by Republicans was designed to nullify [v] the assignation sections of Executive Orders 11905, 12036, and 12333.
However, the bill stated that …” remove [ing] such person is a remedy which should be used sparingly and considered after all other reasonable options have failed or are not available; however, this is an option our country must maintain for cases in which international threats cannot be eliminated by other means.” The Bill died in committee.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered the use of military planes to bomb military installations in various parts of Libya in retaliation for a bombing attack at a Berlin discotheque earlier that month. The actioned killed several civilians. One of the targets had been Gaddafi’s home. Himself unharmed, two of Gaddafi’s sons were injured, and he claimed that his four-year-old adopted daughter Hanna died in action. Her death during the attack is questionable. The bombings strengthened Gaddafi’s reputation as an anti-imperialist and strengthened him across the Arab world.
On August 20, 1998, following an order by President Bill Clinton, the U.S. Navy, in retaliation for al-Qaeda’s August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attack on al-Qaeda bases in Khost, Afghanistan, and the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, killed 224 people (including 12 Americans) and injured over 4,000 others. Operation Infinite Reach was the first time the United States acknowledged a preemptive strike against a violent non-state actor. The evidence and rationale for the attack remain questionable.
[i] Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, an interim Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence activities, United States Senate, November 20, 1975, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
[ii] President Press Conference, 6/9/75, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Vol. II, No. 24, p. 611.)
[iii] Goodwin, 7/18/75.pg. 4.
[v] Executive Orders 11905, Section 5 (g), 12036, Section 2-305 and Executive Order 12333 Section 2.11.