Assassinating Enemies and Loose Lips

Some find it offensive that enemy leaders would be targeted for death. While war involves destroying objects and people, direct action against selected individuals is usually not part of the plans.

Yet there were exceptions made when the target individual is one deemed to be of very high value. An effort was made to kill Edwin Rommel by a British team. The “Desert Fox” may have been given too much credit for his military genius and was eventually killed through a forced suicide. His writings from World War I reveal him to be a person of decency with a respect for human life, even of his enemies.

In Japan, the Imperial Palace was never attacked by U. S. bombers. The Emperor was to be immune from harm because of the reverence shown the person by the Japanese public. Yet Admiral Yamamoto was intentionally assassinated in a well-coordinated operation. His schedule for an inspection tour was obtained by American codebreakers and his plane was shot down. The Admiral was never part of the military clique that favored war with the United States but his death was expected to deprive the enemy of a brilliant leader and harm Japanese morale. Details of this mission were kept very secret by the Americans for fear of massive retaliation against allied POWs. News of this operation were reported by Japanese authorities and not by the American military.

An earlier assassination effort against Reichsprotektor Heydrich did succeed and the massacre at Lidice followed. The Nazi thug (commonly known as the Hangman) was deemed to be far less than an officer and a gentleman by the German Navy earlier in his career but his lack of integrity made him a natural candidate for a high role in the Nazi apparatus.

The leaders of Al Queda do not measure up to the decency of a Rommel or Yamamoto and are more of the Heydrich type. Their elimination by any means should have been a prime military imperative and remain so. Details of any such operation should never have been revealed as long as such monsters are in a position to do harm to innocent persons.

What is the objective of those who wish to reveal details of such operations? Is it an infantile voyeurism or a vile attempt to weaken our ability to protect American lives that goes beyond vicious partisanship into the realm of treason?

18 Comments

  1. The rules of war have changed. War, at least in our Western conception, was about armies trying to capture and occupy territory from other nations. When it comes to the Islamic terrorists, their preferred tactic is to weaken a nation through random and unpredictable acts of terrorism, by simply killing people, innocent people.

    If we had a program to assassinate Osama bin Laden, that was a good thing; if it was never able to get beyond the planning stages, that was a bad thing.

    The Bush Administration may have erred by not being more explicit with congressional leaders about such a plan, but, then again, if Vice President Cheney feared that some of the congressmen would blab, such a fear wouldn’t have been exactly unfounded.

  2. What is the objective of those who wish to reveal details of such operations?

    As always, wingnuts get it wrong.

    Guardian

    “Dick Cheney, the former vice president, ordered a highly classified CIA operation hidden from Congress because it pushed the limits of legality by planning to assassinate al-Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments, according to former intelligence officials.

    Former counter-terrorism officials who retain close links to the intelligence community say that the hidden operation involved plans by the CIA and the military to launch operations, similar to those by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, to hunt down and kill al-Qaida activists abroad without informing the governments concerned, even though some were regarded as friendly if unreliable.”

    So there are three points here:

    i, Chaney broke the law by concealing an intelligence operation where oversight was called for.

    ii, Chaney ordered the murder of people claimed to be Al Qaeda operatives – not the “leaders” of Art’s rant. In light of this, note the many many cases of innocent people imprisoned and tortured in this so-called “War on Terror”.

    iii, Chaney threatened <foreign relations. Consider how America would feel if it was found that Turkey was assassinating Armenians, possibly even Americans, in America.

    iv, Chaney violated the Constitution – what are the powers of the Vice-President again?

  3. “Who the hell is Edwin Rommel? Is it Erwin brother?”

    If you have a QWERTY keyboard, look at it for the explanation.

    Then look at what you wrote.

    See what happens when we become smartasses?

    Instant Karma.

  4. Is it an infantile voyeurism or a vile attempt to weaken our ability to protect American lives that goes beyond vicious partisanship into the realm of treason?

    love the either/or here, Art. Try door #3, “a belief in the inherent rightness of the laws that govern international engagement & in the moral responsibility of our leaders to adhere to those laws.” you may not believe in such laws; there are plenty of countries you’ll just love, then, but the U.S. isn’t one of them.

  5. Chaney broke the law by concealing an intelligence operation where oversight was called for.

    According to your own link, the program “pushed the limits” of the law. That’s not the same thing as breaking the law.

  6. According to your own link, the program “pushed the limits” of the law. That’s not the same thing as breaking the law.

    No, but concealing it from Congress broke the National Security Act 1947.

  7. Can we really trust some of the blabbermouths in Congress?

    Was not the White House out of the MAGIC distribution for a while as a result of sloppy handling of decrypted intercepts? Was Harry Truman aware of the material gathered by VENONA?

  8. We did have some plain assassination of selected high-value targets in Vietnam. Names such as Hathcock and Leatherwood come to mind. They had specific targets and a lot of patience. A heavy-barrel Remington 700 usually did the trick.

  9. In conventional warfare, it far better to wound than to kill. In irregular warfare, the job is to take out key enemy personnel.

    In a military that is under very tight control, eliminating key leaders or disrupting their command and control structure will have the same effect.

  10. Let’s be more thorough,

    The amended National Security Act of 1947 says the president should keep the intelligence committees “fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity,” the Times says.

    But the law is not absolute: It provides that briefings should be done “to the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters.”

    The law also allows for more limited disclosure—to the leaders of both houses of Congress and the heads of the intelligence committees—for CIA covert programs.

  11. This column addresses the whole “ZOMG!11!!! The CIA plotted to kill terrorists?!?!” argument.

    Democrats have trumped up a charge that the CIA, on the orders of Vice President Dick Cheney, failed to notify Congress that it was contemplating — not implementing, but essentially brainstorming about — plans to kill or capture top al-Qaeda figures.

    This is their most ludicrous gambit in a long time — and that’s saying something. Given their eight years of complaints about President Bush’s failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, and given President Clinton’s indignant insistence (against the weight of the evidence) that he absolutely wanted the CIA to kill bin Laden, one is moved to ask: What did Democrats think the CIA was doing for the last eight years?

    And if Democrats did not believe the CIA was considering plans to kill or capture bin Laden, why weren’t they screaming from the rafters about such a lapse?

    Of course the CIA has been trying to figure out how to take out top al-Qaeda leaders. One assumes — one hopes — they are also brainstorming about wiping out the Taliban, overthrowing the Iranian regime, undermining Kim Jong Il’s nuclear program, disrupting Syrian support of Hezbollah, and tackling all manner of threats to the United States. But there is no law that requires, or could practically require, the CIA to brief Congress every time some agency component considers the feasibility of some security initiative.

    Truly the dumbest complaint yet.

  12. The secret of success in covert actions and intelligence gathering is compartmentalization.

    This involves a strict need-to-know policy and severe punishment for those who reveal information that helps the enemy. How severely would a leaky senator or representative be punished?

  13. The law also allows for more limited disclosure—to the leaders of both houses of Congress and the heads of the intelligence committees—for CIA covert programs.

    Gee, and if they failed to do that, they broke the law, yes?

    The speculation is now that this wasn’t the problem – it’s that the CIA was spying on Americans, without warrants.

  14. The Brits were not above assassinating Nazi agents in the USA before the U S got involved in the war. One hit in New York City was the inspiration for a scene in From Russia With Love.

    Successful covert operations must be covert. That’s the point of the game.

    We even have some people yapping about our using Predator drones to neutralize al Queda operatives. There is no pleasing some people.

  15. We even have some people yapping about our using Predator drones to neutralize al Queda operatives.

    Brief clue: when so many of the “Al Qaeda operatives” turn out to be wearing the Afghan equivalent of wedding dresses, people tend to be leary of shoot on sight operations.

    Not that Art would care – they’re brown, they have funny names, kill them all. That’s why he always insists that anyone the US kills is an Al Qaeda terrorist.

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