by Nicholas J. Vocca
Over the recent years since the War on Terror began in the wake of the vicious and cowardly attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the practice of assassinating high-value political targets who posed a threat to national or global security has perhaps been employed more than most care to realize.
During his final months in office, then-President Dwight David Eisenhower issued an executive order in which C.I.A. chemist Sidney Gottlieb boarded a trans-Atlantic flight to the Congo with a carry-on bag containing vials of poison, and a hypodermic needle.
Shortly after he reported to Larry Devlin, the senior C.I.A. official in Leopoldville, Gottlieb briefed him how the toxins were intended for use in the foods or beverages of Congo's Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, as it was the Eisenhower Administration's belief that Lumumba had gone "soft" on Communism.
Stating in further testimony how he felt "ashamed" over the command, Devlin further detailed how he was able to carry out the assignment to effectively eradicate the Prime Minister by arming and funding Lumumba's political foes who executed him in January of the following year.
As the former commander of the Allied Forces from D-Day until the end of World War II, Eisenhower, forever remembering the vast carnage he witnessed, claimed he hated "war" as anyone who has lived it does, and thus found that political assassinations provided a more desirable avenue of removing undesirable leaders as opposed to engaging in military actions which would only result in more human misery, and possibly nuclear war.
Regarded as being precise, efficient, and ultimately humane, the task of putting this theory into affect was assigned to the C.I.A., more because this agency had registered an impressive tally of taking out unreliable leaders who were once considered as major liabilities to American interests and securities abroad, or those of our allies.
In 1953, it was Iran's Mohammad Mosedegh, followed by Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, one-year later. Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam left the planet unexpectedly in 1963, and Salvador Allende, of Chile, did the same in 1973.
A review of some past covert operations do show that such strategies were beneficial to America's national security in the short-term, but later festered more grievous ones in the long-term which have rebounded with continual costly and unfavorable results.
Although the dictator Joseph Mobutu, who succeeded Lumumba, was a strong supporter of the United states until his passing in 1997, the recoil of his cruel and callous treatment of his people laid the bricks which later drove the Congo into a chaotic decline.
The Iran Revolution of 1979, where insurgents toppled the Pahlavi dynasty and forced Shah Reza Pahlavi's exile to the United States, was fueled more by memories of Mosedegh's assassination, and gave birth to a deep, anti-American sentiment which still bewilders Washington some 30-years later.
After a Congressional investigation of the C.I.A. revealed the depth of this agency's plots in such operations, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning political assassinations as a way of restoring America's values of being committed to democracy worldwide, and as future Presidents issued similar orders in the name of human rights and the rules of law, it appeared that the era of such covert operations had come to an end.
At 09:03 hours on the morning of September 11, 2001, hearts and breathing stopped momentarily across the nation when United Airlines Flight 175 became the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center in New York City, and it had become apparent that America was under attack by terrorists determined to destroy and weaken our sovereign way of life.
Within days of this stunning and devastating attack which killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, President George W. Bush responded favorably to the petitions of high-level C.I.A. officials by signing a still classified executive order which authorized that agency to hunt down and assassinate Al Qaeda leaders anywhere in the world.
Over the decade since that very shattering and dark day in American history, which we as a nation cannot afford to forget, the target-killings of known or suspected terrorists has consistently mutated beyond the scope of its original limits where it is estimated that some 3,000 people and an unknown amount of civilians have been killed in such strikes since 2001; a figure that would be much higher were the death tolls from strikes in Afghanistan and Iraq included.
Contrary to what most may believe, the selective efforts to capture or kill high-value targets is no longer one handed solely to the C.I.A.
As more insurgent groups sprouted in opposition of the American occupation of Iraq during that war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld advocated for the Pentagon to use its clandestine operatives, the Joint Special Operations Command, led by General Stanley McChrystal, to pursue and dispose of terrorist operatives by using whatever means available as an attempt to strengthen our show of force against terrorists, and reduce the growth of their ranks.
Though the American public for years had knowledge about the use of drones being used to eliminate key terrorist and other subversive figures, and appreciate the values of secrecy for the sake of national security, the realization that the White House only recently admitted such to them after years of whitewashing and glossing over the facts has brought forth both scrutiny of our government, along with some questions which weigh heavy on the minds of those concerned about what America is doing, and how it will affect us as a nation domestically, and abroad?
The major combined question most need an answer to is if the strikes are detrimental to our long-professed values of justice, and whether the use of these will eventually backfire on America with other nations around the world, including those who currently claim to be allied with us?
If these attacks are "just", as President Obama stated in his Thursday address at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., then the United States will be vindicated as a fair and just nation committed preserving the peace, human rights, and mutual dignity all peoples around the world deserve. If not, then we, as a nation, will perhaps be vilified as being oppressive, hypocritical, and deceitfully aggressive.
Let us gather in hope that we never face the latter, for the results would not only bring this great nation down in shame, but in ways which would dwarf 9/11 beyond our imagination as many of our allies would have to stand down in order to protect their nations interests.
Let us also gather in hope that our nation's leaders have made the right decisions in this regard, and that in time history will prove to be kind.