by Eric Margolis
CIA director Leon Panetta just told Congress he cancelled a secret operation
to assassinate al-Qaida leaders. The CIA campaign, authorized in 2001, had
not yet become operational, claimed Panetta.
I respect Panetta, but his claim is humbug. The U.S. has been trying to kill
al-Qaida personnel (real and imagined) since the Clinton administration.
These efforts continue under President Barack Obama. Claims by Congress it
was never informed are hogwash.
The CIA and Pentagon have been in the assassination business since the early
1950s, using American hit teams or third parties. For example, a
CIA-organized attempt to assassinate Lebanon's leading Shia cleric, Muhammad
Fadlallah, using a truck bomb, failed, but killed 83 civilians and
In 1975, I was approached to join the Church Committee of the U.S. Congress
investigating CIA's attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Congo's Patrice
Lumumba, Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem, and Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Add to America's hit list Saddam Hussein, Afghanistan's Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,
Indonesia's Sukarno, Chile's Marxist leaders and, very likely, Yasser
Libya's Moammar Khadaffy led me by the hand through the ruins of his private
quarters, showing me where a 2,000-pound U.S. bomb hit his bedroom, killing
his infant daughter. Most Pakistanis believe, rightly or wrongly, the U.S.
played a role in the assassination of President Zia ul-Haq.
To quote Josef Stalin's favourite saying, "No man. No problem."
Assassination was outlawed in the U.S. in 1976, but that did not stop
attempts by its last three administrations to emulate Israel's Mossad in the
"targeted killing" of enemies. The George W. Bush administration, and now
the Obama White House, sidestepped American law by saying the U.S. was at
war, and thus legally killing "enemy combatants." But Congress never
Washington is buzzing about a secret death squad run by Dick Cheney when he
was vice-president and his protege, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan,
Gen. Stanley McChrystal. This gung-ho general led the Pentagon's super
secret Special Operations Command, which has become a major rival to the CIA
in the business of "wet affairs" (as the KGB used to call assassinations)
and covert raids.
Democrats are all over Cheney on the death squad issue, as are some
Republicans -- in order to shield Bush. But the orders likely came from
Bush, who bears ultimate responsibility.
Americans are now being deluged by sordid scandals from the Bush years about
torture, kidnapping, brutal secret prisons, brainwashing, mass surveillance
of American's phones, e-mail, and banking.
In 2001, as this column previously reported, U.S. Special Forces oversaw the
murder at Dasht-e-Leili, Afghanistan, of thousands of captured Taliban
fighters by Uzbek forces of the Communist warlord, Rashid Dostum.
CIA was paying Dostum, a notorious war criminal from the 1980s, millions to
fight Taliban. Dostum is poised to become vice-president of the
U.S.-installed government of President Hamid Karzai. Bush hushed up this
major war crime.
America is hardly alone in trying to rub out enemies or those who thwart its
designs. Britain's MI-6 and France's SDECE were notorious for sending out
assassins. The late chief of SDECE told me how he had been ordered by
then-president Francois Mitterrand to kill Libya's Khadaffy. Israel's hit
teams are feared around the globe.
History shows that state-directed murder is more often than not
counterproductive and inevitably runs out of control, disgracing nations and
organizations that practise it.
But U.S. assassins are still at work. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S.
drones are killing tribesmen almost daily. Over 90% are civilians. Americans
have a curious notion that killing people from the air is not murder or even
a crime, but somehow clean.
U.S. Predator attacks are illegal and violate U.S. and international law.
Pakistan's government, against which no war has been declared, is not even
asked permission or warned of the attacks.
Dropping 2,000-pound bombs on apartment buildings in Gaza or Predator raids
on Pakistan's tribal territory are as much murder as exploding car bombs or
Eric Margolis is a columnist for The Toronto Sun. A veteran of many
conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special
appearance on Britain's Sky News TV as "the man who got it right" in his
predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in
Iraq. His latest book is
American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between
the West and the Muslim World.
Jim Sollisch, "Breaking
Point," Washington Post, January 14, 2003
Enver Masud, "Sunni, Shia violence,
death squads, and civil war in Iraq," The Wisdom Fund, October 10,
[WMR has also learned that the equipment and weapons found by Pakistani
security forces in Tehreek-e-Taliban arms caches and on the dead bodies of
the insurgent fighters is manufactured in India and Israel. The dead
militants have also found to be mostly uncircumcised, an unthinkable
practice among dedicated Taliban members.
There is a strong belief by Pakistani authorities that Baitullah Mehsud and
his network is part of the secret Cheney-Pentagon JSOC/Task Force 121
assassination and has operated with the support of Indian and Israeli
intelligence. This is the first indication that the secret military group
run out of Cheney's office has links to groups and individuals identified in
the past as being part of the Taliban/"Al Qaeda" construct.--Wayne Madsen, "Bhutto assassination linked to US-run Pakistani terrorist
group," waynemadsenreport.com, July 22, 2009]
"The CIA, Licensed to Kill: The agency has been
involved in planning assassinations since at least 1954,"
democracynow.org, July 22, 2009
Alexander Cockburn, "'A Damned
Murder, Inc.'," counterpunch.org, July 24, 2009
Mark Mazzetti, "C.I.A. Sought Blackwater's
Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists," New York Times, August 20, 2009
[The American war secretary and a U.S. military veterans association think a
photo of an injured and dying American soldier is insensitive, but not the
wipeout of an Afghan village that came to get needed fuel.
The U.S. government is like a criminal who accuses the police of his crime
when he is arrested or a sociopathic abuser who blames the victim. It is a
known fact that the CIA has violated U.S. law and international law with its
assassinations, kidnappings, and torture. But it is not this criminal agency
that will be held accountable. Instead, those who will be punished will be
those moral beings who, appalled at the illegality and inhumanity of the
CIA, leaked the evidence of the agency's crimes.--Paul Craig Roberts, "US Hypocrisy Astonishes the World," antiwar.com, September 7,
Jeremy Scahill, "Blackwater's Secret
War in Pakistan," Nation, November 23, 2009
Anand Gopal, "Obama's Secret Prisons Night Raids, Hidden Detention Centers,
the 'Black Jail,' and the Dogs of War in Afghanistan," antiwar.com,
January 29, 2010
Jason Ditz, "US Govt Can Kill Citizens Overseas
as Part of 'Defined Policy': Director of National Intelligence Tells
Congress Americans Can Be Killed Overseas," antiwar.com, February
Bill Quigley, "Assassination of US Muslim Cleric is Illegal,
Immoral and Unwise," Huffington Post, May 10, 2010
[We filed suit today challenge the US requirement that lawyers must seek
permission from the government before we can provide free pro bono legal
representation to a US citizen.--Bill Quigley, "Assassination
Without Trial - Why We Sued to Represent Anwar Aulaqi,"
counterpunch.org, August 3, 2010]
killed, threatened or kidnapped Iraqi Academics," Brussels Tribunal
"Realpolitik and Terrorism,"
The Wisdom Fund