[R-G] Odai, Qusai Deaths Go Against U.S. Ban
u_majeed at straight.com
Thu Jul 24 02:04:15 MDT 2003
Odai, Qusai Deaths Go Against U.S. Ban
Wed Jul 23,12:06 PM ET Add White House - AP to My Yahoo!
By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - In theory, pursuing with intent to kill violates a
long-standing policy banning political assassination. It was the misfortune
of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s sons, Odai and Qusai, that the Bush
administration has not bothered to enforce the prohibition.
The brothers were killed during a six-hour raid Tuesday at a palatial villa
in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul by U.S. forces acting on a tip from an
informant. They ranked just below their father in the deposed regime. Odai,
in particular, had a reputation for brutality.
Officials said people inside the villa opened fire first but left little
doubt what the U.S. troops hoped to accomplish.
"We remain focused on finding, fixing, killing or capturing all members of
the high-value target list," Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of
coalition troops in Iraq (news - web sites), announcing the deaths of Odai
The ban has been overlooked so often in recent years that some wonder why
the administration doesn't simply declare the measure null and void.
Earlier this week, the U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, stated
in unusually candid terms the administration's disregard for the
assassination ban. Appearing on NBC TV's "Meet the Press," Bremer said U.S.
officials presumed that Saddam was still alive and that American forces were
trying to kill him.
"The sooner we can either kill him or capture him, the better," Bremer said.
Often in the past, officials resorted to winks and nods or other
circumlocutions when asked about U.S. actions that gave the appearance of
Consider President Reagan's response when he was asked whether the bombing
of Moammar Gadhafi's residence in 1986 constituted an effort to kill the
"I don't think any of us would have shed tears if that had happened," Reagan
said. Over the past five years, U.S.-sponsored assassination attempts have
been on the increase. Targets have included Osama bin Laden (news - web
sites), former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites)
Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) said before
the start of the Iraq war that the assassination ban would not apply once
hostilities broke out.
"People who are in charge of fighting the war to kill United States troops
cannot assume that they will be safe," Fleischer said, making clear that
Saddam would not be exempt.
Bremer says the rationale for going after Saddam now even though he is no
longer in power is that he remains a rallying point for supporters.
The ban on assassinations, spelled out in an executive order signed by
President Ford in 1976 and reinforced by Presidents Carter and Reagan, made
no distinction between wartime and peacetime. There are no loop holes; no
matter how awful the leader, he could not be a U.S. target either directly
or by a hired hand.
The advantages of using assassination as a political tool seemed less
obvious a generation ago than they are today.
Ford's executive order was in response to the general revulsion over
disclosures by a Senate committee about a series of overseas U.S.
assassination attempts some successful, some not over many years.
The committee found eight attempts on the life of Cuban President Fidel
Castro (news - web sites). Other targets included Rafael Trujillo of the
Dominican Republic and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, both in 1961; and Ngo
Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in 1963. Lumumba and Diem were both assassinated,
although the degree of U.S. involvement has never been clear.
One rationale for the ban was that an attempt on the life of a foreign
leader could produce retaliation a concern borne out in U.S.-Libyan
tit-for-tat attacks during the late 1980's. Libyan agents killed two U.S.
soldiers at a German disco in early April 1986. Days later, Reagan
authorized the bombing of Libya; Gadhafi was spared but his 15-month old
daughter was killed. Libyan agents were behind the bombing of Pan Am flight
103 in 1988, killing 270, most of them Americans.
Support for the assassination ban appears to have eroded considerably after
Sept. 11, 2001. The events of that day demonstrated that a small but
determined group, no matter how far away, could pose a greater threat to
ordinary Americans than the German Luftwaffe could in 1940.
Abraham Sofaer, a former State Department legal adviser, makes the case for
pre-emption against terrorists: "If a leader ... is responsible for killing
Americans, and is planning to kill more Americans ... it would be perfectly
proper to kill him rather than to wait until more Americans were killed."
The Bush administration seems to agree, but the old assassination taboo
lives on, at least on paper.
"There's an executive order that prohibits the assassination of foreign
leaders, and that remains in place," a White House spokesman said just as
the Iraq hostilities were about to begin.
EDITOR'S NOTE: George Gedda has covered foreign affairs for The Associated
Press since 1968.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor
freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing
the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the
ocean without the awful roar of its waters." (Frederick Douglass)
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