Breaking Glass

Killing No Murder

Don’t they wish they had listened to her!  Back in 2003, when the United States was planning to lead the invasion of Iraq, my elderly Welsh aunt was appalled by the prospect of war: “I hate all the violence.  I’m not an educated woman; I don’t understand politics.  I just hate to think of all those young men dying.  Why can’t we just send in the SAS to assassinate Sad­dam?”  Eight years later, my aunt’s words sound very wise indeed.  They may also be prophetic.  Whether or not we think it’s a good idea, assassination may be back in vogue.

Whenever the United States finds herself in a military confrontation around the world, a sizable chasm separates official policy from the expectations of ordinary people.  For people like my aunt, who grew up in the age of Hitler and Mussolini, the prospect of casually removing despots seems quite reasonable.  Just suppose that a tragically convenient accident had removed Saddam and his two equally evil sons before 2003.  Obviously, such an intervention would not have established democracy or human rights in Iraq, but neither did the actual invasion.  But the demonstrated ability to eliminate dictators sends a potent message to any successor regime, who would understand the immediate physical danger that potentially threatened them and their families.

The United States, of course, does not permit such...

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