In April 1986, American pilots bombed the official residence of Colonel Gaddafi. The "mad dog of the Middle East" escaped unhurt. However, two of his sons were injured and a chicken farm on the outskirts of Tripoli was destroyed. As was the French embassy. Somewhere in the region of 100 civilians were killed in the raid, which was Reagan's response to the blowing up of two American soldiers in a Berlin nightclub.
Oh yes, and someone else died in the raid: Colonel Gaddafi's 18-month-old adopted daughter. As you can imagine, this didn't go down particularly well with mad dog. "Baby killers!" he screamed at America, and promptly blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. So that all went rather well.
Assassination is a tricky business at the best of times, and when it's done with bombs and grenades and dozens of heavily armed troops rather than a tip-toeing Russian with a poison-tipped umbrella it tends to get a little messy.
Things got a little messy on Tuesday, when two children died during the assassination of Uday and Qusay Hussein. One of them, an unnamed Iraqi boy, got caught in the crossfire. Oh well. As good old Ari Fleischer said after 9/11, defeating terrorists could require: "acts which involved the lives of others." Translated into Arabic: "shit happens, Mustafa."
Talking of whom, Mustafa Hussein was the other child to get whacked in the ambush. Mustafa Hussein was the son of Qusay, and he died fighting. Or so we are told. Not that we'll ever know what really happened there. As the Guardian observed:
Two very different versions of Tuesday's events emerged yesterday. One, put forward by Gen Sanchez, portrayed an orderly, steadily-escalating siege, in which every effort was taken to avoid harming bystanders. The alternative version, presented by neighbours in Mosul, was of a chaotic free-for-all in which no effort was made to usher local residents to safety."
Or as the Sun put it:
It is believed Qusay's 14-year-old son Mustafa was the last to fall in the five-hour shoot-out. He was sprayed with bullets as US troops stormed the first floor stronghold. His body was in a pool of blood in a bedroom next to the corpse-strewn bathroom.
While no one is about to shed a tear for Uday Hussein, it is important to see as clearly as possible what took place here: a determined and successful assassination carried out by the US military on foreign soil.
There were three adults and a child in that building - a building which was totally surrounded, even before a single trigger was pulled. The people inside fired small arms at the Americans. The Americans fired grenades, heavy machine-guns and ten anti-tank missiles from the ground. Helicopters fired rockets from the air. No one was getting out of that building alive.
Of course, the Pentagon's account of the incident makes it feel like self-defence: "We received direct fire from the building multiple times. We used a scaled escalation of force," said General Helmick who led the raid. So... nothing peculiar about the scale of the assault? Nothing odd about having A-10 Tankbusters standing by? Just a normal and appropriate response to small arms fire? Right.
The way the Pentagon tells it, not only were the Americans acting in self-defence, but the three lightly-armed adults and their teenage companion managed to engage the 200+ American troops in a fairly even exchange: "They died in a fierce gun battle," as General Sanchez put it. This is a picture of the fierce gun battle:
This was not a fierce gun battle, this was a fierce assassination. Even though assassinating people is something the Americans don't officially do.
Section 5(g) of Executive Order 11905, signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976 (after the CIA failed for the umpteenth time to assassinate Castro), states: "No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination."
In 1981, President Reagan broadened this definition with Executive Order 12333, which has never been repealed, and which states: "No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination."
And since then, by President after President, it has been roundly ignored. Even by Reagan himself. Reagan went for Gaddafi in 1986. Bush Senior went for Saddam in 1991. Clinton went for Osama in 1998. And Bush Junior?
Well, in the aftermath of 9/11, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer claimed that the assassination ban "does not limit America's ability to act in its self-defence." (Or as Bill Hicks put it: "pick up the gun"). But will they do the sensible and honest thing and repeal the Executive Order against assassination? Urrgh, no. That would be horrid.
In February 2003, Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald, when asked by Chicago newspaper on the best way to remove Saddam from power, said: "That's a really good question because the administration - I have personally talked to the president about this - and if we had intelligence on where he was now, and we had a clear shot to assassinate him, we would probably do that. President Bush would probably sign an executive order repealing the executive order put in place by President Ford that forbid the assassination of foreign leaders."
Pretty clear cut. Except that the White House immediately denied it. Fleischer said that Bush couldn't recall having this conversation with Fitzgerald, and added: "I know that Senator Fitzgerald is not quite certain the date it took place, or where it took place, it could have been a year ago, he says. So I think there is some uncertainty in Senator Fitzgerald's mind."
Fleischer stands there and *honestly expects* us to believe this horseshit. It's pathetic. Everything has to have a self-righteous gloss. They can't just say: "yup, we assassinate people. It's what we do. Got a problem?"
But they can't say that, because assassination is dirty and wrong. Not like war. War is okay. Fierce gun battles are okay. Shooting 14 year old boys in stairwells is okay. And anyway, as U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh said after 9/11: "In a war, there’s no such thing as assassination." Fortunately, America is in a constant state of war (against terror) so QED, assassination doesn't exist.
Tell that to Mustafa.
And let's not forget, Mustafa is just one of many...
And then, a little further away, lies the evidence of another slaughter of the innocents during the Anglo-American invasion; two local families, most of them children, 21 in all, blasted to pieces in the village of Awja when the Americans bombed their homes on 2 April in the hope of killing Saddam. They were supposedly distant cousins of the dictator.
We never heard of this bloodbath during the war, of course. Nor was it reported afterwards. But here are the victims. The child martyr Reem Mohamed Abdullah, aged five; Lawza, her two-month-old sister; their mother, Fatma; her brother, Faez; their father, Mohamed, and Jassim Mohamed Turki and his family, two of them babies.