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US & assassination policy

  1. Apr 8, 2003 #1

    Monique

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    I just wonder, isn't there an international law against performing an assassination on political figures? I thought that the US felt strongly against assassinations because of the incidents Marther Luther King, Kennedy, and others?

    Then why is the US military trying so desperately to bomb buildings of which they have intelligence that Saddam & regime is staying there? The window of opportunity as it was called of the first bombing of Bagdad was solely intended to kill Saddam and his sons right? I would think that this falls under the chapter of war-crimes, does it not..
     
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  3. Apr 8, 2003 #2

    kat

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    I believe international law prohibits executing anyone in custody or targeting anyone who is not a combatant. Other then that I'm uncertain as to the legal issues.
     
  4. Apr 8, 2003 #3
    Yes, I believe that commonly it is declared that assasination of Head's of States is a violation of International Law. However, I do not know if this holds during war time scenario's, it would seem like a little bit of a ridiculous rule to impose in war time situations, but at least according to my Int'l Relations professor killing a head of state is against Int'l Law (at least in peace time...)
     
  5. Apr 8, 2003 #4

    russ_watters

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    During war, the military command structure is necessarily fair game - and the despot is certainly a part (the top) of that command structure.
     
  6. Apr 8, 2003 #5

    GENIERE

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    During war the entire population of the enemy may be slaughtered legally as long as it’s indiscriminate (you have to kill without regard to race or creed). The USA and others have agreed to exclude some types of weapons. For example, the use of A-bombs and H-bombs is ok, but not the use of neutron bombs, chemical and biological weapons. If the US or the Brits wanted to use a neutron bomb, they could as long as they had a good excuse like "oops, it must have been labled wrong!".

    We are not at war with Iraq, but the US congress has authorized the use of force just as it did prior to Desert Storm, another non-war. The congress has also approved funding the action. This is all the authority our president needs to prosecute a military action including targeting specific individuals. What the rest of the world or the UN considers legal or not legal is irrelevant. Our president needs only to abide by the US constitution. The constitution requires the president to defend the population and it’s interests. I agree with his action, you may not. Your opinion and my opinion can be registered in a voting booth. If you’re impatient and believe the president is acting illegally, you can petition your representative to begin an impeachment process or engage in peaceful anti-war protest. As for me, I would petition to block the impeachment and protest in opposition.

    Regards
     
  7. Apr 9, 2003 #6

    russ_watters

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    Geniere, things have changed somewhat since our last declared war (wwii). The targeting of civilians is no longer acceptable as a tactic in warfare.
     
  8. Apr 9, 2003 #7
    Too bad NOBODY follows that rule.
     
  9. Apr 9, 2003 #8

    Bystander

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    Short answer: No.
    S.A.: No.
    S.A.: No.

    Long answers: there is NO international governing body to enact or enforce such legislation; U.S. foreign policy regarding assassinations is more a result of the Kennedy era fiascos directed at Diem and Castro; assassination of a head of state can be considered a (war) crime only in the event that the victim is in the custody of another power and executed without some sort of due process --- Patrice Lumumba is a possible example. The "due process" at the end of WW II was a bit farcical in that several convictions were generated as ex post facto violations of common behavioral standards which were not specifically included in the previous Geneva and Hague conventions
     
  10. Apr 9, 2003 #9
    I thought the AMERICAN law prohibited assasination of head's of state.... I thought there was this bill from the '70's stating that US presidents were not allowed to give such orders.
     
  11. Apr 9, 2003 #10

    GENIERE

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    Russ

    I don’t agree. Just because the US has the ability to fight a more humane war (mutually exclusive words I guess) against the Iraqis doesn’t mean it would fight a similar war against China. Against China, we would be forced to use all possible means against them as they would against us.

    That is not the point I was trying to make concerning legality. There is no legality in war. Treaties, pacts, agreements, commitments, and rules of engagement are discarded without a second thought. Winners are never prosecuted for war crimes, losers always are. The US does not need to use all means against Iraq, and is not. The Iraqis do have to use all means and are. Wars simply progress in the vilest manner, consume everything, destroy reason, and leave horror in their wake.

    In another thread I was said to be pro-war. The fact is I am anti-war. This war is necessary to avoid a much larger one in the future, one we would not win even if we were victorious as millions would die. Terrorism must stop. It must stop now.

    This war need not have occurred. It was the failure of the UN to act, which encouraged Saddam to think he would avoid the consequences off supporting terrorism. Unfortunately, I think this is just the first step. The second step is always easier. The second step can only be avoided if the enlightened nations put politics, jealously and economics to the side and present a united front against those who abhor freedom.

    I’m reasonably well educated, reasonably well read, reasonably well traveled. I know the USA, with all its faults, is the best of the best. All of us prefer democracy, some of us prefer socialism, some prefer capitalism, and some prefer a mix. We’ll work it out, because were free to do so.

    Regards
     
  12. Apr 9, 2003 #11
    heumpje, the US policy against assassinations is just an executive order; the president can change it at will, and I believe he does not even need to make it public.
     
  13. Apr 9, 2003 #12

    Monique

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    Yes, that is what I heard too. So Damgo seems to have answered the question?
     
  14. Apr 9, 2003 #13

    Njorl

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    While what Damgo said is accurate, I don't think it is an answer to your question. Saddam Hussein was not targetted because of a change in US policy. He was targetted because he was the commander of the forces opposing the US in an armed conflict.

    Njorl
     
  15. Apr 9, 2003 #14

    Monique

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    So Saddam has every right in the world to bomb the white house when he has intelligence that Bush is inside without facing any procecution because they are at war and Bush is against him? Hypothetical situation, I am just curious.
     
  16. Apr 9, 2003 #15

    russ_watters

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    EVERY civilized (read: westernized) nation follows that guideline including the US. And you know it.

    That's Carter's executive order. As such it carries no weight whatsoever.
    edit: oops, damgo got there first.

    Geniere, thats a pretty out there hypothetical, but I'll bite. First off, its not possible for the US to invade China, so we won't. They simply have too many people. Its not relevant to say 'if we wanted to invade china...' If I had wings I could fly. Second, China is incapable of sending an army across the Taiwan straight much less the Pacific without our approval. So they can't invade the US.

    Yes, being the world leader gives us this luxury, but its part of the equation. If we were on the verge of annihilation by a foreign power, would we lash out with nukes? Maybe. But since its not even currently in the realm of possibility, its a pointless hypothetical. Maybe its a turnaround of "might makes right." Might gives us the LUXURY of not needing to break the rules.

    I'll more or less agree with that, Geniere with a couple of caveats. The allies DID (for the most part) adhere to the existing rules of warfare during WWII. For example, we treated our POWs well. In fact, the very idea of discaring the rules of warfare is a relatively new concept (invented, not surprisingly, by the US in 1776).

    Also, losers in war are NOT always prosecuted or punished. We prosecuted the German government but did not punish the German people after WWII. WHY? Do you believe in the concept of a "just war"? Just because we win doesn't automatically make us right, but just because we aren't automatically right doesn't mean we are automatically wrong.

    Also, RE Iraq specifically. The rules of warfare are also designed for YOU to protect YOUR OWN civilians. By breaking the rules of warfare, Saddam is both directly and indirectly killing his own people (shooting them in the back is direct, putting AAA batteries on the roofs of schools is indirect). Those rules are almost never broken because most countries even when faced with their own annihilation won't help you annihilate them.
    IMO, me too - and I agree with your conclusion.
    Thats a toughie, Monique. If both sides are equal then yes. But do you know of the concept of a "just war"? Applied to this situation, Saddam is in the wrong so ANY action he takes besides comitting suicide or giving in to exile or voluntarily disarming is illegal (the US may also be in the wrong, but on a different issue, so save it guys). This can NOT however be construed to allow the US to conduct the war in any way we see fit. We are still bound by the rules as well.

    This has become a most interesting (not to mention generally logical and civil) thread. Nice to see people can discuss tough issues intellectually instead of emotionally every now and then.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2003
  17. Apr 9, 2003 #16

    Njorl

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    Yes, for the most part. There are some details, which neither side would probably pay much attention to though. Since Iraq can't shoot a missile that far or fly a bomber to the US, I assume they would need to use some sort of infiltration. The infiltrator would almost certainly not be a uniformed combatant. While Iraqi's fighting in civilian clothes in Iraq are afforded some protection as guerillas, those fighting in the US would be treated as saboteurs. But sabotage is part of war. The Iraqi government would not be committing a war crime, but the saboteur could be executed if caught.

    I think the possible effects of the deaths of either national leader are illuminating. The (probable) death of Saddam Hussein is a cause for joy in Iraq. In the US, all but Bush's most strident opponents would be infuriated if he were killed. I didn't vote for him; don't like him; disagree with most of his policies. If he were assassinated, I would demand that the government of a nation that sponsored it be destroyed.

    Njorl
     
  18. Apr 9, 2003 #17

    Njorl

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    I don't think the US violated that rule in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Kuwait, Panama, or Grenada. There was carelessness that bordered on violation in Lebannon, and the Christmas bombing of Hanoi was a clear, intentional violation. I think a lot of Americans would have been willing to see Richard Nixon pay for that crime as well as his others. It exposes us to all sorts of unwarranted criticism to this day.

    Njorl
     
  19. Apr 9, 2003 #18

    russ_watters

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    It certainly is something new since WWII. I'm not even sure its written down in the Geneva conventions or a UN resolution though. Certainly we didn't follow it in Vietnam.
     
  20. Apr 9, 2003 #19

    Njorl

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    There were rules added to the Geneva Convention in '46 or '47 about targetting civilians. I wish I could find it, but I just read them a couple weeks ago.

    It is considered a violation to:

    -Intentionally target civilians. (no explanation necessary)

    -Target a civilian area for indiscriminate attack because it has legal targets within it. (In WWII, all sides bombed factory districts in the hopes of getting a lucky hit on one of the factories there. Usually, all they hit were people's houses. Now, you must target specific factories, and have a reasonable chance of hitting it.)

    -Position military targets amongst civilians so as to make them immune to attack. (This was to prevent nations from exploiting the first two rules. It was recognized that if nations were able to exploit the conventions for military advantage, that the conventions themselves would be discarded.)

    The explanation I listed for the last rule is a big problem for modern conflicts. The rules were written to govern conflicts between nations of similar technological levels, US, UK, France, Germany, USSR, Japan etc. Following the rules of war gives a huge advantage to the technologically superior nation. Some changes were made to protect civilian guerillas from summary judgements, but they do not offset the benefits to the technologically superior combatant.

    Njorl
     
  21. Apr 11, 2003 #20

    Bystander

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    Who are "they?"
    Yup. such an act is not a war crime. Such an act committed during "peace" (whatever the hell that is) is internationally recognized as grounds for war.
     
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