Tim Gratz Posted December 11, 2004 Share Posted December 11, 2004 I think it merits some discussion under what circumstances assassination is ever proper. To avoid using loaded words, the question is perhaps best asked whether the killing of a person for a "political" motive is justified. Per most moral ethicists, if a killing is morally justified it is not murder. A second topic meriting discussion is even if a killing of a foreign head of state is morally justifiable, is it worth the risks (e.g. retaliation). The retaliation could involve more than a retaliatory killing. It was, after all, an assassination that triggered the First World War. First, I want to coment on the CIA plots to kill Castro. A killing endorsed or supported by an agency of a government stands on a different footing than a killing by a private citizen. For instance, it involves legal as well as moral considerations. For instance, the killing of a foreign head of state is clealy an act of war and the constitution limits to Congress the right to start a war. Common sense says that a president can respond to an emergency (i.e had the Russians ever shot their missiles at us, obviously the president then in power would not have waited for congress to respond). But there was no emerency that prevented Eisenhower or Kennedy from seeking congressional approval for actions against Castro. A far more different question is whether the killing of a foreign head of state is justified in the context of an ongoing war. As we know, Allen Dulles was involved in a plot to kill Hitler. Since the killing of a head of state in a war would presumably shorten the war, an argument can be made that the killing of a foreign head of state in a war that is otherwise morally justified should be considered. Of course, Richard Bissell used the Hitler argument to overcome Robert Maheu's initial moral objections to the idea of killing Castro. As I recall, however, Bissell even talked to Maheu about killing Hitler prior to the start of World War Two and his argument may have been more directed to preventing the loss of lives of American soldiers by preventing a war than to preventing the Holocaust. I do not think we should have tried to assassinate Castro. But even if one discounts the legal and moral objections it was an astoundingly bad idea for the CIA to involve elements of organized crime. Not only did that decision invite blackmail, it seems morally outrageous to enter an alliance with brutal killers. Tim Carroll agrees with me that some of the intelligence reforms of the mid seventies were an over-reaction to the CIA abuses of the mid 1960s. He also states that the recent intelligence reforms may have gone too far in relaxing the restriction on assassination. He may very well be right about that. I do not agree with the theory that a rogue element of the CIA killed JFK (in part because I think LHO may have been working for US intelligence and if so his sponsor would not have set him up as a patsy). I think it is possible that anti-Castro Cubans did it, and framed Oswald, believing he was indeed a Castro supporter. If so, their plot may have been advanced by the CIA's introduction of the criminal element into the war against Castro. I also think (as you know) that the assassination may have been a defensive (not retaliatory) action by Castro. In either event, we paid dearly for a decision initiated by a CIA bureacrat to adopt murder as an instrument of our foreign policy. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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