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2) Rumsfeld Assassination Policy Violates U.S. Military, Legal Tradition



Professor Marjorie Cohn
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
JURIST Contributing Editor

Last week the US military assassinated Uday and Qusai Hussein in a villa in
Mosul, Iraq. Hundreds of troops armed with automatic weapons, rockets,
rocket-propelled grenades, and tow missiles, and dozens of vehicles and
aircraft, attacked four people armed with AK-47 automatic rifles. Mustapha,
the 14-year old son of Qusai, was also killed in the operation, along with
another individual who was apparently a bodyguard.

The subsequent firestorm of media coverage momentarily diverted public
attention from the Bush administation's failing Iraq war - its vain attempts
to find any weapons of mass destruction or link between Saddam Hussein and
Al Qaeda, the White House's admission that the President used false
information in his State of the Union address, and the continuing deaths of
American soldiers in an occupation with no end in sight.

The assassinations prompted chest-thumping and back-slapping all around.
Even Senator Ted Kennedy joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The New
York Times and the Washington Post, in congratulating Bush on the good news.
Then, after reportedly reflecting on the pros and cons, Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld gave the go-ahead to display the grisly photographs of the
Hussein brothers' reconstructed bullet-riddled faces. The Pentagon didn’t
want to appear to be “gloating,” but Rumsfeld thought the photos would
convince skeptical Iraqis that Uday and Qusai were indeed dead, which would
reduce the attacks on U.S. troops and encourage informants to come forward
without fear of retaliation by the old regime.

Both the targeted assassinations and the photographic display violated
well-established principles of international law. Targeted, or political,
assassinations are extrajudicial executions. They are unlawful and
deliberate killings carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of, a
government, outside any judicial framework. Extrajudicial executions are
unlawful, even in armed conflict. In a 1998 report, the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions noted
that “extrajudicial executions can never be justified under any
circumstances, not even in time of war.”

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty ratified
by the United States, prohibits the arbitrary denial of the right to life, a
right so fundamental, there can be no derogation from it even in “time of
public emergency which threatens the life of the nation." The U.N. General
Assembly and Human Rights Commission, as well as Amnesty International, have
all condemned extrajudicial executions.

After the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed in 1975 that the
CIA had been involved in several murders or attempted murders of foreign
leaders, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning
assassinations. Although every succeeding president has renewed that order,
the Clinton administration targeted Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, but
narrowly missed him.

In July 2001, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel denounced Israel’s policy of
targeted killings, or “preemptive operations.” He said “the United States
government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations.
They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

Yet after September 11, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer
invited the killing of Saddam Hussein: “The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi
people take it on themselves, is substantially less” than the cost of war.
Shortly thereafter, George W. Bush issued a secret directive, which
authorized the CIA to target suspected terrorists for assassination when it
would be impractical to capture them and when large-scale civilian
casualties could be avoided. In November 2002, Bush reportedly authorized
the CIA to assassinate a suspected Al Qaeda leader in Yemen. He and five
traveling companions were killed in the hit, which Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz described as a “very successful tactical operation.”

Nearly sixty years ago, the U.S. government opposed the extrajudicial
executions of Nazi officials who had committed genocide against millions of
people. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who served as chief
prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, told President Harry
Truman: “We could execute or otherwise punish [the Nazi leaders] without a
hearing. But undiscriminating executions or punishments without definite
findings of guilt, fairly arrived at, would … not set easily on the American
conscience or be remembered by children with pride.”

Americans should not feel pride in the public display of the gruesome photos
of the assassinated Hussein brothers. The First Geneva Convention requires
combatants to ensure that the dead are not despoiled. Reconstruction of
their faces violates this treaty, which also provides that the dead be
honorably interred; Islamic law requires immediate burial. When Iraqis
displayed images of captured U.S. troops, Bush demanded that the POWs be
treated humanely, and he warned that anyone who mistreated them would be
tried for war crimes. But Bush didn’t complain when American media outlets
featured Iraqi prisoners down on their knees, blindfolded and handcuffed.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Uday and Qusai Hussein should have been arrested and tried in Iraqi courts
or an international tribunal for their alleged crimes. George W. Bush cannot
serve as judge, jury and executioner. This assassination creates a dangerous
precedent, which could be used to justify the targeted killings of U.S.
leaders. The display of the photographs may backfire and turn the brothers
into martyrs who stood against the foreign invaders. It could also result in
even more violence against U.S. troops.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San
Diego, is executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild.
July 29, 2003



This article appears in the August 8, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence

Rumsfeld Assassination Policy Violates U.S. Military, Legal Tradition

by Edward Spannaus

At the end of World War II, when the Allies were facing the question of how
to deal with Nazi leaders, whose crimes were on a scale far beyond anything
attributed to Saddam Hussein or other Iraqi leaders, the majority of the
Allies came down foursquare against carrying out summary executions of war
criminals after the war, and rather supported the creation of an
international tribunal to try top Nazis. This was the consistent position of
Franklin D. Roosevelt for the United States, as well as of France's Charles
de Gaulle, and the Soviet Union's Josef Stalin.

The British, as represented by Winston Churchill and the Foreign Office,
opposed trials and instead demanded summary executions. Some have suggested
that the British were afraid to put leading Nazis on trial, for fear that
evidence of British complicity in the establishment of the Nazi regime would
come out. Stalin apparently hinted at this; after an October 1942 meeting in
Moscow, Churchill informed Roosevelt that "Uncle Joe" had expressed the view
that, "There must be no executions without trial, otherwise the world would
say that we were afraid to try them."

A proposal for summary executions was included in the U.S. Treasury
Department's scheme, known as the Morgenthau Plan, which is best known for
its demand to return Germany to a medieval agricultural economy, with its
industrial sector dismantled. That was, of course, rejected, in favor of the
wiser approach, of winning the peace by rebuilding Germany through the
Marshall Plan. The U.S. War Department (predecessor of today's Defense
Department) was among the strongest opponents of the criminal Morgenthau

After Roosevelt's death, the final decision was to be made by the new
President, Harry Truman. Truman had appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Robert H. Jackson as the U.S. representative and counsel for war crimes.
Jackson told Truman that "undiscriminating executions or punishments without
definite findings of guilt, fairly arrived at, would violate pledges
repeatedly given, and would not set easily on the American conscience or be
remembered by our children with pride."

Jackson argued that victory in war, did not give the victors the right to
simply execute their enemies. Guilt must be proven in a fair trial, Jackson
argued, observing that, "The President of the United States has no power to
convict anyone. He can only accuse."

In his profoundly memorable opening statement to the Nuremberg Tribunal,
Jackson stated: "That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung
with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive
enemies to the judgment of law, is one of the most significant tributes that
Power has ever paid to Reason."

As a party to the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the United States is
still solemnly bound by its principles to this day.

With that backdrop, we review the contrary policies which the United States,
under the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President
Dick Cheney, are carrying out in Iraq today.

'Hunter-Killer' Teams
In our Jan. 17 issue, EIR reported that Rumsfeld was attempting to take
parts of the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and turn them into
"hunter-killer" teams modelled on the Vietnam-era "Phoenix" assassination
program. Various sources had reported intense opposition, within the
uniformed military, to Rumsfeld's scheme; the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not
want to see their special forces turned into assassination squads.

At the center of Rumsfeld's plans was the reactivation of the Army's
Iran/Contra-era Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), now operating under the
name of "Grey Fox." According to a number of recent reports, Grey Fox has
been spearheading the search for Saddam Hussein and his family, under the
broader umbrella of "Joint Special Operations Task Force 20," which also
includes Navy Seals, the Army's Delta Force, and 106th Special Operations
Aviation Regiment.

The first public implementation of the Rumsfeld policy was the killing of
six men—one allegedly an al-Qaeda leader—in Yemen last November, when a U.S.
rocket destroyed their automobile travelling in the desert.

Now, with the unnecessary killing—rather than capturing—of Saddam Hussein's
two sons in Mosul, and the recent series of killings of Iraqi civilians, the
indications are that Rumsfeld is well along the way in his effort to create
Waffen SS-type killer squads in the U.S. military, in violation of
traditional American military policy.

>From all accounts of the Mosul raid, there was never any intention of
capturing Saddam's sons alive—although this obviously would have constituted
an intelligence bonanza for the United States.

But, as some commentators have pointed out, that may have been exactly why
Rumsfeld and Co. didn't want them alive and talking. It seems that other top
Iraqi officials and scientists, who surrendered or were taken alive, are not
telling their interrogators what Rumsfeld and Cheney want to hear. Not to
mention, that some Iraqi officials may still remember Rumsfeld's visits to
Baghdad in 1983-84, when he embraced Saddam Hussein, and set up the channels
through which the United States armed Iraq during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq
War—including providing precursors for chemical and biological weapons.

It has been observed, that any police SWAT team in any major U.S. city
probably could have captured Uday and Qusay Hussein alive. But, according to
a high-level military intelligence source, the current rules of engagement,
as set by the Pentagon, do not call for taking such "high-value" targets
alive, and any change in policy would have to come from Rumsfeld directly.

In reviewing the reports of the Mosul action, Democratic Presidential
pre-candidate Lyndon LaRouche stressed that this is not an action that would
have been carried out by the professional military, but that they were
dragged into this, by Rumsfeld and Cheney. LaRouche noted the insanity of
carrying out an assassination policy, while the U.S. military is an
occupying power already subject to a rising level of guerrilla attacks;
LaRouche also noted the complications that such an insane policy creates, in
terms of fashioning an "exit strategy" for the U.S. military.

Such Israeli-style "targetted assassinations" are also in direct violation
of the official U.S. ban on executions of foreign leaders, which has been in
effect since 1976. The Executive Order signed by President Gerald Ford, and
reinforced by later Presidents, makes no distinction between peacetime and
wartime; there is no loophole for the war on terrorism, as the Bush
Administration suggests.

Pattern of Incidents
U.S. forces in Iraq have been engaged in an increasing number of killings of
civilians, as the campaign against resistance fighters, and the hunt for
Saddam, have intensified.

The Washington Post recently reported that more than 300 Iraqi "fighters"
have been killed in hundreds of raids over the past six weeks, while more
than 1,000 "suspected fighters" have been detained. (Those captured are
"suspected fighters," while those killed are simply "fighters.")

The July 27 raid on a mansion in Baghdad's wealthy Mousour district, carried
out by elements of Task Force 20, resulted in the deaths of five civilians,
shot in their cars near roadblocks. According to eyewitness accounts, some
of those leading the raid were wearing civilian clothes. Otherwise, it is
reported, Task Force 20 operatives try to blend in with supporting
forces—which means that regular U.S. Army soldiers often get blamed for Task
Force 20's brutality and killings, and then become further targets for
retaliatory guerrilla attacks.

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