FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Whackos in Washington: the Risky Game of Regime Decapitation

by

Back in the 18th century, there was an unwritten understanding in the conduct of warfare that one didn’t kill the generals in battle. This wasn’t about protecting the elite while the “grunts” of the day slaughtered each other. It was a matter of common sense: If you killed the general, there was no one in a position to order a withdrawal or to surrender, once it became clear that one side was winning. With no general in command, things could become chaotic, leading to more bloodshed than necessary.

In the US, ever since the brief presidency of Gerald Ford, and in the wake of the Senate’s Church Committee hearings into the nefarious activities of the CIA and other secret agencies during the Nixon administration and earlier — particularly efforts to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro and some other national leaders — it has been US policy not to kill heads of state. In fact, a Ford executive order, number 12333, signed by President Ford in the mid 1970s, specifically bans the killing of government leaders, however brutish.

If one wants to see an example of why this is a logical policy, just look at what happened during the Obama administration, when Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafy was murdered by his US-backed captors (with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic support), leaving Libya in a state of total chaos from which it has never really recovered.

Yet now there is talk by President Trump and his increasingly neoconservative- dominated National Security and Pentagon team of advisors of “taking out” North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, even as an aircraft carrier attack group steams towards the Korean peninsula.

Getting rid of Ford Executive Order 12333 would be no difficult hurdle for President Trump, who has been “governing” the country through ill-though-out executive order issuance — most of them written by his political strategist Stephen Bannon, since he assumed office Jan. 20. Bannon, now being sidelined by more traditional cold war neo- cons, may not be writing those orders for his boss now, but someone else could easily do it, erasing E.O 12333 with the stroke of a pen.

What would such a change mean?

In the case of North Korea, it could mean a quick “decapitation” strike by US aircraft from the USS Carl Vinson — one which would presumably destroy North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapon-making capability, and killing Kim and the country’s top military leadership around him.

But what would the result of such a strike be?

For one thing, almost certainly it would mean the contamination of part or even much of the country in North Korea with nuclear fallout and radiation. For another it — given the long history of US “precision” targeting going terribly wrong — it would mean much death and destruction for the long-suffering North Korean people. It would also mean chaos in a country that for nearly three-quarters of a century has been ruled by one absolute tyrant or another, in which there is simply no organized system of governance at lower levels to handle anything, from delivery of health services to distribution of food. If you think the chaos that followed the US invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the Baathist leadership of Iraq was bad, or that the chaos of the US overthrow of Gaddafy in Libya was bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet if North Korea’s leader gets offed in a US strike.

In theory, China, South Korea or Japan could step in with troops, money and civilian personnel to help reestablish some kind of order and peace, while preventing the rise of yet another tyrannical government, but none of that is likely. The Chinese would probably not want to take it on, the Japanese are viewed negatively as a former colonial power, and South Korea may not want the financial burden of rescuing the North, which would be staggering. Meanwhile, while the US could relatively easily, and at minimal cost, “take out” North Korea’s missiles, nukes and leadership, especially in the case of the Trump administration, there is absolutely no interest in taking on the costs of occupying and subsidizing the rebuilding North Korea following such an ill-conceived attack.

Will that deter the US from ending the ban on killing national leaders and launching an attack on North Korea aimed at “taking out” Kim?

It’s hard to say, but with Trump abandoning his domestic campaign promises left and right, turning domestic policy into a giant give-away to the rich and the Wall Street banksters, and in the process alienating most of his political base, he seems hell-bent on

diverting attention abroad by taking dramatic military actions that make him appear decisive and powerful.

In Syria, that is amping up the risk of a direct confrontation with Russia’s air force and a potential World War III. In North Korea, it risks creation of yet another Libya, this time in Asia, complete with a flood of desperate refugees and another flood of unaccountable and uncontrollable weapons, possibly including nukes, or nuclear materials.

One thing is clear: If Donald Trump actually gave a damn about “beautiful little babies,” he would not be contemplating an aerial assault on North Korea, the bombing of its nuclear facilities and the decapitation of its top leadership.

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail