The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W Casey Jr., in a recent TV interview, said murder was never a winning strategy and the sooner Iraqi insurgents understand this, the quicker peace will return. Hello.
It would be interesting to find out where and how Gen. Casey derived such a notion and from which history books. This reporter, over the past 50 years, has covered a number of insurgencies where torture and assassination were indeed the weapons that delivered spectacular victories to insurgents.
Algeria’s FLN (National Liberation Front) murdered French settlers for eight years and achieved a spectacular insurgent victory in 1962: the forced evacuation of 1 million French settlers, most Algerian-born and who had never even visited metropolitan France, and the exit of 500,000 French soldiers.
South Africa’s ANC (African National Congress) murdered white South African civilians and tortured to death those who betrayed them. In the 1980s, the ANC “necklaced” thousands by forcing them to drink gasoline, then placing a gasoline-filled tire around their necks that was set on fire. The ANC achieved victory: the end of the country’s racist apartheid regime.
In Kenya (1952-59), the Land Freedom Army terrorists, dubbed Mau Mau, murdered innocent white farmers. Africans who declined to swear an oath of allegiance were tortured to death — and the man who inspired them from prison became independent Kenya’s first president: Jomo Kenyatta.
Ordered by the Central Committee of North Vietnam’s Communist Party in 1959, the Viet Cong was created in South Vietnam and waged on a torture-and-murder campaign to cower fence-sitters into supporting the “National Liberation Front.” As we remember all too painfully, Vietnamese communists eventually (16 years later) defeated the world’s most powerful nation.
The U.S. Phoenix program in South Vietnam was a campaign of targeted assassinations of suspected Viet Cong cadres.
Before Fidel Castro’s 1959 victory in Cuba, murder and torture were part of the arsenal that overthrew the Batista regime. Assassination was an integral part of Sandinista strategy that chased the Somoza regime out of Nicaragua.
The Israelis say Hezbollah had nothing to do with their strategic withdrawal from southern Lebanon. But any journalist then covering the Middle East knows about that particular cause and effect. Hezbollah was murdering Israeli civilians.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was a no-brainer. But what finally convinced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon it was time to evacuate 8,500 Israeli settlers was the murder of innocent settlers by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel also responded with “targeted killings” of individual leaders of these terrorist organizations.
In Palestine as early as 1938, Menachem Begin’s Irgun was setting off random bombs in Arab market placesm, slaughtering scores at a time. This was repeated again after World War II.
Yitzhak Shamir and his smaller and more disciplined “Stern Gang” (also known as the LEHI organization) despised Irgun as a bunch of “talented thugs” and Begin as a “blowhard.” They focused on the targeted assassination of British intelligence officers and their support staff. Shamir, who assassinated Eliyahu Gil’adi, a friend suspected of treason, rose rapidly from the ranks to become one of LEHI’s three top commanders.
Terrorism convinced the British their mandate was unsustainable. Both Begin and Shamir were prime ministers in the state of Israel they fought to create.
From imperial Russia in 1917 to Eastern Europe after World War II, to Cuba in 1959 to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1975, to Nicaragua and Afghanistan in 1979, communists seized power by assassinating political opponents and murdering innocent civilians. In Mao Tse tung’s “Cultural Revolution” in Communist China (1966-76), about 5 percent of the 800 million Chinese, or 40 million people, were killed.
In the American War of Independence, George Washington fought a clean war. He was merciful and refused to shed innocent blood. But in the South, the same war was a merciless civil war. American Tories and Patriots slaughtered each other viciously. One tactic was to decapitate entire families and leave their heads on their own mantelpieces.
In some 6,500 wars in 5,000 years of recorded history, coldblooded murder and assassination of political and military leaders, has been an integral part of a winning strategy.
Lenin once said, “Violence is the midwife of history.”
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.