Imad Mughniyah was a leading figure in Hezbollah, widely thought to bear responsibility for several 1992 bombings directed against Jews in Argentina. In February of 2008, in Damascus, he was killed by a bomb planted in his SUV.
In an eerily exact repeat of the assassination of Orlando Letelier, the American government lied about the murder of Mughniyah, falsely claiming that Syrian government was responsible. We now know -- thanks to a surprisingly candid Washington Post
investigative piece, published a few days ago -- that the CIA and Mossad masterminded the assassination.
The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage.
“We probably blew up 25 bombs to make sure we got it right,” the former official said.
According to the WP, the assassination was authorized by President George W. Bush. His decision directly contravened Executive Order 12333, issued by Ronald Reagan:
No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.
This Executive Order reiterates earlier ones issued by Carter and Ford, which arose from the revelation of the CIA's plans to kill Fidel Castro.
Most people don't realize that a president of the United States is subject to impeachment even after he has left office. (See here
Do we have legitimate grounds for a case? Yes. Will there be a drive to impeach Bush? Of course not. Politically, the thing simply is not do-able.
And even if proceedings began, Bush's lawyers would argue that the bomb was planted and detonated by the Israelis; the Americans simply provided the device. (On the other hand, Newsweek contradicted the WP by claiming that the CIA
, not the Israelis, triggered the device.)
Beyond that, we have the widely-held belief that there is a "terrorist exemption" to Executive Order 12333. But does that belief reflect the facts?
I've done some checking. As far as I can determine, there is no such exemption, at least not in writing. EO 12333 can therefore be used as the basis for legal proceedings against any public servant who violates it. All we need is the will to implement the law.
There were attempts to kill Saddam Hussein in 1991 -- and the legal justifications were grimly hilarious
When it comes to bombing, the executive order is bypassed because military action is targeted on buildings; leaders of the targeted country are considered potential collateral damage.
"We did try to kill him," said one military officer involved in targeting during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "I'm not going to be dishonest with you. But if he doesn't die, it doesn't mean it's a failure. You're bombing leadership targets as a process, not a person. You degrade his ability to make decisions."
I think that the country would be very amused to hear Dubya argue that he wanted the CIA to go after Mughniyah's car
, not Mughniyah himself.
Since there is no "terrorist exemption" to Reagan's EO, then Barack Obama's drone attacks are also impeachable offenses. Obama can scarcely argue that his attack on that wedding party in Yemen
was directed at a building, especially since the partygoers were en route
and out in the open.
One can even argue that the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden was impeachable. No-one gave any thought to the possibility of capturing him. That was a kill mission, and everyone knows it.
It says something about the Republicans that they refuse to impeach Obama on such obviously valid grounds.We usually view the GOP as a brutish entity which plays to win at any cost, but that characterization is not true: Republicans will do nothing that might have the effect of limiting presidential power, because they seek that power for themselves.
It also says something about the American people that we have allowed Reagan's Executive Order to be tossed aside with a collective shrug.
If Executive Order 12333 no longer works in today's world, then there should be either a new Order or new legislation. But if we allow a president to choose at whim which laws to ignore and which to observe, then we no longer have a president. We have a king.