Kill Saddam!

U.S. journalists agree: If you can’t beat him, assassinate him.


The latest saber-rattling with Iraq has an odd twist: As the United States government shows restraint and revives the lost art of diplomacy, this time it’s the U.S. press that’s howling for blood — the blood of Saddam Hussein personally. The press, of course, has the distinct advantage that nobody really follows their policy suggestions anyway, so their advice doesn’t have to be diplomatic, or even legal:

The law:

Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.
— Executive Order 12333, issued Dec. 4, 1981, by President Ronald Reagan, continuing the policy of his predecessors Ford and Carter. Neither Bush nor Clinton has rescinded it.

The handy (and illegal) tips from the press:

“Conventional Wisdom,” Newsweek, Nov. 17: “Take him down.” (next to a photo of Hussein and a downward-plunging arrow)

Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist, New York Times, Nov. 6: “Saddam Hussein is the reason God created cruise missiles. …So if and when Saddam pushes beyond the brink, and we get that one good shot, let’s make sure it’s a head shot.”

George Stephanopolous, former Clintonite and current ABC News analyst, on ABC’S “This Week,” Nov. 9: “This is probably one of those rare cases where assassination is the more moral course…we should kill him.”

Sam Donaldson, co-host of “This Week,” Nov. 9: We should kill Saddam “under cover of law…. We can do business with his successor.”

Bill Kristol, ABC News analyst, “This Week,” Nov. 9: “It sounds good to me.”

Cokie Roberts, co-host of “This Week,” Nov. 9: “Well, now that we’ve come out for murder on this broadcast, let us move on to fast-track…”

Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, Nov. 17: “It won’t be easy to take him out. …But we need to try, because the only language Saddam has ever understood is force.”

Newsweek, Dec. 1: “Why We Should Kill Saddam.”

Thanks to Matthew Rothschild and The Progressive for the inspiration.

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  • Eric Umansky is a deputy managing editor of ProPublica.