As Mugabe destroys Zimbabwe, some ask if “termination with extreme prejudice” would be justified.
In February 1976 President Gerald Ford issued his Executive Order 11905 to prevent American intelligence personnel from plotting the assassination of foreign leaders. That prohibition remained in force, confirmed by Jimmy Carter in January 1978 (Executive Order 12036) and by Ronald Reagan in December 1982 (Executive Order 12333) until President George W. Bush authorized the assassination of Saddam Hussein. That order was never executed, but as Robert Mugabe destroys Zimbabwe and its people, some ask if “termination with extreme prejudice” would be justified.
The CIA has never been adept at killing opponents, as Fidel Castro can testify. Senator Frank Church found that despite rumours suggesting the CIA had engaged in murder in Saigon, Santo Domingo, Santiago and Leopoldville, it had not killed any foreign leaders.
The Congo CIA chief, Larry Devlin, had refused the Eisenhower’s request to kill Patrice Lumumba (he was later beaten to death by an assassin sponsored by the Belgians) and since then the organisation has obeyed Executive Order 12333.
In Britain, Dr David Owen asked Maurice Oldfield, about removing the Ugandan despot Idi Amin, but the SIS Chief had demurred, insisting SIS preferred more cerebral solutions. Previously, Anthony Eden had ordered SIS to eliminate the EOKA terrorist leader George Grivas and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, but both attempts failed.
So where does the intelligence community stand on Mugabe? Firstly, economically and strategically, Zimbabwe is an irrelevance, so it is unlikely any western leader with access to the appropriate means would be motivated to intervene. Secondly, there is a view that any alternative leader, such as Morgan Tsvangirai, would not be much of an improvement in Harare.
Doubtless few would mourn his passing if a local coup replaced Mugabe but, judging by the lessons of history, he is not likely to be high on the list of potential targets for either SIS or the CIA. Without oil, uranium or deposits of strategically important minerals, Zimbabwe is simply another failed state, like Somalia, where the inhabitants will be condemned to poverty and starvation while its self-styled liberator lives in opulent isolation.
It was President Kennedy who made public his fondness for Ian Fleming’s thrillers, and it may be that he misunderstood the traditional role of the CIA when he asked his Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone, to introduce him to America’s 007. Soon afterwards he ordered Fidel Castro’s death, and the result was a fiasco. Unable to perform, the CIA’s Bill Harvey went to the mafia, which resulted in Johnny Rosselli accepting the contract for $50,000 paid in advance.
The result was that Castro is still alive, but what was left of Rosselli’s body was found in an icebox off Key West.