On Sunday, we asked the burning (get it!) question, does excessive use of the memory hole by the media hurt the ozone layer? Jonah Goldberg notes yet another Clinton-era quote that’s been missing in action (trapped for years in the interdimensional Tholian space between Lexus and Nexus) until now:
But what’s unlawful — and unpopular with the allies — is not necessarily immoral. So now that I’m not in the White House, I can say what I couldn’t say then: we should seriously explore the assassination option. Even though the current crisis may be subsiding temporarily, we don’t know what the future holds. A direct attack on Saddam would no doubt be politically risky — the president, concerned about his place in history, would be torn between the desire to get rid of a bully and the worry that an assassination plan gone awry would embarrass him late in his term. But the president should think about it: the gulf-war coalition is teetering and we have not eliminated Saddam’s capacity to inflict mass destruction. That’s why killing him may be the more sensible — and moral — course over the long run.
As Jonah writes, “Pat Robertson? No….George Stephanopoulos, in the December 1, 1997 Newsweek, explaining why Bill Clinton should have Saddam Hussein offed”.
Here’s more from Stephanopoulos:
Philosophers have long argued that there are times when murdering a murderer is not only necessary but noble. “Grecian nations give the honors of the gods to those men who have slain tyrants,” wrote Cicero. Targeting Saddam also seems in accord with the “just war” principles first developed by Augustine and Aquinas. We’ve exhausted other efforts to stop him, and killing him certainly seems more proportionate to his crimes and discriminate in its effect than massive bombing raids that will inevitably kill innocent civilians. To those who argue that assassination is the moral equivalent of terrorism, Michael Walzer’s “Just and Unjust Wars” reminds us that “randomness is the crucial feature of terrorist activity.” Terrorists kill the innocent to coerce the powerful. Assassination, by contrast, is the least random act of war. Relaxing the moral norm against it is a regrettable but justifiable price to pay when confronted with someone like Saddam who is unique in his capacity to inflict evil on his own people and the rest of the world. It’s one of the extremely rare circumstances where killing can be a humanitarian act that saves far more lives than it risks….
….Overcoming the practical difficulties is much more problematic. Experts like former CIA director Robert Gates have said that assassination is a “non-option” because Saddam is so elusive and well protected. That’s the strongest argument against assassination. But it loses some force when stacked against the alternatives: an indefinite extension of the sanctions that punishes the most vulnerable Iraqis without weakening Saddam or eliminating his ability to build weapons of mass destruction; or a massive military campaign that will crack the gulf-war coalition, risk allied troops and kill innocent Iraqis without ensuring Saddam’s fall.
And here’s the last line:
A misreading of the law or misplaced moral squeamishness should not stop the president from talking about assassination. He should order up the options and see if it’s possible. If we can kill Saddam, we should.
Maybe George can interview himself on ABC and get an update on where he stands on Saddam today.