The Tuesday: The Lessons of the Assassins

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BY KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON September 28, 2021
WITH KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON September 28, 2021

The Lessons of the Assassins

Welcome to the Tuesday, a weekly newsletter about many things. To subscribe to the Tuesday, follow this link.


"If the 9mm pistol round was worth a damn, Pope John Paul II would have died a martyr." So declared a hardened veteran, one of those old-school tough guys who says that the reason to carry a .45 is that they don't make a .46.

(Save your breath, fellow gun-nuts: I know, I know. That's just how the joke goes.)

It has been a while since the last assassination, or near-assassination, of a major political figure made headlines in the United States. But we have some assassins and would-be assassins in the news. One of them is 77-year-old Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian who is serving a life sentence in California, having been incarcerated since 1968, when he assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in retaliation for his support of Israel.

Sirhan is up for parole, having been declared a "suitable" candidate with the support of both Douglas Kennedy and his crackpot brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Other members of the family and many in law enforcement oppose releasing Sirhan on any grounds. If he is paroled, he should be put on the first plane to the Palestinian statelet to live out his days there. Forgiveness is difficult, but forgetting would be somewhat easier with him 7,600 miles away. If the experience of terrorists paroled from Israel prisons is any indicator, he'll be petitioning to remain under the loving care of his imperialist oppressors, where the standard of living is considerably higher.

A similar figure of more recent infamy is now entirely at large: On Monday, a federal judge approved the unconditional release of 66-year-old John Hinckley Jr., who shot President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981.

Hinckley was, thankfully, a terrible shot with a relatively low-powered weapon, a .22-caliber revolver. (Sirhan Sirhan had used a .22 revolver to kill Robert Kennedy — it is a humble weapon, but still a deadly one.) Hinckley fired six shots and missed Reagan with all six. But, even so, the damage was considerable: Reagan was struck and nearly killed by a ricochet; press secretary James Brady was shot in the head, suffering a wound that left him with a permanent disability and brain damage that ultimately killed him; Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy caught a bullet in the chest that damaged a lung and his liver; Capitol police officer Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck, suffering damage to his spinal cord that forced him into retirement.

That was in late March of 1981. In May of the same year, the Turkish fanatic Mehmet Ali Agca shot Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square, possibly on orders from the socialist regime in Moscow, which was intent on keeping the pope's native Poland under its thumb. Two weeks later, the president of Bangladesh was assassinated. In August, it was the president and the prime minister of Iran. In October, it was Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

In 1984, the Irish Republican Army attempted to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet; Thatcher survived, but five of her Conservative Party colleagues were killed in the bombing of their party conference. That was on October 12.

On October 31, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for her bloody removal of Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple at Amritsar, resulting in the death of Sikh pilgrims and damage to the temple. Her death was followed by a period of terror in which some 8,000 Sikhs were massacred in reprisals.

The rest of the 20th century continued to be bloody for heads of government and heads of state: The president of Palau was assassinated; the prime minister of Sweden was gunned down; the prime minister of Lebanon died in a car bombing; the president of Burkina Faso died after a coup d'état; the president of Lebanon died in another car bombing; the president of the Comoros died after a coup d'état; a combination of assassinations and coups claimed the lives of the chief executives of Liberia, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Burundi, Rwanda, Burundi again, Rwanda again, one or two such deaths almost every year leading up to the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. After that, things did not stop but slowed down a little, with a decade passing between the death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the deaths of the presidents of Chad and Haiti in April and July of this year, respectively.

The majority of these murders were straightforwardly political. But, in some cases, the closer you look the further away politics seems to be. ...   READ MORE



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