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Poison was also the weapon of choice for killing Patrice Lumumba, the rabble-rousing anti-colonial leader of the Belgian Congo (now: Zaire), with CIA operatives procuring “lethal biological materials” (they considered rabbit fever, undulant fever, anthrax, sleeping sickness, small pox and TB) from Fort Detrick, Maryland and an accessory kit of “hypodermic needles, rubber gloves and gauze masks” that were “packaged in such a way that they could “pass for something else” to do the deed. Supposedly the stuff was disguised as toothpaste.
Though the Study cautioned against firearm assassinations (assassins tend to under-estimate the lethality and accuracy of guns) they were a popular choice.
In 1961, Lumumba was finally seized on a commercial airliner, and later killed by a rival government group who may or may not have been facilitated by the Belgian and American governments. The CIA also admitted to “extensive agency involvement with the plotters” who gunned down Dominican Republic Dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1961, but given the man’s brutally repressive regime (captured in Junot Diaz’ Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) it was slightly more defensible from a human rights standpoint.
The CIA denied any involvement in the military coup that killed (quasi-) democratically elected South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, on the orders of President Kennedy they failed to intervene (a move Viet Cong leader Ho Chin Mein described as ‘insane’ and exponentially increased resentment against the US-backed South Vietnamese government).
According to the Church Committee, in 1970 Gen. Rene Schneider was kidnapped (and accidentally killed) because he stood in the way of a coup, insisting on constitutional means to remove winning Marxist candidate Salvatore Allende from the Chilean election. Allende became President and was deposed in 1973, only to be replaced by Augusto Pinochet, one of the most repressive leaders in South American history.
In the 1970s, the U.S. government removed two categories of assault from its arsenal – chemical-biological weapons, and assassination. Though getting rid of these “tools” was partly humanitarian, assassination and chemical-biological weaponry are among the most horrifying and unpredictable of tactics. Getting rid of them was likely as much a tactical decision as it was humanitarian. And that is probably the real reason why Cheney didn’t bother reviving the practice.
Daniel James Murray was on a mission to kill President Obama. Thankfully, he's just one more in a long line of American failures.
Jun 8, 2009