Lindsey Graham pops off about killing Putin

Russia's attack on Ukraine has prompted a lot of noble and industrious responses from foreigners around the world — from the warm welcome that ordinary Polish and Romanian citizens have extended to fleeing Ukrainian refugees to the Pittsburgh professor who raised $800,000 in a day to help Ukraine with humanitarian needs to gourmet chef José Andrés's World Central Kitchen operation to cook for and feed Ukrainian refugees to the Animal Food Bank's effort, which is delivering relief to pet owners, to Project Hope, which is shipping medical supplies to Ukraine, to the millions of people around the world who have peacefully demonstrated their support for Ukraine and its uphill war against an aggressor.  Whether it's lighting a candle, fasting for Ukraine, sending money, or doing something more, much of the world is mobilizing to help.

But then there's Sen. Lindsey Graham, who, instead of rolling up his sleeves in some little way, has gotten out the old jawbone, and it's not helping. 

See, he's got it all figured out.  No Putin, no problem.  He's calling on someone else to go do the dirty work (not himself, of course) of getting Putin out of the picture by killing him off, and the whole thing will be fixed and off the front pages.

Yes, sometimes a targeted killing works, as it did in the case of Iran's Qassem Soleimani, but more often, it doesn't.  Did Charlotte Corday's 1793 assassination of the vicious Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat end the terror in France?  Nope, it got worse.  How did Stauffenberg's bid to kill Hitler work out for him?  Hitler survived, and the war got worse.  How'd the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which put the U.S. in the hands of revanchists, help the ruined South recover from the war?  How'd Julius Caesar's assassination work out for Brutus or Rome in general?  Again, it all got worse.

In other words, what makes Graham think something worse wouldn't follow in Russia with Putin picked off?  The killing of crazed Marxist Eric Gairy in Grenada in 1997 led to the even crazier and more brutal Marxist dictatorship of Bernard Coard in 1983.  There are some unconfirmed reports that reported CIA attempts to off the vile Fidel Castro in the early 1960s led to Castro having a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy as revenge.

And to take probably the most relevant example, the failed assassination attempt on Vladimir Lenin in 1918 led to his declaration of the Red Terror in the new Soviet Union.

Bottom line: These things don't work out quite the way the would-be assassins think they will work out — and they almost always lead to something worse.

The open call to kill is particularly unwise, given who Graham's target is: Vladimir Putin, who's more than a little familiar with state-sponsored assassinations of people who get in his way.  Putin knows all about assassinations.  Putin may put assassinations back on his memo board now that Graham has declared the field open. 

Worse still, Putin's now isolated and paranoid, refusing to even allow his closest advisors to get within knife's reach or open window's reach of him physically.  Those long tables where meetings are held in the news photos raise just that issue.

What does calling for the assassination of a guy who's already paranoid do to his mind?  Does it make him more reasonable, more willing to end his war?  Does it make him easier to negotiate to end this war on Ukraine?  Well, an educated guess on Putin suggests that it more likely validates his already galloping paranoia.

We certainly can see it in the Russian press, controlled by Putin, which has made lots of hay on Graham's call to kill Putin. 

Here's RT News's take, which is featured prominently on its website:

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham pleaded on Thursday for "somebody in Russia" to "step up to the plate" and assassinate President Vladimir Putin, and who would thus do the country and the world "a great service." The Russian ambassador to Washington has rebuked the remarks, calling them "unacceptable and outrageous."

The South Carolina senator advocated assassinating Putin during an appearance on Fox News, and cited historic examples of plots to kill famous political leaders, including Julius Caesar and Adolf Hitler. 

The Russian propaganda site brings up the various U.S. attempts to assassinate Castro, as well as the targeted bombing of Libya's Moammar Gaddafi (again, how'd that assassination work out for Libya?), as "proof" that the U.S. is a very assassination-minded place and therefore Graham's threat must be taken seriously.

Putin is already so paranoid that ordinary Russians expect him to declare martial law soon.  Thousands of Russians are now heading for the Belarusian, Finnish, and Baltic states' borders to escape that anticipated declaration, and it's sparking an atmosphere of panic.  Now we have this, from Graham.

Putin could retaliate against the U.S. for this kind of talk — with an assassination of his own, claiming it to be "defensive," just as he claims his attack on Ukraine is "defensive," because he has his internal logic about this, and now he has something from Graham to work with.

It's just a very bad idea that Graham didn't have to bring up and pin onto the official dialogue from the U.S.

Assassination as a state policy is a very bad idea that could easily draw the U.S. into conflict.

And what is this based on?  Well, probably a lot of hubris left over from the George W. Bush post-9/11 era, where civil liberties and rule of law were subsumed to the war on terror and everything was OK for the government to empower itself based on that logic for one.  But even that didn't work, and Graham's unwise "solution" to ending the Ukraine war now gives Putin some self-justification for whatever it is he does next — and incredibly, Graham's tweet is likely nothing more than the popping off of someone who doesn't think things through.

Graham is not helping things with this disastrous brain fart that Putin will take seriously and will get meaner from as a result.  Ukraine is serious business, and the embattled state is under mortal and sustained attack, taking crushing blows.  Graham needs to sit down now and try to think of something helpful to do for Ukraine instead of brainlessly stoking Putin's paranoia.

Image: WikidataCC BY-SA 4.0.

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