It was one o'clock in the morning. The CIA was waiting. Once the Airbus A320 carrying the target landed at the Baghdad airport, three American drones armed with Hellfire missiles immediately caught sight of the plane in their gunsight. The target alighting from the plane had no clue that his life was now to be measured in minutes. Within seconds, four missiles were fired and the sedan which the target just got in was engulfed in a fireball. No survivors were spotted. Mission completed.
That was not some fictional plot from the Homeland, but the real scene how Qassim Soleimani, Iran's most powerful security and intelligence commander, was assassinated by the US. As a typical gesture, the US justified the strike by claiming the need to stop an imminent attack on American personnel but failed to provide any solid evidence. A New York Times piece called the strike "the riskiest move made by the US in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003".
Two years passed when the appalling assassination still remained a controversial topic for discussion on international politics. It just laid bare once again the dirty secret killings by US intelligence services abroad and the US hypocrisy when it keeps bragging about rules-based order, democracy and human rights worldwide.
Following the World War II, US intelligence agencies have engaged in a series of attempted political assassinations globally on foreign leaders considered to be American arch-foes. The most infamous case might be the numerous failed attempts to assassinate then Cuban President Fidel Castro. The US Senate investigative committee found that the CIA substantiated eight attempts to kill Fidel Castro between 1960 and 1965. According to Fabián Escalante, former chief of Cuba's counterintelligence, the estimated CIA-led assassination schemes against Castro even amount to 638, most of which were orchestrated on Cuban soil.
The CIA has also been accused of being behind assassinations against then Dominican President Rafael Trujillo, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo Patrice Lumumba, then President of South Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem, etc. The kill list goes on. In the eyes of CIA, these are not leaders of sovereign countries, but mere targets for assassination.
After the "September 11" attack, the US became increasingly reckless with its targeted killing program in the name of counter-terrorism. BBC, citing the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a UK-based left wing think tank, indicated that there were 2243 drone strikes in the first two years of the Trump presidency, compared with 1,878 in Obama's eight years in office.
As many military experts including the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions believe, the targeted killing program is a clear example of US violation of international law. Ironically, the US vows to "uphold the rules-based international order", but facts have proven time and again that the so-called "rules" are none other than the American rules that serve its own interests.
But the crime does not stop here. Lacking precise information and accurate analysis, deliberately or inadvertently, the killing program oftentimes caused collateral damage of countless casualties of civilians and soldiers. According to statistics from Reprieve US, an American NGO for human rights, nine children have been killed for every target the US has tried to assassinate. The New York Times indicated that by the end of President Obama's first term, US drone strikes had killed several thousand people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, including hundreds of innocent bystanders. A Reuters report analyzing the killing of 500 militants by US drones between 2008 and 2010 found that 92% casualties were unidentified foot soldiers. In practice, the US has become a killing machine and mass abuser of human rights for numerous innocent people.
Ronald Reagan imagined "a shining city on a hill" at his presidential farewell address: "in my mind it was a tall, proud city teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace." But he might never got the chance to realize that the "City upon a Hill" has turned into "a City upon the Kill". Harmony and peace in the US should never come at the cost of fears and deaths of innocent lives in other countries.
Soleimani is dead. The next target has been picked. Now who is the CIA waiting for?