In an era of endless state-sponsored assassinations on the part of the U.S. government, hardly anyone bothers to question or challenge the CIA’s repeated assassination attempts on Cuba’s former president, Fidel Castro. The assassination attempts have become part of America’s national-security state culture. I’ll bet that most Americans don’t question the notion that the U.S. government was perfectly justified in trying to assassinate Castro or, for that matter, invade Cuba to oust him from power or impose an embargo on the island in an attempt to economically squeeze the Cuban people into ousting Castro from power.
After all, Castro was a communist, right? A communist is a bad guy, right? He’s a rotten person who believes that the state should own and control everything, including business, industry, education, and healthcare, right? He’s also a person who doesn’t believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, jury trials, privacy, and due process of law, right?
But the obvious question arises: Did the fact that someone believed in communism justify the U.S. government’s attempts to kill him?
The CIA would say yes. It would say that since the United States was fighting a “cold war” against the Soviet Union, which was ruled by a communist regime, and against communism in general, the U.S. government wielded the authority to kill the “enemy.” Since Castro was a communist, that made him an “enemy.” Therefore, the argument goes, it was okay to assassinate him.
But that’s ridiculous because the “cold war” wasn’t a real war. It was just an expression for ideological differences between those who purportedly favored a free-market, private-property order versus those who favored a centrally managed, state-owned system and between those who purportedly favored civil liberties and due process versus those who didn’t.
The obvious question arises: Was it legally or morally justifiable to kill Castro or oust him from power simply because of his ideological beliefs?
For the legal issue, we turn to the Constitution. By setting forth the powers of the federal government, it outlines what the federal government can do and cannot do from a legal standpoint.
A close examination of the Constitution reveals that the federal government has not been given the power to assassinate foreign leaders or oust them from power simply because they happen to believe in communism or any other ism. Therefore, the attempt to assassinate Castro or oust him from power was illegal under our form of government.
What about the moral justifications for trying to kill Castro or oust him from power?
Where is the morality in killing another person simply because he happens to hold a different view on the role of government in society than the killer?
I’m a libertarian. As such, it would be difficult to find anyone that has a greater antipathy toward socialism, communism, fascism, and any other type of statist ism than I. Indeed, it’s my devotion to economic liberty and my opposition to statism that causes me to oppose such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, income taxation, regulation, the drug war, corporate bailouts, and foreign aid.
But at the same time, I find the notion of killing a person because he happens to be a statist absolutely abhorrent. A person has the right to believe in anything he wants to believe in. Thus, as a libertarian I will fight for the right of a communist to believe in communism and to promote communism, even though I disagree with and condemn his collectivist views at the very same time.
Fidel Castro had the moral right to be a communist and to believe in communism, just like Franklin Roosevelt had the moral right to believe in Social Security, the National Recovery Act, the nationalization of gold, and other socialist and fascist programs. We might disagree with Castro (even though many Americans, both liberals and conservatives, share Castro’s ardent commitment to public schooling, national health care, income taxation, regulation, and central planning), the fact is that he did have the right to be a communist, believe in communism, and promote communism.
If Cubans didn’t like that, that was their business, not the business of the U.S. government.
After all, don’t forget: Castro and Cuba never engaged in any aggression against the United States. They never attacked the United States. They never invaded the United States. They never engaged in terrorism against the United States. They never assassinated any U.S. officials. They never imposed an economic embargo on the United States.
Indeed, it was always the U.S. government, specifically the U.S. national-security state, that did all those thing to Castro and Cuba. From the very beginning of the Castro regime, it was the Pentagon and the CIA who were the aggressors against Castro and Cuba. They tried to assassinate Castro. They engaged in terrorism within Cuba. They imposed a brutal embargo. They invaded the island. And they are still engaged in schemes to effect regime change in Cuba today.
And it was all justified on the basis that since Castro a person who subscribed to communist views, that made him a legitimate target of the U.S. national-security state.
But it didn’t. The killing of a person for holding different ideological views can never be legally or morally justified. The murder of a person who holds different ideological views converts the murderer into something at least as bad as the communist he’s killing. Moreover, a governmental structure that permits and encourages such a thing ends up corroding the values, principles, and consciences of the citizenry to the point that they don’t even recognize the evil in aggressing against a person for simply holding different ideological views.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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