A best-selling author and former CIA operative chronicles his experiences as an assassin while offering chilling insight into the fine art of political murder.
When FBI agents told CNN national security affairs analyst Baer (The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 2008, etc.) he was under investigation for the attempted murder of Saddam Hussein, he was bewildered. The CIA had indeed charged him with terminating Hussein, but now his country was turning against him for trying to do his job. With dry wit and intelligence, the author reviews his long career as a sometime-assassin (who ultimately never killed his targets) and provides running commentary about the do's and don’ts of political murder. He draws on his more than 25 years of experience as a CIA operative as well as the long, bloody history of assassination itself, titling each of the chapters after what he calls the 21 “laws” of killing powerful leaders. At the heart of the labyrinthine story are the author’s experiences with a man he calls Hajj Radwan, who had “truly mastered that eternal intimate dance between politics and murder.” Feared throughout the Middle East but especially in Lebanon, Radwan—who Baer speculates may have helped mastermind the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland—worked with speed, secrecy, surprise and intimate knowledge of his victims. Perhaps even more importantly, he channeled his brutality on individuals rather than groups to “obtain well-defined and valid military objectives.” Baer contrasts Radwan’s tactics to the impersonal drone strikes—which often miss their marks, kill the innocent and produce more violence—currently employed by the United States. In the end, it is the skilled assassin, rather than the American technocrat, who doesn’t understand “the murky stew of clans and tribes that govern the ragged edges of the world,” that stands the better chance of eliminating evil.
Fascinating reading from an expert.