Is it legitimate for States to use violence to frighten or rightfully kill political enemies or opponents, under the justification of national security?
In times of war, as happened during World War II, all forms of struggle were used, starting with the elimination of millions of human beings in the Nazi concentration camps in several European countries. Mainly Jews, but also communists, patriots, gypsies, homosexuals or the disabled. The resistance fighters to the German invader also killed leaders and troops, as they did in 1942 with "the butcher of Prague", General Reinhard Heydrich, or with the 35 soldiers who died in an attack in Rome, in 1943, through a bomb in the Via Rasella. Adolf Hitler's response was to wipe out the town of Lídice, in the former Czechoslovakia, where the attackers had hidden, and in Italy, to execute 10 civilians for every German soldier, which meant 335 murders with a shot in the back of the head in the Fosse Ardeatine, today a place of introspection and remembrance of the horrors of the occupation.
During the Vietnam War, the smell of napalm was common in the countryside where thousands of acres of rice fields and forests were burned to eliminate the Vietcong guerrillas. Also, American soldiers murdered and raped 500 women, old people, and children in the village of My Lai in 1968. In addition, ecological crimes were committed that still persist in nature and in human beings, such as the use of the herbicide known as "Agent Orange". After more than 50 years, its effects on survivors and on the sediments of the riverbeds and soils that form part of the food chain still persist.
Recently, on November 27, Mohsen Fachrisadeh, who two years earlier had been syndicated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as head of the country's nuclear program, was assassinated on the outskirts of Tehran. The Jerusalem government refused to admit or deny its involvement, but Fachrisadeh is the sixth Iranian scientist to be killed in recent years. On January 3rd, in Baghdad, the United States assassinated General Qasem Soleimani, who was the maximum chief of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran. The State Department explained that it was President Donald Trump who led the attack which was aimed at "protecting American personnel abroad". Iran has a long list of crimes of which it has been accused, the most dramatic being that which occurred in Buenos Aires, at the headquarters of the Israeli Mutual Association in Argentina (AMIA), which cost the lives of 85 people.
The former Libyan government headed by Muammar Gaddafi was responsible for the 1991 Pan Am plane attack that killed 270 people. Russia has been accused of eliminating opponents in the country and abroad, as was the case of the ex-espionage services agent, Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned in the United Kingdom in 2006. In 1985, the French secret service, under the Presidency of François Mitterrand, was responsible for placing a bomb on the Greenpeace ship, which opposed nuclear tests in the South Pacific, leaving one dead, the Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira. A Miami-based terrorist group of Cuban exiles, led by an ex-CIA agent and tolerated by Washington, was responsible for putting the bomb on the Cubana de Aviación plane and killing 73 people in 1976.
In Latin America, the history of state terrorism is still a fertile field for investigating the thousands of cases covered by the dictatorships. The civil-military governments in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, to name a few, have rewritten some of the international law, especially in terms of human rights. Chileans know well what State terrorism is. We lived through it and suffered during the 17 years that Augusto Pinochet headed. The unlimited use of power, without legal or moral restrictions, by the armed forces and the cooperation of many civilians, unleashed a persecution unprecedented in the history of the country, which did not respect either the elderly, pregnant women or children. Neither did the sovereignty of other countries, with attacks and assassinations of Chileans and foreigners in Buenos Aires, Rome and Washington.
There is no single definition of state terrorism, but it is understood to be the illegitimate use of force by a government to terrorize those it considers enemies, whether nationals of its own country or of a foreign country. To murder, we can add forced disappearance, kidnapping, torture, ethnic cleansing and extrajudicial executions, among other forms of human rights violations. These are carried out in dictatorial regimes or democratic states, where armed groups operate through clandestine networks, with public resources and the complicity of the rulers.
The regime headed by Hasan Rohani and Iran's supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, held the government of Israel responsible for Fachrisadeh's murder. They indicated that, in due course, those responsible will pay and that their nuclear program will continue. The attack took place a few days after the farewell tour of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who visited Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The latter established diplomatic relations with Israel, which is considered another achievement of the Trump administration for the benefit of the Jerusalem government.
In addition, the sale of $23 billion in arms, including 50 F-35 fighter jets, to the UAE was completed, further altering the precarious stability of the region. Pompeo visited the occupied Golan Heights and hosted the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Bin Salman. The latter is accused of having ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which occurred at the headquarters of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have Iran as their common enemy, and they are trying to prevent the reactivation of the nuclear agreement signed by the European countries and from which, Washington withdrew, as soon as President Trump took office. For its part, Iran denies the right of the State of Israel to exist, in spite of the fact that both countries maintained a close relationship of technical and military cooperation until the overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi, in 1979, the year in which Teheran annulled all the agreements. During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), Israel gave military aid to Teheran for 500 million dollars, and the country was grateful by giving intelligence information which allowed the Israeli aviation to destroy a nuclear reactor where the former Iraqi leader, Hasan Hussein, intended to build an atomic bomb.
Israel, like the United States, has expressed its unwillingness to accept Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Neither has Washington, which has said the same about North Korea, but with less vehemence. When Pakistan and India were preparing their atomic bombs there were harsh condemnations, but once they had them, the sanctions were quickly forgotten and today they are part of the exclusive club. It would not be strange if, in the future, perhaps not so distant, the same thing happened with Iran or North Korea. At the end of the day, no country is willing to start a war with someone in possession of nuclear weapons.
Terrorism is a serious matter, an unjustifiable crime where many times innocent people die. State terrorism is the same and must be condemned, but this does not happen in the right places: courts and international bodies such as the United Nations. It is a matter, although it may seem a cruel joke, of respect for sovereignty and the international order that everyone claims to defend. The countries remain silent because of the calculation of interests, strategic balances and the permanent power game of the great powers in particular. Smaller countries can only watch without any space to protest for fear of being punished. The impunity of States that act using methods condemned by the international community encourages the emergence of terrorism and retaliatory actions. This circle of violence, which is no longer surprising, distances us from the universal objective of peaceful and civilized coexistence proclaimed by the States themselves.