Foreign Policy Blogs

Operation Vengeance

The U.S. Assassinated the Japanese Admiral Who Planned Pearl Harbor by Shooting Him Down

With the current escalation of tensions between the US and its Allies in the Middle East against Iran and its proxy forces in the region, there have been questions around the legitimacy of actions taken by both sides. With escalating actions against US and Western interests in the Persian Gulf and a final act against the US Embassy in Baghdad, an act that mirrored the actions against US diplomats during the Revolution in Iran and in Libya, the US responded with force.

It is a clear violation of International Law to deny protection to foreign embassies, and it is a more severe violation to take physical action against any foreign embassy or its officials. This standard was reached by the international community so that diplomacy could be commenced without the fear of physical reprisals against members of foreign dignitaries attempting to negotiate peace or de-escalate conflict. The standard under international law is that a foreign embassy is considered a part of that country, and entering or invading it is tantamount to entering their soil. Part of this law is that the host nation must also defend the embassy and their staff against any threats of violence. Without these rules, international diplomacy would suffer greatly. Every country in the world complies by these rules, and it is extremely rare that a country would opt to challenge this status quo under international law.

Another question of international law is whether or not the violence taken against citizen protesters in Iran and Iraq that challenges Iran’s government and their proxy forces is in itself illegal under international law. The death of protesters lead to the removal of Iraq’s Prime Minister and President recently in response to Iran’s role in Iraq. Approximately 1500 protesters in Iran have been murdered recently as well. Those victims in both countries should be immediately considered in any response and dialogue if there is a discussion of the current tensions between the governments in conflict. If they are not respected, then any claim of actions under international law should be measured against illegal actions against innocent protesters.

The response and death of a foreign General operating in a military mission on foreign soil has taken place in the past, it was called Operation Vengeance. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto was shot down during the Solomon Islands campaign during the Second World War after American intelligence discovered that he would be flying over a combat zone during the campaign. His transport bomber was shot down by American planes and he was killed. It was taken as a response to his role in planning attacks on the United States, mainly Pearl Harbor. While the question of proportional response is currently in debate over recent actions in Iraq, there was a clear mandate for American forces to kill one of Japan’s most important commanders, an individual that had cost so many American and Allied lives. This also gave a boost to American morale, as well as enabled for a tactically better position for US forces in the campaign in the Pacific.

When operating in a military capacity on foreign soil, the risk of loss is real and is common in conflict zones. Power plays a great role in International Law, with the acceptance of a legal norm that one who asks for protection under International Law must have clean hands, meaning that you cannot ask the law for protection while violating that same law. Diplomacy must be paramount of course, and it is why dialogue and resisting threats against consular officials must be respected under International Law. Without these age old norms established between nations in conflict in the past, the world would become a much more precarious and dangerous place.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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