Assassination by Poisoning a Chancy Matter
The confirmation that Ukraine presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko has been the victim of a poisoning by dioxyn shows that he was the victim of an assassination attempt. Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, speaking on Wolf Blitzer’s Sunday show, suggested that the likely suspects included Ukrainian intelligence or the Ukraine or Russian mafia.
Political assassination has an old pedigree, of course. But the annals of modern history are replete with failed poisoning attempts that backfired.
The United States set afoot a plot to poison Fidel Castro, headed by CIA operative William Harvery, in November of 1961. Eerily mirroring the situation in the Ukraine now, the US CIA cooperated in this plot with gangsters like Meyer Lansky and Sam Giancana. The plot was put aside after the Cuban missile crisis, which had led President John F. Kennedy to promise Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev that he would leave Castro alone. The stories that later leaked of the plot against Castro, which included an exploding cigar, made Kennedy-era cloak and dagger operations look faintly ridiculous.
Sometimes it works and is done professionally. In 1978, there was the famous poisoning of Bulgarian dissident Georgy Markov on the Waterloo Bridge in London. An operative of the Bulgarian secret police stabbed him with an umbrella, the point of which had been poisoned with ricin. KGB double agent Oleg Kordievsky alleged in a 1990 memoir that the KGB, the Soviet intelligence agency, had supplied the ricin and advised their Bulgarian counterparts on how to administer it.
Salon’s Jonathan Broder recounts the story of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s botched attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Amman in the late 1990s. Mashal was suspected of being behind bombings that killed Israelis, and given Hamas’s murderous tactics of terrorism against civilians, it wasn’t an unreasonable suspicion. But then it should have been brought up with King Hussein, who by that time had a peace treaty with his neighbor. As it was, the two Mossad agents bungled the attempt and were captured by Jordanian security. They had used Canadian passports, which caused a diplomatic row between Tel Aviv and Ottawa. King Hussein of Jordan used his Washington contacts to put pressure on Netanyahu to reveal the antidote, which succeeded, saving Mashal’s life. In order to gain the release of the two Mossad agents, cooling their heels in a Jordanian prison, Netanyahu was forced to release Hamas clerical leader, the wheel-chair bound Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, from an Israeli jail cell. So the whole thing was a fiasco from beginning to end. The incident cast a severe chill on relations between Jordan and Israel; Jordan was among the few Arab countries to have signed a formal peace treaty with Israel. (This whole story may contain a clue to why the vaunted Mossad was not able to alert the US to the threat of 9/11, despite the tens of billions the US has invested in Israel’s security apparatus precisely for the purpose of US security in the region– Mossad just isn’t that competent. Or maybe they were too busy spying on the US to bother with al-Qaeda.)
Philippines Senator Claro M. Recto, who campaigned for an end to US naval bases in his country, allegedly incurred the wrath of the US ambassador and the CIA station chief, who discussed having him poisoned. Whether that happened or not, Recto won his fight, and the US in the end had to relinquish its bases in the Philippines.
Yushchenko’s poisoners clearly made an epochal mistake, increasing sympathy for him and probably assuring his election in the rescheduled polls. It happens seldom enough that miscreants get their just deserts.