Assassins At Large

It may be welcome news in some quarters that John Hinckley is alive and well and living with his mother a couple of hours from the White House in Williamsburg, Virginia. He'll soon be able to celebrate four years of freedom since his release from the institution to which he was confined for over 30 years in consequence of his attempt to kill Ronald Reagan. The freshly inaugurated president survived one bullet wound, but his press secretary James Brady died of another one. Hinckley was adjudged insane when he fired the shots, but by 2016 he'd regained his reason and was found not to be a danger to himself or others.

Wikipedia reports that Hinckley is required to live with his mother, a situation that could put a damper on the 65-year-old's social activities. Some will remember that it was his irrational craving for the attention of a woman, a young movie actress, that motivated Hinckley, a rich kid from Dallas, to become an assassin. He got her attention, all right, but not in a good way. It seems unlikely that he'd fall victim to such infatuations again, considering the way things turned out for him.

If you're asking, "Where is John Hinckely when we really need him?" you're probably not alone. If he's not obliged to wear some sort of tag or chip or bracelet to keep the authorities informed of his whereabouts at every moment, there must be people in Washington who wish he were so equipped.

They are aware, after all, that the precedent for justifiable assassination, established in Washington by the present occupants' predecessors and endorsed lethally by the present occupant himself, could cost the life of any leader of any country at any time. The list of victims of justifiable assassination is not short and reads like excerpts from an Arabic phone book. Justifiable assassination, whether by beating or by guided missile, meets with almost universal approval in Washington and in our mass media.

Alongside the legal precedent for assassination, an even greater worry is the technology that makes it so easy. Pioneers in the field of killing by remote control, creative minds in the USA have kindled worldwide interest, and today there's not a country in the civilized world without the capacity to attack with unmanned, undetectable vehicles.

Hinckley's the least of Washington's worries.