Urging the government to assassinate someone vs. urging others to do that

Volokh, Eugene VOLOKH at law.ucla.edu
Tue Aug 23 10:29:15 PDT 2005

	The quote from Robertson that I saw was "I don't know about this
doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we are trying to assassinate
him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.  It's a whole
lot cheaper than starting a war . . . and I don't think any oil
shipments will stop."  In context, the "we" seems to be referring to the
U.S. government (partly because that's the likely "we" in "if he thinks
we are trying to assassinate him," and partly because I take it that
"doctrine of assassination" refers to the legal rules related to U.S.

	It seems to me that this makes this far less threatening than a
fatwa that calls on all believers to kill someone.  Among other things,
it doesn't materially increase the risk to Chavez (as the risk to
Rushdie was increased by the fatwa against him), since presumably the
U.S. government's assassinate-or-not decision is unlikely to be that
much influenced by one evangelist's suggestion.  Things might be
different if Robertson's followers seemed likely to interpret the
statement as a veiled call for them to do the assassinating themselves;
but I have no reason to think that this is likely.

	I should say that I don't think the U.S. ought to assassinate
Chavez (though from all I hear he's a pretty bad guy).  On the other
hand, I wouldn't rule out the U.S.'s assassinating world leaders under
certain circumstances (which I stress again are not present here); and
it seems to me that citizens would be entitled to call on our government
to engage in such action, even if the legal rule had been less
speech-protective than the Brandenburg rule.

	Whether the U.S. government should specifically disavow
Robertson's statements or whether it should dismiss them as beneath
comment strikes me as a question of what's good foreign policy, on which
I have no opinion.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu 
> [mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Bob Sheridan
> Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2005 10:16 AM
> To: ConLaw Prof
> Subject: Robertson's Fatwa
> Pat Robertson has issued a call for the assassination of Venezuelan 
> President Hugo Chavez on the ground that it is the duty of 
> the U.S. to 
> stop him from making Venezuela "a launching pad for communist 
> infiltration and Muslim extremism," according to the 
> Associated Press today.
> I'm having trouble distinguishing Imam Robertson's fatwa from 
> the one(s) 
> issued by the imams in Salman Rushdie's case for writing the 
> Satanic Verses.
> It looks like religious extremism has arrived on these shores 
> ahead of 
> the Muslims; or perhaps Robertson has taken a lesson from the 
> imam's book.
> Fortunately, under Brandenburg, Robertson is protected in his 
> advocacy 
> of assassination.
> I don't suppose Robertson would consider protecting the 
> country against 
> fundamentalist religious extremism by being more careful what 
> he urges 
> his followers to do.  Or that the White House would consider 
> disavowing 
> a statement that it didn't make, but one of its supporters did.
> rs

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