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There have been cases of elaborately planned assassinations, intricately woven conspiracies involving prime ministers, presidents, spymasters, highly trained assassins and the world’s most exotic weapons, which have failed at the last minute because of a cock-up which, if it were in a B-movie, would be dismissed by the audience as completely implausible.

In the movies, a highly trained assassin does not turn up on his target’s doorstep, have a crisis of confidence, confess all and then hand himself over to the police, knowing that a long prison sentence will follow. No cinema audience would ever tolerate such an implausible plot but in real life this has actually happened—and what is even harder to believe, two assassins from the same intelligence service did exactly this, in back-to-back operations.

In fiction, top spymasters do not take handwritten notes saying “do not mention the word assassination” during a meeting with their political masters. In real life they do. In the best thrillers, silencers are essential gear for any modern assassin and they always work brilliantly. In real life, one highly paid trained killer threw his away because it burnt his hands.

No Hollywood scriptwriter would construct a scene in which a group of hardnosed killers decided to assassinate a political leader, agree that they have to cover their tracks and that no mention must be made of their plans—and then write a detailed minute of the meeting for the files and circulate it widely. But again, in actuality they did.

In films, the bomb always explodes as the hero runs away from the building. No studio would tolerate a script where a truckload of TNT fails to go off because the evil terrorist gang forgot to attach the detonator. But it happened.

The first example is Russian, the second and third are American, the fourth one is British and the final one is an Islamic Jihad group.

Operational incompetence is not a national characteristic, as the New Zealand police discovered when they investigated the French attack on the Greenpeace boat, the Rainbow Warrior. The highly trained assassins left their scuba-diving air bottles behind (complete with French markings), were spotted by a nightwatchman who took their car number, had crudely forged Swiss passports and a notebook with direct-line phone numbers straight back to the French Defence Ministry. As one old French intelligence officer noted, short of leaving a beret, a baguette and a bottle of Beaujolais at the crime scene they could not have left more clues.

Richard Belfield, Terminate With Extreme Prejudice



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:12 pm (UTC)
It's utterly reassuring, isn't it? God help everyone if people like you and I became assassins and actually did the job properly.
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
God help everyone if they managed to get their act together. Who'd want to live in a constant, rolling, perpetual James Bond movie?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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