Does attempted murder to a dictator like Hitler or Sadam Hussein fit under the Just War doctrine?

There have been times when citizens plotted to kill a leader in their civilization that is a dictator. Someone who is a danger to society that commits genocide, suppresses civil rights, etc.

Would that be unlawful murder…or…lawful killing under the “Just War” doctrine?

With the reactions liberals are having to Donald Trump winning the presidency, I really wouldn’t put it past one of the extremists in that group to try to assassinate him because most of them compare him to people like Hitler.

This is what provoked my question

Hi Ben

I believe Just War doctrine really only applies to the use of military force by the state, so I don’t think the actions of an individual as you describe would fit.

CCC 2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

I too have heard concern over potential harm coming to the President Elect.

To answer your question; no, it would not be ok for someone to cause harm to Donald Trump or any elected official under the premise you described (or any other for that matter).

Assassination is what you are talking about. It is a war crime.

The just war doctrine of the Catholic Church does not justifying killing someone when you are not at war with their country. I would think that if you are at war killing the leader of the opposing country would be justified. Personally I see that killing Hitler years before the war would have been very beneficial, obviously, but there is no place in Catholic moral theology that would justify this.
In any case, we don’t know what could happen then. When Saddam was defeated, there were terrible results, particularly the rise of ISIS. the disintegration of Iraq, and the threat of regional war that has risen in its train.

Life for Christians in Iraq became intolerable after the ousting of Saddam, and the reasons he was ousted were based on falsehood. The US is making the same mistake in Syria, and Assad actively supports the Christians there.

The Geneva Convention actually permits it during war. The government leader, being the overall commander, holds a direct military role, and is thus considered to be a legitimate target.

Killing the leader of a country you are not at war with is NOT a lawful killing.

The Geneva convention is not from Rome but Geneva :o.

If I took a rather valid example, the Pope at the time, erroneously termed “Hitlers Pope” we try to convert the world, not destroy it.

If I consider modern liberals, I would say they bark (and boy do they bark) louder than they bite.

In direct self defence or in direct defence of another person it would be OK but that isn’t just war doctrine, it’s just self defence. The correct thing to do would be to rise up and bring the person to trial if they were a malevolent dictator.

I was addressing the comment that this would be considered a war crime. It is not.

When citizens plot to kill a leader, the Catholic teaching on Tryannicide applies.
“Catholics, tutored by Thomas Aquinas, had a theological rationale for morally defensible tyrannicide, while the Protestants, mired in a Lutheran theory of state authority, had no such moral compass; quite the opposite, in fact.”

Pius XII, Co-Conspirator in Tyrannicide
by George Weigel
10 . 14 . 15

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