Lincoln’s array of assumed extra-constitutional powers is broad, and one was the authority to order the assassination of Jefferson Davis and his cabinet in early 1864. One could certainly envision Ford’s Theater as a retaliatory measure more than a year later, but that was clearly the work of Lincoln’s own radical opponents in his own party – eliminating him through political assassination.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination
“The United States emerged from World War II militarily victorious but politically deformed. Instead of a republic, it was now a superpower with military and economic capabilities previously unimagined. In place of a constitutional government of limited powers and official accountability was a national-security regime of executive orders, the CIA, and plausible deniability.
Instead of “no entangling alliances,” the US government not only entered alliances, but created and fostered them . . . Instead of respecting the sovereignty of other nations, Washington subscribed to the messianic ideology of American Exceptionalism, the belief that the United States is politically and morally superior to other countries and, therefore, entitled to intervene in their domestic affairs.
Arguably, not since the Lincoln regime had the federal government usurped so much power or imbibed such a messianic doctrine. This shaped its foreign policy, which occasionally has been conducted less by diplomacy than by selective political assassination. Here, again, Lincoln provided a precedent.
By February 1864, Lincoln’s attempt to defeat the Confederacy – first by starving and bombarding Southern civilians, and later, by striving to foment a race war in the South – had failed. With antiwar sentiment growing and a presidential election looming in November, Lincoln desperately needed a major military victory. To that end, he authorized a cavalry raid on Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.
[The] raid’s ostensible goal was to rescue 1,500 Union officers incarcerated in Richmond and another 10,000 rank and file soldiers imprisoned on nearby Belle Isle. Taking part in this raid was Col. Ulric Dahlgren, son of Lincoln’s close friend Rear Admiral John Dahlgren.
The raid, which began as a comedy of errors, ended as a military fiasco. Among those killed by Confederate defenders was Colonel Dahlgren, on whose body was found an order describing the true purpose of the raid – “the city [Richmond] must be destroyed and Jeff Davis and [his] cabinet killed.”
Such an act would be entirely consistent with how Lincoln waged his war against the South. It is more than likely that an increasingly desperate and despondent Lincoln sought his reelection in the political assassination of his Confederate counterpart.
The precedent Lincoln established was adopted by the US government during the Cold War. Executing political assassinations is the responsibility of the CIA under the supervision of an oversight committee, called the Special Group . . . To ensure plausible deniability, the CIA often employs citizens of the targeted regime, frequently military officers, to perform the actual assassinations.
If the US government can assassinate foreign opponents by demonizing them as “terrorists” or supporters of terrorism, what is to prevent Washington from employing this tactic against domestic opponents? The process Lincoln began is now complete.”
(Lincoln’s Legacy: Foreign Policy by Assassination, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, January 2003, excerpts pp. 50-51)