IT is April 18, 1943, high over the steamy island of Bougainville, in the Western Pacific. The US Navy has broken Japanese military codes. From these it knows that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto – chief architect of the infamous attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor – is flying in secretly to inspect Japanese forces in the area. Should a special operation be mounted to assassinate him as revenge?

The Americans are well aware that killing Yamamoto – whose recent military failures are already playing into Allied hands – could simply lead to him being replaced by someone more fanatical, such as Admiral Matome Ugaki, his chief-of-staff. But the chance to humiliate the Japanese military proves too seductive. A special squadron of long-range P-38 fighters intercepts Yamamoto’s plane over Bougainville. First Lieutenant Rex T Barber fires into Yamamoto’s transport, which immediately crashes into the jungle below.

Yamamoto is given a martyr’s funeral. Enraged, Japan’s military vow to fight on to the death. Ugaki, will soon invent the notorious kamikaze suicide units. Few in America are aware Yamamoto was opposed to the war, which he blamed on extreme nationalists. In killing Yamamoto, the Americans might well have eliminated the one person in the Japanese high command who could have brokered an earlier peace.

American administrations have a long history of using murder as a political tool, invariably with problematic results. Famously, the CIA tried to kill Fidel Castro. In fact, the Kennedy brothers unashamedly instructed CIA director Richard Helms to “get rid of Castro”, according to the official US Senate investigation findings. Amazingly, all eight documented assassination attempts were failures, due to the incompetence of the CIA or its underworld assistants.

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Between January 1975 and April 1976, US Senator Frank Church and his official Senate committee published six lengthy briefing papers exposing the involvement of the CIA in assassination plots around the globe. They included Patrice Lumumba in the newly independent Congo, who the CIA (in its usual paranoid fashion) believed was a potential African Castro. And President Diem of South Vietnam, who the Americans worried was prepared to do a deal with the Communist North.

Senator Church’s committee explicitly rejected political assassination as a tool of American foreign policy. It declared that this was “incompatible with American principle, international order, and morality”. As a result, president Gerald Ford signed Executive Order 11905, which stated: “No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire in, political assassination.”

But this executive order turned out to be camouflage. As the Cold War entered its final stages in the 1980s, the newly elected Ronald Reagan was determined to confront the dying Communist regime in the Kremlin. The CIA trained psychotic death squads across Latin America, one of which murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980. The agency also armed the new Islamist Mujahideen in Afghanistan. After 9/11, America’s so-called war against terrorism led to the wholesale use of assassination, given currency by the advent of the pilotless drone. In September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki became the first US citizen to be targeted and killed by a drone – without due process – when President Obama added the imam’s name to a CIA kill list for his alleged involvement with al-Qaeda.

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Of course, many states employ assassination as a political weapon. Putin’s Mafioso Kremlin routinely uses murder, domestically and abroad. Witness the shooting of dissident Boris Nemtsov in Moscow in 2015, for opposing the war in Ukraine. Or the high-tech murder of former KGB operative Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, who drank tea laced with radioactive polonium.

But surely democracies should be held to a higher standard of conduct than despotic Moscow – one which excludes murder in cold blood? Could it be that American culture, with its psychotic love of guns, is actually prone to political murder – a tool that finds a disturbing popular resonance despite the obvious diplomatic dangers?

Firearms were used to kill 28,663 people in America in 2000. By 2018 that figure had rocketed to nearly 40,000. True, much of this increase is being driven by suicides. An appalling 60% of US gun deaths are self-inflicted. But gun murders are also up. Official figures show there were 3.6 such killings per 100,000 people in 2010, 4.2 in 2015 and 4.6 in 2018. In the UK, deaths of all kinds from firearms is a negligible 0.3 per 100,000 people.

There are more guns in America than people, yet firearms production is booming. In 2016, US manufacturers produced 10.6 million firearms, up from 3.6m in 2006. Two-thirds of gun owners report self-defence as their primary motivation for acquiring a weapon, up from only 46% in 2004. This social panic is played upon by the gun manufacturers – annual gun revenues run to $13.5 billion. But that pales into insignificance compared to the annual cost of gun violence in America, a staggering $200bn-plus. That includes the ongoing medical bills for circa 750,000 surviving wounded.

Why this penchant for violence at the heart of the richest capitalist economy? Supposedly, capitalism is premised on personal freedom to work, innovate and invest. But capitalism also thrives on Darwinian competition that undermines social cohesion. Co-operation and community are sacrificed on the altar of a bogus individualism. Also, to dominate markets globally necessitates a state machine that gets more piratical the more successful it is. It should come as no surprise that the most “successful” capitalist state is the most soulless, violent and globally predatory.

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To sanitise its violent birth and dystopic society, America invented the myth of the Wild West, where rugged individuals built a new nation free from state interference. Nothing could be further from the truth. The West was created by state railway subsidies and land grants, after the ethnic cleansing of local native populations by the US army.

Even after I was born, it was routine to lynch black citizens in the southern states because any resistance to the status quo was automatically met with extreme violence – a violence as American as apple pie.

America is a psychotic culture arising from its particularly brutal creation. No surprise then that its contemporary video gaming industry – worth more than $200bn per annum in revenues – is based on seducing young people to indulge in sadistically violent and desensitising fantasies.

And certainly, no surprise that Americans routinely murder neighbours and school children at random. There were 434 mass shootings in the US last year, with a death toll the highest on record. Last month, congregants carrying concealed firearms shot dead a deranged, would-be shooter in a Texas church. And Jesus wept.

America is a violent society in terminal decay. Which may explain Trump’s unabashed resort to assassination – witness the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. But as with Admiral Yamamoto, this move will prove to have grave, unintended consequences. For starters, last year’s nascent popular resistance to the Tehran clerical regime has been obliterated. Tehran will now press ahead with acquiring nuclear weapons – inviting a pre-emptive Israeli strike.

As a policy, individual assassination is always bankrupt, as well as being morally reprehensible. Post-Brexit, an isolated UK now finds itself Trump’s poodle. Pray God Scotland has the good sense to go its own way – and soon.