Editor’s note: DGR is not affiliated with the Secret Forest Society (Sociedade Secreta Silvestre) and does not endorse their statements or actions. This article is only for informational purposes. Some content in this article was sourced from the Rio Times Online.
by Liam Campbell
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s openly fascist President, is loathed by groups who care about preventing climate collapse and protecting the Earth’s last healthy ecosystems. According to the Guardian, Bolsonaro’s policies are now resulting in 3 football fields per minute of rainforest destruction, and scientists fear that the Amazon is reaching a critical tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to save. If that “point of no return” is breached it will result in massive forest fires, which will release an immense amount of sequested CO2 into the atmosphere, accelerating climate collapse and annihilating one of the Earth’s sources of oxygen. Violence is also increasing and loggers have begun killing indigenous leaders and resistors from the over 400 tribes who call the forest home. Bolsonaro has overseen major funding cuts and firings at the Brazilian indigenous affair agency, which has gutted the few remaining governmental protections for these people.
Presumably this is why the Secret Forest Society (Sociedade Secreta Silvestre) have now targeted Bolsonaro for assassination. Two weeks ago, Veja Magazine interviewed one of the leaders of the Secret Forest Society (SSS), a branch of an international organization called the Individuals Tending Toward the Wild (ITS). The leader, identified as Anhangá, claimed that Bolsonaro was supposed to be executed on the day of his inauguration, but they were temporarily foiled by an unexpected security presence. Since then Bolsonaro has cancelled several key events, including an open car parade. Anhangá stated “We could easily blend in and carry out this attack, but the risk was enormous (…), so it would be suicidal. We didn’t want that.”
It is unclear how or when the Secret Forest Society plans to assassinate Jair Bolsonaro, but their affiliates in the ITS have been linked to letter bombs, University explosions, and the successful assassination of a biotechnology researcher. Their organization claims to stand up against people and systems that lead to environmental destruction, and they advocate for using extreme measures against nature’s enemies.
An excerpt from the book Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet, Chapter 13: “Tactics and Targets.”
This leads us to the last major underground tactic: assassination.
In talking about assassination (or any attack on humans) in the context of resistance, two key questions must be asked. First, is the act strategically beneficial, that is, would assassination further the strategy of the group? Second, is the act morally just, given the person in question? (The issue of justice is necessarily particular to the target; it’s assumed that the broader strategy incorporates aims to increase justice.)
As is shown on my two-by-two grid of all combinations (see Figure 13-3), an assassination may be strategic and just, it may be strategic and unjust, it may be unstrategic but just, or it may be both unstrategic and unjust. Obviously, any action in the last category would be out of the question. Any action in the strategic and just category could be a good bet for an armed resistance movement. The other two categories are where things get complex.
Hitler exemplified a number of different strategy vs. justice combinations at different points in time. It’s a common moral quandary to ask whether it would be a good idea to go back in time and kill Hitler as a child, provided time travel were possible. There’s a good bet that this would have averted World War II and the Holocaust, which would have been a good thing, so put a check mark in the “strategic” column. The problem is that most people would consider it unjust to murder an innocent child who had yet to commit any crimes, so it would be difficult to call that action just in the immediate sense.
Once Hitler had risen to power in the late 1930s, though, his aim was clear, as he had already been whipping up hate and expanding his control of Nazi Germany. At that point, it would have been both strategic and just to assassinate him. Indeed, elements in the Wehrmacht (army) and the Abwehr (intelligence) considered it, because they knew what Hitler was planning to do. Unfortunately, they were indecisive, and did not commit to the plan. Hitler soon began invading Germany’s neighbors, and as his popularity soared, the assassination plan was shelved. It was years before inside elements would actually stage an assassination attempt.
That famous attempt took place—and failed—on July 20, 1944.
What’s interesting is that the Allies were also considering an attempt on Hitler’s life, which they called Operation Foxley. They knew that Hitler routinely went on walks alone in a remote area, and devised a plan to parachute in two operatives dressed as German officers, one of them a sniper, who would lay in wait and assassinate Hitler when he walked by. The plan was never enacted because of internal controversy. Many in the SOE and British government believed that Hitler was a poor strategist, a maniac whose overreach would be his downfall. If he were assassinated, they believed, his replacement (likely Himmler) would be a more competent leader, and this would draw out the war and increase Allied losses. In the opinion of the Allies it was unquestionably just to kill Hitler, but no longer strategically beneficial (Figure 13-4).
There is no shortage of situations where assassination would have been just, but of questionable strategic value. Resistance groups pondering assassination have many questions to ask themselves in deciding whether they are being strategic or not. What is the value of this potential target to the enemy? Is this an exceptional person or does his or her influence come from his or her role in the organization? Who would replace this person, and would that person be better or worse for the struggle? Will it make any difference on an organizational scale or is the potential target simply an interchangeable cog? Uniquely valuable individuals make uniquely valuable targets for assassination by resistance groups.
Of course, in a military context (and this overlaps with attacks on troops), snipers routinely target officers over enlisted soldiers. In theory, officers or enlisted soldiers are standardized and replaceable, but, in practice, officers constitute more valuable targets. There’s a difference between theoretical and practical equivalence; there might be other officers to replace an assassinated one, but the replacement might not arrive in a timely manner nor would he have the experience of his predecessor (experience being a key reason that Michael Collins assassinated intelligence officers). That said, snipers don’t just target officers. Snipers target any enemy soldiers available, because war is essentially about destroying the other side’s ability to wage war.
The benefits must also outweigh costs or side effects. Resistance members may be captured or killed in the attempt. Assassination also provokes a major response—and major reprisals—because it is a direct attack on those in power. When SS boss Reinhard Heydrich (“the butcher of Prague”) was assassinated in 1942, the Nazis massacred more than 1,000 Czech people in response. In Canada, martial law (via the War Measures Act) has only ever been declared three times—during WWI and WWII, and again after the assassination of the Quebec Vice Premier of Quebec by the Front de Libération du Québec. Remember, aboveground allies may bear the brunt of reprisals for assassinations, and those reprisals can range from martial law and police crackdowns to mass arrests or even executions.
There’s an important distinction to be made between assassination as an ideological tactic versus as a military tactic. As a military tactic, employed by countless snipers in the history of war, assassination decisively weakens the adversary by killing people with important experience or talents, weakening the entire organization. Assassination as an ideological tactic—attacking or killing prominent figures because of ideological disagreements—almost always goes sour, and quickly. There are few more effective ways to create martyrs and trigger cycles of violence without actually accomplishing anything decisive. The assassination of Michael Collins, for example, by his former allies led only to bloody civil war.