October 31, 1984: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi Assassinated
On this day in history, India’s only female prime minister to date, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her own two Sikh bodyguards in New Delhi. Beant Singh shot her two times, and Satwant Singh fired 30 rounds at her, after which the two dropped their weapons and immediately surrendered. Gandhi was the daughter of India’s first premier, Jawaharlal Nehru, who sought to create a unified nation out of the many religious, ethnic and cultural divides that existed under the British rule until 1949. Gandhi rose to power in 1966 and sought to carry on her father’s legacy. In June 1984, Gandhi had ordered an army raid on a Sikh temple in India’s Punjab region in an effort to get rid of Sikh extremists. The move earned Gandhi several death threats. Beant Singh had served Gandhi for a long time, and was to be transferred out of fear of assassination. However, Gandhi personally ensured that he retained his position as she trusted him after many years of service, which proved a fatal mistake.
October 31, 1998: President Bill Clinton Signs Iraq Liberation Act
On October 31, 1998, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which supported opposition groups in Iraq with the aim of toppling the country’s former president Saddam Hussein from power. The Act declared that it was the policy of the United States to support “regime change.” For the three years that followed, the U.S.-backed opposition groups failed to topple Hussein’s regime. The Iraq Liberation Act was a precursor to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, and despite having no hand in the terrorist attack, Iraq became the focus of a U.S.-led “preemptive action,” with the U.S. administration under then President George W. Bush alleging Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Bush, who followed Clinton, often referred to the Act and its findings to argue that the Clinton administration supported regime change in Iraq. The Act was cited as a basis of support in the “Congressional Authorization for use of Military Force Against Iraq” in October 2002.
November 2, 1964: King Saud of Saudi Arabia Abdicates in Favor of His Brother King Faisal
In 1953, Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the king of Saudi Arabia, and his half-brother Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was appointed crown prince. Shortly after, King Saud began spending on lavish projects, including the construction of a massive royal residence on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh. Prince Faisal, worried that King Saud’s lavish spending would soon bring the Kingdom to a near-collapse, pressurized King Saud to appoint him as prime minister. With his new position secure in 1958, Prince Faisal had wide executive powers, which eventually culminated into a power-struggle between the two brothers. Prince Faisal dramatically reduced spending, introduced reforms aimed at modernization and education.
Taking advantage of the king’s absence from the country for medical reasons in early 1963, Prince Faisal began amassing more power for himself. He removed many of King Saud’s loyalists from their posts and appointed like-minded princes in key military and security positions. Prince Faisal was backed by the religious establishment in Saudi Arabia. A fatwa was decreed by the grand mufti, calling on King Saud to give up his throne in favor of his brother. The royal family supported the fatwa and immediately informed King Saud of their decision. King Saud, by now wrest of all his powers, agreed, and Prince Faisal was proclaimed king on November 2, 1964.