Iran and the Terrorism game
When Iran allegedly engages in targeted assassination, that's terrorism; when it's the victim of that, it isn't
(Salon.com) -- by Glenn Greenwald --
In the few venues which yesterday denounced as “Terrorism” the ongoing assassinations of Iranian scientists, there was intense backlash against the invocation of that term. That always happens whenever “Terrorism” is applied to acts likely undertaken by Israel, the U.S. or its allies — rather than its traditional use: violence by Muslims against the U.S. and its allies — because accusing Israel and/or the U.S. of Terrorism remains one of the greatest political taboos (even when the acts in question involve not only assassinations but also explosions which kill numerous victims whose identities could not have been known in advance). But the case of these scientist assassinations particularly highlights how meaningless and manipulated this term is.
Several days ago I referenced a controversy that arose in 2007 when the law professor and right-wing blogger Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds criticized President Bush for not doing enough to stop Iran’s nuclear program and then advocated that the U.S. respond by murdering that nation’s religious leaders and nuclear scientists. “We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists . . . ,” he argued. The backlash against Reynolds’ suggestion was intense, especially among progressive writers.
Back then, I wrote about Reynolds’ suggestion several times, but I was far from alone. Law Professor Paul Campos wrote a column in the Rocky Mountain News denouncing Reynolds for publicly advocating “murder,” which, he pointed out, is exactly what this would be given that the U.S. is not at war with Iran (he went on to suggest that targeting civilian religious leaders and scientists would still be murder even if the U.S. were at war with Iran); Campos added: “government-sponsored assassinations of the sort Reynolds is advocating are expressly and unambiguously prohibited by the laws of the United States.” Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller documented with absolute clarity that such assassinations would be illegal in the absence of a formal war.
But the angriest reactions came from progressive bloggers, who widely denounced Reynolds as “contemptible” for suggesting this; one progressive writer, Lindsay Beyerstein, was horrified that one could even suggest such a thing, explaining that she ”despair[s] for our society when it’s necessary to supply a rigorous analytical exposition of why our government shouldn’t have scientists and religious leaders whacked.” Scott Lemieux railed against what he called Reynolds’ “kooky scheme for illegal death squads” as “crackpot,” “dumb” and “nuttier than a Planters factory.” And Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, went the furthest of all — in a post he entitled “Terrorism” — branding the killing of Iran’s scientists as “Terrorism”...
What is most amazing about all this is that, a mere three years later, some combination of Israel and the U.S. are doing exactly that which Reynolds recommended. Numerous Iranian nuclear scientists are indeed being murdered.
In January, 2010, a remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle killed Masoud Ali Mohammadi, 50, who “taught neutron physics at Tehran University.” In November, 2010, two separate car bombs exploded within minutes of each other on the same day, one that killed nuclear scientist Majid Shahriar and wounded his wife, and the other which wounded another nuclear scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi, along with his wife. Then, in July of last year, Darioush Rezaei, 35, was shot dead and his wife was wounded by two gunmen firing from motorcycles outside of their daughter’s kindergarten; Rezaei “did his doctorate in neutron transport – which lies at the heart of nuclear chain reactions in reactors and bombs” and “was a member of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the country’s official atomic energy commission.”
And now, yet another Iranian scientist has been killed. According to Iranian media, a 32-year-old university professor, Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, died when an assailant riding on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to his car, which then detonated and killed him. According to The Washington Post‘s Thomas Erdbrink, a conservative news outlet in Iran reported that the young scientist “was believed to be involved in procuring materials for Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facility in Natanz.”
What’s most remarkable here is to compare the boisterous, furious denunciations of the mere suggestion by a blogger on the Internet that Iranian scientists be killed, versus the relative silence in the face of its actually being done in real life, now that the corpses of murdered Iranian scientists are beginning to pile up. Does anyone doubt that some combination of the two nations completely obsessed with Iran’s nuclear program — Israel and the U.S. — are responsible? (U.S. officials deny involvement while pointing the finger at Israel, whose officials will not comment but “smile” when asked; the CIA has “targeted” Iran’s scientists in the past, several of whom have disappeared only to end up in U.S. custody, including one who “resurfaced in the United States after defecting to the CIA in return for a large sum of money”). At the very least, there has been no denunciation from any Obama officials of whoever it might be carrying out such acts.
I have no doubt that Professors Campos and Heller would apply the same legal rationale now that it’s actually being done, but what about the progressives who so stridently denounced Reynolds? Does Lemieux still believe that whoever is responsible — Israel, the U.S., or some combination — is guilty of dispatching “illegal death squads”? Does Beyerstein still “despair for our society” that such acts could even be contemplated? Does Drum still believe that whichever political leaders are responsible for these killings are Terrorists; specifically: if, as is widely assumed, the Israelis are responsible, does that mean that Israel is a Terrorist state, and if U.S. agencies are complicit in some way, does that mean President Obama is a Terrorist, a state sponsor of Terrorism or, at the very least, a supporter of Terrorism?...MORE...LINK
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