Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 14, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TERRORISM....A recent post from Glenn Reynolds about how we ought to be responding to Iran has been batted around quite a bit in the past few days. Here's Glenn:

We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists....Basically, stepping on the Iranians' toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq.

....[T]o be clear, I think it's perfectly fine to kill people who are working on atomic bombs for countries -- like Iran -- that have already said that they want to use those bombs against America and its allies, and I think that those who feel otherwise are idiots, and in absolutely no position to strike moral poses.

I imagine a lot of people agree with Glenn, but his recommendation really demonstrates the moral knot caused by George Bush's insistence that we're fighting a "war on terror." After all, killing civilian scientists and civilian leaders, even if you do it quietly, is unquestionably terrorism. That's certainly what we'd consider it if Hezbollah fighters tried to kill cabinet undersecretaries and planted bombs at the homes of Los Alamos engineers. What's more, if we took this tack against Iran, we'd be doing it for the same reason that terrorists target us: because it's a more effective, more winnable tactic than conventional war.

If you think Iran is a mortal enemy that needs to be dealt with via military force, you can certainly make that case. But if you're going to claim that terrorism is a barbaric tactic that has to be stamped out, you can hardly endorse its use by the United States just because it's convenient in this particular case.

Kevin Drum 1:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (91)

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Comments

Hey Cheney...
What about us Jews?

Posted by: Haifa on February 14, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

After all, killing civilian scientists and civilian leaders, even if you do it quietly, is unquestionably terrorism. That's certainly what we'd consider it if Hezbollah fighters tried to kill cabinet undersecretaries and planted bombs at the homes of Los Alamos engineers.

You forgot to mention civilian rabble rousers who teach law at public universities. I hope Instapundit isn't in charge of ethics classes at his law school.

Posted by: RSA on February 14, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's not terrorism. Since it would prevent a nuclear attack, it's actually saving lives. Therefore your premise is false and your argument fails.

Posted by: American Hawk on February 14, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Their theory of "American exceptionalism" covers that; the United States is simply better and more important than other countries, so our actions are always benevolent and never constitute terrorism. Warped and delusional, but that is basically their view.

Posted by: bmaz on February 14, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Americans are the good guys by default, so whatever they do, it's ok.

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on February 14, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Your puny "logic" is no match for the Ole Perfesser, Kevin. It's not terrorism, because God-fearin', gun-totin' Murkins would be doin' it.

Posted by: dj moonbat on February 14, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

God what a waste of perfectly good air.

Posted by: john john on February 14, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Since it would prevent a nuclear attack...

Dumber than dog shit.

The Iranians would never launch a nuclear attack.
If they did they would cease to exist.

Go back to first grade...
And do not collect $200 dollars ya dope...

Posted by: God on February 14, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

"After all, killing civilian scientists and civilian leaders, even if you do it quietly, is unquestionably terrorism."

Actually, no, this is not "terrorism," it is assassination, or an act of war. This has precisely nothing to do with "terrorism" since the goal of such a tactic would not be to inspire terror and the resulting chaos/unrest/etc. in a broad population, but rather to eliminate targeted personnel.

Kevin, please do not play into the moronic semantic games of right wing simps wherein "terrorism" becomes a catch-all phrase to describe anything and everything we do not like. I do not need to tell you this, so I will presume that the sloppy thinking in your post was temporary.

People interested in a more incisive discussion of Reynolds' idiocy should refer to Greenwald's post here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/02/13/assassination/index.html

Posted by: greggy on February 14, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

A must read at Uggabugga today on Iran.

Posted by: Max Power on February 14, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

"We're right so it's okay if we commit crimes." is not even a slippery-slope argument. It's completely amoral. It's corrupt. It's evil. Any leader of a government that engages in it deserves a few months in front of a tribunal at the Hague.

Fox has created a criminal named Jack Bauer who justifies all of his evil, criminal deeds by implying that he cannot accomplish his goals without engaging in criminality. That should just be some reactionary entertainment, but it isn't. It appears to have be using the same justification that Bush has used to invade Iraq on a pretext. Now, he is trying to find a pretext to go to war with Iran and his immoral cheerleaders have decided to give him a pass.

If you have to commit a crime to reach your goal, your goal is criminal or you are just too stupid to be running things. Either way, those who advocate that the United States commit crimes against Iran are fools -- not only are they oblivious to the fact that they are crimes but they are oblivious to the fact that the crimes will come back to haunt the US.

Posted by: freelunch on February 14, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Greggy the keen lefty lawyer is right.

If the civilian killing is done by governments it is an ok act of war.

If the civilian killing is done by fellas with beards in caves it is an act of terrorism.

We need to make this sort of distinction.
Lest some people might actually call Bush & Cheney & Rumsfeld & Rice war criminals.

They are not that.
They are heroes of our culture.
They have a right to kill.
The others do not.

Posted by: American Hawk on February 14, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have all sorts of misgivings about extra-judicial assassination as practiced by the US, Israel presently, and other nations in the past. At least when the Bulgarians and Putin do it there is little or no collateral damage. The moral question, however, remains.

It ain't right without some attempt at arrest. It ain't right without judicial oversight and approval/limitation.

Hell. We -- or, at least, I -- get upset that the government intercepts phone calls without oversight. Why wouldn't I be upset if they arbitrarily kill somebody (and other innocents) they say is a threat.

Because I know they always get it right?

Posted by: notthere on February 14, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post Kevin.

Posted by: Jimm on February 14, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure that civilian vs. not is the question. I assume many civilians were killed at the Pentagon on 9/11. Without in any way justifying or excusing that attack, it always seemed to me that it was in a different category than the attack on the World Trade Center. The means used of course constituted terrorism since they entailed murdering many innocent civilians. But the end was slightly different in a way that I think matters.

Killing people in Iran's nuclear infrastructure may be wrong, or foolish, but I don't think it's terrorism -- or at least, not in the same way that killing random people on an airplane is.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on February 14, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody counting the number of Arab children killed by American bombs?

If that's not terrorism... nothing is.

Posted by: Mother Teresa on February 14, 2007 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

AH --

Not a very clever reinterpretation of what Greggy said.

The war is illegal. The UK attorney general said so. International law says so. Extraordinary rendition or, as more properly named Illegal abduction is an international crime.

Yes, this administration is undoubtedly a bunch of war criminals.

Posted by: notthere on February 14, 2007 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

AH's enthusiasm for pie is contagious!

Posted by: cleek on February 14, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

...it's perfectly fine to kill people who are working on atomic bombs for countries -- like Iran -- that have already said that they want to use those bombs against America and its allies...

Can someone please offer a link to a quote from Iranian leadership, stating that they want to use nukes against us?

I was under the impression that Khamenei (sp?) said that nukes were anti-Islamic.

Posted by: JM on February 14, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

"It's not terrorism. Since it would prevent a nuclear attack, it's actually saving lives. Therefore your premise is false and your argument fails."

This type of reasoning would justify hijacking Iranian civilian airplanes and crashing them into buildings in Teheran, wouldn't it?

Posted by: rea on February 14, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK
Actually, no, this is not "terrorism," it is assassination, or an act of war. This has precisely nothing to do with "terrorism" since the goal of such a tactic would not be to inspire terror and the resulting chaos/unrest/etc. in a broad population, but rather to eliminate targeted personnel.

The intent of such a tactic would be, at least in major part, to intimidate or coerce the regime into abandoning the pursuit of nuclear arms, by increasing the cost; the use of violence or threats of violence outside the accepted international norms of armed combat (which such an act of war, being both a crime against peace as the justification is not a an actual or imminent attack, and a war crime as it deliberately targets civilians, would) to so intimidate or coerce is the definition terrorism.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

To Quote God

"The Iranians would never launch a nuclear attack.
If they did they would cease to exist."

I would just like to add that suicide bombers
don't exist because if they did they wouldn't be suicide bombers.

Gosh think how nukeing New York city would glorify Allah.

Posted by: TruthPoliTik on February 14, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK
This type of reasoning would justify hijacking Iranian civilian airplanes and crashing them into buildings in Teheran, wouldn't it?

Only if it was done for the sole purpose of, say, inflicting specific economic harm or targetting particular individuals rather than inflicting "terror", but sure.

It would also, similarly, justify foreigners hijacking American civilian airliners and crashing them into important defense or economic facilities in the United States, so long as the intent was to cause particular economic damage or target particular defense officials, rather than to generically terrorize.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

from Notes on Nationalism (May 1945)
George Orwell


Indifference to Reality. All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. The Liberal News Chronicle published, as an example of shocking barbarity, photographs of Russians hanged by the Germans, and then a year or two later published with warm approval almost exactly similar photographs of Germans hanged by the Russians(5). It is the same with historical events. History is thought of largely in nationalist terms, and such things as the Inquisition, the tortures of the Star Chamber, the exploits of the English buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was given to sinking Spanish prisoners alive), the Reign of Terror, the heroes of the Mutiny blowing hundreds of Indians from the guns, or Cromwell's soldiers slashing Irishwomen's faces with razors, become morally neutral or even meritorious when it is felt that they were done in the ‘right’ cause. If one looks back over the past quarter of a century, one finds that there was hardly a single year when atrocity stories were not being reported from some part of the world; and yet in not one single case were these atrocities — in Spain, Russia, China, Hungary, Mexico, Amritsar, Smyrna — believed in and disapproved of by the English intelligentsia as a whole. Whether such deeds were reprehensible, or even whether they happened, was always decided according to political predilection.

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them...et cetera...

Posted by: bellumregio on February 14, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know about most of the folks here, but I for one am really looking forward to Al, egbert, AH et al strenuously arguing that we need to abolish the death penalty right away, before George and Dick go on trial.

Posted by: kenga on February 14, 2007 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk showed us exactly what is wrong with this amoral approach with:

We need to make this sort of distinction. Lest some people might actually call Bush & Cheney & Rumsfeld & Rice war criminals.

They are not that.
They are heroes of our culture.
They have a right to kill.
The others do not.

Of course, he forgot that:

If they act just like evil men, they are evil men.

There can often be two bad guys, but the hero can never be more evil than the bad guy.

Making excuses for evil shows that you, too, are evil.

Posted by: freelunch on February 14, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

So do the Iranians have the right to tell Bush to leave the country within 48 hours or face the consequences? I mean, what's good for the goose and all...

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on February 14, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

JM- of course Iran has never said that they would use nukes on the "US and its allies." Glenn is making shit up. What else is new?

On the other hand, the US has said that it MIGHT use nukes on Iran. That's what "all options are on the table" means. So presumably Glenn thinks its okay for Iranians to assassinate US nuclear scientists?

Posted by: Bloick on February 14, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

The United States is the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons, and has by far the largest and most powerful supply of them as well as the most effective delivery systems. By the logic of Reynolds and some of the posters above, the US is the most viable and immediate threat of nuclear war in existence on the planet, and other nations would be fully justified in trying to kill scientists or others supporting US nuclear weapons programs.

Posted by: Virginia Dutch on February 14, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

to say nothing of the fact that Reynolds just assumes we'll know who the "bad people" are. Our entire justice department is based on the idea that it's we can't just "know" who they are, and so there are many failsafes (expensive ones, at that) built into the system so we can be sure -- and for even minor (compared to execution) punishments like fines and jail. If Reynolds is so sure he (or somebody as smart as him) can just "know" who the bad guys are, we should put that person to work over here, and save a lot of money all these expensive things like courts, judges, juries, appeals courts, etc.

Though I wonder how much faith Reynolds would have in his own some-bureaucrat-has-declared-person x-a-bad-guy-so-it-much-be-true system if person x were a relative of his. Then, I'm guessing, he might be a little more skeptical about one person's word, and would welcome that whole appeasementy trial system thing.

Posted by: dmx on February 14, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

bellumregio -- exactly.

Posted by: notthere on February 14, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

If there is anything that would more decisively confirm for any reasonable person why Iran, or any other similar country, would want nuclear weapons than the United States 'covertly' assassinating their political and scientific leaders, no one has yet come up with it.

But give Glenn time.

I've always argued that Iran would be better off as a nearly-nuke nation than one with actual weapons, because actually having nukes might provoke the Israelis (with good reason) while nearly having 'em gives leverage they would lose if they DID have 'em. So far as I can tell, they've been following that course for some time: nearly is better.

But if this utterly immoral and worse, impractical notion offered by an amateur became real policy, we will sow the wind: and we will have to reap the whirlwind.

It's Molly Ivins' observation from long ago, that if somebody had assassinated Hitler in 1938, we'd have probably wound up with Albert Speer -- just as Nazi, and not nuts. A Nazi who was too smart to declare war on the US, too shrewd to commit more to Stalingrad than it was worth, and too realist not to sue for peace while he ruled most of Europe, would not have been an improvement.

If we started knocking off Iranian political leaders and atomic scientists, we would be GUARANTEEING they got nukes.

Not to mention making every individual American of any prominence a tit for tat legitimate target of every regime with which we have a conflict.

It seems worth noting that in game theory, Glenn is what is known as a 'defector'. Trying to gain an advantage, he costs everybody.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 14, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

AH,
As notthere astutely observed, you completely misinterpreted my post. I was quite clearly not endorsing Reynolds' argument. I don't, and I think the link to Greenwald illustrates what my opinion is on the matter. The subject of my post was Kevin's use of the term "terrorism" to describe something that clearly is not terrorism, by any reasonable definition of the term. In doing so, he contributes to the rhetorical tactics of those I oppose, namely rightwing nutjobs like Reynolds and his ilk. I'm glad I could clarify your understanding on this topic. k thx!

Posted by: greggy on February 14, 2007 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely I was thinking exactly the same thing. As postulated targeted assassination can be considered an act of terrorism because we would be "sending a message" of terror to the survivors.

I don't know how far we want to push this because as I recall the Israelis have a formal assassination policy. If we point out that that policy amounts to terrorism we are liable to be called anti-semitic.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 14, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,
I disagree with your interpretation, but instead of arguing semantics, I'll just ask that you reflect on the larger point I was making.

Posted by: greggy on February 14, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

But, but, but... this is incorrect:
countries -- like Iran -- that have already said that they want to use those bombs against America and its allies.

The Iranians have denied that they even intend to develop nuclear weapons, and they have never said they want to use those (hypothetical) bombs against America and its allies.

As far as we know for certain such activity would amount to killing engineers who are engaged in peaceful energy related industries.

It's merely speculation at this point that Iraq plans to enrich uranium to weapons grade purity-- they certainly haven't done so yet.

To base killing their scientists on mere speculation is a heinous crime, sorta like the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: Dave Howard on February 14, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but let's cut to the chase.

Glenn Reynolds is an asshole.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 14, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

agreed.

Posted by: greggy on February 14, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK
I don't know how far we want to push this because as I recall the Israelis have a formal assassination policy. If we point out that that policy amounts to terrorism we are liable to be called anti-semitic.

Well, Israel has a lot of policies, not just the "targeted killing" one, that could be described as terrorist; the policy of collective punishment frequently applied in the occupied terrorities is pretty nakedly terroristic as well.

And, yeah, pointing out Israeli state terrorism frequently results in loud charges of anti-semitism, because the defenders of Israeli policy don't actually have any substantive defense of the legitimacy of the policies.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely

I was just trying to protect your ability to go to work in a political campaign.

I think we are all on the same page.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 14, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Is it just me or does this sound like Stalin would have done?

Posted by: ET on February 14, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of the bumper sticker slogan: shoot one person and it's called murder; shoot thousands of people and it's called foreign policy.

Posted by: puffin on February 14, 2007 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

The people Orwell calls ‘nationalists” and the people Bob Altemeyer calls “authoritarians” are the same. Although authoritarians charge liberals with moral relativism it is really they who calibrate their morality to the status of their in-group. To them liberals seem relativistic because they believe in fundamental human rights and the potential legitimacy of the claims of all parties in a dispute.

Because of their in-group perspective authoritarians conceive of a world in constant conflict. Liberals, on the other hand, have a threshold that must be reached before a state of war (irresolvable conflict) exists. Thus to authoritarians liberals seem like so many Neville Chamberlains unable to recognize the clear and present danger.

Constitutionalism, parliamentary government and the rights of man are political manifestations of liberalism. Iron law, orthodoxy and arbitrary power are products of the authoritarian state of mind. When authoritarians take over a constitutional democracy you have the United States in the past decade or so.


Posted by: bellumregio on February 14, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Can't we just bat Glenn around instead of his stupid ideas?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 14, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

TruthPoli-Tick:

I would just like to add that suicide bombers
don't exist because if they did they wouldn't be suicide bombers.

No you can't add.
Nor subtract.
Perhaps because your brain has been divided by a lobotomy.

Thank God no one was dumb enough to have left you in charge during the cold war, else... Indianapolis would be a sheet of glass right now.

Suggestion:

Reconnect your Corpus Calloseum.
Because right now you are thinking like a right-wing liberal smoking left-wing dope.

In other words--
Go back to the first grade.
And do not collect $200 dollars.

Posted by: God on February 14, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Whether it is terrorism or not is a red herring.
It is immoral, which should be enough reason for a civilized society to not even consider it.
The US, on the other hand, might well consider it an option.

Posted by: sc on February 14, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

But if you're going to claim that terrorism is a barbaric tactic that has to be stamped out, you can hardly endorse its use by the United States just because it's convenient in this particular case.

Well, you can if you're a Republican. Don't be silly. After all, their supposed condemnation of terrorism didn't stop them from arming the Iranian mullahs in the 1980s or using that money to then fund a terrorist movement in Nicaragua, or to turn a blind eye to anti-Castro and pro-Pinochet terrorism in Latin America.

Posted by: Stefan on February 14, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Reynolds writings/ravings need to be saved and used at his war crimes trial in Iraq or Iran after the US unconditionally surrenders and admits defeat for starting unprovoked wars of aggression. The American warrior culture must end sometime, and now would be best before we kill more people and completely ruin our way of life.

Posted by: Brojo on February 14, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK
I was just trying to protect your ability to go to work in a political campaign.

If criticizing Israeli policy in blog comment threads is going to ruin that, then that bridge was burned long ago.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2007 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin is saying that Glenn Reynolds is objectively pro-terrorist.

Heh. Indeed.

Posted by: marfrks on February 14, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Can't we just bat Glenn around instead of his stupid ideas?

Now that is an idea that I can get behind. And by the way, that's my nomination for comment of the thread.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on February 14, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

If criticizing Israeli policy in blog comment threads is going to ruin that, then that bridge was burned long ago.

It is much worse than that.
It makes you a de facto terrorist.

Answer me nicely cmdicely:

Are you now or have you ever supplied Iraq with weapons?

Posted by: Loofa tunes on February 14, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still personally offended that they've chosen THIS to put out there as a possible casus belli. As a former Marine, I mourn and am outraged by every death of any American in the hellhole, but this is what they're saying: Iran has blood on its hands in the deaths of 170 Americans since April 2004. Well, according to icasualties.org, which has been keeping count, 1,593 Americans have died in Iraq since April 2004. Here's the math: That's 10.6%. I would like us to find the bastards who killed the other nearly 90% of those who gave their lives in Iraq.

And I want the Americans out of there, but that's another post.

Posted by: Long Memory on February 14, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

My rule of thumb - Any commentary about or by Instadork should automatically be deleted.

Posted by: gab on February 14, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

But if you're going to claim that terrorism is a barbaric tactic that has to be stamped out, you can hardly endorse its use by the United States just because it's convenient in this particular case.

On the other hand, you need catchier sloganeering than "The fight against the godless infidels."

It sounds too much like the competition's pitch. The whole "terrorism" thing is just product differentiation.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on February 14, 2007 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Headline, NY Times, today: Bomb Kills 11 on Military Bus in Iran.

It is always seems suspicious to me that establishment opinion makers suggest horrible solutions and then headlines explicitly display the policy.

I felt this way when Dershowitz' book about torture came out. Torture was discussed and then we found out torture was being used routinely. Before the Abu Grahib story hit I went to a lecture at a local university where a visiting philosophy prof discussed torture and Dershowitz' book. At the time I felt the discussion was a way to soften the coming knowledge that Americans torture, but before I could get to the mic and ask if torture was at that very moment being used in Iraq, it was turned off. A few weeks later the story of Abu Ghraib broke. I sure wished I had gotten in line sooner at that lecture.

We live in a propaganda filled country. I look forward to the explanation of how mass media bamboozled the US electorate after our unconditional surrender. We may never know the whole story unless our militant, warrior culture is smashed with defeat.

Posted by: Brojo on February 14, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

>>This has precisely nothing to do with "terrorism" since the goal of such a tactic would not be to inspire terror and the resulting chaos/unrest/etc. in a broad population, but rather to eliminate targeted personnel.

Huh? The US sending death squads inside Iran to kill Iranian scientists and religious leaders wouldn't inspire terror and fear in "a broad population?" I don't think the goal of this kind of tactic would merely be to take out a few scientists -- and I'm sure Instaputz would agree. The goal would be to "send a message," particularly to any other scientists, religious leaders, or other civilians to get with the program or face similar death squads in the future. Of course it would inspire terror and fear, much as it would if Iranian death squads showed up in the US and started murdering civilians in specific industries.

Wasn't this al Qeada's goal? Send a message?

Posted by: Orson on February 14, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

>>I think that those who feel otherwise are idiots, and in absolutely no position to strike moral poses.

Translation: if you aren't for death squads killing civilians in a country we aren't even at war with, you are immoral.

Death squads are the midwives of democracy! Can't you see that?

Posted by: Orson on February 14, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

So, let me try to digest all of this. Somebody wants to kill radical Muslims. The ever unpopular Army will take felons but not gays. A lot of slack-jawed mouth breathers want to hang reporters. So, hows everybody managing it? Managing it? More like keeping the saliva-dripping ever nad-snapping jaws of the Great White Pinhead at bay. Its clear to me now that I have a possible job future as a matador. The admin appears to be delusional and swinging their hands wildly with an exacto knife (remember: don't cut towards yourself).

How do I acquire and Who do I thank for a mantra to the abyss? I got to believe that sometimes George and maybe his fister buddy Cheney, sit in the dark, looking up from the blackest pit of a soulless prison of their own devise, with their only resolve being to find the exit in the corner of the round room. But the news always slaps me back like the wet gym towel snap to the ass. I guess one has to have a sense of humor to deal with the absurdity and hopelessness, so much so that what is needed at times like these is to metaphorically light a fart to chase away the dark spooks of despair! I didn't actually do that last night but I had the opportunity for much needed decompression.

What's the worst that could happen? (Don't ask!) I'm too old to get drafted. I probably don't qualify anymore to work at the 7-Up bottling company. They don't have debtor's prison. I managed to lose that crazy bitch that chased after my car. And as far as I know, there's no warrants for my arrest. The shoulder/headache conundrum is bugging the shit out of me, but that's what drugs are for. If they fire me I know I can at least get a job shoveling sand! I take solace in various bloggers words of encouragement and caring; as the Indians would say: "There is both fire and iron in your words". At least I'm not a guitar player for Celine Dion.

Befuddled by lifes ill-timed, truant, and what I hope is malingering karma, listening to the honeyed, Old Grand Dad soaked strains of Charlie Rich tossing around the idea of who the next bobo will be, as I wipe my weekend-induced, furrowed brow, contemplating yon weekends bitter yet persnickety insistence that I not rest easy nor enjoy chemical related abandon. Events are happening at a frightening rate, threatening to spin out of control, just like me. I find myself strangely impelled to hug pillows, chant mantras, and probe for breeches in what has been, up to now, my impenetrable frame of reference that the Diggers gave to me free of charge back in those rather idyllic, stupid, days of yore.

Listen all you hustlers! Dont give up, send digital transmissions...crypto-brainiacs will download and dump...."What a dump!"...hook pinkies over the hardlines....put a crowbar in that glimmer of insanity you call a mind and pry open that tuna can skull of yours and smile.

The first problem: Like all the misery penciled in and scheduled for Job by demons and gods too punch-drunk on their own pulchritude, I too ponder lifes lousy timing and incredibly bad taste in humor, waiting for the break that ultimately will only transpire, with my luck, at the slacker end of the rope and once again Ill have to trod up Alfreds 13 steps (a movie Ive never been able to sit through) and take my place at my desk, hands folded, singing Good Morning to You to some numbskull who represents my first and best argument for forced sterilization, awaiting the inevitable swinging open of the trap door when I get back from lunch. So I sit here, broken hearted, paid my dime and only..

Second problem (I never seem to have a scarcity of problems): Forces irrational, short-tempered, and zealous in their labors to fling culpability for wars and other damages unto any nearby victim, like yesterdays pesky booger, are attempting to unseat my customarily erratic and inconsistent mental state. No amount of reality can thwart their Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney paranoid fantasies, so surreptitious strategies and furtive senseless gestures are in order immediately, purposely obfuscating messages in order to confuse small and petty minds. Persevere.

Posted by: Carl Gordon on February 14, 2007 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, why in the world would you choose Hezbollah as an example of a group that would kill US cabinet secretaries and Los Alamos scientists? Hezbollah has no particular gripe against the US, other than seeing it as an imperial bully, which it is. I'm getting extremely irritated by the ubiquitous language that describes Hezbollah as a terrorist group. I heard John Kerry call them a terrorist group recently. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think they have a just cause, in that Lebanese Shiites are second-class citizens and do not have representation in the parliament that matches their majority population status. Their fight against Israel is shared by Lebanese in general. Certainly the mass protests and civil disobedience displayed recently is reasonable. If you were referring to the assassination of the Lebanese cabinet chairman (forget his name now), I haven't heard that Hezbollah has been held responsible. In any large social movement there are bound to be individuals who resort to violence. One can't judge the whole group by the actions of a few extremists.

Posted by: nepeta on February 14, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "If you think Iran is a mortal enemy that needs to be dealt with via military force, you can certainly make that case."

But can they really make that case, Kevin? Can they really?

"But if you're going to claim that terrorism is a barbaric tactic that has to be stamped out, you can hardly endorse its use by the United States just because it's convenient in this particular case."

See? You're such a spoilsport.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 14, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Carl,

Nice writing. Thanks.

Posted by: nepeta on February 14, 2007 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Carl--I like how you substitute the ?question mark? for an apostrophe--cool. Writing style is reminiscent of a stream of consciousness of Hunter S Thompson only better

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 14, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

I can't believe anyone could treat this idea seriously.

1. The central premise, that Iran represents an existential threat to the US, is fatally flawed.

2. The idea that there exist ninja assassins that can travel, undetected, throughout Iran, carrying out these proposed assassinations, is right out of a 1980's adventure flick. It is silly. No serious person would discuss this as real-life solution.

Glenn Reynolds is a silly person. Anyone who defends this idea is silly, too.

Posted by: Joel on February 14, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists....

There is no way to "quietly" kill these people without committing an act of war. And this kill anyone that Bushie points his stupid finger at, shows how completely retard Glen Reynolds happens to be.

Posted by: Cheryl on February 14, 2007 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Kevin,

You are making the exact same mistake you made in 2002/2003. I would have thought that by now you knew better than to engage seriously the "ideas" of fascist thugs. I guess not.

You are treating the lunatic Glenn Reynolds and his cheap-tv-series-style fantasies to murder Iranian civilians as if he is important and as if they are a serious proposal that needs to be parsed and understood rather than deplored, utterly condemned, and mocked. No matter how inadvertent your actions and well-intentioned you may be, you are providing him - and worse, his sick, insane, idiotic proposals - with crediblity. And believe me, Reynolds knows it.

Back in 2002/03, this is precisely how Bush et al built up support for the utterly ridiculous idea of invading Iraq without reason. Incredibly, people who should have known better felt, well yes, it's a "breathtaking" idea, even an "audacious" one, but let's look at it and not, you know, just reject it out of hand. Riiiight. We all know how that's turning out, and it's going to get a lot worse.

But there you were, in the runup to Bush/Iraq, when it was patently obvious that it was to be the worst foreign policy decision in US history, still opining that if Bush could get it right - hah! - then maybe it's worth the risk. It wasn't. It was a crazy idea and no one as intelligent and savvy as you should ever have been bamboozled.

And here you go again, reasonably entertaining notions that are sheer madness. You write there there is some kind of heavy-duty ethical conundrum at stake. There isn't, not to Reynolds and his ilk. You talk about "moral knots" and definitions of terrorism. But Kevin, don't you see, these terms have no meaning outside of the social philosophy of liberalism, which Reynolds and his fellow brown-shirts emphatically reject.

Talking about implied moral knots in Reynolds' ideas is not sober commentary on your part, even if it sounds like it. Given what you are trying to take seriously - running the world, the real world, as if it were a 1 dimensional cable-tv thriller - you are talking sheer nonsense. There is a failure on your part to recognize what is really going on. Reynolds gleefully interprets your willingness to take him seriously and talk about moral dilemmas as a victory. And he is right. It is his victory.

Sure, sure, sure, I know you're appalled at what Reynolds said. I know you don't agree with any of it. But that's not the point. You think there's a moral knot where there is nothing but Reynolds' stupid, ignorant, and utterly naive totalitarianism. Remember, Kevin, you are not dealing with liberals. You are dealing with people who do not accept the proposition that if they do the same thing al Qaeda does, it is terrorism by definition. You are dealing with people who do not believe in concepts like equal justice, liberty, or fair debate.

Please Kevin, for heaven's sake, think before you discuss the utterly deranged ideas of people like Reynolds in a sober fashion. The only thing to take seriously about Reynolds and the rest of Bushism is their will to power and you have failed once again to recognize one important way they do it. They fool people like you into permitting them a place at the table.

love,

tristero

Posted by: tristero on February 14, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

tristero said:

>>You are treating the lunatic Glenn Reynolds and his cheap-tv-series-style fantasies to murder Iranian civilians as if he is important and as if they are a serious proposal that needs to be parsed and understood rather than deplored, utterly condemned, and mocked.

Glenn Reynolds, like it or not, has a massive following and his ideas and ideas like his that come out of the right-wing machine are an essential part of American political life. You can pretend that ignoring Fox, Hannity, Malkin, Coulter, Limbaugh, etc., is somehow going to "ignore them into obscurity" (where they truly belong), but that ain't gonna happen.

Kevin isn't "giving him a place at the table" -- he and his ilk already have a place at the table, however sad and pathetic a picture that may paint of American political discourse. They have a massive following and a massive network of think-tanks, TV and radio stations, newspapers, and blogs. And that is why it is vital that their ideas are challenged and de-pantsed on a daily basis; this is why someone like Glenn Greenwald is doing such an important job.

You may think that just holding up a picture of Bush and snickering is sufficient, but apparently it isn't -- he's still in the White House. The vast majority of the American people can actually be swayed by argument and evidence when they are actually exposed to argument and evidence.

Posted by: Orson on February 14, 2007 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

BTW Glenn Reynolds was a campaign worker for Al Gore in 2000. He considers himself libertarian, not a conservative.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 14, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk seems to have dropped out of the conversation. Damn, I was just starting to get convinced. "Come back American Hawk, come back".

Posted by: lk on February 14, 2007 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

1. Even if we were AT WAR with Iran, it would be a war crime to assassinate "radical mullahs". They are civilians. It would have been a war crime for Nazis to assassinate the Pope, too.

2. We are not at war with Iran.

3. Iran has never "said that they want to use those [atomic] bombs against America and its allies". The claim that it has is a scurrilous libel by warmongerers who have twisted words - as far as I am aware, a single speech by Iran's President - to imply that Iran wants to launch a nuclear first strike against Israel. Not only was this a single speech, which Ahmadinejad has never repeated; but the accusation rests on a deliberate twisting of his words. He used the phrase, in Farsi, "clear Israel off the map". As others have repeatedly pointed out, this does not have the idiomatic meaning it does in English, where "wipe off the map" means to physically annihilate; more likely, he was talking about eliminating the political/legal entity of Israel, i.e. turning it into a Palestinian state. We (Americans, Jews, Zionists like myself) oppose this goal, but saying that Israel should become Palestine is no more a plan for nuclear genocide than saying that northern Iraq should become independent Kurdistan is.

Glenn Reynolds is a fascist. There is no meaningful distinction between him, and a Nazi. He talks like a Nazi, he thinks like a Nazi, he supports the positions a Nazi would support. If a sizable portion of Americans support these positions, then America has a fascist fifth column.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 14, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, Glenn Reynolds comes from the Kiefer Sutherland "24" School of Foreign Affairs.

My question for Glenn: what good does it do to simply kill radical mullahs if you don't torture them first? You know, power drills into their shoulder blades, plastic baggies over their faces, shooting their wives one leg at a time, that sort of thing. We might as well get some lousy intelligence for all our hard work tracking them down inside their home countries.

Oh, and I assume you mean to track down all radical mullahs in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, etc. Another question: what happens after you kill them? Does America live happily ever after, or are there possibly consequences you aren't telling your readers?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on February 14, 2007 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

"If you think Iran is a mortal enemy that needs to be dealt with via military force, you can certainly make that case."

OK, Kevin. I've made the case: Want to Send a Message to the Khomeinists? Smoke the Former US Embassy in Tehran

And, no. I'm not joking.

Posted by: Robert Stevens on February 14, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps not. But you are a joker.

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 14, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Glenn Reynolds, like it or not, has a massive following and his ideas and ideas like his that come out of the right-wing machine are an essential part of American political life."

I can't get worked up by ethnic or religious differences here in the US, but I'm beginning to feel downright 'militant' about the rightwing idiots and their supporters in this country.

Posted by: nepeta on February 14, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Reynolds is a pale-faced fantasist motherfucker who feeds on the deaths of others, and masturbates to '24'. That's all that counts here.

Posted by: ahem on February 14, 2007 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Reynolds was a campaign worker for Al Gore in 2000. He considers himself libertarian, not a conservative.

That's funny. Everyone else thinks he's an asshole.

Posted by: Repack Rider on February 14, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

" But if you're going to claim that terrorism is a barbaric tactic that has to be stamped out, you can hardly endorse its use by the United States just because it's convenient in this particular case."

Right. The best way to deal with terrorism is to take an outspoken stand every time it happens. For example, when threats were made against newspapers and other media over the Muhammad cartoon affair a year or so ago, the left should have stood up and been counted. Or when Rosie O'Donnell says "Christians are worse than terrorists", the left should stand up and say 'that goes too far'.

But the left doesn't do that. Therefore, while it's easy to condemn Reynolds' facile solution, what Mr. Drum SHOULD be doing is some self-examination.

Not that I'd hold my breath waiting.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! on February 14, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Ironically, there was a popular science fiction story in the 1950s about someone who invented a way to make nuclear weapons unusable, and the invention was suppressed because the leaders understood that without nuclear weapons the next war would be fought with spies and daggers and assassinations.

Anyone remember the title? Sounds a little like what this thread is discussing.

Posted by: Michael Martin on February 14, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

Instamurderer is lying again. Iran has not said it will use nuclear weapons against the US or even its allies (in any case Israel has nuclear technology 40 years beyond that of IRans).

I have a simple suggestion for InstaChickenLiver. Strap a parachute on him, and drop him off in Iran and let him do the dirty work himself. Actually, scratch the parachute.

Posted by: Jon on February 14, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

If the scientists are working for the government, the Iranian government, then killing them isn't terrorism. It might be war, but Iran has been engaging in acts of war against America for some time.

This is not brain surgery, and it's additionally not too bright to expand the category of "civilians" in the manner you have. So I conclude that the reason you don't get it is that there's a very low level of electrical activity in your cerebral cortex. You have a lot of trouble figuring things out.

You're not smart.

Posted by: Brian on February 14, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

There's a lot of hype about the role of Iran in Iraq--but precious little about the role of the Saudis. That country sent most of the 9/11 hijackers into the US, and apparently now arms the Sunni insurgents who kill the most Americans in Iraq. And yet, as always, the Bush Administration and the Instapundits of the world give them a pass. Why? Should we also kill, without trial, Saudis who support Sunni insurgents? Why is it ok in Iran and not Saudia Arabia?

Even Investor's Business Daily has noticed: Et Tu, Saudi?

Black Hawks Down: The downing by Jihadists of six U.S. choppers in three weeks, almost all in Sunni-controlled territories of Iraq, isn't dumb luck. They're clearly using more high-tech weapons. Who's arming them?

Rumors finger Iran, but it doesn't appear that Iran-backed Shiite militias are behind the attacks. Most of the surface-to-air missiles have been fired within the Sunni triangle and outside areas controlled by Shiite militias.

An Islamic group tied to al-Qaida took credit for shooting down the Marine transport helicopter that killed seven Wednesday. It crashed in Anbar province, a Sunni and al-Qaida stronghold bordering Saudi Arabia.

We learned from the Baker report and wire reports that Saudis, not Iranians, are supplying insurgents with the money for shoulder-fired missiles and other sophisticated weaponry � a revelation that has been drowned out by all the hype and saber-rattling over Iran.

Are our Saudi "allies" secretly backing a jihad against U.S. forces next door, while telling us they're cooperating with our Iraq efforts? "Funding for the Sunni insurgency comes from private individuals within Saudi Arabia," the Iraq Study Group flatly stated in a throwaway line buried on Page 29 of its 160-page report.

See also this excellent USA Today story:

Saudis reportedly funding Iraqi Sunni insurgents:

CAIRO (AP) � Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.
Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.

But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.

Two high-ranking Iraqi officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, told the AP most of the Saudi money comes from private donations, called zaqat, collected for Islamic causes and charities.

Posted by: FP on February 14, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

>>If the scientists are working for the government, the Iranian government, then killing them isn't terrorism.

So when al Qaeda flew planes into the Pentagon, it obviously wasn't terrorism, right?

He seems to think that "civilian" means "doesn't work for the government." I guess your mailman isn't a civilian either, so the slaughter of Iranian or American mailmen would not be terrorism either. You might want to look up the definition of "civilian" in a dictionary, genius.

Besides the fact that Instaputz wrote that we should be "killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists." Are religious figures civilians? No one is "expanding the definition" of civilian; you are reinventing it.

>>It might be war, but Iran has been engaging in acts of war against America for some time.

We are at war with Iran? In any case, deliberately targeting civilians even in a declared war is a war crime.

Your support for death squads murdering civilians is touching, though. But really, what is your claim again to being different from al Qaeda?

>>This is not brain surgery

Something you sorely need...

Posted by: Orson on February 15, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

I was under the impression that Khamenei (sp?) said that nukes were anti-Islamic.

In fact, he issued a fatwa against Iran developing nukes. Of course you'll never hear that in the MSM.

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2007 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

>>It ain't right without some attempt at arrest. It ain't right without judicial oversight and approval/limitation.

Attempting to arrest an Iranian nuclear scientist on Iranian soil strikes me as even more problematic than killing them there - kidnapping is just about as much an infringement on Iranian sovereignty as killing, and rather than using remote weapons we'd have to put American lives in danger to try it.

As for judicial oversight and approval, that seems to me a very bad idea. International relations has always been the purview of the executive branch, subject to congressional oversight. The courts are ill-equipped to deal with the very political nature of such activites. On top of that, the courts would only have as much jurisdiction as Congress gave them - it's not like Iranians in Iran have rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Posted by: Pheneau on February 15, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

It's not terrorism. Since it would prevent a nuclear attack, it's actually saving lives. Therefore your premise is false and your argument fails.
Posted by: American Hawk

AH has a very good point. If killing US cabinet secretaries and weapons scientists would prevent a US nuclear attack on Iran, it would actually save lives. I don't think such action would actually prevent an attack, though.

Posted by: ajay on February 15, 2007 at 6:16 AM | PERMALINK

"In fact, he issued a fatwa against Iran developing nukes. Of course you'll never hear that in the MSM."

Khomeini (not Khameini) believed that nukes (and chemical weapons) were prohibited because of the statement in the Koran against fouling of air and water. The Islamic Republic abandoned this during the Iran-Iraq war, because of the effect of chemical weapons against Iranian troops. Rashfanjani made a statement on this in 1987.

Posted by: No Longer a Urinated State of America on February 15, 2007 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: [Instahack] considers himself libertarian, not a conservative.

Funny, that...the Ole Perfesser's relentless water carrying for this Adinistration have rendered his protestations -- and his opinions -- suspect in much the same way your own hackery has.

Posted by: Gregory on February 15, 2007 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

If the scientists are working for the government, the Iranian government, then killing them isn't terrorism. It might be war, but Iran has been engaging in acts of war against America for some time.

By the same token, Iran would therefore be perfectly justified in killing anyone working for the American government, from soldiers in the US military down to the lowliest postal clerk.

Posted by: Stefan on February 15, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

It might be war, but Iran has been engaging in acts of war against America for some time.

One wonders how one would describe the shooting down of a civilian aircraft by a military missile...

By the same token, Iran would therefore be perfectly justified in killing anyone working for the American government, from soldiers in the US military down to the lowliest postal clerk.

Good point, Stefan. Now consider the Administration's obvious seeking to find causus belli in the fact that some weapons in Iraq may be of Iranian origin. That rationale, of course, endorses and justifies the claim of some Islamist terrorists that the US' support and supply of Israel makes the US a legitimate target.

Why do these war advocates hate America?

Posted by: Gregory on February 15, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

From an article on lewrockwell.com by Anthony Gregory:
"...During the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, how many conservatives shrugged it off as nothing, seeing as how Saddam treated his people worse? How many don't care about U.S. chemical warfare on Iraqis, since Saddam gassed more?
Once there's a war, the standard is not individual life and liberty.
The new standard is the real and perceived evils of the enemy you're fighting.
And those evils, the war party never ceases to remind us, might as well be those of the Devil himself."

These words seem profound, given such casual war-mongering
talk we hear and read these days.
When I was younger we talked about giving peace a chance.
This crowd wants to give war a chance.

Posted by: consider wisely always on February 15, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, you are wrong. Reynolds didn't work for Gore in 2000. He claims he worked for him way back in 1988 (see this: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9580169/). By 2000 Reynolds was a Bushist.

Posted by: ex-liberal debunked on February 16, 2007 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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