More murder of Iranian scientists: still terrorism?

By Glenn Greenwald
Jan. 11, 2012

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”...

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