February 15, 2008
Hezbollah blamed Israel for Tuesday’s car-bomb assassination of Imad Mugniyah, a commander blamed for planning attacks that killed hundreds of Americans and Israelis. He was one of the most-wanted men in both Israel and the U.S., but both nations denied involvement in the assassination. Speaking at Mugniyah’s funeral through a video link from his hiding place, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel, “Zionists, if you want this type of open war then let the whole world hear: let it be an open war.” (Reuters)
What the commentators said
Mugniyah’s death probably was “orchestrated” by Israel, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “We have our doubts” that the CIA “was up to this,” and Syria “could have arrested him if they really wanted” to curry favor with the U.S. Either way, Mugniyah was “the world’s most wanted and elusive terrorist,” after Osama bin Laden, and his death is “an unambiguous victory” in the “clandestine” war on terrorism.
Even if Israel did kill Mugniyah, said John Noonan in The Weekly Standard, it is “pure propaganda” to accuse it of breaking “some kind of ceasefire with this attack.” After all, “Hezbollah’s war against Israel never stopped.” The U.S. had a “vested interest in seeing this guy dead,” and if Israel did it for us, “we owe them a pat on the back.”
Mugniyah was certainly a “terrorist mastermind” with a “long rap sheet,” said the International Herald Tribune in an editorial. And while the “violent end” to his “obscene career” will “mean different things to different parties,” for “anyone who cherishes the sunlight of legal justice” it was emblematic of the “lawless netherworld where terrorists kill civilians and security services hunt the killers.” The “shadow world of terrorists and counterterrorists” doesn’t abide by “the rule of law”—there are “no rules of evidence, no presumption of innocence”—but that is why “the fight against terrorism must include a foreign policy” that does.
Well, “targeted killing” is better than the alternative, said Alan Dershowitz in The Huffington Post. Mugniyah was “by any reasonable definition” a “combatant who has declared war on the United States, Israel, France, and other countries.” That makes him a legitimate target “under the laws of war,” and certainly a “targeted killing is highly preferable to more conventional military means that have been employed over the centuries”—invasions and other attacks that kill lots of civilians. “So a hardy three cheers for whomever killed Imad Mugniyah. It was a good deed, a lawful deed and a life-saving deed.”
of The Week magazine.