Depends on who does the killing

A guest post by Alan Melkman

Just over a year ago it was alleged that a top Hamas commander was murdered in his Dubai hotel room by injection of a drug that caused a heart attack. The Israelis were blamed and roundly condemned for this so-called ‘extra judicial’ killing. Britain in particular was so incensed that when the Dubai government, which has a world-wide reputation for absolute honesty, never having told a ‘porky, ever, evidenced that the alleged murderers might have used fake British passports. So outraged were they that the holier than thou foreign office carpeted the Israeli ambassador and expelled a senior Israeli diplomat.

David Milliband, former British Foreign Secretary said, “The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called targeted assassinations of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive.” He was not alone.  

The French foreign ministry declared that extrajudicial executions contravene international law and are unacceptable.” The Italian Foreign Minister said, “Italy, like the whole of the European Union, has always condemned the practice of targeted assassinations.” The Russians asserted that “Russia has repeatedly stressed the unacceptability of extrajudicial settling of scores and ‘targeted killings.” Javier Solana noted that “the European Union has consistently condemned extrajudicial killings.” The Jordanians said, “Jordan has always denounced this policy of assassination and its position on this has always been clear.” And Kofi Annan has declared that “extrajudicial killings are violations of international law.”

You may have missed it but one, Osama Bin Laden, has just been terminated, or is it assassinated or is it murdered by a gang of US toughies.

Fortunately, they didn’t have forged passports to get into Pakistan, or probably no passports at all, since they didn’t need any. They just entered illegally and then executed the bugger. Not in cold blood you understand, he resisted arrest!  But now that ‘extra judicial’ killing has been used against an enemy of Britain, France, Italy and other European nations, the tune has changed.  Suddenly targeted killing is not only legal and moral, it is praiseworthy (except, of course, to Hamas, which immediately condemned the US killing of Bin Laden).

Well the truth is that when used properly, targeted killing has always been deserving of approval—even when employed by Israel, a nation against which a double standard always seems to be applied.  Indeed, in Israel, the use of targeted killings has been closely regulated by its Supreme Court and permitted only against terrorists who are actively engaged in ongoing acts of terrorism.  In the United States, on the other hand, the decisions to use this tactic is made by the President alone, without any form of judicial review.

So let the world stop applying a double standard to Israel and let it start judging the merits and demerits of military tactics such as targeted killing. On balance, targeted killing, when used prudently against proper military targets, can be an effective, lawful and, yes, moral tool in the war against terrorism.

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