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Iran’s Nuclear Scientists are not being Assassinated. They are Being Murdered January 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iran, War on Terror.
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Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

Killing our Enemies Abroad is Just State-sponsored Terror – Whatever Euphemism Western Leaders Like to Use

  by  Mehdi Hasan

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

© 2012 The Guardian



Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman and a former news and current affairs editor at Channel 4. His New Statesman blog is here


Quakers involved in aiding U.S. War Resisters in Canada December 10, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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By Dave Grossman and Pat Moauro

War resisters Kim Rivera and Chris Vassey spoke frankly in London Nov. 26 about their experiences while serving with U.S. military forces, and their disillusionment with the effects those military actions were having on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kim, a young mother of three who served in Iraq, and Chris, who served in an airborne army unit in Afghanistan, spoke to about 40 people in the Wemple Lounge at King’s University College after the showing of a video, War Resisters Speak Out.

The 55-minute video included Andy Barrie, host of CBC Radio 99.1’s Metro Morning, and former U.S. draft dodger from the Vietnam War, interviewing a panel of 15 War Resisters. Included on the panel in the video were Kim Rivera and Jeremy Hinzman, who attends Toronto Monthly Meeting.

Despite the seriousness of the topic, Kim Rivera, 27, displayed a sense of humour, smiling warmly as she engaged in lively conversation with us. For a “battle-hardened” military person, she also exhibits a humility that few would notice, unless you heard her speak at length. As we chatted with her after her talk to the group, she recounted how nervous she was last week while introducing and sitting next to Malalai Joya (the Afghan woman MP who was banned from her parliament post).

This peace circle that some of us are involved in really is a small one – Ottawa Quakers were preparing last weekend to billet Joya – click here and here to see how this comes full circle with accusations in the testimony of Richard Colvin against Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay and former Chief of the Defence Staff, Rick Hillier.

Kim Rivera said that if she had not gone through the Iraq-and-to Canada-routine, she probably wouldn’t have experienced the peace in her heart that she now enjoys. She would have just been one of those “we’re-number-one-and-we-deserve-everything-Americans”.

Assigned to a U.S. army artillery unit and sent to Iraq in 2006, Kim changed her views and feelings about fighting there, especially after seeing the effects the war was having on the Iraqi civilians. In early 2007, while on leave, she and her husband and their two young children (they have since had a third) drove north from their Texas home and crossed the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.


Chris Vassey’s story is a littledifferent. Born and raised in New Jersey, he joined the U.S. army right after his 17th birthday. Now 23, he has already put in five years as a soldier and member of the 82nd Airborne Division, jumping out of planes and doing reconnaissance work. He was destined to becom an officer but decided he wanted to be a private first, so he could understand what they have to go through.

Instead of going to Iraq, he went to Afghanistan. But he knows full well the horrors that Joya talks about; he was similarly horrified by war and could not in conscience stay in the military. So, in August, 2008, he came to Canada to join his fellow War Resisters.

In his comments at the Nov. 26 meeting, Chris shared some insights into the lack of empathy and compassion displayed by some American soldiers he served with in Afghanistan. I (Dave) won’t share those reflections with you (unless you ask). His comments about fellow soldiers took my breath away, forcing me to look down and sigh.

Chris is intelligent and articulate, as he relates his military experiences and how he became disillusioned with his country’s involvement in Afghanistan. While he’s learning construction on the job, he foresees being sent back to the U.S., convicted in a military court and having a lifelong record that will blacklist him from most jobs, thus making his construction experience come in handy.

Chris, Kim and other War Resisters seeking refuge in Canada said they are concerned about being sent back to the U.S. If Canada refuses to allow them to stay here, the War Resisters could face a military court martial and be sentenced to at least one year in jail. Such a conviction would wreck havoc with their future.

The London War Resisters Support Group sponsored the meeting with Kim and Chris at King’s College. David Heap, a professor of French and linguistics at the University of Western Ontario, introduced the video and Kim and Chris. Prof. Heap said some War Resisters are able to stay in Canada because they have been sponsored by a spouse. Many others, however, are “staring down removal” from Canada and being returned to the U.S.

Upwards of 70 U.S. War Resisters are in the public eye, but “a lot of them are underground,” he said, adding that an estimated 300 to 500, or possibly more, are currently in Canada. Prof. Heap noted that a majority of Canadians – an estimated 65% – are in favour of allowing the U.S. War Resisters to remain in Canada. “The (Canadian) government is out of step on this one.”


Dave Grossman is a member of Yarmouth Monthly Meeting. Pat Moauro is a member of Coldstream Monthly Meeting and editor/publisher of an electronic newsletter, Quaker Gleanings.