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Murdering American Civilians In Fallujah As Revenge For Yassin
          The Criminality Of Terrorist "Retaliations"




3 April 2004

By Louis Rene Beres


      A previously unknown Islamic terror group has claimed the murder and mutilation of four American civilian contractors in western Iraq as revenge for Israel's prior assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "This is a gift from the people of Fallujah to the people of Palestine and the family of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by the criminal Zionists," read the statement from the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin.

Leaving aside the authenticity of this claim, it is vital to understand that there can never be any legal or moral equivalence between permissible acts of anticipatory self-defense against a leading terrorist and the dismemberment, celebration, burning and hanging of noncombatants carrying food supplies.

The fact that various Arab/Islamic terror groups see no difference between such expressions of force - indeed, that they openly subordinate the most evident civilizational limits of humanitarian
international law to the primal pleasures of random slaughter only reveals just how dangerous and dastardly these groups have now become.
     
By definition, terrorists are criminal under international law. They do not have any rights of "retaliation." When a police officer shoots a fleeing murderer to protect human life, that action is not comparable to the murderer's prior criminality.

The latter is an obvious instance of law- violation, one that must be circumscribed and punished. The former is an obvious example of law-enforcement, one that is indispensable to providing
public order and security. The fact that both instances involve the use of force does not make them the same. They are not merely different actions from the standpoint of legality; they are diametric opposites.
   

The leaders of Hamas and its sister terrorist groups, which may now include the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin, always urge "retaliation" for Israel's indispensable self-defense policy of targeted killings - a policy now obviously followed and codified by the United States as well.

With such misuse of language, the terrorists and their sympathizers acknowledge no legal difference between the essential use of force by states to protect against terrorism and the steadily escalating terror-violence that inevitably elicits such force. Recently the frenzied Hamas cries for Jewish and "Crusader" blood have been formalized in a widely-circulated deck of cards containing the pictures of Israel 's democratically-elected leaders. In a grotesque parody of the current American program to identify most-wanted Iraqi war criminals (criminals who are enormously popular heroes to Hamas and to other Palestinian terror organizations), these cards seek nothing less than to equate law-breaking with law-enforcement.     

Normally assassination is a crime under international law, by whomever it is committed. There are occasions, however, where assassination may actually be permissible. One such case is counter-terrorism, so long as the state-run assassination is directed only at the target terrorist and not at surrounding innocents.

By definition, on the other hand, assassination BY terrorists of a state official is always murder. It is true that in certain extremely rare circumstances assassination of a public official by insurgent forces could be construed as law-enforcing - circumstances that are called "tyrannicide" in political philosophy and jurisprudence - but surely not in the circumstances of Hamas vs. Israel and the United States .

Here, Palestinian forces have repeatedly declined diplomatic methods of conflict resolution while simultaneously murdering the most fragile noncombatants with intentionality and cruelty.
     
To better understand this point, let us consider an eye-opening and altogether plausible scenario. In addition to Operation Iraqi Freedom and its associated plan to kill or capture leading Iraqi war criminals, the United States is now also conducting various other military operations in reprisal for the acts of terror of September 11th.

An explicit major objective in these operations is the killing of Bin Laden himself. If these operations succeed, and Bin Laden is "removed," al Qaeda agents might then be expected to plan the murder of an American high official, say Secretary of State Colin Powell. If, following such a murder, the United States were to respond with purposeful targeted assassinations, would any civilized person see "equivalence" in these reciprocal killings?

Rather, wouldn't it be perfectly clear that the violence by al Qaeda was entirely criminal while violence by the United States was entirely law-enforcing?
     
Israel has been conducting necessary operations for many long and painful years against Palestinian terrorists. A major objective in these operations has been the "targeted killing" of criminals who plan attacks on Israeli women and children in buses, nursery schools, and family
restaurants.

Whenever Israel, in the most controlled and precise manner possible, targets the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, Hamas and its fellow "freedom fighters" initiate yet another spasm of utterly indiscriminate murders. There is a "cycle of violence," to be sure, yet there is anything but equivalence.
     
Impatient with all civilized limits, Hamas and its terrorist group associates now seek not only to reinvent language, but also to transform violation into punishment. This transformation, which unhesitatingly replaces law with vengeance, threatens to sacrifice ever-larger numbers of defenseless Israelis and Americans in the relentlessly desperate "martyr's" search for immortality.

Only a vast collective Jewish and American agony defines the Hamas idea of justice, an idea that handily masks genocide as "retaliation," but no amount of linguistic manipulations can turn crime into law.

No cause on this green earth can ever justify the jubilant maiming, disembowelment, charring and murder of children on an Israeli schoolbus or adult American civilian contractors delivering food in Iraq, and no terrorist public relations campaign - no matter how slick and well-funded from Saudi Arabia or even parts of Europe - can ever succeed in portraying monstrous defilement as sacred goodness. 
     
     

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is the author of many books and articles on international law.

 

 

 

 

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