Extremist Bush supporter calls for murder of scientists

As Bush supporters become more desperate to salvage their Middle East disaster, their proposals become more radical and dangerous.

Published February 13, 2007 2:35PM (EST)

(updated below)

Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot get any more depraved in what they advocate, they always prove you wrong. This is what University of Tennessee Law Professor and right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds said today about claims by the administration that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents (claims which, needless to say, he blindly believes):

This has been obvious for a long time anyway, and I don't understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs' expat business interests out of business, etc.

Basically, stepping on the Iranians' toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq. And we should have been doing this since the summer 2003. But as far as I can tell, we've done nothing along these lines.

Just think about how extremist and deranged that is. We are not even at war with Iran. Congress has not declared war or authorized military force against that country. Yet Reynolds thinks that the Bush administration, unilaterally, should send people to murder Iranian scientists and religious leaders -- just pick out whichever ones we don't like and slaughter them. No charges. No trial. No accountability. Just roving death squads deployed and commanded by our Leader, slaughtering whomever he wants dead.

To get a sense for how profoundly violative of our political and military traditions such proposals are, one can review this comprehensive report on the history of American law and foreign assassinations, authored by Nathan Canestaro, a member of the Afghanistan Task Force of the CIA (he also, ironically enough, graduated University of Tennessee School of Law). Every U.S. President since Gerald Ford -- including Ronald Reagan -- has either issued or left standing an Executive Order which expressly provides:

No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

Every administration, Democratic and Republican, have agreed that creating death squads and engaging in extra-judicial assassinations is so repugnant to our political values and so destructive to our moral credibility around the world that an absolute ban is necessary -- including at the height of the Cold War, as we battled the "evil empire" which had thousands of nuclear-tipped warheads pointed at numerous American cities.

As Canestaro notes, it was the U.S. which was the first country to formulate a legal code of military conduct for use by soldiers in wartime, and the first Order on assassinations was issued by Abraham Lincoln (General Order 100) in the midst of the Civil War. It provided:

The law of war does not allow proclaiming either an individual belonging to the hostile army, or a citizen, or a subject of the hostile government, an outlaw, who may be slain without trial by any captor, any more than the modern law of peace allows such international outlawry; on the contrary, it abhors such outrage. The sternest retaliation should follow the murder committed in consequence of such proclamation, made by whatever authority. Civilized nations look with horror upon offers of rewards for the assassination of enemies as relapses into barbarism.

Consistent with American tradition, international treaties, with virtual unanimity, deplore extra-judicial assassinations as the tools of savages and barbarians.

And what is most striking is that these anti-assassination prohibitions apply (a) to wartime and (b) even to foreign leaders of nations who are at war. But here, Reynolds is actually advocating that we murder scientists and religious figures who are "radical," whatever that might happen to mean in the unchecked mind of George Bush.

If we are to be a country that now sends death squads into nations with whom we are not at war to slaughter civilians -- scientists and religious figures -- what don't we do? American credibility in the world has fallen to literally unimaginable depths over the last six years, but it is critical to remember that with a President never to face the electorate again, many Bush supporters -- and certainly the White House itself -- are headed in the direction of increasingly extremist and bloodthirsty measures. And it is hard to overstate what a complete disregard they have -- really an intense contempt -- for the values that have long defined this country.

UPDATE: Evangelical Bush supporter and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt also favors Leader-ordered murders of Iranian civilians, as he chimes in to praise Reynolds' proposal. When it comes to killing in the Middle East and unrestrained power vested in the President, there is literally no limit -- none -- as to what this strain of Bush supporter will advocate. Their sole dissatisfaction with the President, as Reynolds says, is that he has been far too restrained in his approach to Muslim countries and Muslims generally.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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