Several noteworthy items until later today:
(1) Back in January, I wrote about an Iranian nuclear scientist who was killed when "when a bomb strapped to a motorcycle was triggered by remote control outside his home in the northern Tehran neighbourhood of Qeytariyeh." Today, two more were targeted in a similar manner, and one was killed:
Unidentified assailants riding motorcycles launched bomb attacks early on Monday against two Iranian nuclear physicists here, killing one of them and prompting accusations that the United States and Israel were behind the episode, state-controlled media reports said.
The dead scientist was identified as Majid Shahriari, a physics professor at Shahid Beheshti University in northern Tehran, whose wife was injured when a bomb attached to his car was detonated remotely. A second professor at the same university, Fereydoon Abbasi, was injured in a separate, simultaneous attack. His wife was also hurt.
The Iranian Government blamed the U.S. and Israel for these attacks, though it has presented no evidence for those accusations. Back in 2007 -- when a Republican was President -- law professor Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds created substantial controversy among progressive pundits when he advocated that the U.S. begin assassinating Iran's nuclear scientists. In response, Kevin Drum explained why doing so would be a classic case of "terrorism":
The killing civilian scientists and civilian leaders, even if you do it quietly, is unquestionably terrorism. That's certainly what we'd consider it if Hezbollah fighters tried to kill cabinet undersecretaries and planted bombs at the homes of Los Alamos engineers. What's more, if we took this tack against Iran, we'd be doing it for the same reason that terrorists target us: because it's a more effective, more winnable tactic than conventional war.
Does anyone doubt that whoever is responsible for the murders of these Iranian nuclear scientists are Terrorists in the purest sense of the word?
(2) McClatchy's Nancy A. Youssef documents how prior claims by the U.S. government that WikiLeaks disclosures would endanger lives turned out to be pure fiction:
American officials in recent days have warned repeatedly that the release of documents by WikiLeaks could put people's lives in danger.
But despite similar warnings ahead of the previous two massive releases of classified U.S. intelligence reports by the website, U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone's death. . . .
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said previously that there was no evidence that anyone had been killed because of the leaks. Sunday, another Pentagon official told McClatchy that the military still has no evidence that the leaks have led to any deaths.
Will that prevent media figures and many other people from running around this week mindlessly parroting the Government's claim -- without pointing to any specifics or other evidence -- that WikiLeaks has endangered lives with this latest release? No, it will not. Beyond specific disclosures, WikiLeaks' true crime here is to strike a major blow against the U.S. Government's authority generally and secrecy powers in particular; how one views the American Government's behavior in the world is likely to determine one's reaction to WikiLeaks (i.e., is it a good thing or a bad thing when America's attempted power projection in the world is subverted and its ability to act in the dark undermined?). Ultimately, WikiLeaks' real goal appears to me to be anti-authoritarian at its core: to prevent the world's most powerful factions from operating in the dark. There may be reasonable objections to this latest release -- such as the fact that war becomes more likely if diplomacy is undermined -- but I'd argue that one's views in general of WikiLeaks is shaped primarily by one's views of the legitimacy and justness of those authorities.
John Cole notes an added irony of the furor over this latest disclosure: "I have a hard time getting worked up about it - a government that views none of my personal correspondence as confidential really can’t bitch when this sort of thing happens." Note how quickly the "if-you've-done-nothing-wrong-then-you-have-nothing-to-hide" mentality disappears when it's their privacy and communications being invaded rather than yours.
I'd note an added irony: many of the same people who supported the invasion of Iraq and/or who support the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes and assassination programs -- on the ground that the massive civilians deaths which result are justifiable "collateral damage" -- are those objecting most vehemently to WikiLeaks' disclosure on the ground that it may lead to the death of innocent people. For them, the moral framework suddenly becomes that if an act causes the deaths of any innocent person, that is proof that it is not only unjustifiable but morally repellent regardless of what it achieves. How glaringly selective is their alleged belief in that moral framework.
Either way, McClatchy describes how WikiLeaks took great pains to redact information harmful to innocents. Claims that WikiLeaks has endangered lives should be accompanied by specific disclosures and evidence of that harm before being considered credible.
(3) Related to all of that, Ross Douthat has quite a good column in The New York Times today about what he calls "The Partisan Mind." He describes, in the context of the TSA controversy, how the whole world would be different if Bush rather than Obama were still President:
Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been president when the Transportation Security Administration decided to let Thanksgiving travelers choose between exposing their nether regions to a body scanner or enduring a private security massage. Democrats would have been outraged at yet another Bush-era assault on civil liberties. Liberal pundits would have outdone one another comparing the T.S.A. to this or that police state. (“In an outrage worthy of Enver Hoxha’s Albania ...”) And Republicans would have leaped to the Bush administration’s defense, while accusing liberals of going soft on terrorism.
But Barack Obama is our president instead, so the body-scanner debate played out rather differently. True, some conservatives invoked 9/11 to defend the T.S.A., and some liberals denounced the measures as an affront to American liberties. Such ideological consistency, though, was the exception; mostly, the Bush-era script was read in reverse. It was the populist right that raged against body scans, and the Republican Party that moved briskly to exploit the furor. It was a Democratic administration that labored to justify the intrusive procedures, and the liberal commentariat that leaped to their defense.
This role reversal is a case study in the awesome power of the partisan mindset.
Indeed it is. As Douthat notes, this extreme intellectual dishonesty can be seen again and again with a variety of issues:
But because a Republican was president instead [after 9/11], conservative partisans suppressed their libertarian impulses and accepted the logic of an open-ended war on terror, while Democratic partisans took turns accusing the Bush administration of shredding the Constitution.
Now that a Democrat is in the White House, the pendulum is swinging back. In 2006, Gallup asked the public whether the government posed an “immediate threat” to Americans. Only 21 percent of Republicans agreed, versus 57 percent of Democrats. In 2010, they asked again. This time, 21 percent of Democrats said yes, compared with 66 percent of Republicans.
In other words, millions of liberals can live with indefinite detention for accused terrorists and intimate body scans for everyone else, so long as a Democrat is overseeing them. And millions of conservatives find wartime security measures vastly more frightening when they’re pushed by Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano (as the Drudge Report calls her) rather than a Republican like Tom Ridge.
The one objection I have to this is that liberals in general have been far more willing to criticize Obama's excesses than conservatives -- certainly the dominant Fox News/right-wing-talk-radio faction -- were for Bush. But other than that, what Douthat describes is exactly true, and it is one of the most destructive toxins in our political discourse.
(4) Kudos to Nation's Editor-in-Chief Katrina vanden Heuvel for her straightforward, succinct and largely unqualified "Apology to John Tyner" for the baseless smear on him in that magazine by Mark Ames and Yasha Levine. That was an example where most liberal writers and journalists overwhelmingly condemned their "own side", something seen very rarely among the dominant lockstep factions of the Right.