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March 23, 2004
Telegraph Can't See Past the Wheelchair

A foolish and ignorant editorial in the normally sensible London Telegraph had me seeing red, and led to a sharp exchange at NRO's The Corner, where they're having trouble analogizing Sheik Yassin. The Corner's Andrew Stuttaford posted this quote with the admonition that the US needed to be saying the same thing:

Whatever Yassin's death was meant to achieve, its symbolism is disastrous for Israel. Did Mr Sharon and his advisers consider how the spectacle of helicopter gunships rocketing an old man in a wheelchair outside his mosque would appear to the world? Did they intend to turn this merchant of death into a victim - the Palestinian equivalent of Leon Klinghoffer?

Of course, this equation of Yassin with Klinghoffer is nothing less than repulsive. Just to remind everyone, Leon Klinghoffer was executed by Palestinian terrorists (aligned with Yassin, if not working directly with him) in the 1980s while taking a cruise in the Mediterranean. He was shot in the head and dumped overboard in front of his wife for no good reason other than his Jewishness. As far as is known, Klinghoffer headed no organization, ordered no mass murders, sent no one to commit suicide bombings; he just wanted to enjoy his retirement. Oh, and one other item: he was confined to a wheelchair.

Yassin, on the other hand, ordered the killings of hundreds of men, women, and children, the maiming of thousands more, and despite the odd eulogies that he's received in the past couple of days, was one of the most radical and bloodthirsty clerics in a region where that's saying something. He preached hate and genocide and did his best to put both into practice. He died in the same manner as his hundreds of victims, although he certainly had a lot more to do with his status as a target than any of his victims did.

Oh, yeah, and he was confined to a wheelchair.

Jonah Goldberg, in a later post, notes his disagreement with Stuttaford:

But if you think it's "well put" or a good idea to compare Yassin to Leon Klinghoffer I think you're way, way, off base. I would very much like to know how that comparison is well put. Klinghoffer was nothing more than an old Jewish man on a cruise. Sheik Yassin was the mastermind of vicious mass-murder. Is there something -- anything -- beyond the apparatus of a wheel chair that makes you think that the two men are similar? If Osama Bin Laden is in a wheelchair when we bomb him, would he be like Leon Klinghoffer too when we kill him? If Stalin was in a wheelchair, does that make him an innocent victim? What strange alchemy does a wheel chair work on a man's soul to absolve him of his crimes?

Unfortunately, it's not the only repulsive analogy at The Corner today. Goldberg, despite his response to Stuttaford, for some reason couldn't resist putting in a reader response comparing Yassin to Jesus Christ:

To suggest (no, to claim) that if we can create a democracy in Iraq that will eliminate the reason people in that region support terrorism against us is completely absurd. Did not the Irish in democratic America support the IRA terrorists? Do not the Jews in democratic America (not to mention a lot of non-Jews) support the thuggish tactics of Ariel Sharon (I mean, assassinating the leader of Hamas - that is almost like killing Jesus Christ.)

No, it is most decidedly not like killing Jesus Christ. Perhaps you can make an argument that killing Yassin turned him into a martyr, a role he sought, but to make that analogy is to imply that Yassin was some sort of sacrificial lamb, an innocent slaughtered for the sins of others. Yassin died for his own sins and those that he inspired through his sermons and his direction.

The usually sane and rational folks at The Corner seem to be sipping from the internationalist Kool-Aid this afternoon. I would suggest them getting a king-sized grip on reality and quit fantasizing about the legacy of a bloodthirsty murderer little different from Osama bin Laden except in his ambulatory state.

UPDATE: Stuttaford tries to explain the Telegraph's point and his own, and only digs his hole deeper:

What he is saying, and saying quite clearly, is that the particular circumstances of Yassin's death will allow him to be portrayed, however unfairly, as a Klinghoffer. He and, it should go without saying, I, obviously think that such a comparison is ridiculous - and offensive. The fact that people have now been given the opportunity to make it and, effectively, to thereby try and turn a monster into a "martyr" is further evidence that Sharon may well have made a major mistake. And that, not Yassin's death, is the tragedy.

So what? Using that logic, we can't ever go after leaders of terrorist organizations. That same logical argument could be used if we blew up Osama bin Laden, who is revered throughout the radical Arab world as a hero. His death might motivate thousands of them to join up. But all that means is that we will need to continue to kill the command and control personnel for these organizations, which is exactly what Israel plans on doing. Anything else is a surrender to the maniacs.

Quite simply, I don't give a damn what martyrs they choose to celebrate; they're celebrating murders of women and children regardless. To shy away from taking out the terrorist leaders because their death might make the terrorists madder is a ludicrous position to take. It's a surrender, and it's just a continuation of the defeatist attitudes that brought us 9/11 and brings Israel suicide bombers by the score.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 23, 2004 5:29 PM

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