Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why didn't Israel murder Adolf Eichmann and dump his body off the coast of Argentina?

To put the matter mildly, Israel is not a country known for its delicate sensibilities when it comes to dealing with enemies, be they real or perceived. In fact, The Middle East's Only Democracy™ is rather famous for its assorted assassinations.

While Osama bin Laden was no sweetheart, I think even the strongest defenders of his killing will freely admit that he did not play a key role in orchestrating the attempted destruction of the American people, so the man doesn't quite rise to Eichmann's standard, even if his evil was more showy than banal.

Eichmann, as the most important cog in the holocaust machinery still alive at that time, held great symbolic value. The Israeli government was deeply interested in showily "bringing him to justice," and it was willing to suspend legal norms to do so as evidenced by the operation to kidnap him from Argentina without the knowledge or consent of that country.

So far the parallels to the recent American operation in Pakistan are clear. A symbolic (but now quite harmless) enemy of the state is painstakingly and clandestinely hunted down in a neutral foreign country.

The methods by which, once found, bin Laden and Eichmann were "brought to justice" are, however, starkly divergent. One is tried and convicted in a very public manner. The other is shot in his bedclothes and dumped into the Arabian sea.

Cynics might argue that this is pedantic, that Eichmann's fate was sealed as surely as bin Laden's once he was in Israeli hands. The argument is surely credible. Israel put the holocaust itself on trial in the person of Eichmann, and they did so quite deliberately. After such a studious intertwining of man and event, they could scarcely spare their prisoner without at least partially acquitting the holocaust. No one dropped to the fainting couch when he received the first death sentence in Israeli history.

But, still. States can kill people in a variety of ways, and some betray more bloodthirsty savagery than others. The sheer lack of anything vaguely resembling adherence to any sort of legal norm in the bin Laden assassination is breathtaking not because the government killed a man without any form of due process. A quick perusal of history books (or newspapers) will reveal such murders to be common event.

No, the significance is not in the bloody act itself, but rather in the audacious, saccharine, savagely hypocritical moralizing in which the government and media have draped the whole affair. The President of the United States is now proudly and repeatedly on record that "justice" is two bullets in the head at his degree. He considers this to be undeniable evidence of our national greatness. He's sickeningly, struttingly proud of the whole thing.

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