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Another Accountability Moment

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The news passed almost without notice. Yesterday, Zalmay Khalilzad reported that a resolution would soon be introduced in the Security Council to create a special tribunal to judge the killers of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, dead in a massive car bombing in 2005. An impressive investigation, led by a German prosecutor, found solid evidence linking the Hariri assassination to officers of the Syrian state security service, and the obvious lingering question is what role Syrian President Assad played in the deed. I strongly support the notion of taking action that gives meaning to the conclusions of the German prosecutor. Indeed, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, a figure of otherwise almost astonishing mediocrity and silence, hits precisely the right note when he says: “I am of the view that there should be no impunity for the perpetrators of political assassinations.”

But does it not strike anyone as strange that the Bush Administration, which has openly embraced a strategy of more aggressive techniques–almost certainly including targeted assassinations–would push the issue with such a heavy hand? The administration has established the notion of impunity as its very hallmark. It violates the Geneva and Hague Conventions and flouts the nation’s own traditions continuously, and when charges are leveled, it offers the same consistent answer: we have immunity. It seems clear at this point that in the selection and appointment of federal judges, one consideration has taken precedence before even abortion, and that is impunity for the Bush Administration.

Yes, by all means, let’s support a special tribunal to look into acts of political assassination. Let’s include a smidgen of fairness in the process: let’s give it authority to address cases of political assassination which have occurred anywhere in the Middle East, and let’s declare that the United States will not shield its own political leadership from scrutiny in the press. The Syrian assassins of Prime Minister Hariri should be held to account, and there should be some senior figures from other governments in the dock right beside them.

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