Paul Greenberg

In another case of gross disregard for due process, a senior leader of Hezbollah was blown apart on a Damascus street last week without even a by-your-leave, let alone being read his Miranda rights.

Imad Mughniyeh's dossier may have been extensive, but he never got his day in court. Indeed, he seems to have done everything he could to avoid it. It's said he was unrecognizable even before last week's blast, having undergone plastic surgery more than once in order to avoid the kind of unpleasantness that finally did him in.

The notorious Mr. Mughniyeh met his end in K'far Soussa, a fashionable Damascus neighborhood, where he was said to have been visiting Iranian friends. (Syria is notably hospitable to foreigners, at least if they're supporting terrorists.)

From a humble peasant background, Imad Mughniyeh had risen to the top echelon of Hezbollah by dint of devoted service. His resume, aka rap sheet, goes back at least to 1983 and the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed more than 300. He's also been credited with the murder of 63 the same year in an attack on the American embassy there.

Imad Mughniyeh is said - mere hearsay again! - to have been behind the hijacking of a TWA jetliner that went on for 17 days and included the beating, torture and eventual murder of Petty Officer Robert Dean Stethem, U.S.N., who was singled out for special treatment. (At the time, Americans swore we would never forget him, but of course we pretty much did. Just as the memory of September 11, 2001, grows dim in the American memory, and those who recall it in this election year are dismissed as, yes, fearmongers.)

Space, and the shadowy nature of a career in terrorism, a crowded field these days, does not permit a comprehensive review of the exploits attributed to the sanguinary Mr. Mughniyeh, or a full account of the blood debt he ran up. Suffice it to say that more than one intelligence agency had a powerful incentive to collect it.

As head of Islamic Jihad in Lebanon during the chaotic 1980s, the tireless Mr. Mughniyeh supervised the kidnapping of dozens of Americans and other Westerners for ransom. But a man's got to make a living, doesn't he?


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.