The image of an assassin standing over the dying body of Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov is a shocking one — but not a surprising one.
As Vladimir Putin’s man in Turkey, Karlov was the public face of that murderous dictator’s war crimes around the globe and of oppression at home. Andrei Karlov is the human embodiment of policies that deployed bunker busters to kill babies, sent fighter planes on scorched earth bombing runs that destroyed a whole city, aided Syrian madman Bashar al-Assad in his campaign that has killed hundreds of thousands, and even ordered attacks on UN aid workers.
So I, for one, am shedding no tears for Andrei Karlov. Frankly, I’m surprised his murder didn’t come months ago. After all, this was the lede sentences of a Washington Post story from Oct. 9: “There seems to be no way for the international community to stop the ongoing war crimes being committed by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies, especially in Aleppo,” the newspaper reported. “But by brazenly flouting international law, leaders and rank-and-file officials in both countries are opening themselves up to future justice in multiple ways.”
Justice has been served.
After watching the death of Karlov, I could not help but remember the case of Ernst vom Rath, the Nazi ambassador to France, who was gunned down inside his consulate by a Jewish student in 1938.
Like Karlov, Rath was the public face of atrocity — in this case, Adolf Hitler’s genocide, anti-Semitism and coming global aggression.
That era’s politicians fiddled while Hitler burned down Europe, so it took a nobody named Herschel Grynszpan to stand up for freedom and make a powerful statement that evil must be fought whether in a conference room or on a battlefield.
Was Rath an innocent victim? Certainly not. He had not only defended Hitler’s oppression of the Jews as “necessary” for Germany to flourish, but he stood idly by as Hitler devoured Europe and murdered its innocents. Rath could have stood up to the Nazi leadership when it would have mattered most, but he did not.
Which brings us back to Andrei Karlov.
Karlov’s job in Turkey was to ease tensions over Russia’s atrocities in Syria and its incursions inside Turkey itself — meaning his job was to enable and normalize Vladimir Putin. Given that role, he wasn’t a diplomat, but a soldier, and his death is the same whether it came on a battlefield outside Aleppo or in an art gallery in Ankara. His killer was also a soldier — not a terrorist, mind you, but a soldier. Terrorists kill innocent people with trucks in Christmas markets or with planes in skyscrapers. Soldiers kill their fellow soldiers.
Will history vindicate Mevlut Mert Altintas, Karlov’s assassin? That’s for history to judge. But it has vindicated Grynszpan — and, indeed, vindicated others who have fought against aggression and fought for freedom.