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December 27, 2007
We all have one in our pockets these days: our fistful of assassination memories. With today's sudden, violent death of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country, we add one more today.

There have been so many -- not only in that part of the world, but everywhere. We focus on them with urgency when they occur, diverted from our day-to-day and very local concerns, sudden citizens of the world. We shake our heads at the fatal relationships, remember that other family members of the dead have died the same way. And not just many Bhuttos, but many Gandhis, many Kennedys, many Kings: two counts as "many" when we think of these powerful families, and we are apt to see a pair as an unmistakable trend. So certain are we of the fatefulness of these people's violent deaths that we find it difficult to credit any other kind of exit from the world for them: when John Kennedy the younger piloted his Piper Saratoga into the sea a few years ago, more than a few people were positive that the plane had been sabotaged by an enemy.

A faraway assassination: how does it affect us? The Dow plunged more than a hundred points today, although analysts assure us that this was in response to more bad sub-prime lending news, not to the former prime minister's murder. But who can say? Sometimes money knows of our interrelatedness before we know of it, and a vacuum at the top of the largest opposition party in a country upon which the United States has come to rely so heavily in its deeply flawed war on terror may leave people who do not wish us well at all in positions of greater power there. Whatever the future holds, today's assassination cannot help. Ms. Bhutto is already being called a martyr, and she certainly is that: she has given her life for her cause. Whether or not one thinks it is a cause which should prevail, she is now a martyr for it.

We know that the person who died killing her -- and at least fifteen other people, injuring even more -- also considered himself a martyr. This is a claim we must reject. Because a suicide bomber isn't a martyr: he is just a murderer. A real martyr doesn't take other people with him.
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