Dems respond to Soleimani killing


Gabrielle Leitner

Opinion Columnist Mohammed Rawwas discusses the recent assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the reactions from various Democratic presidential candidates. He says through his response, Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that he is the best choice for president.


The assassination of Qasem Soleimani on January 3 by the Trump administration had quite the revelatory effect on the Democratic primary; for once, it centered a discussion on foreign policy that is oft-ignored by the mainstream media towards presidential races and allowed us to focus on and compare the records of the various candidates running for president in the Democratic primary. Their respective statements that were released in reaction to the assassination is telling and can perhaps launch a greater discussion on the candidates’ foreign policy records, considering the Iowa caucus is fast-approaching.

The statements by Biden, Warren and Buttigieg all began with a clear condemnation of Soleimani, in a clear concession to the narrative that Trump is attempting to spin following the assassination. Yes, they claimed, Soleimani was a terrible person, one of the United States’ worst enemies, a terrorist who murdered hundreds of Americans and he certainly deserved to die, but we do have some concerns over the process with which it was carried out. Perhaps the President could have informed Congress before extrajudicially assassinating a foreign leader in another sovereign nation. Perhaps, rather than being so hasty, Trump could have thought about it a bit more before making a final decision.

This tepid criticism immediately fails, because it concedes the main point: Soleimani should have died, but we shouldn’t have killed him, is essentially what they are claiming; a stance so incoherent as to be laughable. And when Trump is boasting about killing an enemy of the U.S., conceding that Soleimani was the human incarnation of evil only bolsters his position. And to offer a mild process critique instead of a clear moral stance just makes that position seem weak. If Soleimani deserved to die, then Trump appears all the stronger for doing so, while the Democrats complain about process.

Let us examine the claims that Soleimani really was evil because he “murdered” hundreds of Americans. The reality is that the United States invaded Iraq, a sovereign nation, for no legitimate reason, under false pretenses, and that Iran stepped in to assist Iraq in defending its nation from a foreign invasion. It goes without saying that any death here is regrettable, but if you are really angered by the death of American troops, then you should blame George W. Bush for sending those soldiers to unnecessarily die overseas, not Iraq for defending its country or Iran for assisting Iraq in doing so. Furthermore, we never use the moralistic terminology of “murder” when discussing military conflicts that the U.S. is involved in. We don’t refer to U.S. soldiers or the generals commanding them as “murderers” when they kill people, even if they do so illegitimately, such as the case of Iraq. We most certainly would not call it “murdering” if a foreign nation invaded the United States and people defended their country by engaging the invaders. What Biden, Warren and Buttigieg cannot seem to fathom is that other countries have foreign policies, and foreign policy leaders in other countries may sometimes engage in military conflict. That doesn’t automatically make them murderers and terrorists.

Of course, there was one candidate that made a clear and unambiguous condemnation of extrajudicially assassinating the foreign policy leader of a sovereign nation while they were on a diplomatic mission, which was Bernie Sanders. Calling back to his own opposition to both Vietnam and Iraq, Sanders was the only major candidate resolute enough to offer a clear moral condemnation of Trump’s actions, declaring that he would do everything to stop a war with Iran. It should not be difficult to clearly state opposition to a dangerous escalation of conflict and to condemn acts that bring us closer to war, but in this political landscape apparently it is.

By comparing the records of the different candidates, the choice is clear. Joe Biden was instrumental in selling the American people on George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of Americans. Elizabeth Warren voted with Trump to renew sanctions on Iran, in violation of the Iran deal, leading to the escalation of tensions with Iran. Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of a small town and has no foreign policy record to speak of. Sanders is the only major candidate who has had a clear and consistent anti-war stance for decades, and has fought tirelessly to protect us from the ravaging effects of war. The Soleimani response is simply the last instance in this clear moral record.