When President Trump ordered the death of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani — by drone! — he set into motion many disparate things, most of which we won’t understand until they culminate.
Most distracting are the partisan elements who seek to paint this historical instance into a binary — a referendum on Trump. No doubt this will be an election issue, giving the anti-war left an actual act of war to posture against and the hawks on the right a rallying cry. But like a lot of big events, this one is complicated and is best viewed through the lens of the agnostic, independent voter.
First off: The Associated Press has ruled that we cannot call this strike an “assassination,” because if Gen. Soleimani was indeed initiating military action against the United States, as Trump’s team insists, then he’s fair game for a bullet. Of course, the GOP’s track record for honestly defending military action in the Middle East is less than stellar.
So assassination it is. Sorry, AP. Former Obama administration officials from both the State and Defense departments describe it as an assassination, and they hold a lot more credibility than Trump’s hacks.
One talking point pushed by the right labels Soleimani as a “terrorist” — which is technically true, but an arguable point. As a major general, Soleimani is a state agent whose actions bear the full weight of the sovereign nation that employs him. There is, in most people’s eyes, a distinction between a soldier and a terrorist.
But it was the Obama Administration, in 2011, that sanctioned Soleimani for human-rights abuses and, yes, “an act of international terrorism.” And it’s equally true that, as commander of the Iranian army’s elite Qud force, Soleimani is at least indirectly responsible for hundreds of American deaths.
So… not a great guy, but not such a clean hit either. However you slice it, Iran considers this an act of war, whatever that means these days.
Probably the most troubling aspect — besides the prospect of war with Iran — is the manner in which it all went down.
The New York Times reported that Pentagon advisors gave Trump several options to retaliate against Soleimani for attacks against Iraq, and were “stunned” when he decided to take the most extreme option — though it seems pretty much in character with this guy.
And then there’s this: Our president has been impeached in the House and awaits trial in the Senate, and he’s facing re-election this year. Perhaps his tiny hands should not be holding the instruments of war right now.