After Trump’s assassination of Qassem Suleimani, I read the prepared remarks of the Democratic presidential candidates. Most of the candidates began with something to the effect that Suleimani was an evil guy who had American blood on his hands and, thus, deserved what he got. As Leland Nally noted in a recent opinion piece in the Burlington County Times:
Virtually all of the Democratic contenders for the presidency have prefaced their statements on Suleimani with some version of “Let’s be clear, Suleimani was indeed a bloodthirsty terrorist.”
Joe Biden said that Suleimani “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region.” Elizabeth Warren said that Suleimani “was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.” Pete Buttigieg said “there is no question that Qassem Suleimani was a threat to that safety and security, and that he masterminded threats and attacks on Americans and our allies.” Then they proceeded to question whether Trump had carefully thought through the consequences of the assassination and warned about the dangers of going to war with Iran.
How lame can you get? It’s like they were hedging their bets. On the one hand, they were giddy about killing one of the bad guys. While, on the other hand, they were careful not to be too giddy just in case things escalate to the point where Iran hits back hard and kills and maims lots of Americans.
Amazingly, Biden, Warren and Buttigieg all seem to miss the point, which is… “What in the heck are we still doing in Iraq in the first place?” Not to mention Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. After more than two decades of fiddling around in a region we do not understand, behaving like a bull in a china shop and continually lying to the American public about our accomplishments and progress there, you would think that Biden, Warren and Buttigieg would be able to focus on the broader picture at stake.
That Biden, Warren and Buttigieg chose to qualify their responses to the assassination of Suleimani as they did exposes the blinders they have on and suggests that all we would get with a Biden or a Warren or a Buttigieg presidency would be another awkward bull.
The response from Bernie Sanders was different. Sanders noted that “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars. Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.” More importantly, he added:
We must do more than just stop war with Iran. We must firmly commit to ending U.S. military presence in the Middle East in an orderly manner. We must end our involvement in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. We must bring our troops home from Afghanistan.
Now, that’s what I’m talking about. That represents a paradigm shift. Biden, Warren and Buttigieg? They’re just trying to re-arrange the pieces on the chess board. Andrew Yang appears to share Bernie’s sentiments.
Tulsi Gabbard? Well, it’s no surprise that her response has been, by far, the most unabashed and comprehensive. Unlike some of the other candidates, Tulsi did not mince words. Not her style.
Here’s what she said…
[Trump’s order to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani] was very clearly an act of war by this president without any kind of authorization or declaration of war from Congress, clearly violating the Constitution. It further escalates this tit-for-tat that’s going on and on and on, will elicit a very serious response from Iran and [push] us deeper and deeper into this quagmire. And it really begs the question, for what? I’ve said for a long time that going to war with Iran would make the war in Iraq and even Afghanistan look like a picnic. There has been no declaration of war against Iran, and I think that’s a really important point.
Four takeaways. First, the assassination was an act of war. Second, it was illegal because it was not authorized by Congress. Third, it’s a war that will not end well for the US. Finally… What is the mission, the end goal? What does the US seek to accomplish by killing a lot of Iranians and sacrificing a fair amount of American lives and treasure while pushing Iran even harder to become a nuclear power??
Tulsi subsequently reiterated her initial comments…
Trump’s actions last night in bombing the Baghdad airport with the targeted killing of Iran’s top military general was an act of war—with no authorization or declaration of war from Congress. He has put us in a state of war with Iran and seriously escalated this tat for tat conflict, pushing us deeper into an endless quagmire. So the question is: What’s the end goal? What are we trying to achieve here?
Then she ended with her pièce de résistance, her fifth and last point…
We need to get out of Iraq and Syria now. That is the only way that we’re going to prevent ourselves from being dragged into this quagmire, deeper and deeper into a war with Iran. … How many more American lives, how many more trillions of dollars will be wasted before we exit? It could be now, or it could be 10 or 20 years from now, but there is no American victory. Trump’s policies are short-sighted, damaging and undermining our national security. We need to get out of Iraq and Syria. Bring our troops home.
There is no nuance to what Tulsi advocates. It’s black and white. As Leland Nally observed in his piece, Tulsi “made no attempt to soften the edges of [her] anti-war stance by first justifying the Pentagon’s depiction of Suleimani.” And why should she. No purity test is required here. So what if Suleimani is a bad guy? Does anyone really believe that we Americans are universally perceived and loved as the good guys?
That debate is a ruse. It distracts from the more fundamental issue of US military adventurism around the world in pursuit of regime change and nation building experiments that, overall, do not make the US more secure or save those who we’d like to think we’re saving.