Virtually everyone who has commented on the drone killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani premises their remarks with the idea that Suleimani was, as one MSNBC talking head put it, “a bad dude.” Even the critics of Trump’s action feel forced to mention that Suleimani deserved what he got, no matter the nature of their criticism, and experts have given many reasons to oppose the assassination: Trump didn’t consult Congress or allies and thus acted illegally; it will cause disruptions in markets; former presidents vetoed the assassination many times, it was “the wrong time”; or it will end up getting more Americans killed (not mentioning the deaths of non-Americans, since they don’t count for this administration or country).
But the basic premise—that Suleimani was a bad guy—is absolutely wrong. He was a good Moslem and an excellent general who remained loyal to all Iranian governments he served and stayed out of politics. If he were American, he would be the ideal general, as much of a poster boy as Dwight Eisenhower or Colin Powell. Funny, we should suddenly despise Suleimani as if he were Hitler and still worship Robert E. Lee, a much worse general than Suleimani in terms of meeting objectives who nonetheless caused much more harm to America and its interests.
Suleimani just happens to have been Iranian, not American. But he’s not a terrorist, although he certainly ordered that money and equipment be funneled to terrorists—maybe even as much money and equipment as the commanders in chief of Saudi Arabia, the United States or Russia have given to various and sundry nongovernmental paramilitary operations over the decades.
If Suleimani were a terrorist, it would be easy to justify taking him out with a drone. But he’s an official of a sovereign nation. Underscoring this point is the fact that he was replaced quickly, a sign that he was a cog in a relatively stable government, not someone so irreplaceable that killing him would prevent violence against the United States. Whatever Iran’s plans were before, the death of Suleimani will not change or slow them down.
Now if the United States were in a declared war with Iran, I would understand going after its leading general. But we are not at war, so our actions are barbarous. We have set a new global standard that no leader or general, and perhaps no elected official of any nation, is ever safe. All are fair game, not just for the United States, but for all sovereign nations.
Other nations realize the sheer barbarity of this assassination, which is why no other country outside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel has spoken up to approve it.
The United States has had its hand in assassinations of the high-ranking government officials of other nations before: Vietnam, Chile, Iran itself. These actions were never right in the past, they aren’t right now and they don’t make the Suleimani action right. Furthermore, they don’t even set a precedent for the Suleimani assassination, since in all the other cases, someone else did the dirty work and the result of the killing was regime change. Only in the most ridiculous fantasy could anyone imagine that killing the general of a modern army that follows government dictates would cause a nation to fall. And no one, not even the hawkish fantasist John Bolton, is predicting that result.
Thus the action was completely unprecedented, at least in recent American history.
Every week it seems we say that Trump has finally scraped the bottom of the barrel and cannot do anything more stupid, more venal, crueler or more hurtful to the future of mankind than what he just did. How many times have you heard or read, “He couldn’t possible go any lower?” We said it about his many decisions regarding immigrants, especially refugees. We said it when he walked away from the Iranian nuclear deal and the Paris Accord. About ending emission standards. The trade war fiasco. Threatening an ally in a war with an enemy with loss of aid unless the ally did a personal favor for Trump.
We now, I believe, are finally at the bottom.
Killing Suleimani was cruel, stupid and will likely lead to much more violence. To understand the greed factor, we have to remember that Trump is paying off business loans to Russia and Saudi Arabia with foreign policy decisions that help them, and killing Suleimani definitely smacks of something the Saudis would like done.
The only thing more dangerous to the United States and the rest of the world than openly killing someone like Suleimani with a drone would be if Trump authorized the dropping of a nuclear warhead. I once thought the armed forces would intervene and refuse to carry out the order to release a nuclear weapon on another country, perhaps take the Trumptster into custody. Now I understand that his orders will be followed and when he says drop the big one, it will happen.
The last time I was this frightened and felt so little in control of my life was as a five-year-old when I heard that the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik. Everyone said it meant that we might all perish in a nuclear war, and I believed them. Night after night, I tossed and turned sleeplessly in my bed until past midnight fearing for my life.
I’m that frightened again. And so should everyone else be.
If the Democrats could stop playing “Let’s see who can out-warmonger who,” they would realize that the act of killing Suleimani without first consulting Congress and our European allies was worthy of another impeachment trial and act accordingly. And if the Republicans would stop drooling over future tax cuts for the wealthy and the repeal of Roe v. Wade for a moment, they would see that they have to support impeachment and conviction before Trump sets off a nuclear conflagration.