Was President Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the world’s leading Islamic terrorist, a bold, courageous act that saved American lives, or a reckless error born of ignorance? Even worse, could it have been a Machiavellian scheme to undermine his impeachment and get reelected?
Within hours after news broke of the fatal drone strike, some leading Democrats were already intimating that Trump’s timing was more than questionable. Other Democrats weren’t intimating — they flat out accused the president of orchestrating Soleimani’s killing for political gain. Many of the accusations were loaded with the same terms written into the articles of impeachment.
Soleimani, widely considered to be the second most powerful man in Iran, was killed by a Predator Drone that targeted his convoy as it left the Baghdad International Airport early Friday.
President Trump said he ordered the strike because fresh intelligence showed that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks against Americans and U.S. assets in the Middle East.
Given the certain, furious retaliation from Iran, debating whether killing Soleimani was the right call is fair game. Democrats have long slammed the president’s Iran policy as lacking logic and clarity. But it’s fair to say we now know what President Trump’s redline is: killing Americans.
The president did not retaliate when Iran shot down an American drone, or when Said Arabia’s oil facilities were attacked. He allegedly fired former National Security Adviser John Bolton for being too hawkish on Iran.
After the fatal strike, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters he was “100 percent” confident that Soleimani approved the Dec. 27th attack on an Iraqi military base that killed an American contractor and wounded four military personnel. An Iranian militia group, Kata’ib Hezbollah, fired 31 missiles at the base during the assault.
Nonetheless, the fact that the president has laid out a clear redline for American military response is moot. Soleimani’s culpability in the deaths of hundreds of American servicemen and thousands of innocent civilians throughout the Middle East doesn’t matter either. Democrats are determined to link the terrorist leader’s killing to Ukraine for their own political gain.
Soleimani was given a mandate to get the U.S. military out of Iraq. He wielded power without accountability among America’s enemies in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan. The State Department believes he was the masterminded behind the major military operations, bombings and assassinations that killed 608 U.S. troops during the Iraq War.
U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren initially called Soleimani “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.” But her focus changed to conspiracy theories during Sunday interviews with CNN’s Jake Tapper and NBC’s Chuck Todd.
Both journalists pushed Warren to say whether she believed Trump pulled the trigger on the Soleimani operation to distract public attention away from impeachment. “I think it is the right question to ask,” Warren responded. “There is a reason that he chose this moment, not a month ago and not a month from now, not a less aggressive and less dangerous response.”
Warren also went out of her way to link the president’s decision to his impeachment.
“In the case of Ukraine, it was all about protecting Donald Trump’s skin, she continued. “We know that Donald Trump was very upset about this upcoming impeachment trial. But look what he’s doing now. He is taking us to the edge of war.”
While Warren has been the first presidential candidate to explicitly cry foul over Soleimani’s death, members of the “The Squad” — the liberal group of Democratic freshmen who often clash with Trump — lit up Twitter with conspiratorial accusations before many Americans had even heard the news.
“What if Trump wants war, knows this leads to war and needs the distraction?” tweeted Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. “Real question is, will those with congressional authority step in and stop him? I know I will.”
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Omar’s fellow squad member, tweeted that Trump “was JUST impeached for abuse of power for political gain & now he is leading us to the brink of war because he believes it will help his re-election.”
California Rep. Maxine Waters, a founding member of the congressional “No War With Iran Caucus,” referenced a flippant tweet that then private-citizen Trump wrote in 2011 as proof that he ordered the strike to aid his reelection. The tweet suggested Barack Obama would start a war with Iran to get elected.
“Perhaps Donald Trump believes that if he drags the country into war, the American people and Congress will rally behind him,” Waters said. “Perhaps he thinks that war is a diversionary tactic. Perhaps he thinks it will drown out the criticisms of his scandal-plagued administration and protect him from removal by the Senate.”
According to Trump nemesis and squad member Rep. Alexandria Ortega-Cortez, such legislation was now urgent and justified because President Trump had committed “an act of war.” The U.S. Constitution states that only Congress can declare war. Not counting The Revolutionary War, the United States has only declared war twice.
Yet President Obama ordered more drone strikes against foreign nationals than any president. He also sent U.S. troops to Libya in 2011 without congressional approval. Like Republican and Democratic presidents before him, Obama justified his decisions by citing The War Powers Act of 1973, which was enacted to check executive branch power following the Vietnam War.
The law requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours that he/she has committed U.S. armed forces to military action. Congress then has 60 days to either declare war or authorize the use of the military. If Congress does nothing, troops must be withdrawn within 30 days.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton continued a bombing campaign in Kosovo beyond the 60-day time limit cited in the law. Obama clearly broke the law in Libya. But there was no outrage from Democratic leaders against either president. Now, after a single drone strike — albeit unprecedented in its magnitude — Democrats are trying to legislate away President Trump’s powers as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and California Democratic Representative Ro Khanna reintroduced legislation on Friday designed to block federal funding for a conflict with Iran. The measure was originally tacked on as an amendment to the 2019 Defense Authorization Bill, but ultimately was removed.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said he would introduce a new resolution when the Senate reconvenes after its holiday recess that would prevent the president from taking further military action without congressional authorization.
Sunday, Omar and California Rep. Nancy Lee announced that they would introduce a resolution to invoke the War Powers Act to withdraw U.S. troops from hostilities with Iranian-backed forces in the Middle East.
So far, The White House has complied with the law. Administration officials provided Congress details of the rationale behind the drone strike within 48 hours of the action. Still, Democrats were incensed that the president did not give Congress prior notice of the strike, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the classified report “raised more questions than it answered.”
Despite Democrats closing ranks around their message, Republican leaders are not taking the bait. They have largely avoided responding to talk of a presidential drone strike conspiracy theory, opting to instead stick to the facts.
Senator Ted Cruz had pointed out that even the Obama administration acknowledged Soleimani “was a terrorist directly responsible for the murder of over 500 US servicemen & women.” James Clapper, President Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence and one of Trump’s harshest critics, told CNN he would have “taken the shot” at Soleimani too.
“Why are congressional Dems outraged that he’s finally dead?” Cruz tweeted, mocking the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. “Perhaps it would have been a better idea to send him $1.7 billion in unmarked bills, in pallets on planes in the dead of night, so he could kill more Americans?”