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Suleimani Assasination

Assassination Erodes the Soul of America

Military Review, the professional journal of the U.S. Army, quoted an article I wrote on winning the battle for hearts and minds in Iraq. America has now lost that battle.

Americans used to understand that you don’t murder someone based on what you heard they might do: There was the movie (based on a story) Minority Report, there was the movie Wanted, there was the more recent Gemini Man, etc. Fiction, true, but movies can partly serve as barometers of the nation’s conscience.

Revenge killings are what the Romans did. America did not summarily kill Nazi leaders after the war: there were trials.

While some U.S. veterans feel Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, whom the U.S. recently assassinated at a Baghdad airport, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of soldiers, with Congressman Steve Scalise calling him a “terrorist,” saying someone is a terrorist 1,000 times doesn’t make him a terrorist. That’s just the word du siecle. It simply means: “we want an excuse to murder someone.” Revenge killings are what the Romans did. America did not summarily kill Nazi leaders after the war: there were trials.

Even if Suleimani did plant improvised explosive devices in Iraq—which he didn’t, since he operated at a much higher level—that would not be an act of “terror” if used to repulse an illegal invasion. Nor were Iranian troops attacking the U.S., which is why our media, of which George Orwell would be proud, keep using terms like “Iranian-backed” or “Iranian-influenced.”

And, regardless, that was some time ago. Is the U.S. government claiming that Vietnamese today have the right to hunt down and kill American GIs?

Under what law or authority did Trump order the assassination?

And now that Iraq’s government has voted to expel U.S. troops from their country, are the Americans officially illegal occupiers?

Since the U.S. military knew Suleimani was driving from the airport, why not just stop his vehicle and arrest him, and then send him to The Hague for a trial before the International Criminal Court?

There was no imminent threat, which is the standard that would justify attacking Suleimani. I’m also unsure of what kind of complex military operation falls apart if one man is killed. This is in stark contrast to a true terrorist plot fomented by a small number of people working in secret, perhaps with few safe ways to talk to each other. Would D-Day have been called off if Tojo had assassinated Eisenhower?

Suleimani was not a Napoleon or Hannibal. Presumably, whatever threat Suleimani posed, his successors will pose. Is the goal to kill them all?

Or is the goal to intimidate them into doing nothing? That’s how the mob operates. America’s brand was successful because people around the world fighting totalitarian regimes thought America was better than that. (Those of us who knew about LumumbaCOINTELPRO, and Operation Northwoods—particularly sections 3a and 3b on page 8 of the infamous memo—knew better, but we were few.) Now, America will never be able to convince the Iranian on the street that America is anything but another Golden Horde.

One can’t just say, “This is war,” since this is a new policy that even the U.S. has never had before. The U.S. government never announced, “Hey, Castro, we’re going to kill you.” They tried to do it in secret, partly because they knew that what they were attempting to do was a crime.

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U.S. apologists say Suleimani was behind the Baghdad embassy attack. But no one was killed in the embassy attack. Remember the movie Rules of Engagement? Samuel L. Jackson’s character is court-martialed after men in his command kill civilians outside a U.S. embassy in the Middle East. It has always been regarded as illegitimate to respond to even violent protests (depending on the severity) by murdering people. Dictators do that.

It also showed that any group could manipulate the U.S. into starting a war. The graffiti allegedly left on the embassy allegedly saying, “Suleimani is my leader,” is, as one commenter said, rather convenient, isn’t it? Anyone could have written it, including operatives hostile to Iran who wanted the U.S. to blame Suleimani.

Then there is the precedent, because what’s good for the goose is good for the gangster. Why can’t they (whoever “they” might be in the future) go after U.S. officials, with the same justification? Without rules, flocks of $300 drones could, someday soon, decimate towns and cities. Fear, democratized.

Anyone who dons a military uniform is not automatically fair game for any other government. Otherwise, every U.S. diplomat could be called a legitimate target. (Many travel with a military escort.) And yet, I suspect 100% of those diplomats would scream they are not legitimate targets.

One wonders if the U.S. ever formally or informally told Suleimani, “If you keep this up, we will kill you.” Since there has never been an open assassination like this (indeed, it violates U.S. law), one wonders how the general was supposed to know to cease his travel activities. First-year courses at the world’s military academies would teach cadets to try to defeat the enemy without battle before trying battle, one of the lessons of Sun Tzu.

The Iranians may now make a beeline for Pyongyang and return with two convoys of trucks, leaving the U.S. guessing as to what’s on board. One of the convoys may be empty, so that, if attacked, there is a legitimate reason to have any American drone operator who attacks the convoy arrested by Interpol.

The Suleimani assassination was a criminal action, foolish diplomatically and strategically.

And I’m no partisan critic: When BBC World News Television invited U.S. Congressman Silvestre Reyes, British Member of Parliament Khalid Mahmood, and me as guests, I said that President Obama should be sent to The Hague for his drone attacks. Death without trial is not the American Way.

When you can’t distinguish between a Pakistani strongman and the U.S. president─Washington, we have a problem.

But more important than how assassination and drones threaten America and weaken her foreign policy is the fact they have eroded the soul of America.

jonathan david farley

Trump, in his biggest miscalculation since Charlottesville, gave his enemies what they didn’t have before: the moral high ground.

Jonathan David Farley

Dr. Jonathan David Farley is a former Science Fellow atStanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

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