ECLECTIC RANT: Trump versus Iran Over Assassination of General Soleimang

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday January 11, 2020 - 12:45:00 PM

The assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, must be considered violations of international and humanitarian law.

Assassinations are unlawful under an executive order signed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 (which updated those by Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter). Because the ban on assassinations is set forth in an executive order rather than an act of Congress, numerous methods circumventing the prohibition exist. 

Constitutionally, only Congress can declare war, so the president needs Congressional approval for sustained military conflict. That’s the gist of the War Powers Act of 1973, passed after the Vietnam war. But are we at war with Iran? It is really unclear what Congress can do at this point, and whether both the House and Senate would agree on any curb on the Executive. 

However, any government operating under the "rule of law” should not permit assassination of foreign officials under any circumstances. Assassination is a brutal, cowardly, and inhuman act. Looking back at Trump’s three years in office, it could be persuasive argued that Trump does not recognize the “rule of law.” 

“Immediate” and “imminent” are key words used by the Trump administration to justify the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, reminiscent of the controversial 2002 National Security Strategy or “the Bush doctrine,” which seeks to justify the unilateral strategy of "preemptive strikes" as a defense against an immediate or perceived future threat to the security of the U.S. Ergo, under the Bush doctrine, the U.S. had the right to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups; it was used to justify the 2001 war in Afghanistan. And remember, those fictional weapons of mass destruction used as a justification to invade Iraq?  

Consider that unlike the killing of stateless terrorists Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Gen. Soleimani was an accredited combatant general of a foreign state which the world – including the U.S. – recognizes. He traveled to Iraq on a diplomatic visa as a guest of the Iraqi government, a U.S. ally. Gen. Soleimani had blood on his hands but so does the U.S. 

It seems that an attack may be deemed “imminent” even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. The White House briefing on the reasons for the assassination was described by one Republican Senator Mike Lee (R-UT),“Drive-by notification or after-the-fact, lame briefings like the one we just received aren’t adequate.” 

The fact that Iran’s ballistic missiles did not result in any U.S. casualties and the U.S. did not respond to the missile attack, may indicate a window for negotiations. That is, if Trump is up to the task. 

Instead of fighting terrorism, we are fast becoming the terror.