Why Suleimani’s Assassination Is a War Crime

There’s plenty of justified outrage against Trump and anyone who supports the assassination of Qassim Suleimani by American drone strike and the potential, if not likely, war with Iran, especially if Trump is re-elected.

But we must remember that the power the president has to kill whomever he wants comes from previous administrations, much like the violent and genocidal immigration and border control agencies we have are also products of previous administrations. It’s worth noting that one of those presidents declined to prosecute war crimes committed by Americans in the Middle East, including his predecessor’s officials, and kept the same apparatus in place. It’s no surprise that Trump continues to use that apparatus of death from above, considerably amplified it, and now refuses to release how many people his drone strikes kill. Trump even tweeted a follow-up vow to bomb Iranian cultural sites, which is also a threat of a war crime and a component of genocide.

It’s also worth noting that only one Democratic presidential candidate called the strike what it actually was (an assassination), and that same presidential candidate is the only one who totally condemned the strike and added that his foreign policy would be to remove the entire American military from the Middle East, period. No surprise that that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Senator Bernie Sanders released a statement accurately calling the death of Suleimani an assassination

Every other Democratic candidate justified the attack and called Suleimani a “murderer” and that he “deserved” it. Yes, he killed people. He was a general and that’s what generals do, including American generals. Every other statement, including from Democrats in office, essentially made the same center-right talking point: that this guy was “BAD” and still deserved it, but it just didn’t happen the right way according to their preferences.

If you read statements and tweets closely, Democrats are mostly upset that it didn’t go through Congress. That kind of language is the same justification used for wars like Iraq and Afghanistan (which went through Congress) and the same reason why Congress, despite some rhetorical protestations from Democrats, has allowed unilateral executive branch assassinations and killings and other military actions for decades, especially in the Middle East.

We’ve been at war in the Middle East since I was 17 years old, and I’m in my 30s now. It’s horrifying and it seems to only get worse. My high school class was one of the first under the “war on terror” to be relentlessly pursued by military recruiters, and plenty of people my age who signed up came back traumatized, maimed, or dead. And knowing that they went there as part of a military that killed thousands of innocent civilians and commits war crimes and pardons the perpetrators and emits more carbon emissions than entire nations is all the more sickening.

I simply don’t trust Democrats who rely on talking points about “bad guys” and “murderers” because that is language that justifies endless wars and illegal military interventions and strikes. I don’t trust Democrats who want to perform cost/benefit analyses instead of following moral truths about undeniable human rights. All I trust is a policy to just get out of the Middle East, period, because we never should have gone there in the first place.

As a person who has lived in a superpower that’s been at war for more than half my life, who has seen that superpower kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and pardon war criminals and continue to bloat the defense budget,  I’m disgusted by it and I have been for as long as I can remember. You should be, too. And you should do something about it, like this:

Protestors shut down JFK airport after Trump’s first Muslim ban

It’s going to take much more than marching with signs and calling your representatives (which, in a sense, is somewhat ridiculous to do since our representatives just approved Trump’s defense budget). It’s going to take direct actions and sit-ins and strikes and shutting down of infrastructure to make a difference, the latter of which we’ve only seen once outside of Black Lives Matter in recent American history. This quote from Mario Savio is worth repeating right now:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

If you truly want to stop the war, do those things. Speak to like-minded folks in your community. Organize with them, volunteer, protest, donate, sit in, strike. Shut down an airport or train station. Disrupt military recruiters on school campuses. 

And, please, vote for the candidate whose policy is to get out of the Middle East and end these senseless wars: Bernie Sanders, the only anti-war candidate.

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