After the Trump administration killed Iran’s top general Qassem Suleimani in a targeted drone strike, the Democratic presidential candidates rushed to condemn the action. However, nearly every statement reiterated Trump’s justification for the strike: that Suleimani was an evil terrorist and murderer.
“No American will mourn Qassem Suleimani’s passing,” begins former Vice President Joe Biden’s statement, “He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. He supported terror and sowed chaos.”
Biden went on to say that Trump had “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” and must provide the American people with an explanation of his strategy going forward.
“Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” tweeted Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, “But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”
Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 3, 2020
A similar qualifier began Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s statement:
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) January 3, 2020
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a statement that stressed the need for congressional approval and warned that Trump could kick off another “endless war”, but he never actually condemns the attack or says he opposed it. He also begins his statement by asserting that Suleimani posed a threat to United States security interests.
My statement on the killing of Qassim Suleimani. pic.twitter.com/DUCVczjNzm
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) January 3, 2020
So far, the only Democratic candidate to release a statement that refers to Suleimani’s killing as an “assassination” has been Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars,” said Sanders, “Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.”
.@BernieSanders statement on Qassim Suleimani’ death.
So far, the only DEM candidate to call it an “assassination” pic.twitter.com/iyHfFz8aC4
— Cara Korte (@CaraKorte) January 3, 2020
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang also released a direct statement opposing a war on Iran without quantifying it:
War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people. We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.
— Andrew Yang🧢🗽🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) January 3, 2020
“Funny to see the foreign-policy equivalent of ‘he was no angel’ making the rounds. Anything to avoid seeming too anti-imperialist, which would be in bad taste,” tweeted author Doug Henwood.
“Watch: every Dem statement will begin with a first sentence like this,” writer Hayes Davenport tweeted in reference to similar sentiments from Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, “And that’s how they’ll drag what should be a hugely unpopular war into the realm of nuance and viability, and take the best political opportunity they could possibly be handed and just biff the fuck out of it.”
Watch: every Dem statement will begin with a first sentence like this. And that's how they'll drag what should be a hugely unpopular war into the realm of nuance and viability, and take the best political opportunity they could possibly be handed and just biff the fuck out of it https://t.co/EVqT6nkgbC
— Hayes Davenport (@hayesdavenport) January 3, 2020
“This a major rhetoric problem and one i’ve been writing about for years and I have no idea how people don’t see how prefacing nominal anti-war statements by ACCEPTING THE ENTIRE MORAL PREMISE OF A WAR/BOMBING is a bad idea,” tweeted media critic Adam Johnson, “It’s not ‘nuance’ its helping further PR for US aggression.”
this is a major rhetoric problem and one i've been writing about for yrs & i have no idea how people dont see how prefacing nominal anti-war statements by ACCEPTING THE ENTIRE MORAL PREMISE OF A WAR/BOMBING is a bad idea. It's not "nuance" its helping further PR for US aggression https://t.co/vJ152OCmxP
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) January 3, 2020
Note: After this piece was published, Elizabeth Warren posted a longer Twitter thread about the attack in which she used the word “assassinated.”
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.