This is not an article intended to praise Qassem Suleimani, the Commander of Iran’s military who was whacked by President Trump with several Hellfire Missiles fired from a US drone at his vehicle outside the Baghdad Airport.
What I do decry, however, is the almost universal characterization of Suleimani as “the baddest of the bad,” or as the NY Times labeled him in Sunday editorial condemning as stupid the president’s assassination order, “one of the [Middle East] region’s most blood-soaked military commanders.”
Really? Baddest of the bad? Most blood-soaked? How about General Stanley McChrystal, the guy who organized and paid off death squads in Iraq, and who, as head of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) oversaw notoriously criminal and brutal interrogations in that country and later Afghanistan, and then moved his death squad proclivities to that latter country when he took over command of the Afghanistan War? How about Marine General “Mad Dog” Mattis, who earned his monicker for saying, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” Is it any wonder that we had so many Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan taking pot shots at young boys and “double tapping” injured Taliban fighters?
More broadly, anywhere from 182,000 to over a million civilians died in the war that the US launched against Iraq in 2003. Most of them, simply because of its far vaster fire-power, reliance on aerial bombardment, and demonstrated lack of concern about “collateral damage” in its combat rules, were killed by American forces under a string of American four-star generals. Whatever deaths were caused by the “bloodthirsty” Commander Suleimani pale in comparison to the American carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as, more recently, in Syria and Yemen (where much of the killing by Saudi troops and planes is done with American-supplied arms and with the targeting guidance of American radars and satellites).
When it comes to being “blood-thirsty’ it’s hard to top the US, which of course was also responsible for the slaughter of millions of Indochinese in the American war on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the ‘60s and ’70s.
How the editorialists at the NY Times can write such jingoistic crap with straight faces is beyond me, but they are not alone. The US media are awash in it.
And remember, the main indictment being leveled at Suleimani is that he was “responsible” for the deaths of “over 600 American soldiers” in Iraq and Syria. But hold on a minute, those weren’t civilians. They, and the contractor most recently killed by an allegedly pro-Iranian militant group in Iraq, were fighters or advisors in Iraq and Syria in a war in which, at least for part of the time, they were simply supporting (illegally) different “terrorists” than Suleimani and his pro-Iranian militants were fighting, the latter at the invitation of the Syrian government.
That isn’t really, strictly speaking, terrorism. It’s war. It’s bloody I agree, but if we call generals whose armies are killing soldiers of other armies “bloodthirsty,” it’s simply because all generals are “bloodthirsty.”
Does that justify Trump’s assassination of Suleimani?
No. The only question in the case of the assassination of Suleimani is whether it was an act of war, and the answer to that, according to most experts on the law of war, is a resounding yes because of his rank and position. So forget the “bloodthirsty” monicker. What needs to be asked is, “Who the hell is President Trump to, on his own, launch a war against Iran, a country which does not pose any threat, imminent or otherwise, to the United States?”
Beyond that journalists and politicians should drop the nonsense of referring to America’s enemies “bad guys,” or as President George W. Bush was fond of calling them, “evildoers.” Most of America’s adversaries, whether Vladimir Putin, Nikolas Maduro, or Raul Castro, are not any more or less evil than our own leaders, whom we know are people who rip children from their desperate parents and lock them in dog cages, order extra-judicial drone liquidations, approve the use of torture, bomb weddings and slaughter innocent children and, or course, seriously contemplate the use of nuclear weapons.
It’s not that we should consider our adversaries to be “saints.” They’re not! But that we doesn’t mean that our own morally crippled leaders, both civilian and military, are not as morally crippled as the rest of ‘em. They are!
In evaluating the merits of US foreign policy and military actions, we cannot make valid decisions if we start by assuming the other side’s leaders and soldiers are “bad” and ours are “good.”
In this particular instance, a very vile and stupid man — our president and commander-in-chief Donald Trump — has, most likely for selfish reasons having to do with either seeking to deflect attention from his political troubles at home, or to curry favor with his most ignorant and xenophobic supporters, ordered a Mafia-style hit on the commander and number two leader of Iran, an act of war that could lead to a bloody and endless conflict far worse than any since Vietnam, and potentially to World War III. His action is objectively evil, and we need to do all we can to stop such a war from erupting.
It doesn’t matter if the guy who got whacked was “bad” or “evil.” It’s the act of assassinating him that is pure evil and pure stupidity.