President Trump's order to kill a top Iranian commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, an Iraqi militia leader, and others near Baghdad International Airport on Thursday was apparently news to Congress. And Congress had two general responses: Trump has killed a murderous commander with ample U.S. blood on his hands, and Trump might have just launched a major war with Iran.
Soleimani was leader of the elite Quds Force, the foreign wing of the Revolutionary Guards, and he was close with Iran's supreme leader and wielded immense political power in Iran as well as Iraq and Syria. "Just imagine how we’d react if some adversary assassinated a member of the Joint Chiefs, an Undersecretary of State, or the [Director of National Intelligence]," said Harvard international relations professor Stephen Walt. Iranian-American journalist Yashar Ali compared the strike to another country killing the U.S. vice president.
There was a clear partisan split to the reactions. For Republicans, this was more like the killing of Osama bin Laden:
Qassem Soleimani masterminded Iran’s reign of terror for decades, including the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Tonight, he got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice. https://t.co/1wkjtvj2QA
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 3, 2020
Qassem Soleimani was an evil and deadly terrorist with the blood of thousands, including hundreds of Americans, on his hands. @realDonaldTrump was right to order decisive action to kill Soleimani to prevent further attacks and defend American lives and interests.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) January 3, 2020
For Democrats, it was more reminiscent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but without any input from Congress:
President Trump is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran with no congressional approval.
Passing our bipartisan amendment to prevent unconstitutional war with Iran is urgent. Congress needs to step in immediately. https://t.co/tBFRwQMp51
— Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) January 3, 2020
If you think taking out bad guys is it’s own justification, you need to reflect on the chaos that followed our destruction of Hussein and Qaddafi, neither of whom commanded nation-states when they died. 2/5
— Jim Himes (@jahimes) January 3, 2020
A trigger happy armchair strongman, lacking congressional authority, has recklessly brought our nation closer to war.
— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) January 3, 2020
Senators were even arguing over Twitter.
This tweet is simply drunk partisanship. Gen. Soleimani has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans, and was actively plotting more. This commander-in-chief — any C-in-C. — has an obligation to defend America by killing this bastard. https://t.co/eQmiCgegxS
— Senator Ben Sasse (@SenSasse) January 3, 2020
The justification for the assasination is to “deter future Iranian attacks”.
One reason we don’t generally assasinate foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed.
That should be our real, pressing and grave worry tonight.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 3, 2020
Trump himself has not issued a statement, but he did tweet a photo of the American flag.