Did Donald Trump abuse his authority by ordering a strike on Iranian al-Quds and IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani? Democrats spent the weekend insisting that the president needed congressional authority to take that kind of action against an Iranian target. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) in particular called it an “assassination” in its immediate aftermath, and yesterday said that the predicate of an “imminent” attack on Americans didn’t provide Trump any legal cover for the strike, as well as just generally being a bad idea:
“Qassem Soleimani is an evil man. He has absolutely ordered the murder of hundreds of Americans. But he is a high-level representative of a foreign government, a foreign government with a military that could strike at American civilians and American service people,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “The question is, why didn’t the administration look at other means to try to stop this attack from happening?”
Murphy said Mr. Trump now “has the burden” of telling the American people and Congress why the strike targeting Soleimani was needed to prevent future attacks against the U.S., which he said would justify acting unilaterally.
“The contention here is that by assassinating a high-level Iranian official, that you are actually going to inspire and create more attacks against the United States, not actually prevent those attacks,” he said.
The jury is still out on the good idea/bad idea debate, but what other means would there have been? The best way to end an attack is to kill the person in charge of it. Had we made that decision in 1998 when the US had actionable intelligence on Osama bin Laden, we might have derailed the 9/11 attacks. Or maybe not, but it was very clear that “other means” didn’t work in that instance, and al-Qaeda is less hierarchical than the IRGC.