Er … Qassem Soleimani was an American dissident? This is a peculiar way to double down on a bad argument, even for one of the more peculiar figures on the Left. After Michael Bloomberg rebuked Bernie Sanders and others for calling the strike on the Iranian commander of the Quds force an “assassination,” Sanders defended himself on CNN, calling the strike “in violation of international law.” And once you start violating international law by taking out the man planning terrorist attacks American assets, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump before you’re herding Uighirs into concentration camps, Sanders tells a bemused Anderson Cooper.
And turning into … well, you know who:
The clip doesn’t pick up the set-up for this question, so let’s include it in the transcript:
COOPER: The — I’m wondering — you had made a statement about the killing of Soleimani, who, you know, everybody agrees was a killer, responsible for the deaths of many American forces, as well as many civilians around the world. You called it an assassination. Michael Bloomberg, fellow presidential candidate, said that was, quote, an outrageous thing to say. I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to that.
SANDERS: No, I think it was an assassination. I think it was in violation of international law. This guy was (INAUDIBLE) — was a bad news guy, but he was a ranking official of the Iranian government.
And you know what? Once you get into violating international law in that sense, you can say there are a lot of bad people all over the world running governments. Kim Jong-un in North Korea, not exactly a nice guy, responsible for the death, perhaps, of hundreds of thousands of people in his own country, to name one of many, you know?
The president of China now has put a million people in — Muslims, into educational camps. Some would call them concentration camps. But once you start this business of a major country saying, hey, we have the right to assassinate, then you’re unleashing international anarchy. … I mean, and all that Trump seems to be doing now is trying to break all kinds of international protocol, denying the foreign minister of Iran to speak before the United Nations, and really basically trying to lead us into another war, which I believe will be a disaster.
COOPER: If Soleimani was a non-state actor, not a general, an official, a high-ranking official in the Iranian government, would it be different in your mind?
SANDERS: I’m not a lawyer on these things, it might be. But this guy is, you know, was, as bad as he was, an official of the Iranian government.
And you unleash — then if China does that, you know, if Russia does that, you know, Russia has been implicated under Putin with assassinating dissidents. So once you’re in the business of assassination, you unleash some very, very terrible forces. And what I’m seeing now in this world, as a result of Trump’s actions, more and more chaos, more and more instability.
And it is absolutely imperative that the United States Congress stand up, because, by the way, let us never forget that according to the constitution of the United States, on which some of us actually believe in and respect, it is Congress that has the responsibility for making war, not the president of the United States. And that is why we have got to pass an authorization, legislation that makes it very clear that Trump does not have the right to go to war without the authorization of the United States Congress, and also, I will work to make sure that he doesn’t have the money to do that.
It’s reasonable to ask whether the strike was a wise decision, strategically and tactically. Previous presidents had decided it wasn’t wise to take out Soleimani; this president chose differently. However, it’s absolutely nuts to compare that to Putin assassinating dissidents abroad or to the genocidal projects in North Korea and China regarding internal dissidents. Soleimani wasn’t a dissident at all — he was a commander of forces that at the moment were actively engaged in an attack on a US embassy in Baghdad. Soleimani had ordered or facilitated uncounted attacks on US forces throughout the region over the past few decades. By any definition of the term, Soleimani waged war against the US, not the other way around, and the US had every legal right to treat him as a combatant.
That’s not an assassination — it’s a military response to an attack by cutting off command and control of it. Furthermore, as former Obama cabinet official Jeh Johnson made clear, Soleimani’s presence in Baghdad during the attack on the embassy means that the president didn’t need to get specific authorization from Congress to take that action. The president has the authority to defend American territory during an attack, and a US embassy is legally and diplomatically American territory. If President Bernie Sanders won’t defend American territory from attack, perhaps that’s something voters need to keep in mind.
Earlier today on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called Sanders’ remarks disqualifying:
HH: I do believe it is TDS, Senator Cornyn, because there is no other rational explanation for how many people could have gone so far off the roads. Here is your current colleague, Bernie Sanders, with Anderson Cooper yesterday, cut number 13:
BS: I’m not a lawyer on these things. It might be. But this guy is, you know, was, as bad as he was, an official of the Iranian government. And you unleash, then, if China does that, you know, if Russia does that, you know, Russia has been implicated under Putin with assassinating dissidents.
HH: Stop right there. Senator Cornyn, he is comparing our elimination of the leader of the Quds Force in the wake of the killing of Americans, and as you said, the Syrian genocide, with Putin using assassins in the United Kingdom and radioactive poison. It’s absolutely dumbfounding to hear this.
JC: Well, I mean, I think Bernie just disqualified himself again to be president of the United States. If he doesn’t believe that the Constitution compels the president, the commander-in-chief to defend the United States and American citizens and American troops abroad against terrorist actions like that led by Soleimani and the Iranian regime, then he’s just, he’s not qualified to be president of the United States.
Ya think? Let’s see if Joe Biden figures this out and takes Sanders on over these comments. If not, then perhaps Biden’s not qualified for the job either.