For those who feared the worst after a U.S. drone killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, the apparent easing of tensions Wednesday was most welcome.
Although Iran launched rockets at two military sites in Iraq, it appears that no U.S. or Iraqi troops were killed, and that damage was minimal.
Make no mistake: If Iran had wanted to inflict retaliatory pain, it definitely could have. And President Trump, to his credit, appears to understand that. His remarks on Wednesday morning de-escalated tensions, although he promised more sanctions against our longtime Middle East foe.
Now that both countries are moving back from the brink, it’s imperative that the United States level with its people and their representatives in the U.S. Congress.
What intelligence did we possess that justified the targeted killing of another country’s top general? How truly imminent was the threat? Soleimani, from all accounts, was the architect of destabilizing attacks throughout the region and was responsible for American deaths in the past decade. However, there are many bad actors throughout the world. The U.S. doesn’t attempt to kill all of them.
A number of lawmakers who have been briefed by the administration about its decision have come out of the meetings less than impressed. That puts on the onus on Trump and his allies to be straight with the American people. What did they know? Why did they act the way they did? If leaked accounts are true that Trump decided on the move impulsively and to the surprise of experienced military personnel, did anyone advise him of the potential pitfalls?
Under the U.S. Constitution, the president does not have the power to declare war against another country. Presidents throughout this century have stretched or outright ignored this fact, but it remains there in the text of our founding document.
That means that Trump and his administration have a duty — not just to keep Americans safe, but to explain themselves and their actions. The death of a top-ranked military commander can easily be seen or understood as an act of war. Our founders envisioned that congress has a role to play in making these decisions.
Our own law, international law and basic common sense all point in the same direction: Soleimani was a harmful presence in the region, but that doesn’t give us carte blanche to kill him. The act should be supported by intelligence and a rigorous, sober decision-making process.