January 13, 2020

The House Must Impeach (Again)

The killing of Soleimani showed us a new side of a criminal president

by Chris Thomas

Photo by hosein charbaghi on Unsplash

In the immediate aftermath of the drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the White House has argued that the strike was necessary because there was “specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats included attacks on U.S. embassies.” [Emphasis added]

That phrase “imminent threat” matters here. It triggers special rules in both U.S. and international law. In both cases, an imminent threat justifies the use of military force without declaration or authorization. That’s important because the United States didn’t declare war on Iran nor did the U.S. Congress authorize President Trump to use military force against Iran.

If there wasn’t an imminent threat, Trump’s targeting of Qasem Soleimani is in violation of U.S. law, international law, and a war crime.

But the imminent threat that the White House claims prompted the attack doesn’t seem to exist. The members of Congress — both Republican and Democratic — who receive the most detailed national security briefings available to civilians have seen no mention of any intelligence suggesting any imminent attack on a U.S. embassy, base, or other facility.

President Trump has suggested there was a plot underway to target four embassies, but he seems to be the only member of the administration willing to commit to anything so specific. Last week, Secretary Pompeo described the situation with considerably less specificity, stating that “we don’t know precisely when, and we don’t know precisely where.”

Sunday, Secretary Esper said that he “didn’t see” the threat described by the President while describing “exquisite intelligence” provided to the Gang of Eight.

So far no one in the Gang of Eight has corroborated Esper’s claims, Rep. Schiff called it, “plain wrong.”

Without knowledge of “when” or “where”, the attack on Soleimani can neither be justified as a response to an imminent threat nor credibly claim to prevent any sort of attack in a general planning stage. Without a “when” or “where,” Soleimani’s killing is a political assassination, pure and simple, undertaken to assuage the ego or boost the political fortunes of an increasingly dangerous and unhinged President.

Congress has but one recourse in a situation like this: impeach (again).

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