By M. Reza Behnam
Only the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State rejoiced in the illegal and immoral targeted killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani. No compelling evidence for his extrajudicial murder has been forthcoming.
Americans knew little about Suleimani. They continue to be denied accuracy, depth and context about a man whose death has taken the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war.
Politicians, corporate media parrots and instant Iran experts have portrayed Suleimani in mainly negatives — a bad actor, murderous monster with blood on his hands. For Iranians, however, Suleimani was the people’s soldier, a revered and significant military leader.
The son of peasants from the mountains of Kerman, he put his 8-year-old body to work to help support his family. Suleimani, in his teens, volunteered to serve his country after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. He was wounded and nearly suffocated by chemical weapons that President Ronald Reagan provided Iraq during that eight-year-long brutal war.
Suleimani’s calling in life was soldiering, just like his American counterparts: Generals Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, George C. Patton, William Westmoreland, Colin Powell, David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal and James “Mad Dog” Mattis, among others.
At his death, Suleimani was 62 years old. His entire adult life was spent defending Iran from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Islamic State and other hostile forces threatening Iran’s sovereignty as well as the sovereignty of other countries in the region. Risking one’s life for his country is the role of a soldier. America’s generals have fought wars in foreign lands to keep America safe, or so we have been told. They were never demonized or accused of having blood on their hands.
Because of George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq — one of the most calamitous foreign policy blunders in U.S. history — hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died or been made refugees. Today, because of the war, many Iraqis are without electricity and clean water. America’s invasion and continued presence have yet to produce good governance — providing public services that make people secure, healthy, educated and prosperous.
Suleimani’s Quds Force has never invaded or caused so much destruction and instability in another country. Instead, he has been credited with helping defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and weakening it in Syria, at times working in concert with the U.S. on both fronts.
Donald Trump’s decision to murder a senior government official of a country with which we are not at war was not only unconstitutional, it violates international law and moral norms. By ordering the drone attack on Suleimani, Iraqi general Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and 10 others, Trump has shown his willingness to act violently. He has fueled a preventable crisis in which the blood of many is on his hands.
M. Reza Behnam, Ph.D., is a cultural political scientist whose specialties include history, governments and politics of the Middle East.