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The Intercept - January 4, 2020

"Buttigieg also suggested that he would be better equipped to prosecute American wars than Trump, telling voters in New Hampshire that “taking out a bad guy is not a good idea unless you are ready for what comes next, so there’s a lot of questions that Americans are asking today.”

The legacy of the Iraq war, and the prospect of a bloody sequel sparked by Donald Trump’s assassination of a senior Iranian official in Baghdad this week, has the potential to transform the Democratic presidential primary, offering voters radically different visions of how the next commander in chief proposes to deal with the ongoing chaos caused by the 2003 invasion.

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren described the drone strike ordered by Trump as a dangerous escalation and promised to end American wars in the Middle East. Joe Biden, the former vice president, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, offered more muted criticism, suggesting that the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani might have been justified if a more responsible commander in chief was in charge.

“We must do more than just stop war with Iran,” Sanders tweeted on Friday. “We must firmly commit to ending U.S. military presence in the Middle East in an orderly manner. We must end our involvement in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. We must bring our troops home from Afghanistan.”

Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”

Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.

(Trump offered a glimpse of his addled vision on Saturday, threatening to strike 52 targets in Iran, including cultural sites, representing, he tweeted, “the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago.”)

Buttigieg’s initial statement also endorsed Trump’s claim that killing an Iranian general who supported Iraqi militias that oppose the ongoing presence of U.S. troops in their country was in line with the commander in chief’s responsibility “to protect Americans and our national security interests.” “There is no question that Qassim Suleimani was a threat to that safety and security, and that he masterminded threats and attacks on Americans and our allies, leading to hundreds of deaths,” Buttigieg wrote. “But there are serious questions about how this decision was made and whether we are prepared for the consequences.”

Like Biden, and to a lesser extent Warren, Buttigieg seemed to glide past the contradictions inherent in describing the killing of 603 American troops in Iraq by Iraqis as a crime akin to terrorism, but of course those soldiers were only there because of the invasion Sanders has repeatedly called on the campaign trail “the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of the United States.”

“‘Yeah but what’s your strategy?’ is the safest, lamest, most DC criticism possible,” Sanders foreign policy adviser Matt Duss observed on Twitter. “Trump’s Iran policy is foolish, dangerous, and driven by hardline ideologues who’ve been pushing for war for years. Who cares what the strategy is for achieving it. The policy needs to change.” ...
Read full report at The Intercept