Among critics of the killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, one would be hard-pressed to find any U.S. politicians who view Soleimani as a positive figure: typically, those who oppose the killing are quick to point out that although he was part of a brutally oppressive regime, his death will add to the instability in an already troubled part of the world. But that hasn’t prevented Republican supporters of President Donald Trump from shamelessly describing opponents of the killing as terrorist sympathizers — and Never Trump conservative Max Boot calls them out in a blistering Washington Post column.
Two of the worst pro-Trump offenders in the GOP, Boot asserts, are Rep. Douglas A. Collins of Georgia and Rep. John Rutherford of Florida. Collins claimed that Democrats who opposed the killing of Soleimani are “in love with terrorists,” while Rutherford accused Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of being part of a “squad of ayatollah sympathizers.”
“While dismaying and appalling,” Boot writes, “their vile comments are hardly surprising coming from such rabid Trump apologists.” But Boot quickly adds that although he would “expect better from former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley,” the ex-South Carolina governor asserted, “The only ones mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership and Democrat presidential candidates.”
Boot laments that sadly, demonizing critics of military inventions has been going on in the U.S. for generations.
“If truth is the first casualty of war, dissent is the second,” Boot explains. “The United States has a long, ignominious history of attacks — both physical and rhetorical — on critics of its conflicts. Loyalists during the American Revolution were sometimes tarred and feathered. Southern sympathizers in the North during the Civil War were arrested and held without trial. Critics of America’s involvement in World War I were arrested and deported. Anti-Vietnam War protesters were investigated and harassed by the FBI and attacked by police and blue-collar workers.”
Boot criticizes himself as well, asserting that he regrets attacking opponents of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as unpatriotic.
“I was guilty of some over-the-top rhetoric myself,” Boot writes. “I wrote a strained op-ed in early 2003 arguing that anti-war protesters made conflict more likely by encouraging (dictator Saddam) Hussein to hold out against U.S. demands. I now cringe when I read that column because, of course, the anti-war protesters were right, and I was wrong: the invasion of Iraq was a terrible idea even though Hussein was a terrible person who deserved what he got.”
Boot wraps up his column by noting that during World War I, it was a Republican — former President Teddy Roosevelt — who asserted that dissent had its place during wartime.
“In 1918,” Boot recalls, Roosevelt “protested his successor Woodrow Wilson’s attempts to criminalize wartime dissent: ‘To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.’ So, by Roosevelt’s definition, guess who is being ‘treasonable?’ Hint: It’s not Trump’s critics.”