Swamp Rabbit wanted to know why Iran hates America, the beacon of democracy and the land of opportunity. “Just because,” I told him.
Iran hates us just because we overthrew its democratically elected prime minister and propped up the corrupt Shah (1953). Just because we backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, which cost more than a half-million lives (1980-1988). Just because we shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 people on board (1988). Just because we withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and doubled down on economic sanctions that have hurt millions of Iranian citizens.
And just because we took out Qasem Suleimani, the second most powerful character in Iran and a national hero.
“What you mean by took out?” Swamp Rabbit said. “Did we wine and dine him?”
I told him “took out” is a U.S. military euphemism. It sounds cooler than “killed,” much less alarming than “assassinated” and not nearly as ugly as “murdered,” the word used by former New York Times reporter James Risen in an Intercept piece about the hypocrisy of American foreign policy.
“But Suleimani was a terrorist,” Swamp Rabbit said, playing devil’s advocate. “His posses killed hundreds of Americans.”
“Depends which side of the fence you’re on,” I replied. “If you’re in Iran or Iraq, you probably think Bush and Cheney are terrorists, and Petraeus and the other generals. How many people did they kill, and for what?”
“But Mike Pompeo said Suleimani was planning more attacks,” he said. “What’s the big deal about killing him?”
I told him President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations (1976). A current version of the ban is still in effect. Which means killing Suleimani was illegal. Which means we shouldn’t be outraged or even surprised if Iran blows up some high-ranking U.S. officials.
“But Pompeo said attacks were imminent,” Swamp Rabbit insisted. “And this was — what you call it? — a targeted killing, not an assassination.”
“Pompeo is an evangelical Christian and an Opus Dei ally,” I replied. ‘He hates Iran for being an infidel country and thinks good Christians will continue to fight infidels right up to the Rapture. He thinks lying is okay if you’re lying for the Lord. His mascot Mike Pence feels the same way.”
Swamp Rabbit reached for his whiskey flask and drank deep. He was enjoying himself. “But them bosses in Iran are religious freaks, too. They treat the peeps like dirt. They got big chiefs called ayatollahs. Ayatollah means sign of God.”
I took a deep breath and exhaled. “The point is that America is run by bigots and hypocrites, just like Iran. Our laws would be just as oppressive as Iran’s if Trump and Pompeo and the rest could have their way. It’s something our news media will never acknowledge.”
“Well, no shit,” he said. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”
Footnote: Sure, the assassination ban is vague. Several presidents, including Barack Obama, argued that it doesn’t apply to targeted killings of “nonstate actors” — Osama bin Laden, for example. But Suleimani was definitely not a nonstate actor. If the ban doesn’t cover his case, it’s worthless.