Should Iran retaliate for an American drone killing commander Qassem Soleimani last Friday, the U.S. will start targeting Iranian "cultural sites," said President Donald Trump. "Iran has been nothing but problems for many years," the president tweeted on January 4.
"Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD."
When asked about this comment, Trump again expressed an intent to go after cultural sites, saying: "They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn't work that way."
Boris Johnson has warned Donald Trump against mounting strikes against cultural targets in Iran
His official spokesman said their destruction is prohibited under the terms of the Hague convention, of which the US is a signatory
— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) January 6, 2020
Destruction of cultural heritage sites and artifacts is opposed by the U.N. Security Council. The council—of which the U.S. is a permanent member—in 2015 condemned "the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria … whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects."
And condemning destruction of cultural sites and objects goes much further back than that. As the Los Angeles Times points out, the Hague Convention of 1907 said "all necessary steps must be taken" to spare "buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected."
And the Geneva Convention states that "any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples."
Acts such as these are considered by many to be a war crime, and a lot of U.S. media has been condemning them as such, as have some Democratic politicians. "Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It's a war crime," tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.).
This is a war crime.
Threatening to target and kill innocent families, women and children - which is what you're doing by targeting cultural sites - does not make you a "tough guy."
It does not make you "strategic."
It makes you a monster. https://t.co/IjkNO8BD07
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 5, 2020
"The President of the United States is threatening to commit war crimes on Twitter," said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.).
so committing war crimes is a matter that we're now openly debating, the sort of thing that has "critics" and which government officials can support or oppose https://t.co/GL96HW4Fzj
— Taniel (@Taniel) January 6, 2020
Trump also announced over the weekend that his tweets shall serve as official notice to Congress of his intent to engage in military action against Iran.
"These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner," Trump tweeted on Sunday evening.
Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) says all that needs to be said on this one:
This Constitution of the United States of America will serve as notification to the president that should he order nondefensive strikes without congressional approval, he will be in violation of the law. Such legal notice was provided in 1789 but is given here again nevertheless. pic.twitter.com/ZzTDRbuDqf
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 6, 2020
But for the record, here's how the House Foreign Affairs Committee responded:
This Media Post will serve as a reminder that war powers reside in the Congress under the United States Constitution. And that you should read the War Powers Act. And that you're not a dictator. https://t.co/VTroMegWv0
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) January 5, 2020
Quippy principles from Democratic leaders ring hollow, however, when party members in Congress have repeatedly voted against measures to rein in presidential war powers or require more congressional oversight.
Trump's dangerous Twitter tantrums come as Iranian people have been pouring out in mourning over Soleimani, ("for now, Iran is united—in anger at the United States," says The New York Times) and the Iraqi parliament has voted the U.S. military out.
Owing to that last bit, Trump has started threatening Iraq again.
"If they do ask us to leave, if we don't do it in a very friendly basis. We will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame," the president said.
Meanwhile, it hasn't taken long for the administration's justification for murdering Soleimani to start unraveling. Trump and company initially insisted that Soleimani's death was necessary because he posed an "imminent" threat to American citizens and was planning an upcoming attack that would cost hundreds of U.S. lives. But a range of administration officials suggest that Trump's political image was the only thing under imminent threat. The option of attacking Soleimani had been floating around as a potential (but not optimal) plan for months.
In other Iran developments, Eric Boehm reports:
The Pentagon has approved plans to send 3,000 more troops to the region. But the debate over the next steps must now shift to Congress, as the Constitution demands. Sen. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) has announced plans to introduce a war powers resolution in the Senate, forcing a debate over whether the U.S. should go to war with Iran or place limits on Trump's ability to engage in hostilities.
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) announced a resolution similar to Kaine's would be put forth in the House.
Also on Sunday, Iran announced that it would be pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal that the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of in 2018.
- Apparently, some pundits are still waiting and hoping for the Amy Klobuchar Moment:
— Doug Henwood (@DougHenwood) January 6, 2020
- How Fox News learned to embrace the deep state again:
Ainsley Earhardt finds it "so interesting" that people criticize "our intelligence community's decisions," because "everything can't be made public … you just have to trust [them]." pic.twitter.com/DC50DHWgJ2
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) January 6, 2020
- Kate McKinnon paid tribute to the TV show Ellen and its namesake at last night's Golden Globes:
"If I hadn't seen her on TV, I would have thought 'I could never be on TV. They don't let LGBT people be on TV.' And more than that, I would have gone on thinking that I was an alien and that I maybe didn't have a right to be here." —Kate McKinnon on Ellen DeGeneres pic.twitter.com/QTaHvdgen7
— Spencer Althouse (@SpencerAlthouse) January 6, 2020
- "Fighting human trafficking" as empty corporate cause continues apace:
— Justin Kilborn (@KilbornAgain) January 5, 2020