The United States’ killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani has cast waves across U.S. and foreign politics. At home the action has stoked unrest, with people in 71 cities taking to the streets on Jan. 4 to protest the assassination and press for peace with Iran. Idaho’s politicians, however, have mostly endorsed the strike that killed the Middle Eastern country’s second in command.
“On behalf of every American serviceman and servicewoman who has either been killed or injured due to an Iranian-provided IED or rocket in Iraq over the years, today justice was done,” wrote Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement. “Suleimani was responsible for the weapons program that caused those casualties and injuries with the use of those treacherous and cowardly devices.”
The assassination of Soleimani in the early morning hours of Jan. 3 was in response to attack on a U.S. embassy, which killed one American and wounded four others.
Risch also congratulated President Donald Trump on the action, noting that it helps secure a future for the Iraqi people, free from Iranian control. He added that he has previously warned Iran that “they should not mistake our reasonable restraint in response to their previous attacks as weakness.”
While Risch claims the attack would help secure a better future for Iraq, politicians in Iraq disagreed. In fact, the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel all U.S. armed forces from the country shortly after the death of Soleimani, according to reports from CNN.
Other Idaho politicians, weighed in too, supporting the attack. Both Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo have issued statements backing Trump’s decision to take out Iran’s top general.
“Qasem Soleimani was responsible for the death of hundreds of United States Service Members and personally did more to threaten the United States and its allies than almost any other state actor,” Simpson wrote in a statement. “My thoughts are with U.S. diplomats, servicemembers and our allies who remain steadfast in the face of evil and keep us safe each and every day.”
Crapo offered a more abridged statement in a Tweet, writing “I look forward to reviewing additional facts from intelligence and military officials surrounding the operation that killed one of Iran’s top terrorist leaders. I will continue to work with the Administration and with my colleagues to deter further nefarious activities by Iran.”
The general sentiment of Idaho’s congressional delegation stands in stark contrast to the divisions among their constituents, many of whom took to the street on Jan. 4, when a group of anti-war demonstrators, led by members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the ANSWER Coalition outnumbered counter-demonstrators by a significant margin.
Joe Evans, a local green party member and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, said the assassination does nothing to further United States’ standing in the Middle East, and will only raise tensions in the area. He said that the U.S. has long been using “a flamethrower to clean up a gas spill” in Iraq.
“We don’t belong there, we don’t know how to fix the problem,” he said. “There are things that are not going to end up well.”
Evans said he doesn’t necessarily see the killing of Soleimani leading the U.S. into another full-on war. However, he thinks this could result in situations similar to U.S. presence in Yemen or Libya. He added that it sets a dangerous precedent, and highlights the U.S. not learning its lessons from previous mistakes.
“I probably understood that around my second trip,” he said. “We really didn’t have the unity of command, the unity of mission.”
Evans said there is a joke often made about the U.S. by servicemembers that the U.S. hasn’t had a presence in Korea for 50 years, it’s been to Korea for one year, 50 times. The same is applied to the U.S. presence in Iraq, he said.
Because there wasn’t a consistent presence of the same troops, the task at hand was often left up to the commanders of the soldiers who were stationed there. Some felt that the mission was to keep the peace and build community relationships, while others felt the mission was insurgency suppression, which would destroy the trust built by previous troops. It creates a deadly feedback loop, he said, adding that there’s no “institutional depth” to military operations in the Middle East.
“We just can’t learn. We send in a new crew and they make the same mistakes the last crew did,” Evans said. “By the time we learned what the problem was, it was time to replace them with a new team.”
One of the peace activists who appeared at the demonstration on Jan. 4, Evans said he often teams up with the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the ANSWER Coalition for rallies. He is not, however, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, he said.
“Demilitarization is important, bringing our troops home is important, global peace is important,” he said. “U.S. forces belong on American shores, straight up.”