One of the primary ways hawkish politicians and media members work to advance a pro-war agenda is to paint those who oppose them as weak on national security. Case in point: Tuesday’s appearance by presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren on ABC’s The View.
Co-host Meghan McCain accused Warren of changing her position on Qasem Soleimani, the high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence official who was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport last week. McCain, the daughter of deceased Republican senator and well-known military hawk John McCain, argued that Warren calling Soleimani a “murderer” and then later describing his death as an “assassination of a senior foreign military official” was somehow inconsistent.
McCain then explained how Soleimani “was responsible for hundreds of American troops’ deaths, carnage that we can’t even imagine,” adding that two U.S. government agencies have classified the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, including the Quds Force Soleimani headed, as a terrorist organization. “I don’t understand the flip-flop,” McCain concluded. “I don’t understand why it was hard to call him a terrorist.”
But there is no flip-flop. Soleimani was a murderer. He was also a senior foreign military official. Warren said as much in her response to McCain: “This isn’t a change. The question is, what is the response that the president of the United States should make and what advances the interests of the United States of America?”
She went on to cite the U.S. unseating Saddam Hussein. “You want to talk about a bad guy, right?” Warren said. “However, going to war in Iraq was not in the interests of the United States. We lost thousands of American lives, it cost us here at home, it has cost us around the world, it has been a part of this cost in the Middle East that has ended up with millions of people who lost their lives, who’ve been injured, who’ve been displaced. The question for the United States is to understand what’s going on, have an overall strategy, and pick an appropriate response at an appropriate time.”
McCain then interrupted Warren, asking, “Do you think [Soleimani is] a terrorist?”
Warren replied: “He’s part of a group that has been desig—”
But McCain interrupted again, “But is he a terrorist?”
“He is part of a group that’s been designated such,” Warren said.
“But he’s not a terrorist,” McCain interrupted a third time, continuing her bizarre insistence that saying someone is part of a terrorist group is somehow not the same as saying someone is a terrorist.
“Of course he is!” Warren responded, adding, ”He’s part of a group that our federal government has designated as a terrorist. The question, though, is what is the right response? And the response that Donald Trump has picked is the most incendiary and has moved us right to the edge of war, and that is not in our long-term interests.”
Asked by @MeghanMcCain if Gen. Soleimani was a terrorist, Sen. @ewarren says, “Of course he is. He’s part of a group that our federal government has designated as a terrorist. The question, though, is what’s the right response?” https://t.co/jhLJCNiPuo pic.twitter.com/Ywg8XEKc68
— The View (@TheView) January 7, 2020
McCain isn’t the only media member to try to claim Warren has waffled in her response to Soleimani’s assassination. CNN’s Chris Cillizza made a similarly nonsensical argument about Warren changing her position on Soleimani’s death, arguing, as McCain did, that Warren first called Soleimani a “murderer,” then said he was “assassinated,” then described him as a “government official, a high-ranking military official” — all of which are true and in no way contradictory.
The misplace criticism is frustrating for two reasons. One, in the case of McCain, it’s a conservative insisting on painting a liberal as dovish because she doesn’t think we should immediately kill anyone deemed a terrorist without considering the consequences. Second, McCain and Cillizza are trying to portray Warren as dishonest or contradictory while ignoring the similarly nuanced stance of Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg. Unfortunately, many perceive a woman in pursuit of power as inherently dishonest or corrupt. On Tuesday, McCain tried to label Warren as dishonest even as Warren was agreeing with her.