News & Politics

Trump Went Too Far in Threatening to Target Iranian Cultural Sites

President Donald Trump stands in front of the media while talking about the situation at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, from his Mar-a-Lago property, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

As president, Donald Trump was absolutely correct to inform Iran that if it retaliates for the killing of the mass-murderer Qasem Suleimani that there would be a severe response from the United States.

But the president was dead wrong in threatening to hit Iranian cultural sites if Iran is stupid enough to attack us.

At least some conservatives are standing on principle.

Trump may be too ignorant to know it, but his blustering threats have placed him outside of international norms of behavior and made it very difficult for our friends around the world to support us.

Why is this important, the mouth-breathers among us might ask? International law may not be effective or uniformly applied or even fair at times, but it’s the only law we have. And the fact that Iran ignores international law whenever it wishes is not an excuse for the U.S. to sink to that level of the sewer.

We’re better than that. Maybe Trump isn’t, but we are. The entire edifice of international law that has been built up over the last several decades is as much a reflection of all-American values and principles as it is the common expression of people around the world for order of some kind.

The reaction from Democratic presidential candidates to the killing of Suleimani was empty political gamesmanship, but their criticisms of Trump’s threats to commit war crimes are spot on.


Former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats criticized Trump’s tweets, with some including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren saying the president was threatening to commit a war crime. Warren tweeted. “You are threatening to commit war crimes. We are not at war with Iran. The American people do not want a war with Iran. This is a democracy. You do not get to start a war with Iran, and your threats put our troops and diplomats at greater risk. Stop.”

“The more the walls close in on this guy, the more irrational he becomes,” Biden said in a statement. Biden added in an interview with reporters that Trump’s tweets are “incredibly dangerous and irresponsible.”

We’ll hear a lot about “wag the dog” scenarios over the next few days, but that talk obscures the nature of Trump’s threatened brutality. Trump doesn’t have to ratchet up his rhetoric to inflame his base over impeachment. He will easily be acquitted and the voters will have their way with him this November.

Trump’s infantile view that talking tough denotes “toughness” means he has failed to heed the lessons of some of his more illustrious predecessors, including Theodore Roosevelt, whose “Walk softly and carry a big stick” served him and the United States well while he was president.

I’m not buying the notion advanced by Trump sycophants that this is all part of some grand design or a Machiavellian plot. If it is, he should be impeached.

This is ignorance, plain and simple — a man who speaks without thinking of the consequences. Let’s hope he doesn’t talk us into a war.