Massachusetts Politicians: Sure, War Is Bad. But!

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Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., speaks during a candidate forum on labor issues Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

In the wake of Thursday’s drone strike in Iraq that killed a high-ranking Iranian official, Democrats in Massachusetts are lining up to condemn the provocative act, issue dire warnings that the president is about to drag us into war, and express how stupid and horrible all that would be. But! Before getting around to doing so, a handful of our delegates to Washington, presumably worried about looking weak or out of touch, apparently first felt the need to preface it by saying that he is bad and they’re not upset that he’s dead.

“Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote in a tweet Thursday night. “But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”

She was not the only one to use this framing, letting a three-letter word muddy the waters of a critically important message.

Statement on US military action in Iraq against Qasem Soleimani.

— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) January 3, 2020

Qassem Soleimani was an evil man who deserved to be held accountable for his sins. But carrying out an assassination without notifying Congress or presenting a plan to avoid war and American casualties is reckless and dangerous.

— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) January 3, 2020

(Update: Kennedy’s campaign contacted us to point out that his first statement on the killing was an unequivocal anti-war message).

2/ Republicans and Democrats alike do not want war with Iran. The American people do not want war with Iran. We are sick and tired of endless wars. We have heard nothing so far from this administration about how they plan to deescalate this dangerous situation and prevent this…

— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) January 3, 2020

You, of course, don’t have to say such things and can instead focus exclusively on the possibility of a new, world-historic conflict with a powerful adversary in the Middle East. Or maybe do some reflecting about what purpose it serves to take out a bad guy when a complex, sprawling regional conflict waits.

Nobody would be stupid enough to support the idea of droning the Chinese or Russian president on “he’s a bad guy, so much blood on his hands” type logic. Everyone saying this re Soleimani is pretty implicitly making the calculation that doing this is worth the consequences

— Tom Gara (@tomgara) January 3, 2020

Just imagine rearranging the sentence for a second. Sure, war would be bad and thousands may die, you might say. But you do gotta hand it to the Commander in Chief a little.

You could, like Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, simply kiss the “but” goodbye and just say what you mean: No war means no war.

Congress is the only entity that can authorize military force. We cannot and must not get drawn into war with Iran.

— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) January 3, 2020

The Occupant was JUST impeached for abuse of power for political gain & now he is leading us to the brink of war because he believes it will help his re-election. We are sick of endless wars. Congress has the sole authority to declare war and we must deescalate. #NoWarWithIran

— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) January 3, 2020

Is that really so hard?

Update: Seth Moulton’s office objected to this portrayal of his comments, pointing to Moulton’s longstanding opposition to the war in Iraq and to military intervention in Iran. “Seth volunteered to serve four tours of duty in Iraq, a war he disagreed with, so that someone didn’t have to go in his place,” Moulton’s communications director Tim Biba said in an emailed statement. “He lost friends to Soleimani’s men. He is not going to mince words about Soleimani’s death and the small amount of justice it might provide to Americans who who lost a loved one or friend because of Soleimani.”

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