“Mourning comes in different forms,” Haley’s office said. “It doesn’t have to be literally crying over the casket like Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei. Leading Democrats are aggressively arguing that we would be better off if Qassem Suleimani was still alive today. That is effectively mourning his death.”
There are two problems with this: One, Democrats aren’t actually saying we’d be better off with Soleimani alive, and two, even the idea that that would constitute “mourning” just doesn’t track.
Democrats’ responses to Soleimani’s killing have largely been to question its strategic wisdom. Some have called it an “assassination” and warned about potential blowback. But even in their statements — compiled here by the Free Beacon — many emphasized he was a bad person who will hardly be missed.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) began her statement by saying Soleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.”
“Soleimani has American blood on his hands,” Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) said.
Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.) said “there is no mourning his death.”
Among the major candidates, apparently only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declined to emphasize how bad Soleimani was in his initial statement.
By Haley’s standard, anybody who opposes a high-profile killing of a foreign adversary would be “mourning” that person. People who may think it’s not a good idea to take out someone like North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — perhaps because of the threat of nuclear war — would suddenly be rendered as apologists for or sympathizers of Kim. However you feel about the wisdom of taking out Soleimani, it’s extremely reductive. There is a reason we don’t go around killing our adversaries, willy-nilly.
Indeed, if questioning the wisdom of killing a foreign adversary is fairly labeled “mourning,” there is a credible case to be made that Trump mourned Saddam Hussein. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly suggested it was a bad idea to take out Hussein because he killed terrorists.
“You know, Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but one thing about him: He killed terrorists,” Trump said at one point. At another, he added: “Look what’s happened since then: a disaster. Shouldn’t have been there, shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out — but, if the president went to the beach, we would have been better off, believe me.”
The bigger point, though, is that “mourning” carries very specific connotations. Merriam-Webster defines it as “to feel or express grief or sorrow” and “to show the customary signs of grief for a death.” It clearly connotes an emotional regard for the individual who has died, not a strategic calculation about the value of them still being alive.
As I wrote Tuesday, Haley’s comments are particularly jarring given her past emphasis on civility in politics. “Civility and accomplishment go hand in hand. Leadership is persuasion, and leadership is impossible if we’re yelling at each other,” she said as recently as September.
However technically justifiable you might think Haley’s comments are, they have the effect of throwing gasoline on the very serious debate over Soleimani’s killing. Her choice of words was extremely provocative, which is the kind of thing she used to warn against. Her decision to double down on all of it suggests she’s now choosing a very different path.