Judge Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s killing of Soleimani was a war crime

Judge Andrew Napolitano: US killing of Soleimani was odd, out of place, untimely and unlawful


The general’s assassination was odd, out of place, untimely and unlawful. Odd, because the general’s folks had worked with our intelligence folks in Iraq against ISIS. Out of place, because the Iranian general was welcomed by the Iraqi government and was not engaged in any violence or war crimes at the time he was killed. Untimely, because whatever he may have been planning to do was not an imminent attack on the U.S. or on Americans. We know this because Trump administration officials revealed that the president gave the kill order seven months ago, in June 2019. How imminent could an attack have been in June if it had not occurred by January?

And unlawful, because we are not at war with Iran, and political assassinations have been prohibited by still valid executive orders signed by Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Ronald Reagan. The U.S. Constitution limits the federal government’s lawful power to kill to foreign troops in wartime and after due process, neither of which abides here. Moreover, international treaties to which the U.S. is party, as well as the laws of war to which the U.S. subscribes, prohibit preemptive killings except when the target is just about — “certainty” is the standard — to strike. …

When Pompeo was pressed for his understanding of Trump’s four embassies claim, he offered that the intelligence data did not reveal when or where or how, but he knew Soleimani was “probably” up to no good. …

When Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky challenged the briefers, the president weighed in with a startling tweet on Monday: “The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was “eminent” or not, & was my team in agreement. The answer to both is a strong YES, but it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past!”

That boast of killing the general “because of his horrible past” sent off bells and whistles in the Department of Justice. Trump’s retribution argument does not legally justify killing a person who is not engaged in violence at the time of the killing, and, arguably, is a war crime. …

How can the government use the 2002 AUMF, whose stated target was Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but whose true target was Saddam Hussein, as a legal justification to kill a non-Iraqi general 18 years later? Except in the minds of extreme administration loyalists, it cannot legally or rationally do so.

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