The decision by President Trump to target an Iranian leader, who was put on a terrorist list by the Obama administration, and killed 608 Americans in Iraq alone, was pure and simple Kansas common sense. Our American president should and will always protect our country and her people from imminent threats posed by foreign adversaries who seek to do us harm. If you are a known terrorist who has brutally murdered hundreds of U.S. soldiers and is actively planning to kill more Americans, our president must have the authority to stop that threat by any means necessary.
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo so eloquently said after the airstrike against Iranian terrorist General Qasem Soleimani, “The Iranian leadership needs to understand that attacking Americans is not cost-free. The entire strategy has been one of deterrence…the risk of doing nothing exceeded the risk of taking the action that we took.” As a physician and former Army officer, I get that, almost every day, weighing risks versus benefits of surgeries and treatments, making decisions about life and death. The Secretary is entirely right. This was not an act of aggression by America, but rather a direct response, and an act of self-defense and deterrence to prevent future loss of American lives. The President was doing his job to de-escalate a tense situation to save American lives and was damn right to do so.
Now, however, the debate in Congress currently playing out isn’t about whether or not President Trump saved American lives; the issue in question today is, did President Trump have authorization as Commander in Chief to execute a targeted strike against Qasem Soleimani? I, along with many of my GOP colleagues, believe the answer is yes. However, those on the other side of this debate claim any military action taken by the President requires new Congressional approval. They could not be more incorrect.
Let me be clear, the authority to declare war rests solely with Congress. We know this from Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. But that’s not what President Trump did here. Iran has been attacking Americans for more than 40 years. More recently they have directly attacked oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, taken U.S. Navy sailors hostage, shot down a U.S. drone, orchestrated an attack on a U.S. embassy, and launched missiles at a U.S. military base. The Iranian regime conducted numerous other terrorist attacks in the Middle East in the months leading up to the attack on our embassy. The U.S. is not seeking escalation, but rather the opposite — to de-escalate decades of unprovoked and continued aggression from Iran.
Being debated today across the country is the War Powers Act (WPA) which was first enacted in 1973 after the Vietnam War ended to ensure Congress authorizes America’s involvement in any future wars. At the time, Congress and many Americans were concerned with the perceived erosion of its constitutional authority to make declarations of war and the checks and balances on the Commander in Chief as laid out in the Constitution. The goal of the WPA was essentially to prevent another conflict like Vietnam from ever happening again.
I was in grade school during Vietnam and vividly remember the sorrow my community of El Dorado experienced. It seemed like every week in my hometown, another funeral service was being held for a young man born and raised in Butler County, who was killed in the war. These were our friends, neighbors, and members of our church.
These were people I had seen growing up playing football on Friday nights or baseball games on weekends. I can still remember the heartbreaking cries of a Gold Star mother as she received her son’s body or the sudden, and later permanent, absence of my friends’ older brothers. The physical and mental scars of this war, and of course more recent wars, remain with family friends today and serve as reminder why we hate war. The Vietnam War was a living hell for those who fought in it. I do not want another endless war, and neither does President Trump, as he has stated time and again.
The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress in October 2002, expressed “it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense” and authorized the president “to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad.” That authorization is still active today and administrations from both parties have cited the AUMF as justification for conducting military operations against terrorist organizations in Iraq.
By eliminating the terrorist Soleimani, President Trump took decisive action to protect American lives and rid the world of an evil terrorist who was actively planning more death and destruction. The President and his advisers made a calculated decision to resolve a tense situation to save American lives, and now Iran is standing down.
We are all safer today because of President Trump’s strong leadership, Secretary Pompeo’s sounds council, and recognition that America will never be bullied.