Rep. Seth Moulton says he can relate to the position that President Donald Trump was in ahead of his decision to order the killing of Iran’s top military leader, Qassem Soleimani.
“We get it — he’s a terrible, evil man,” Moulton told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell in an interview Monday night. “He killed a lot of Americans. I saw friends die from Iranian weapons.”
The Massachusetts congressman and Marine veteran said he personally “faced Iranians on the ground” during his time in combat in Iraq. But ultimately, Moulton says killing Soleimani was a decision that would make the United States less safe, given Iran’s pledge of retaliation.
During the interview Monday, the Salem Democrat said the situation reminded him of a similar decision he made in 2005, while with a group of fellow Marines in southern Iraq. Moulton said he and a small team were ordered to figure out how to take back a militia-controlled city that had “an Iranian proxy in place as the governor.” Like Soleimani, whose military force is blamed by the Pentagon for the deaths of “hundreds” of American and allied service members, Moulton said the governor “had blood on his hands, too.”
That didn’t mean killing him was the right decision, Moulton added.
“He was an evil man,” he said. “Trust me, I wanted to kill that governor. But we made a strategic decision that taking him out would create more problems than it would solve. That’s the calculus that you have to make in this kind of war: Are we killing more terrorists than we are creating by this action?”
Like the rest of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Moulton said Trump’s actions only escalated the conflict and criticized the administration for lacking a plan in the Middle East.
The congressman noted that he and California Rep. Ro Khanna had tried to amend the military budget last year to prohibit the use military force against Iran without congressional approval.. Despite bipartisan support, Moulton said it was ultimately deemed too “contentious” at the time to debate.
“What happens next is very frightening,” he said earlier in the interview.
“If there’s one thing that Iran has said that I actually trust, it’s that they will retaliate,” Moulton added. “They get to choose when, how, and whom they target, but they will retaliate against the United States.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told CNN on Tuesday that the country plans to respond “proportionately” to the drone strike that killed Soleimani, despite Trump’s earlier warnings that the United States would respond to any Iranian counterstrikes “perhaps in a disproportionate manner.”
For his part, Moulton — who briefly ran for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination last year — has been a vocal critic of both Republican and Democratic administrations’ respective approaches to the Middle East. And in the wake of the drone strike that killed Soleimani, he has only amplified his criticism of Trump. After the Republican president threatened to target Iranian cultural sites, Moulton called him “the most reckless commander in chief in American history.”
Moulton also rebuked Nikki Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina and United Nations ambassador, for suggesting that Democrats were mourning Soleimani’s death.
“To even suggest so is disgusting,” he tweeted Tuesday. “We are concerned about the immense risk of war with Iran as a result of his death and the impulsive and reckless way Donald Trump makes decisions.”