ONE by one, the faces of evil in the Middle East, as drawn by the US, disappeared. Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were the most notorious in the list and all met their deaths in military operations sanctioned by the White House. It was just a matter of time that a new face took the starring role as target.
US President Donald Trump first targeted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State whose jihadist group was responsible for the deaths of thousands in the latter’s effort to create a caliphate in conquered areas of Iraq and Syria. The president, who sanctioned the operation in Oct. 26 last year, said that the terrorist, “whimpering and crying and screaming,” detonated his suicide vest when chased by US military dogs. Baghdadi died along with three of his children.
Trump became bolder by authorizing the assassination of Iranian Major General Soleimani on Jan. 3, 2020. Said to be the second most powerful person in Iran next to Ayatollah Khamenei, Soleimani headed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was commander of Quds Force, a division that operates similar to the US Central Intelligence Agency. Labeled as a terrorist by the US, he was revered by many Iranians as a hero who fiercely fought the nation’s enemies. (In Philippine context, Soleimani was his country’s Manny Pacquiao).
Interestingly, there are accounts that as Trump approved the military operation, he was also in a meeting with his political advisers for his re-election campaign. Critics believe that Trump’s move had much to do with diverting people’s attention from his impeachment rather than to respond to security threats to America, its people and interests. Note that he bypassed procedure by failing to inform specific leaders of both the US Senate and House of Representatives, as required by law.
There are those who applaud the courage of Trump in ridding the world of those who threaten peace and stability; yet the lack, if not absence of, proof on planned attacks on US facilities under the direction of Soleimani merely substantiate allegation on the immorality, if not illegality, of the assassination. It can be said that there is as much blood spilled by the murderous actions of Soleimani as that of the US that time and again supports coups, assassinations and dictators supposedly in the name of freedom and democracy.
With Baghadi and Soleimani out, who will be the next target? Will the belligerent attitude of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un qualify him up in the list? Or maybe, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro? The Donald Trump Show has put military action and blood into its narrative. The US president is the protagonist and the script requires an adversary, that evil face. Sadly, the collateral damage isn’t given much consideration.