Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on Tuesday that he doubts the Trump administration’s rationale for why the U.S. killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a targeted strike.
The White House and top officials claim that evidence of an imminent national security threat motivated the president’s controversial decision to target Soleimani in a drone strike Friday.
“We haven’t seen that evidence. Frankly, I doubt that evidence is there,” Sanders said in an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff. He compared President Donald Trump’s messaging on Iran to the George W. Bush administration’s justification leading up to the Iraq War in 2003, which Sanders strongly opposed.
“A war with Iran would likely be even worse,” he said, adding that he will push for the U.S. to solve international disputes diplomatically “in this instance and in other instances.”
The strike on Soleimani has drawn criticism from some lawmakers and national security experts who argue the move has pushed the U.S. to the brink of war with Iran. Some Republican members of Congress have applauded the killing as a necessary move.
On Tuesday night, the Pentagon confirmed that Iranian forces had fired missiles at two Iraqi air bases where U.S. troops were housed.
When asked whether he thought Trump had committed a war crime by killing Soleimani, Sanders responded that killing top officials of a foreign government sends a message to countries throughout the world that the U.S. could do something similar again.
“I think the world and this country is sick and tired of endless wars that have cost us trillions of dollars while our infrastructure is collapsing, our health care system is dysfunctional,” he said, adding that instead, “We have to deal with climate change and invest heavily in transforming our energy system.”
More highlights from the interview:
- On withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq: Sanders reiterated his belief that the U.S. should withdraw troops from Iraq, but said the U.S. should “bring them out in a measured, intelligent way, working with the Iraqi government and our international allies.” But in response to a vote by the Iraqi parliament this week to oust U.S. troops, Sanders told the NewsHour that “it’s a sad state of affairs to see — after all of the sacrifice — to see our troops booted out of the country.”
- On potential job losses that could result from his ‘Medicare for All’ plan: Sanders has acknowledged that a significant job market shift would take place if the U.S. transitioned to his Medicare for All proposal. He said, however, that the program would create more jobs than it plans to cut, as well as provide job training for other necessary medical services. “We have enormous administrative waste. We have all kinds of people in the bureaucracy administering thousands of separate health insurance plans,” Sanders said. “We need more doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors.”
- On former Vice President Joe Biden’s electability in 2020: Sanders has previously commented that Biden brings political “baggage” into the presidential race that could hinder his ability to beat Trump. Among other reasons, Sanders cites Biden’s vote to go to war with Iraq and what the senator sees as lacking voters’ enthusiasm. “To beat Trump, you’re going to need a massive voter turnout,” Sanders said. “The only way you do that is through a campaign of energy, of excitement. You have to bring working people, you have to bring young people into the political process. … I just don’t think the Biden campaign can create the energy and excitement we need.”