Trump unveils a brand new rationale for risky Soleimani airstrike

I won't pretend to be an expert in international law, but I don't think the laws of armed conflict include provisions related to those who "say bad things."
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By Steve Benen

It's been 17 days since Donald Trump authorized an airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which was launched in order to prevent an imminent attack. Well, maybe not imminent. But the president and his team certainly knew of a deadly attack Soleimani was planning.

Except, as regular readers know, maybe "knew" is too strong a word, since the administration didn't know who, what, where, or when the general intended to strike. Except the opposite might also be true, since Trump said Soleimani was targeting an embassy. No, wait, not just any embassy, but the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Hold on, maybe it was four embassies.

After these meandering and contradictory explanations for the airstrike effectively collapsed, the president tried to resolve the problem by declaring it "doesn't really matter" why he launched the military offensive. On Friday night, Trump spoke to donors at Mar-a-Lago, where, according to an audio recording obtained by the Washington Post, the president unveiled a brand-new explanation.

The president said nothing about an "imminent attack." ... Instead, he spoke broadly about Soleimani as "the father of the roadside bomb" responsible for "every young, beautiful man or woman who you see walking around with no legs, no arms." Trump said he heard about two weeks ago that the United States had Soleimani under surveillance and he was "talking about bad stuff." [...]

"He was saying bad things about our country, like we're going to attack, we're going to kill your people. I said, 'Listen, how much of this s**t do we have to listen to, right?' " Trump said to applause from the donor crowd.

Trump proceeded to describe the details of watching the mission unfold from the White House Situation Room -- the story included multiple instances in which people called him "sir" -- making himself the hero of the narrative.

I've lost count of exactly how many explanations for the Jan. 3 airstrike Trump and his team have come up with, though I believe we're up to Rationale #6: the president authorized the strike because an Iranian general was "saying bad things."

I won't pretend to be an expert in international law, but I don't think the laws of armed conflict include provisions related to those who "say bad things."

Circling back to our earlier coverage, I realize I've been banging this drum quite a bit, but we're dealing with a dynamic in which the president risked a war for reasons that now appear illegitimate. And while his most sycophantic followers may find that satisfactory, the rest of the political world need not accept politically motivated lies about national security so casually.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog