Recently President Donald Trump has led the top stories of every news outlet by announcing on Twitter his intent to attack 52 Iranian sites, including cultural ones “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” in the event that Iran retaliated against the US for the assassination of its top general Qassem Soleimani.
Initially, after harsh backlash and criticism that he was basically advocating and promoting war crimes, Trump backed down from his comments.
But then, while talking to reporters on Air Force One, he was back to his stance, saying, “They’re allowed to kill our people.
They’re allowed to torture and maim our people.
They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
“They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
The targeting of cultural sites violates both international law and numerous treaties. The UN has been clear that it classifies such acts as war crimes and a 2017 UN resolution “condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, including the destruction of religious sites and artifacts.”
In 2015, a spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General at that time, said, “The deliberate destruction of our common cultural heritage constitutes a war crime and represents an attack on humanity as a whole.”
The current cast of Trump advisers and officials are all rushing to convince the world that the president did NOT threaten to commit a war crime.
But that task is almost impossible given the fact that he publicly stated his intent and millions of people witnessed it, not to mention that thanks to his preferred method of communication – Twitter – everything he says lives on infinitely.
Pompeo defends Trump…
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo danced around the topic during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
Tapper asked him if the US was actually “preparing to hit nonmilitary, cultural targets in Iran, which would obviously — possibly — result in civilian threats and almost certainly violate a UN resolution that the US voted for in 2017?”
Pompeo defended Trump’s tweet by saying it was “consistent” with the US’s stance “all along.” Pompeo went on to say, “We will be bold in protecting American interests” in a way “that is consistent with the international rule of law and the American Constitution.”
Tapper tried to hold Pompeo’s feet to the flame, insisting that he was “saying two different things.” Tapper pressed on, “President Trump’s threat … centers of interest to the Iran culture would not be in accordance with international law, so which is it?”
But Pompeo remained steadfast in his defense of Trump, “Jake, they’re not two different things… The American people should know that we will not waver. We will be bold in protecting American interests … we’ve always done that, Jake, and President Trump’s tweet doesn’t deviate from that one iota.”
Tapper continued, “So cultural centers are theoretically fair targets, in your view?”
“Jake, we’re going to do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with American law,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo added, referring to comments made by Trump on “Meet the Press”, “Our responses are lawful … the president will take every action necessary to respond should Iran decide to escalate.”
Conway defends Trump…
Pompeo isn’t the only one in the Trump camp to try to defend his comments. Counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, tried her best by arguing that Trump didn’t actually say what the public heard him say. Then she acknowledged that he DID say it. Confused? Yeah, us too.
Conway said, “He didn’t say he’s targeting cultural sites.. He said that he was openly asking the question why in the world they’re allowed to maim people, put out roadside bombs, kill our people, torture our people … he said that they identified 52 sites.”
Conway later said that the president had “identified those sites and said it may happen if Iran retaliates in a certain way.”
According to a CNN report, multiple senior US officials expressed their extreme opposition to any targeting of or attacks on Iranian cultural sites.
One official told CNN, “Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites. Whether ISIS’s destruction of religious monuments, or the burning of the Leuven Library in WWI, history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating.”
Another senior official said, “Consistent with laws and norms of armed conflict, we would respect Iranian culture.”
And a third official who has worked under Trump and President Obama, said, “As a matter of principle, we as a nation and as a military do not attack the culture sites of any adversary.”