For Republicans, the Vilification of Enemies Is All That Matters

If anyone fails that test, they are unpatriotic at best, and potential traitors at worst.

In the wake of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Donald Trump and his enablers have said a lot of ignorant things. But during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, Nikki Haley installed herself at the top of the list.

It is both preposterous and offensive to suggest that Democrats are mourning the loss of Soleimani. The issue that has been raised is that his assassination has made Americans less safe, especially those serving in the Middle East. Given that one of the primary responsibilities of our federal government is to ensure the security of Americans both at home and abroad, those are important concerns to voice.

Meghan McCain pulled something similar when she questioned the words that Elizabeth Warren used to describe Soleimani.

First of all, Soleimani is both a member of a group that has been classified as a terrorist organization and a senior foreign military official. For McCain, he must be one or the other, because referring to him simply as a military official isn’t sufficiently demonizing. Unless Warren uses the right words to describe him, she failed the patriotism test.

This is reminiscent of the time that Trump accused Democrats of supporting the MS-13 gang because they objected to his use of the word “animals” to describe undocumented immigrants. It is also similar to those days when Republicans suggested that, unless Obama used the words “radical Islam” to describe ISIS, he wouldn’t be able to defeat them. Finally, the same issue came up during a debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on the topic of Benghazi.

Obama pulled a zinger and proved Romney wrong: he had used the word “terrorism” to describe the attack in Benghazi. But what if he hadn’t? Did the use of the word “terrorism” change the fact that four Americans died during the attack? Did it change how the administration responded? The answer to those questions is clearly, “no.”

The truth is that, for too many Republicans, the only issue that matters is the vilification of enemies, which is demonstrated by the words we use to describe them. If anyone fails that test, they are unpatriotic at best, and potential traitors at worst.

What is eliminated from that kind of conversation is anything related to context or strategy. It posits a black-and-white world where using the most incendiary words to describe an enemy indicates that you have taken the side of good against evil. Under those circumstances, Trump doesn’t need to think through the ramifications of assassinating Suleimani. All he needs is some chest-thumping about how he’s taken out a really bad guy and damn the consequences. Somehow that kind of recklessness is never deemed unpatriotic, even as it puts American lives at risk.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.