Killing Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was an assassination, no matter what the excuse or what it is called. Assassination should never be an acceptable American practice.

Officials from the Trump administration, including the president, have been all over the map in trying to rationalize why Iran’s most powerful military leader was targeted by a deadly drone strike while he was in Iraq. Whatever the justification, Americans are safer now, they say.

Democrats and Republicans may disagree about the veracity of the justifications or the consequences of this act, but representatives from both sides continue to describe Soleimani’s killing as “taking him out.” Everyone should stop using this glib, script-worthy descriptive. Call the act what it is, an assassination.

The United States deliberately killed a political official of another nation. The Washington Post reported this week that another Iranian Quds Force leader, Abdul Reza Shahlai, was also targeted in an attack on the same day. That the attack didn’t succeed in killing Shahlai just makes it an attempted assassination.

“Taking out” the leadership of Iran’s most elite military forces seems like it is in America’s best interest. Soleimani was responsible for much of the Quds’ extension of Iranian power in the Middle East.

However, suppose Iran shoots Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Paris. Suppose Russia poisons Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Would Americans accept these killings? After all, Iranians and Russians perceive the United States as their enemy. It’s a matter of perspective.

America and Iran are adversaries. But America and Iran are not at war with one another. Military leaders are not combatants. Killing one without a state of war or on the battlefield is not fundamentally different from killing any political official.

Assassination is the antithesis of a democratic value. It assumes the people of Iran haven’t the right to make their own choices. It assumes Iran, and other countries, shouldn’t be as immune from foreign meddling as the U.S. should be.

The Trump administration is playing an ugly game, one with potentially terrible foreign policy and moral consequences. World War I started with a single assassination in the Balkans. It is not clear what the unintended consequences of this assassination will be.

The manner in which Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was killed and the subsequent attempts to justify it imply that America has a right to be the world’s most powerful assassin. That attitude should be taken out.

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