I rather assumed members of the media — even those who weren’t working the Middle East beat — knew who Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was when he stopped hogging carbon molecules on Friday.
Soleimani was head of the Quds Force, the elite arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is labeled as a terrorist organization by the United States and others for good reason.
Soleimani was responsible for much of what we liked to refer to as the “insurgency” during the Iraq War; his IEDs left our troops wounded or dead.
He continued to destabilize Iraq and was responsible for the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations there.
He was behind the militia (or “mourners,” if you’re The New York Times) who attacked the United States Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. The president has claimed the general was on the verge of targeting Americans as his next act, something that would have escalated tensions in the Middle East beyond anything Soleimani’s death has caused.
And yet, according to Anderson Cooper, we were dealing with a figure on the level of Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance during World War II and first president of the French Fifth Republic.
The discussion in question happened after Soleimani — like so many other innocents who had crossed his path — was consigned to the afterlife by a U.S. drone strike. (Although probably to a different department than most of his victims.)
“Soleimani is — it’s difficult to convey how revered he is in Iran,” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said, according to The Washington Free Beacon. “Imagine the French Foreign Legion, at the height of the French Empire. This guy is regarded in Iran as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave.”
“I was trying to think of somebody, and I was thinking of de Gaulle, although he became leader of the country,” Cooper said.
Zakaria was (sort of) the voice of reason here, saying the comparison was “not quite” apt:
“Other than the Supreme Leader Khomeini and maybe the president, he looms larger in Iran than almost any other figure. He is regarded as personally incredibly brave,” Zakaria said.
“The troops love him, and he has been the kind of mastermind of Iran’s policies in Syria, in Iraq.”
Once upon a time, the French military venerated Napoleon Bonaparte; from the Coup of 18 Brumaire until his loss at the Battle of Waterloo, the diminutive general was seen as a giant who had helped expand France’s influence across the European continent.
On the Death Star, Darth Vader was revered and respected by faceless white-clad stormtroopers who recognized him as a decisive military commander and hero, even as the training methods he prescribed left them without the ability to aim their weapons. Other than Emperor Palpatine, no figure loomed larger over Empire politics than the former Anakin Skywalker.
Col. Kurtz was beloved among the Montagnards, who saw him as a shrewd, brave tactical genius.
Perhaps you notice the issue here.
Saying that someone is revered and perceived as brave may be true, but you have to factor in who’s doing the revering and perceiving.
In the case of Soleimani, it’s the Iranian regime, the IRGC and individuals who are partisans of these noxious entities.
Comparing him to the Legionnaires is highly dubious; I suppose one could say they didn’t make a great account of themselves during the Algerian War of Independence, but that’s not exactly Quds Force-and-IED territory.
Meanwhile, Cooper comparing Soleimani to de Gaulle leaves one wordless.
One was a terrorist, the other led the French Resistance.
One was a chief military operative in an anti-Semitic state that threatens Israel’s existence, the other fought Nazis.
One was evil, the other good.
This shouldn’t be difficult unless you believe in moral equivalency on a massive scale.
Qassem Soleimani wasn’t Charles de Gaulle.
He wasn’t tantamount to a general in the French Foreign Legion.
He was a terrorist and a thug and the world is better off without him.
Media talk about how Soleimani is revered “as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave” needs to be appended with the caveat that the people who do see him this way are repressed, terrorized, brainwashed or evil.
None of the piffle from Cooper and Zakaria’s back-and-forth puts Soleimani’s legacy into context.
Media consumers know enough to recognize the difference between good and evil, between state-sponsored terrorism and the French Resistance.
If only Anderson Cooper was possessed of that kind of insight.
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