Amid an incredibly nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, and often horrifying news cycle so far this decade January 7th, 2020 has probably been the least interesting day, from a reporting standpoint to date. But that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened, in fact, a lot of considerable news has happened today. Among those things is the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to reporters today. And that’s the topic of this post.
Secretary Pompeo appeared in front of reporters at the State Department earlier today and he had surprisingly extensive statements on a range of topics, as befits his position as an incredibly high-ranking government official.
What did Secretary of State Pompeo say?
The remarks have been uploaded to YouTube. As per usual, I have provided a video transcript of the remarks.
This is worth watching if you’re interested in anything related to U.S. intelligence and I recommend watching it in its entirety, especially if that is your interest, more-so than my commentary on the matter which would be fair.
Who did Secretary of State Pompeo leave out?
The secretary of state provided remarks about a range of topics. Among other things, he mentioned the inhumane treatment of Uighur Muslims by the government of China, and he urged countries all over to take China to task over how its been treating Muslims. But he left out a number of ongoing crises that are worth discussing.
Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, has suffered from extensive flooding. Over 60 people have died to date. And it’s not over yet. This comes as the country begins the process of moving its capital to a different island, the island of Borneo. A process that already has some controversies.
Puerto Rico has been rocked by earthquakes. These earthquakes have resulted in another major power-outage, and even collapsed a major landmark, known as Punta Ventana. Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency, and according to FEMA it is “under consideration“.
I have strong feelings about the fact that Secretary Pompeo didn’t discuss Puerto Rico. I deeply dislike that. It is infuriating to me that this administration, for all of its rhetoric about putting “America first” didn’t include any mention, even an idle “my prayers go out to the people of Puerto Rico who are suffering in the wake of an earthquake that has hurt their power grid” would have been better, to me anyway, than no mention at all. This is one showing of a long and all too American tradition in the United States of not caring about the lives and property of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans.
If your interest is Iran:
If you’re curious about how Secretary Pompeo spoke about Iran in today’s statements, I’ll provide you a breakdown and where necessary timestamps as well. I won’t provide my own commentary, I’d rather you just come to your own opinions about this part of the remarks.
When he was questioned about intelligence and the imminence of the strike that the assassination of General Soleimani was meant to counter he didn’t say anything new. He spoke to “continuing efforts” by General Soleimani and he spoke about efforts by General Soleimani to “build out a network of campaign activities that were gonna lead, potentially, to the deaths of many more Americans.” (Timestamp for that is 7:20-8:55)
He also spoke about the legality of the attack. He called it “perfectly legal” and that it was within the framework of the current administration’s efforts to address Iranian influence (Timestamp for that is from 8:45-9:04).
He calls Iranian foreign minister Zarif a “propagandist of the first order”, said he was peddling Iranian propaganda (this is specifically in response to the accusations by Zarif that the U.S. was engaging in state terrorism and the idea that General Soleimani was on a peace mission with regards to a potential Saudi peace-deal).
He doesn’t say if he personally believes targeting cultural sites is a war-crime, but does state outright that he believes that all options being considered are “inside the international laws of war”. For what it’s worth, that would strongly suggest that Secretary Pompeo does not believe that as an institution, the United States is considering targeting cultural sites because that is illegal.
At the end of the remarks he also said that the Ayallotah himself was the one who was “doing damage to Iranian culture”.
Regarding word choice:
It’s worth noting that Secretary Pompeo was apparently one of the key voices responsible for Trump’s decision to assassinate General Soleimani. And I know that some people are going to say that I’m making a moral judgment, or more annoyingly “defending a terrorist” by using the word “assassinate” but I’m not.
I’m using the term “assassinate” as it is defined by Merriam-Webster. National security is political, and hopefully, it isn’t partisan, and the operation that ended Soleimani’s life was an assassination. That is not me making a moral judgment, that is me using a specific definition of this word.
In national security conversations, highly emotional topics are often discussed. People attach emotional significance to specific words, and if you ask me that is frustrating and makes these conversations more difficult. By saying that Soleimani was assassinated, I am not attempting to impune the decision to end his life, nor am I attempting to characterize those behind it a certain way.
I am describing the operation that killed him, which was a surprise and a killing operation that was done for political purposes. National security is political and that’s a reality we need to face and accept. If you like to know what definition of words people are using, then this is the definition of political that I am using. It’s okay for things to be political, what we should hope is that things like this aren’t partisan.
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Luciano Joshua Gonzalez-Vega runs Sin/God and is the column’s sole author. The Puerto Rican writer is constantly working, whether he’s creating content for his YouTube channel, searching for freelance writing jobs, studying to finish earning a Master’s of Arts degree in peace & conflict studies, or as a general guest on a range of different YouTube channels. He is an independent content creator and columnist who dreams of being financially independent and able to self-finance a consultant’s business aiding businesses and organizations that find themselves burdened and needing conflict management services and even hoping to one day have a nationally syndicated radio show wherein he aids people dealing with workplace or familial conflicts and also advocates for humanistic approaches to the problems of the day.
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