Salvo 05.24.2024 5 minutes

Sand in the Face

Annual Flags-In Event Held At Arlington Cemetery Ahead Of Memorial Day

Offering condolences for the butcher of Tehran is a gut punch to military veterans.

As final confirmation came that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died when his helicopter crashed in northern Iran, I was aghast to see the Biden administration offer its condolences for the death of a murderer. A press statement attributed to career Washingtonian and State Department spokesman Matthew Miller offered the following:

The United States expresses its official condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and other members of their delegation in a helicopter crash in northwest Iran. As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

This fatuous message was matched by NATO spokeswoman Farah Dakhlallah who posted on X: “Our condolences to the people of #Iran for the death of President Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and others who perished in the helicopter crash.”

Determined not to be outdone, the UN Security Council held a moment of silence for Raisi. Robert Wood, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, stood to join in that misguided diplomatic signaling.

Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Barry Black, concluded the Senate’s opening prayer on Monday May 21 by implying that Raisi’s death was a matter of deep mourning for Iranians suffering under the brutal ayatollah regime… “and Lord we pray for the Iranian people who mourn the death of their president.” He neglected to mention that such mourning by the Iranian people is enforced by agents of the state.

These statements exemplify the language of cowardice and placation to a murderous regime. I cannot help but wonder what the agreed price was for these disgraced government employees to forever tie their names to expressing sadness over the death of a murderous tyrant. I served as a military public affairs officer for 20 years. This kind of communication is clear malpractice by members of a vocation already well known for spin and flexibility with truth. It demonstrates an ethical reality well known among astute observers of public relations practice: most who work in government communication say exactly what they are told to, even when their actions perpetuate immorality. For most of them, favor with one’s rater and standing among the institutional elite matters more than professionalism. The few governmental communicators who will stand for truth are quickly ostracized as problematic.

No federal cabinet agency publishes official statements on matters of global interest without the express support of the White House, especially not the State Department. It is unquestionable that senior officials in the Biden administration blessed this evil lament over the death of a U.S. enemy. The question is why.

Iran has been an adversary to the West since the radical Islamic revolution of 1979 and has held to a state of sustained proxy war with U.S. consistently in the decades since. During my time serving in the U.S. Army, it was well known that Iranian forces served as a chief supplier of munitions for insurgents across Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular, shape-charged improvised explosive devices (IED). These, and many other Iranian-provided and funded weapons, were used indiscriminately to kill both coalition military forces and any civilians who were unfortunate enough to be at the site of attack. Iranian proxies never pretended to attempt surgical precision in war. To the regime that has no regard for jus in bello, all collateral damage is acceptable in service to the ayatollah.

Just this year Iranian military forces launched the drone attack that killed three American soldiers at a desert outpost in Jordan in January. That doesn’t even begin to touch on Iran’s funding, equipping, and training of ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthis who are on active military campaigns that target both civilians and U.S. interests across the middle east. It is unquestionable that the Islamic terrorist state has done far more to harm Americans than Russian oligarchs could ever dream of. But to this administration, the only bad man in the world is commanding military forces from Moscow. Would Biden offer condolences if Vladimir Putin died? Yet he has the nerve to offer condolences for the Iranian president whose government’s canon includes the slogan “death to America.”

In 2012 I was the director of public affairs for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division as the unit served a combat tour across the Khost and Paktya provinces of Afghanistan. Eight of our paratroopers lost their lives on that rotation. I wrote the media releases for each one, and stood for nearly every ramp ceremony as their remains left the medical center on Forward Operating Base Salerno for the helicopters that began their journey home to broken-hearted loved ones. Our hearts broke for them as well, as we saluted our fallen comrades under night sky. Many more of our men and women came home wounded. Two of the men I directly led survived IED attacks. I will never forget the moment walking into the combat medical station to see one of them on a hospital bed. He tried to dismiss the severity of the experience, not wanting me to worry. Then he asked me to try to find something in his uniform pocket and bring to him. I ventured into an adjoining room to find the uniform that had been cut from his body. The blood stained fabric he had been wearing told a different story. He escaped the destroyed, armored patrol truck by climbing out over the driver, who had perished in the blast. I cannot say for certain if that specific attack was the direct work of the Iranian war machine. But it certainly had the regime’s approval.

When military members die, their commanders write condolence letters to the families left behind. The Biden administration writes condolences for those who help to kill them. In doing so, it kicks desert sand in the face of global war on terrorism veterans anew. Imagine being a member of today’s U.S. military and knowing that your commander in chief believes that a murderous tyrant deserves to be respected and mourned. Et tu, Biden?

The Biden administration chose a route of weakness, when the moment called for strength. Such a tragic moment offers a learning opportunity, especially for institutional communication officers. In that spirit, here is what an appropriate statement on the death of President Raisi would look like.

The United States expresses its regret that in his lifetime the now late President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi used the power granted him in office to spread wanton murder and destruction. He now takes his place in history along a long line of murderous dictators who appropriately went down to the grave in violent fashion, corresponding to the evil they committed on the global stage. We pray for the living victims of Raisi’s actions and the loved ones of those he killed. We hope they take comfort in the knowledge that the Butcher of Tehran can never bring harm to them again. We also pray that the people of Iran will soon be rid of the government that oppresses them and once again join with the community of nations to exist among each other peaceably in our time.

A sane and patriotic administration would have offered this or something like it as a fitting tribute to the miserable death of a miserable tyrant. We can only pray that one day we have leaders who refuse to bow their heads to murderers.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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