Illustration by Rose Collins

In the past century, the U.S. has unrelentingly engaged in destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East. In Iran, the tradition began in 1953 with the overthrow of democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. 

On Jan. 3, President Donald Trump approved the assasination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. The Pentagon confirmed it killed Soleimani because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

No matter what the administration is saying to justify this, the assasination of Prime Minister Soleimani is a clear act of war by the U.S. It’s not the U.S. government’s place to decide which foreign leaders live and die, and the people of Iran and Iraq should not be collateral damage.

According to The Hill, Iran approved a bill on Jan. 7 labelling the U.S. military and the Pentagon as terrorist organizations, a fitting characterization for a government that uses its military strength to exploit foreign countries and control their domestic affairs at the expense of civilians. Ironically, the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in April 2019.

Since Soleimani’s assassination, Trump has threatened to destroy 52 cultural sites in Iran as revenge for the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979. According to the 1949 Geneva Convention and 1954 Hague Convention, it’s a war crime for members of the conventions to direct hostility toward cultural property.

There are hundreds of headlines speculating what war with Iran would actually look like, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care about what Iran will look like after a war. 

As people joke about getting drafted for a war with Iran, Iranians across the world are worrying about the lives of their friends and family, and praying that tensions don’t escalate. Americans don’t know how to process the realities of war because their government has largely exported state violence. War in the Middle East isn’t new, but the U.S. has been safe through it all — and will continue to be. 

Looking at the news notifications popping up since Friday is frightening and mind-numbing. “United States and Iran back away from imminent conflict as Trump says he is ready for peace ‘with all who seek it’,” writes The Washington Post.

“Senators condemn Iran’s use of ballistic missiles in attack,” writes The Associated Press.

Receiving alerts of Soleimani’s death and of Iranian missiles attacking American bases in Iraq are just reminders that the humanity of brown people is often forgotten when sovereign leaders are caught up in games of moral accusation.

At General Soleimani’s funeral, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei clarified that his problem is not with the American people as a whole, but specifically with Donald Trump, former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Khamenei also used the phrase “Death to America.” 

When Iranians say “Death to America,” they do so in response to all the pain and suffering the U.S. has caused them and people everywhere, the terrible policies the U.S. has put in place and the arrogance people in the U.S. display toward anything they don’t understand. For the phrase to be considered “terrorist rhetoric” is a gross, Islamophobic mistranslation. 

The U.S. government clearly does not care about the people of Iran, as its sanctions are currently starving the population and destroying the country’s economy. Even as Trump said he is “ready to accept peace” on Jan. 8, people seem to forget that it was his decision to assassinate a military general that dramatically escalated tensions. 

Decades of wars in the Middle East, which have resulted in incalculable human loss and suffering, should signal to every American that our wars need to end. Every American should oppose a war with Iran and protest any further acts of aggression. 

There are numerous protests happening around the country this month, petitions to sign and lawmakers to call at 1-844-ACT-NIAC. 

If you are white, please protect Iranians, Iraqis, Muslims and Brown people in general who could face a wave of Islamophobia and xenophobia similar to what followed 9/11.