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Sen. Merkley On U.S. Killing Of Soleimani: “I’m Not Saying It Was A Mistake”

April Ehrlich | JPR News
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley at Southern Oregon University for a town hall in Ashland

U.S. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley held a series of town halls in Southern Oregon Friday.

His constituents in Ashland were eager to ask about several national issues — including 5G technology and carbon footprints — but the possibility of a U.S. war against Iran wasn’t top of mind.

Thirty minutes into calling ticket numbers for questions, Merkley brought it up himself.

“Oh, I think it’s appropriate to note that we’re in very dangerous territory: the potential escalation into another Middle East war,” Merkley said.

President Donald Trump had authorized the assasination of Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, just hours earlier. It was the latest move in an aggressive, weeks-long escalation between the U.S. and Iran.

Many top U.S. officials warned that Soleimani’s assasination could lead to dangerous repercussions. Top Democrats criticized Trump’s military use of power without informing Congress, while Republicans largely supported the president's decision.

“We can make mistakes that cost us in blood and treasure for a generation to come, let’s not make another mistake now,” Merkley said at the town hall to an applause.

But when asked about Trump’s order to kill Soleimani:

“I’m not saying it was a mistake,” Merkley said. “I don’t have all the details of the administration. We do know that he was someone involved previously in attacks on the United States.”

He added that the constitution doesn’t give war-making power to the president.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.