Bernie Sanders says war punishes 'working families' as he criticizes US killing of Iranian general

Key Points
  • Bernie Sanders says U.S. wars hurt "working families" rather than the "children of the billionaire class" as he warns about an escalation in Iran. 
  • Sanders says the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani could lead to another military conflict after President Donald Trump promised to stop endless wars. 
  • Many Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Trump in 2020 say the killing could lead to an unintended escalation. 
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks during a campaign event at NOAH's Events Venue on December 30, 2019 in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his arguments about America being rigged against the working class into a stark Friday warning about the "unintended consequences" of the U.S. killing Iran's top military commander.

The Vermont independent and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful started an Iowa campaign event by saying the strike on Gen. Qasem Soleimani was a "dangerous escalation that brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East." He argued the Trump administration's move, like the 2003 invasion of Iraq, could wreak havoc on the least powerful Americans.

"I know that it is rarely the children of the billionaire class who face the agony of reckless foreign policy. It is the children of working families," Sanders said, in describing meeting the the families of soldiers killed in combat when he led the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

As tensions in the Middle East rise ahead of the first Democratic primary nominating contests next month, Sanders aims to set himself apart on foreign policy issues. Sanders on Friday highlighted his early opposition to the Iraq War and role in leading a resolution to end U.S. involvement in a Saudi-led conflict in Yemen, which President Donald Trump vetoed last year after Congress passed it.

Iran's supreme leader vows revenge after US kills top general in airstrike

The senator described Trump as an impulsive decision-maker who erred in pulling out of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal. He contended the decision to kill Soleimani ran afoul of the president's pledge to stop sustained U.S. involvement in foreign wars.

"As we all remember, Trump promised to end endless wars. Tragically, his actions now put us on the path to another war, potentially one that could be even worse than before," Sanders said.

In remarks Friday, Trump said the U.S. caught Soleimani "in the act" of planning "imminent and sinister attacks" on American diplomats and service members. The U.S. has provided no evidence for the claim.

Trump said "we did not take action to start a war," adding that his administration does not seek regime change. However, he said the U.S. is prepared to take "whatever action is necessary" to respond to Iran.

Democratic contenders to face Trump in next year's election, including Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have all warned the killing could set the U.S. on the path to another war. Sanders looked to create distance between himself and his rivals Friday, in part by making the populist argument that military conflicts hurt the working class.

Sanders is running a strong second in national polling averages of the Democratic presidential candidates. His $34.5 million fundraising haul in the fourth quarter easily outpaced his rivals in the primary. The first contests of the nominating process are scheduled for next month, with the Iowa caucus kicking things off on Feb. 3.

Richard Haass: Iran will feel compelled to retaliate

Sanders has argued for making sweeping change to a political and economic system he says favors the wealthy and corporations over workers. The senator has favored tax increases on the richest Americans and a universal "Medicare for All" health insurance system, among other campaign priorities.

In sounding the alarm about a military escalation Friday, Sanders cited health care, homelessness, infrastructure and climate change as issues the U.S. could start to address with the money it has spent on wars.

"We must invest in the needs of the American people, not spend trillions more on endless wars," the senator said.

Before his 2016 election, Trump also argued for spending money on fixing infrastructure instead of military campaigns in the Middle East.

The U.S. plans to send about 3,500 more soldiers to the Middle East, NBC News reported Friday.

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