Rep. Brian Mast on Tuesday brutally reminded his fellow lawmakers of the American casualties attributed to Qassem Soleimani in defense of the U.S. air strike that killed the Iranian general.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Mast, a Florida Republican and Army combat veteran, described some of the carnage Shiite militias loyal to Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, are said to have wreaked on U.S. troops in Iraq.
“I know most in here haven’t seen or heard or smelled that death, but let me tell you about it,” said Mast, a bomb disposal expert who lost both legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan.
“They were burned alive inside of their Humvees, their lungs were scorched by the flames of the explosions,” he continued. “The vehicle fragments were blown into their skulls. Some of them were paralyzed. Some of them had their arms blown off. Some of them had their legs blown off. Some of them will never see again. Some of them will never be recognized again by those who knew them previously.”
Mast went on to compare President Donald Trump’s order to kill Soleimani in a Jan. 3 precision drone strike to a battlefield decision to take out a “terrorist machine gun nest.”
“I think it probably always defies conventional wisdom to go out there and attack a machine gun nest, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be done,” he said.
Brian Mast backs Donald Trump
Echoing Trump, Mast argued that the focus on whether Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on U.S. interests, as the administration had initially claimed, was irrelevant.
“Just because this machine gun nest might be taking a moment to reload, that doesn’t mean that it’s not an imminent threat,” he said. “It just got done firing rounds over at our embassy. Over the number of years, they’ve been working to attack our service members over and over again.”
According to the Pentagon, Soleimani approved the storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed militants days before he died and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and the wounding of thousands more in Iraq over the years.
Halfway through his allotted 5 minutes of speaking time in the hearing — which was meant to evaluate the Trump administration’s Iran policy — Mast challenged those in the hearing room to “name one service member killed in the War on Terror” whose death did not justify killing Soleimani.
“If you walk out this hallway and you take a right and another right and another right, you are going to come to several beautiful walls that have the names of our fallen service members on the War on Terror,” he said. “I would ask, can any of you provide me one name on that wall that does not justify killing Soleimani. I got 2 minutes and 30 seconds, I will be more than happy to sit here and wait. Somebody provide me the name on the wall that does not justice his killing.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, repeatedly urged Mast to continue, saying the Republican was “disrupting the proceeding” and “out of order.” But Mast refused to yield his time, saying he would wait the full duration for someone to provide him with a name.
The next lawmaker set to speak, Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, eventually cut in and yielded a minute of his own time to Mast, silencing Engel.
The entire hearing room then sat in silence for almost 1 1/2 minutes.
“I will note that there was no response of one name offered that did not justify the killing of Soleimani,” Mast concluded.
Mast was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan. He was first elected to Congress in 2016.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday declined to attend the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
The House last week passed a symbolic legislation demanding Trump to win congressional authorization before taking further military action against Iran. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, on Tuesday said a similar but binding measure had enough votes to pass in the Senate. Trump is expected to veto the bill if it passes the House.