During a House Foreign Relations Committee hearing evaluating the Trump administration’s Iran policy Monday, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) allowed the majority of his time to be filled with complete silence after he stumped the panel of foreign policy experts, and frustrated committee chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).
The silence was the response to a pointed question Mast had posed to the panel of three former State Department and national security officials: Richard Haass Ph.D., President, Council on Foreign Relations, former State Department Director of Policy Planning; Avril Haines, Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University, former Deputy National Security Advisor under President Obama and Former Deputy Director of the CIA; and Stephen J. Hadley, former National Security Advisor under President G.W. Bush.
Secretary of State Pompeo declined an invitation to testify on President Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
In his opening statement, Rep. Engel argued that until Trump, the United States had been able to stave off a conflict with Iran because it doesn’t act like the state sponsor of terrorism.
“Being the world’s leader means that you don’t emulate your adversaries. You use your power judiciously by trying to change behavior while seeking to diffuse conflict and present [he meant “prevent”] bloodshed,” he said.
“That’s why the killing of Soleimani was such a shock—not because he was a good guy—just the opposite. He had the blood of many Americans on his hands,” Engel declared. “He was a hardened terrorist. Democrats alike know that the world is better off without him.”
Even though Soleimani has killed and/or maimed thousands of Americans and planned to kill more, Engel argued that killing the designated terrorist was wrong because it caused an escalation of hostilities and has destabilized the region.
Rep. Mast, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, begged to differ.
“If you walk out this hallway, and you take a right and a right and another right, you’re going to come to several beautiful walls that have the names of our fallen service members from the War on Terror,” Mast began. “And I would ask, can any of you provide me with one name on that wall that doesn’t justify killing Soleimani?”
The congressman noted that he still had two minutes and thirty seconds of time left and would “be more than happy” to sit there and wait for an answer.
“Somebody provide me with a name on that wall that does not justify his killing,” he said.
Mast himself was severely wounded by an IED while clearing a path for U.S. Army Rangers in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2010. The explosion resulted in the amputation of both his legs and one of his fingers.
Mast sat back and waited as the camera panned on the silent panel. After about ten seconds, Engel piped in to say, “the gentleman may continue.”
“I’m continuing Mr. Chairman,” Mast replied. “I’ve got two minutes remaining. I will sit here and wait for somebody to provide me with a name on that wall that does not justify the killing of Soleimani.” The Florida Republican sat back again and waited while the panel sat in uncomfortable silence.
After about eight more seconds, Engel said, “thank you Mr. Mast, I think you made your point,” and he tried to move on to the next congressman.
“Mr. Chairman I’ve not yielded back my time and I still have a minute and 45 seconds,” Mast shot back.
When Engel complained that Mast was disrupting the hearing, the congressman insisted, “I have not yielded back my time!”
He continued, “I have a minute and 45 seconds remaining in which I would like somebody to provide me with a name of somebody on our wall who does not …”
Engel interrupted Mast to tell him that he was “out of order.”
“I will not yield back my time,” Mast repeated.
“You are out of order,” Engel said again.
Another Republican then offered to yield a minute of his time to Mast.
“Thank you my colleague,” said Mast. “I appreciate it.”
He then sat back in silence, still waiting for an answer from the panel, which offered none.
After about a minute and a half of silence, Mast noted that there was no response to his question. “Not one name offered that would not justify the killing of Soleimani,” he concluded.
.@RepBrianMast asks for name of fallen service member that doesn't justify Soleimani killing: "I will sit here and wait…"
.@RepEliotEngel: "Thank you, Mr. Mast, I think you've made you're point…"
Rep. Mast: "Mr. Chairman, I have not yielded back my time." pic.twitter.com/V5dagi54QD
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 14, 2020