The assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani left many people uneasy as tensions rose to the brink of war. That unease isn't shared by everybody, though. Less than a week after the assassination, President Trump's re-election campaign is fundraising off Soleimani's death through a combination of Facebook ads and email blasts, BuzzFeed News reported.
Reports that a U.S. drone strike killed Soleimani broke late Thursday, and the ensuing confusion left many asking if anybody in the White House thought this through. Even though the president addressed the American public Wednesday morning and struck a pacifist note, that question still stands. But it seems plenty of thought has been given to ways to capitalize off of Trump's actions.
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, the joint fundraising arm of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, ran hundreds of Facebook ads praising Trump. A few dozen were removed possibly for violating Facebook's policy against fake buttons in ads, but plenty remain. Neither Facebook nor the Trump re-election campaign responded to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Some of the ads invited people to take the "Official Trump Military Survey." Intended to collect contact information so respondents can continue receiving messages from the campaign, the survey included questions like, "Do you stand by President Trump in his decision to take out the very dangerous Iranian terrorist leader, Qassem Soleimani?"
In addition to blasting ads on Facebook, Trump's re-election campaign sent out an email blast Monday morning. It used similar language to praise Trump's actions and suggested a $100 donation as a show of support if you agreed.
With the subject line "President Trump did the right thing," the email blast went on to call Trump a "president who will do whatever it takes to protect America at home and abroad."
The email also lamented the "corrupt media," writing, “They’ve taken a short break from falsely covering the impeachment scam to paint Qassem Soleimani as a coveted world leader. It’s ridiculous. They can’t stand that President Trump is keeping his promises to put AMERICA FIRST, so they’re trying to SPIN THE TRUTH to get you to turn against him."
Trump's maximization of Facebook is nothing new, especially in light of a recent internal memo from Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth, in which Bosworth stated outright that he believes the social network helped Trump win in 2016. But, Bosworth argued, that's just as much about the man as it is about Facebook. Per the memo, which was obtained by The New York Times, Bosworth wrote: "So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected? I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks. He didn’t get elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica. He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period."
While Trump's re-election campaign celebrates Soleimani's killing, Iranians in the United States are already feeling the repercussions. It's not unexpected because, as HuffPost reporter Rowaida Abdelaziz noted, "Each time the U.S. has entered into a military conflict in the region ― whether in Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan ― those marginalized communities in the U.S. suffer the consequences, including a crackdown on their civil rights."
As a result of Soleimani's death, Iran warned that there would be "harsh vengeance" for the parties responsible. On Twitter, Trump threatened Iran by stating his intentions to target cultural sites if there was any retaliation — which is a war crime. He backtracked on the remarks only after receiving sharp criticism, but it highlights worries that Trump may tweet the U.S. into another war.
It is fair to critique Trump's campaign for capitalizing off of this moment, but he is simply using a foundation laid by previous administrations. He did not create the conflict; the U.S. has a long history of attempts to destabilize Iran. If there is another war, it will largely be Iranians who suffer, as shown by the War on Terror responsible for the deaths of at least 480,000 people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — with at least 244,000 of them being civilians.