The silence was golden on Tuesday, Jan. 14, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), a retired Army Ranger who lost both legs and a finger while on active duty in Afghanistan, challenged Democrats who had criticized the killing of Iranian terrorist leader Gen. Soleimani by U.S. forces on Jan. 3.
“I look at Soleimani as a terrorist machine gun nest, really. He’s been spraying rounds at the U.S. for many years on many different fronts,” he said.
“You want to ask is [an attack] imminent? Well, just because this machine gun nest might be taking a moment to reload, that doesn’t mean that it’s not an imminent threat. It just got done firing rounds over at our embassy. … Just because it was taking a breather to reload—that didn’t mean it wasn’t an imminent threat because it wasn’t literally pushing the button on something.”
Mast made a compelling statement, “There’s a number of my colleagues still remaining here. I am more than willing to yield to any of my colleagues that want to answer this question,” he said. “If you walk out this hallway and you take a right and another 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. And I would ask, can any of you provide me one name on that wall that does not justify killing Soleimani?
“I got two minutes and 30 seconds,” the Florida Republican continued. “I’ll be more than happy to sit here and wait. Somebody provide me with a name on that wall that does not justify his killing.”
His statement led to complete silence in the House.
Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y), broke the 15-second pause by suggesting Mast continue talking, but he was resolute.
“I’m continuing Mr. Chairman,” he 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.”
Another 10 seconds passed in silence, with Engle then telling Mast he had made his point, and tried to move the talk to another member. Mast then insisted he had time left and was not yielding his time.
Engle accused him of trying to disrupt the proceedings.
Mast fired back, “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.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mast, I think you’ve made your point.” Engel replied, accusing Mast of being “out of order” and “disrupting the procedures.”
Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) then sided with Mast, offering to yield the remainder of his time—about one minute—to help him emphasize his point.
Silence then followed for the next minute and a half, as not one Democrat could suggest a name of a fallen American soldier from the honor board that didn’t justify the taking down of the terrorist leader Soleimani.
“I will note that there was no response of one name offered that did not justify the killing of Soleimani,” Mast said.