(CNSNews.com) – President Trump took flak from Democrats for ordering the airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani last month, but in his State of the Union on Tuesday night he struck an unapologetic tone, calling the Qods Force commander “the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher.”
Trump did so after introducing White House guests Kelli Hake and her 13-year-old son, Gage, whose husband and father was one of hundreds of U.S. service personnel killed during the Iraq War by roadside bombs attributed to Soleimani and the Qods Force.
Trump began by reading an excerpt of a letter Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake had written to his then one-year-old son in early 2008, during his second deployment to Iraq.
“‘I will be with you again,’ he wrote to Gage,” Trump said. “‘I will teach to ride your first bike, build your first sandbox, watch you play sports, and see you have kids also. I love you son. Take care of your mother. I am always with you. Daddy.’”
“On Easter Sunday of 2008, Chris was out on patrol in Baghdad when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb,” the president recounted. “That night, he made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Sgt. Hake now rests in eternal glory in Arlington.”
“To Kelli and Gage, Chris will live in our hearts forever. He is looking down on you now. Thank you.”
After sustained applause for Kelli and Gage Hake, Trump continued:
The terrorist responsible for killing the sergeant was Qassem Soleimani, who provided the deadly roadside bomb that took Chris’ life. Soleimani was the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq.
As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women and children. He directed the December assault [on an Iraqi military base where an American contractor was killed] and went on to assault U.S. forces in Iraq, was actively planning new attacks, and we hit him very hard. And that’s why last month at my direction the U.S. military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever.
Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life.
U.S. commanders blamed Soleimani and the Qods Force for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq between 2005 and 2011, killed by a particularly lethal type of improvised explosive device known as “explosively formed penetrators,” with shaped charges designed to pierce armored vehicles.
The Qods Force – then and now – armed and directed Shi’ite militias in Iraq, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), whose senior leader, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, was also killed in the Jan. 3 airstrike targeting Soleimani.
Sgt. Hake, of Enid, Oklahoma, was killed in Baghdad on March 24, 2008, in Baghdad. He was 26.
Also killed in the blast were three other soldiers, who like Hake were assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. They were Spc. Jose Hernandez, 24, of Mission, Texas; Pfc. Andrew Habsieger, 22, of Festus, Mo.; and Pvt. George Delgado, 21, of Palmdale, Calif.
A fifth soldier injured in the attack, Sgt. Steve McCoy, 23, of Moultrie, Ga., succumbed to his wounds almost three months later, at an army medical center in Texas.