“I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer today,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gamely ventured after the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Suleimani by a drone strike, even as his department advised Americans to leave Iraq.
Trump’s assertion that he killed Suleimani “to stop a war” is his latest whopper. His reckless and illegal action is the greatest escalation in forty years. He subsequently threatened to hit 52 Iranian targets if that country retaliates, invoking the 52 Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979. They were released on Inauguration Day in 1981.
One can hardly believe that he timed his belligerence for any reason other than to distract from his impeachment. He has a lot to distract from, given the stream of new evidence emerging against him. Determining his state of mind requires no speculation, only a check of his Twitter feed, filled as it is with retweets of fanatics and fools. His lethal sandbox does not cultivate thoughtfulness.
Trump threatened to hit Iranian cultural sites, which is a war crime. Former ambassador Michael McFaul tweeted, “ISIS targets cultural sites. The Taliban destroys cultural sites. The United States of America should not join this list.”
America’s allies distanced themselves from Trump’s decision. Iraqi lawmakers passed a resolution calling for American forces to leave Iraq. Iran suspended its 2015 nuclear deal commitments. Vice President Mike Pence linked Suleimani to 9/11, contradicting the 9/11 Commission Report.
The New York Times reported, “Top Pentagon officials were stunned” that Trump chose the most extreme option in response to Iran fomenting Iraqi violence. Have they been asleep for three years? This is a president who wanted to nuke hurricanes. Previous presidents avoided targeting Suleimani because of the likely consequences.
Trump thinks he is immune from consequences. His enablers brand his critics anti-American and pro-terrorist, employing logic similar to Benjamin Netanyahu’s when he cries anti-Semitism over the International Criminal Court’s planned investigation of him for war crimes. No Americans mourn Suleimani, but his villainy was not a recent development, and he was not a non-state actor like Osama bin Laden.
To expect Iran to stand down after such a provocation is a triumph of wishful thinking.
Trump’s lack of a credible basis for claiming an imminent threat was underscored by his decision to classify his entire belated notification of Congress. We are left to conclude that he took us to the brink of a conflagration purely to assuage his manhood and change the headlines.
No one can be surprised by recklessness from a president bereft of forethought or strategy. But we have more to do than pull him away from the precipice of another ruinous war. We must take back our Mideast policy, to the extent we have one, from his right-wing Evangelical base whose vaunted support of Israel is driven by visions of the Apocalypse even as they declare that Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity are hell-bound.
We cannot extricate ourselves from Middle Eastern wars by starting a new one. Iran is led by awful people, but the drone strike Trump ordered has thrown the young Iranians who were protesting against them right back into their arms.
Saying Suleimani “had it coming” is not good enough. The world has plenty of awful people in it (including, incidentally, our president who wreaks havoc while the world’s best security force shields him from the blowback). Most are not targeted for assassination. He might show up at Dover Air Force Base when our service members’ coffins start arriving, but only for the photo op.
If we want adult leaders who pursue justice rather than power at any cost, we must keep our eyes on November and resist the disinformation campaign already underway.
The problem is not only what group-blaming war rhetoric does to our targets, but what it does to us. The more heedless our imperialistic swagger becomes, the more we hobble ourselves and the ghastlier our grandchildren’s inheritance. We’ve been staring into the abyss so often of late, we should ask what it wants on its pizza. “Oh, nothing for me,” it’ll answer cheerfully. “I’ll have you soon enough.”
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2020 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.