I know nothing of war. Unfortunately, neither does Donald Trump and he’s the crazy man in charge.
The fact that Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was a menace to Middle East stability and America’s presence there is without doubt. But to assassinate him in this manner—with neither authorization, real consultation nor serious consideration of the consequences—is madness, the unthinking reflex of an adolescent who fears being perceived as weak.
Lindsey Graham, who increasingly seems to see himself as Talleyrand to Trump’s Napoleon, claims that the president told him about the planned attack on Monday, December 30. If true—always debatable when it comes to either man—Trump had several days in which to think this attack through and to talk not only with his generals, but also with our allies, diplomats and congressional leadership.
(In fact, the New York Times reports that on December 28, Trump rejected the idea of killing Soleimani but in the wake of the assault by pro-Iranian demonstrators on the American embassy in Baghdad, changed his mind. “By late Thursday,” according to the Times, “the president had gone for the extreme option. Top Pentagon officials were stunned… flabbergasted… immediately alarmed about the prospect of Iranian retaliatory strikes on American troops in the region.”)
So far, there’s not a lot of evidence that he talked about his decision much beyond getting the bobble-headed yesses of Graham, Vice President Pence Secretary of State Pompeo, various sycophantic underlings, guests at Mar-a-Lago (!) and whoever at the Pentagon and in the national security establishment followed his order. Congressional leadership was not informed until after the fact nor were other nations, including Iraq where the drone attack took place. Any by the way, did any of those rich pals at Trump’s Florida resort take advantage of their advance insider knowledge and accordingly pump up their portfolios?
As Connecticut US Senator Chris Murphy and others have said, Soleimani’s death was a tactic without a strategy, and as such likely aimed more at the domestic front than Iran. Trump, the man who repeatedly tweeted in 2011 and 2012 that Obama was planning to attack Iran to boost his re-election chances, is now doing that exact same thing with the added incentive of distracting attention from his impeachment.
The death doubtless gives Trump some traction with his base and even some of those hawks who have criticized him for inaction. Yet as many noted in the last couple of days, not only has he further violated his campaign pledge of no more Mideast entanglements, he has opened a Pandora’s Box filled with potential trouble far beyond his meager imagination. I may not know a lot about war but I worked on the 24/7 news coverage of all 477 days of the Iranian hostage crisis when students took over the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans. I witnessed an endless series of unforeseen consequences, blowback that continues to this day.
“We took action last night to stop a war,” Trump said Friday afternoon. “We did not take action to start a war.” By now we all know that the opposite of anything Trump says is the actual truth, so yeah, we’re pretty much in a war now. Global markets and oil prices went nuts, American civilians have been told to leave Iraq and already, 3,500 additional American troops are being sent to the region—same number as the first US combat forces to arrive in Vietnam in 1965. A coincidence, yes, but watch this space…
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said, “Gen. Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” and General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, insisted there was “clear and unambiguous” intelligence about a “campaign of violence” being planned by Soleimani that justified killing him.
Nevertheless, as Martin Longman notes at ProgressPond.com, “If anything, Soleimani’s Quds Force is more dangerous without his savvy and often restrained leadership. They are just as lethal as they were with Soleimani alive, but more likely to be used in reckless ways that will escalate things to an inevitable final showdown between America and the Iranian regime.”
Indications are that our special forces and others have long contemplated the elimination of Soleimani but despite an ongoing series of provocations chose to keep their powder dry for fear of the consequences. No more. Under the ready-fire-aim philosophy of the Trump White House, “Shoot first and ask questions later” may replace “E pluribus Unum” as the motto on our coinage.
And speaking of which, at a time of staggering deficit, what about the financial cost of all this—one beyond the unspeakable human price of carnage and bloodshed? David Atkins at The Washington Monthly writes: “The mere prospect of the wealthiest country in the history of the human race squandering its money in this way is a moral outrage dwarfed only by the horrors of war itself. We know that just $300 billion would go a long way toward mitigating the climate crisis. Eliminating all student loan debt would cost around $1.6 trillion (though that overstates the case due to the enormous economic stimulus that doing so would provide). We could end world hunger for just $30 billion a year by some estimates. Universal Pre-K? $140 billion a year—and again, that would have gigantic economic stimulus benefits.”
We need a congressional inquiry and fast. Why were the House and Senate not consulted? Was it simply Trump thumbing his nose at Pelosi and Schumer? We know that Trump has lied about Russia interference in our elections, North Korea, China trade and even the path of hurricanes. Why should we trust him and his minions now, why should we believe the scenarios they spin? Have we learned nothing from the decades of our mishaps and murders in the Middle East?
Put nothing past Trump. As he struts like a toy soldier—bragging now that if the Iranians retaliate for Soleimani’s death he has 52 more targets in sight, the same as the number of embassy hostages seized by Iran in 1979—he is capable of cataclysmic folly. Among those sites, he says, are many “important to Iran & the Iranian culture;” if true, yet another gross violation of international law. The hubris of the president and his hangers on, their defiant ignorance and lack of historic knowledge, lead us into war crimes.
Claims to the contrary, they are not friends of democracy in Iraq or Iran—and especially not friends of democracy here at home. Don’t be fooled.
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Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer forMoyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.