Bill Knight | Trump and Iran



A local monthly commenting on acts of war from weeks earlier may seem no longer timely, much less local, but war is always local since family and friends are used, and war is tragically timeless.

Plus, many reckless, feckless developments have gone underreported or overlooked.

It was hours before Christians celebrated Epiphany –– the visit to the young Jesus by the Magi from Persia (Iran) –– when President Trump on Jan. 2 ordered a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, killing Gen. Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s most powerful figures and complicit in the deaths of hundreds of Americans in Iraq and thousands of others in the Mideast.

Within days, Iran downed a Ukrainian airliner, which was condemned (but few recalled the U.S. similarly destroying an Iranian airliner in 1988). Anti-regime protests in Iran faded in unified outrage against America. The U.S.-installed government in neighboring Iraq voted to expel U.S. troops, and other countries, from NATO allies to China and Russia, denounced the killing. Iran launched missiles at Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces, thousands of Americans were sent to the region, Trump announced new economic sanctions (themselves acts of war) against an Iranian economy already decimated by previous restrictions, and he threatened Iran’s cultural sites, provoking the apolitical Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to object.

In more than 17 years in Afghanistan and Iraq (where Iranian forces were oddly allied against both the Taliban and ISIS), there’s been a huge sacrifice of time, talent and treasure resulting in countless casualties and untold costs.

But there is an accounting: $6.4 trillion and 801,000 deaths by the end of this year, according to Brown University.

Meanwhile, Trump has made our soldiers mercenaries, admitting on Fox on Jan. 11 that he told Saudi Arabia, “You want more troops? You’ve got to pay us. They’ve already deposited $1 billion in the bank,” reminding us of ex-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ 2010 comment that Saudis would “fight the Iranians to the last American,” and explaining the Pew poll that some two-thirds of U.S. troops don’t think the wars in the Middle East were worth fighting.

The killing is unpopular, period, with USA Today/Ipsos finding 52% of us think it was reckless, and 55% saying it makes the country “less safe.”

Still, political support was unsurprising. U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said, “President Trump was right to act decisively to deliver the justice Soleimani deserved.” However, Illinois colleague Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, said, “Not only did President Trump fail to consult Congress before taking this action, he also clearly did not consider the impact it would have on our allies.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, blasted “Trump’s erratic and incoherent policies regarding Iran. We must not allow this President to plunge us into yet another war,” and Senate associate Tammy Duckworth, D-IL, added, “We’ve had the Monroe Doctrine and the Truman Doctrine. Now, we have the Trump Doctrine, in which the leader of the free world gets manipulated again and again by the dictators of hostile regimes.”

Trump’s order to assassinate a sovereign country’s military leader was based on uncertain intelligence and flimsy rationales without involving Congress.

John Brennan, President George W. Bush’s Director of National Counterterrorism and President Barack Obama’s CIA Director, said Congress’ “Gang of 8” (GOP and Democratic leaders from the Senate and House plus the chairs and ranking minority members of Senate and House Intelligence Committees) were improperly excluded from notification of the killing and “put our nation in grave danger.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., introduced measures to stop escalation under Congress’ War Powers Act, and conservatives haven’t all been uncritical. As I wrote last summer, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz in July said, “If my war-hungry colleagues [are] so certain of their case against Iran, let them bring their authorization to use military force against Iran to this very floor. Let them make the case.”

And no proof has been shared, angering conservative Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and causing Defense Secretary Mike Esper to concede Jan. 12 that he has seen no evidence that embassies were targeted.

After thousands of lies, Trump isn’t believable anyway. He repeated that the U.S. gave Iran billions when the cash was Iran’s, returned to them, and claimed that at the announcement of the 2015 nuclear deal (supported by most Americans, according to the nonpartisan Chicago Council on Global Affairs), Iranians shouted “death to America,” but they’d actually cheered thawing relations. Facts notwithstanding, he scuttled it.

Someone whose actions have faced few consequences in his life, from marriage infidelity to business failures, Trump succumbs to flattery and throws tantrums like a toddler.

He foreshadowed such an attack in 2011 and years afterward, accused Obama of considering a war with Iran for political gain. The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 9 detailed Trump’s own decision to kill Soleimani, reporting (buried in a lengthy story) that it was in response to Republican Senators who’ll be jurors in his pending impeachment.

According to the newspaper piece, “Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial.”

Trump has only ever had one interest: himself. But it overlaps with cronies’ thirst for oil, from when the CIA engineered a 1953 coup toppling Iran’s elected president Mohammad Mossadegh to a recent craving for an oil field Iran discovered in November to hold 53 billion barrels of crude.

Ahead, chaos looms, from cyberattacks to targeted retaliation and regional violence; flag-waving media propaganda and accusations of questionable patriotism; and more administration departures (Esper’s Chief of Staff Eric Chewning quit last month, following resignations by five other Pentagon officials).

Central Illinois will be affected, and we must stay informed.

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