by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Remember back in 2007, when someone from the crowd at a campaign event asked Senator John McCain about Iran?
Without missing a beat McCain began to sing The Beach Boys tune, “Barbara Ann.” Instead of Bah-Bah-Bah, Barbara Ann, he sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” He laughed. The audience laughed.
Of course, bombing a country is not a laughing matter. The former senator got some significant criticism for that comment.
This past Dec. 27, 2019, just after Christmas, there was a rocket attack at an Iraqi base outside of Kirkuk. This base is run by the Iraqis, but it houses American and other allied troops who train the Iraqi forces. An American contractor was killed.
President Trump and his military advisors decided that this attack could not stand. Trump decided to hit back at five military bases—three in Iraq and two in Syria. These bases, which housed Iranian-backed military forces, have some connection with Kataib Hezbollah, a terrorist group associated with Iran. The American intelligence community believes that Kataib Hezbollah is responsible for killing the American contractor. So in retaliation we dropped bombs and killed dozens in these camps. There was a HUGE outcry in Iraq over the Americans bombing bases in Iraq.
So let’s pause and see where we are. An Iranian-backed terrorist group seems to be running wild in Iraq. (It is unclear to me why we have allowed an Iranian-backed group to set up camps in Iraq.) This group, Kataib Hezbollah attacks a military base and kills an American. We retaliate by bombing five terrorist camps. The Iraqi government strongly condemns the bombing of these camps within its borders. Protests—apparently not organic but again backed by Kataib Hezbollah—break out in Iraq. The American embassy in Baghdad is under siege by protesters. The outer wall of the embassy is breached. Tensions are high.
Fortunately, the embassy is a fortress. It is the safest embassy we own. It holds, and after 24 hours the protesters leave.
Then on January 3 of this year, a week after the Kirkuk bombing, Trump ordered a drone strike on an Iranian general. A drone strike? This was an assassination.
General Qassim Suleimani was considered to be the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force; he’s often been seen as the second most powerful man in Iran. But he’s also a member of Iran’s government, and we took him out—killed him—without a deliberative process, or due process of law. In effect, it was as if a foreign country assassinated our Secretary of Defense.
I understand in a military conflict people must die. But, this wasn’t the fog of war. We are in some type of tit-for-tat with the Iranian government. Trump had previously asserted he could bring Iran back to the negotiating table after he tore up the nuclear deal. To that end he has steadily increased economic sanctions on Iran. But Iran seems to be throwing spitballs at Trump. Iran has no intension of discussing nuclear weapons or anything else with the administration. In fact, Trump is no closer to getting Iran to the negotiating table than he was two years ago when he tore up that agreement—which he deemed (like everything else accomplished by his predecessor, President Obama) “the worst deal ever.”
This time, Trump and his administration said that taking out Suleimani saved American lives. His cabinet—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Vice President Mike Pence, and others—have asserted that we had intelligence that showed that Suleimani was planning an attack on Americans in the near future. So killing him now was the “right” thing to do.
Now, we know that Mr. Trump hates our intelligence community. He blames the CIA and the FBI for the Steele dossier, which basically said that the Russians were blackmailing Trump. He has called them out on a number of occasions. He has trusted Russian President Putin over our own intelligence agencies. But now, 180 degrees later, Donald J. Trump is telling us that he believes the “lying” FBI/CIA? All of a sudden, he trusts their intelligence?
Trump has lied to the American people time and time again—15,000 times in three years, according to the Washington Post’s count. He lied about the size of his inauguration crowd. He lied to us about the voter fraud in California. He has lied to us about windmills causing cancer. He has lied to us about the FBI spying on his campaign. Now, he wants us to believe him. Can you? I can’t.
Most recently, Trump sent his men to Congress—the House and Senate leaders and other leaders and members of pertinent committees—for a classified briefing on what secret information the administration had about Suleimani’s “incipient” attacks. That is, the so-called “intelligence” about Iran’s plans. Sen. Mike Lee—no liberal, but an arch-conservative Libertarian—said it was absolutely the worst, most useless intelligence briefing he’s heard in his nine years in the US Senate. Another libertarian, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), joined him in that assessment.
The Middle East is a difficult place to figure out. The fact that we took out one of the Iranian generals needs to be seriously considered by the American people. Iran has been under attack from the Trump administration for over two years, beginning when he pulled us out of the international nuclear deal with Iran. As far as I can tell there was no good reason to tear up that deal; it was developed by us with much of Europe—the United Kingdom, France, and Germany—China, and even Putin’s Russia! Every one of those nations, and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitored compliance, says that Iran was holding up their end of the bargain.
But Trump in his infinite wisdom called the nuclear deal “bad.” So, now, with increasing economic sanctions, Iran has no reason not to fire up one of those nuclear reactors. I promise you that we will see evidence of Iran trying to make a nuclear bomb in the coming months. We can also be sure that Iran will retaliate. The question is, how big will the retaliation be? Will they try and hit multiple targets? Will they try to attack an American base or go for a mainland strike? Or will they start using subtle, secret cyberattacks against our infrastructure?
How do we de-escalate this situation? Will Donald Trump have an adult in the room to show restraint? Probably not; so will he have to be the adult in the room? Impossible. Is he even capable of restraint? If Iran attacks the United States, how do we avoid a full-scale war?
American lives almost certainly will be lost in the coming days to weeks. My question is why? Why did we really take out an Iranian general? News reports have suggested that Trump was unhappy with the reporting on his bombing of five targets in Iraq and Syria. Because of the media coverage Trump felt that he had to do more. Others have suggested he got enraged when John Bolton said he would be willing to testify in the Senate’s impeachment trial (if it ever takes place); so he wanted to distract the news media.
Are we to blame the news coverage for the loss of American lives? Or should we blame our petty president that the media were reporting on?
Anyone with a finger on the button, the commander-in-chief whose word alone is sufficient to lead the country into war, must display restraint, thoughtfulness, and humility—three essential characteristics that we had in Barack Obama, but are entirely lacking throughout the Trump administration.
May God have mercy on us and grant us a leader with those attributes.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed here, as well as assertions of facts, are those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of The Urban News.