January 3, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Republican Party’s Loyalty to Lies
Perverting patriotism to once again justify war in the Middle East.
Donald Trump ordered a missile strike that killed one of Iran’s top generals in Baghdad. Qassem Soleimani was no ordinary commander. He was the most elite of Tehran’s military elite. He was said to be in line to be the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. His death sent oil markets reeling. It opened the door to open war with Iran.
Edward Luce, of The Financial Times, said: “Most urgent question is whether Trump understood massive implications of killing Soleimani. If not, and I suspect not, we’re faced with very real risk of self-escalating World War I-style blunders into war.”
Soleimani was evil, but his death by American hands is not necessarily a good thing. Israel has assassinated leaders of terrorist groups—Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. It has killed Iranian officials in Syria. “But it never killed someone like Soleimani,” Nicholas Grossman, a professor of international affairs at the University of Illinois, told me. It doesn’t brag about it either, as the Trump administration is.
Echoes of 2003 and the invasion of Iraq.
Fred Wellman is Iraq War veteran and CEO of ScoutComms, a marketing firm for military families. He told me last night Soleimani was “a titan of the Iranian military. One of their national heroes. He has been the puppet master in Iraq for years. But understand he is a high-ranking Iranian military official, not a non-government terrorist. If we executed him, that’s an act of war on Iran and a huge escalation.”
This morning, Wellman added that Soleimani “was in many ways the face of Iran. His death isn’t bad news for many of us who served. He was a murderous thug. The question remains what’s next. We really don’t have the military that invaded Iraq.”
Someone tell Mike Pompeo. The US secretary of state was on CNN this morning rationalizing the president’s decision. He said Soleimani was involved in a plot to kill more Americans, but didn’t provide details. He said, “I saw last night there was dancing in the streets in parts of Iraq. We have every expectation that people not only in Iraq, but in Iran, will view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”
That should sound familiar. We had to invade Iraq in 2003 because it was involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. We had to invade Iraq because it possessed “weapons of mass destruction” (nuclear bombs). We had to invade Iraq because doing so would, according to Vice President Dick Cheney, free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators,” he said.
Every single word, including “a” and “the,” was a lie.
I don’t know what’s next any more than anyone else, but if Pompeo is any indication, we should be very concerned. Grossman said: “The main geopolitical affect of the Iraq War was empowering Iran, facilitating Iranian expansionism in the Middle East. There’s a decent chance the main geopolitical affect of killing Soleimani is finishing that job, getting Iraq to push the US out and fall further under Iranian influence.”
As David Frum, George W. Bush’s former speechwriter and a supporter of the Iraq invasion, wrote in May, war with Iran would “mean repeating a mistake, only on a much bigger scale: without allies, without justification, and without any plan at all.”
They keep pushing the lies—and frankly why not?
What I do know is that the president and his party have run out of ideas. Just as they peddle the lie that tax cuts bring prosperity, they peddle the lie that military power brings freedom. Yet the Republicans keep pushing the lies—and frankly why not?
Not one person was ever held accountable for the tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths since 2003. Not one person was ever held accountable for the trillions of dollars wasted. Not one person was ever held accountable for the countless American arms and legs blow off. “In a world where the pundits who advocated for war in Iraq lost their jobs and the politicians who voted for the war in Iraq lost their jobs and the people who carried out our war crimes were prosecuted, this would almost certainly not be happening,” wrote Jesse Brenneman, a former public-radio producer.
As long as the Republicans are never held accountable, they can continue perverting American patriotism. We’re already hearing the same propaganda we heard in 2003—anyone opposing war with Iran opposes America. These are the same people by the way who turn a blind eye to Russia’s attack on our sovereignty in order to help Donald Trump win the presidency. Love of country is in fact love of party. It’s loyalty to lies.
Remember: Trump never tells the truth unless he’s accusing someone of something he did (or would do). This clip from 2011 may someday be seen as a confession. —JS
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.