What Would It Take To Get You Into A New War Today?
Memo to the Trump Administration: This ain't 2002, and you guys don't even have a guy like Colin Powell whose cred you can borrow to sell another forever war. American got conned into one Middle Eastern quagmire based on shit intel from a CIA source nicknamed "Curveball" -- yes, literally -- and we won't get fooled again. Particularly when the 2020 Curveballers are a bunch of lying hacks and toadies who dutifully go on television to swear that war crimes are normal, congressional oversight is illegal, and Donald Trump's inauguration was bigger than Obama's, PERIOD.
It took less than a day for the media to dismantle Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's bullshit about needing to assassinate Iranian general Qassem Suleimani to save American lives from "imminent threats," because the secretary of State and the rest of the warmongers in Trumpland never had any credibility to squander. Not that he didn't try to kite that check! This weekend the secretary of State did a full McCain on the Sunday talk shows, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that AKSHULLY it was Barack Obama's fault the US killed an Iranian government official on sovereign Iraqi territory without informing our hosts:
We're trying to restore deterrence that frankly is a need that results directly from the fact that the previous administration left us in a terrible place with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran ... we have developed a strategy to convince the Iranian regime to behave like a normal nation. That's what our strategy is about. We've been executing it.
No one on earth denies that Suleimani spent 20 years trying to attack Americans, but when pressed to define exactly what he meant by an "imminent attack," Pompeo huffed, "If you're an American in the region, days and weeks, this is not something that's relevant. We have to prepare, we have to be ready, and we took a bad guy off the battlefield."
When Tapper seemed skeptical that "this war was kicked off when the JCPOA was entered into," Pompeo hopped over to ABC, to blame the guy who's been out of office for three years, telling George Stephanopoulos, "Remember what happened during this terrible nuclear deal. Hundreds of thousands killed in Syria. Shia militia, the ones that we're fighting today, underwritten, resources are growing, taking control in places like Iraq. Missiles fired from Yemen that could easily have killed Americans when they attacked us on September 14." Which is an impressive reach, considering that those missiles, though manufactured in Iran, were fired by Yemenis at the Saudi Arabian airport after Saudi Arabia slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Yemenis. Also, too, we just pulled out of Syria and left Assad and his Iranian proxies to slaughter our Kurdish allies -- so obviously we don't give a rat's ass about "hundreds of thousands" killed there either.
In the end, Pompeo simply retreated to the safe space of Fox News Sunday, where he could accuse Obama and Joe Biden (natch) of personally arming Qassem Suleimani (by returning Iran's own money confiscated in 1979) without fear of being called out on it.
In 2015, the Obama-Biden administration essentially handed power to the Iranian leadership, and acted as a quasi-ally of theirs, by underwriting them, underwriting the very militias that killed Americans.
Impressive! No wonder the Foggy Bottom boys dispatched to defend this shit at a press conference on Friday insisted on going by "Senior State Department Official 1," "Senior State Department Official 2," "Senior State Department Official 3," and "Moderator" as they tried to sell a bunch of highly dubious reporters on the idea that killing Iran's top military official is really a de-escalation, because "Weakness invites more aggression. Timidity will invite more aggression."
How dare you question the State Department's conclusion that Suleimani, who had been waging war in the region for decades, was suddenly so dangerous that the US needed to risk a regional war to take him out last Thursday? Senior State Department Official 1 has seen all the intelligence, and it ... appears to amount to the fact that Suleimani "was traveling around the region. He's not there on vacation." Also after we killed Suleimani, the Iranians got really mad and are "already saying publicly that there will be a harsh response." So don't you dare suggest that this is 2002 all over again!
QUESTION: Can – so can you be more specific on what these – what the intelligence said about the planned attacks? And I know you've gotten this before, and you will continue to get it since what happened in 2003 happened, which is —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: You're not going to make the Iraq comparison.
Indeed, it had occurred to us to "make the Iraq comparison." But since Senior State Department Official 1 assures us that it's a "failed analogy," we'll just take his word for it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: You're saying because another administration made one claim, why should we believe in a different administration this claim? It just – it doesn't make any sense. It's entirely separate.
Then Senior State Department Official 3 piped up to say, "It's shooting down Yamamoto in 1942." Because killing an enemy combatant in a declared war is exactly the same as Donald Trump losing his shit when protestors tried to storm the US embassy compound in Iraq and taking out Iran's top military officer to show we are not to be fucked with.
Pompeo had lost a similar high-stakes deliberation last summer when Trump declined to retaliate militarily against Iran after it downed a U.S. surveillance drone, an outcome that left Pompeo "morose," according to one U.S. official. But recent changes to Trump's national security team and the whims of a president anxious about being viewed as hesitant in the face of Iranian aggression created an opening for Pompeo to press for the kind of action he had been advocating.
Last week when pro-Iranian forces killed a military contractor outside Kirkuk, defense officials laid out three possible military responses for the president, according to the New York Times.
The options included strikes on Iranian ships or missile facilities or against Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq. The Pentagon also tacked on the choice of targeting General Suleimani, mainly to make other options seem reasonable.
Why the Pentagon is behaving like Starbucks trying to trick an impulsive toddler into buying a grande is unclear. But when protestors tried to storm the US Embassy in Iraq, Trump skipped right over the venti and ordered a trenta. And now we're all just waiting for the heart palpitations to pass and praying we don't get scalded.
The Times reports that inside the State Department there's widespread skepticism over Pompeo's claims of an "imminent threat." Here's a fun thread of off-the-record Foggy Bottom freakouts.
The only people who are happy are Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who've had a hard-on to bomb Iran since they were at the Military Academy together, and can't understand why our European allies, who are now furiously evacuating their nationals in preparation for the blowback, won't back us.
"The U.S. has not helped the Iran situation, and now they want everyone to cheerlead this," one diplomat told the Post.
As for Pompeo's claim that "The world is a safer place. We're taking the actions that we need to take to protect American interests, not only in Baghdad and in Iraq but throughout the region," the US military has now suspended operations against ISIS in Iraq because we need to concentrate on keeping our guys alive in a heightened threat environment. The State Department is advising American nationals to leave countries as far afield as Pakistan and the UAE. And Iran hasn't even buried Suleimani yet. Senior State Department Official 1 can keep repeating that "the people of Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, are all rejecting the Iranian model at the same time. And there will be – there will not be tears shed in Iran for the death of Soleimani by so many Iranians," but that's clearly not the case.
Whatever happens now, it's not going to be good. But at least this time, the media isn't going to print our government's lies as credible truth. So ... silver lining?
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.