In installment #13 of this series, “Reality Bites,” I identified four egregious falsehoods or outright lies at the heart of the Trump Administration’s case for escalation against Iran.
- Iran is the aggressor; we’re merely responding to their aggression.
- Qasim Suleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, which obliged us to respond to the threat he posed.
- Suleimani’s assassination was an attempt to forestall an imminent attack on American facilities.
- There were no American casualties after the Iranian missile attack on Iraqi/U.S. bases in Iraq.
The first two claims stand as written. The second two have been reinforced since I wrote them. Re (3): An “imminent attack” took place weeks after the assassination (“imminent,” at any rate, just before it happened). Assassinating Suleimani did nothing to stop it. Re (4): there were in fact dozens of American casualties after the Iranian missile attack, not none.
In the mental fog induced by impeachment, no politician, whether Democrat or Republican, has managed even the minimal candor required to clarify the issue at stake: we face a proxy war that we must either fight or abandon; fighting it will be costly and pointless, which ought to be enough to persuade us not to try.
Nothing in the way of candor can be expected of Donald Trump and the Republicans, who operate in their own sinister fantasy world, completely immunized from reality. But the Democrats are not much better, and in some ways more confused. The centrists (like my own Representative, Tom Malinowski) want the luxury of sniping at Trump from a posture of complete incoherence–blaming him for his hawkishness, complaining that he lacks a comprehensive strategy, wanting to match his hawkishness with some of their own, but unprepared for the possibility that he has a more comprehensive strategy than they realize. Contrary to their rhetoric, one can’t remain in Iraq, declare the Iranians a ruthless enemy, and then ignore the presence of Iran’s proxies in the region. The only viable way to solve this problem is to get out of Iraq altogether. And stay out.
The leftists, whether Democratic or to the left of the Democrats, claim to want to exit our foreign wars (which is their main attraction over the other alternatives), but are notably vague on how this is to be accomplished. You can’t just fold up an army like a camping tent, put it in your backpack, and leave. You also can’t manage a withdrawal if you’re balancing it against a dozen other concerns, all of which seem to claim first priority on your attentions.
If you really want to leave, you need a worked-out exit plan, and you need to make this plan your highest political priority. The plan in question will be complicated enough to need working out, but simple enough to be simpler than half the plans the Left claims to be able to pull off. Pull it off, and I will be slightly more impressed than I currently am with the Left’s capacities for planning and logistics. Right now, I don’t see why I should be. When Dwight Eisenhower ran for president in 1952, he made exit from Korea his highest political priority (and got elected for it), and deserves some credit for getting us out of that fucking mess. (Unfortunately, he deserves no credit for preventing our entry into it, but you can’t have everything.) If a centrist Republican can do it, the Left can do it. But it won’t. And if America of the benighted 50s could have that kind of concern for exit from a war, so can America of the woke 20s. But it won’t. The deep question is why not.
But I’ll save answering that deep question for some other time. A shallower and simpler issue is that a fifth element in the U.S. war narrative is starting to disintegrate, or is at least being put severely into question.
NEPTIS, Iraq — The white Kia pickup turned off the desert road and rumbled onto a dirt track, stopping near a marsh. Soon there was a flash and a ripping sound as the first of the rockets fired from the truck soared toward Iraq’s K-1 military base.
The rockets wounded six people and killed an American contractor, setting off a chain of events that brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war.
The United States blamed an Iraqi militia with close ties to Iran and bombed five of the group’s bases. Angry Iraqis then stormed the American Embassy. The United States then killed Iran’s top general. Iran then fired missiles at American forces and mistakenly shot down a passenger jet, killing 176 people.
But Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started the spiral of events, saying they believe it is unlikely that the militia the United States blamed for the attack, Khataib Hezbollah, carried it out.
Read the whole thing.
There are no certainties here, but the doubts the Iraqis are raising are substantive and real. All things considered, it really is unlikely that the American story is true, and even unlikely it was regarded by its authors to convince on the basis of its truth. In other words, “We responded to Kataib Hezbollah because they killed an American contractor” (itself a fairly stupid reason for escalation) could just as well be true as
We responded to an attack by ISIS, but blamed Kataib Hezbollah for it, ignoring the fact that ISIS is a common enemy of ours and of Kataib Hezbollah; we just thought we’d blame KH because it seemed expedient to do so, and because we knew that no one would notice or care, and would affect nothing we wanted to get away with.
There are other possibilities. We won’t learn any of them until it’s far too late to act on them.
Here is the “takeaway”: if you think the impeachment was a farce, ask yourself what it means to conduct a war by the methods employed during the impeachment. Of course, impeachment was itself about a war, so that shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. But I guess it isn’t all that informative, either.
So imagine a whole foreign policy, including several simultaneous wars, conducted by the methods employed during the impeachment–the same ignorance, the same irrationality, the same abject cowardice, the same unapologetic defiance of oaths, the same blithe unconcern for reality or common sense. Remember that the methods are bipartisan. And remember that people are dying by the droves as a result of them. Remember finally that not one candidate running for the presidency has any real idea what to do about it (not even Tulsi Gabbard, though she’s miles ahead of the others). That is what the world sees of us, and why so much of it hates us. The real question is not why they hate us, but why we ourselves don’t collapse into paralysis through self-hatred. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, self-hatred is not a luxury we can afford.