QED

Donald Trump Takes Out the Trash

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has just found another level of muddle and madness. I refer to the aftermath of the targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Iran’s Quds Forces, the foreign legion division of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on January 3. The problem with TDS is that it diminishes critical-thinking skills which means, paradoxically, groupthink is embraced without a skerrick of critical thinking. All we have are facts in the face of their fanaticism, and for that reason let us unemotionally consider the specifics of President Trump’s first televised explanation for terminating Soleimani. As Don McLean would say: “They would not listen/they do not know how/Perhaps they’ll listen now.”

The theme of President Trump’s rationale was this: “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.” Whether or not this turns out to be true, let us at least recognise that Donald Trump’s thinking on foreign policy hardly fits the pattern of a warmonger, in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter.

The “AP Fact Check” brings up the furphy that Donald Trump, then a private citizen, was for the Second Iraq War before he was against it, and yet all there is to this is a throwaway line, spoken on September 11, 2002, in response to a question about whether he would support a prospective invasion of Iraq: “Yeah, I guess so.” He also made a comment, in the context of America’s initial victory over Saddam Hussein’s army, that it “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint”.

Only after March 2003, according to the AP Fact Checker, did Trump become an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. What was intended as a brutal takedown of President Trump’s public statements by journalist Hope Yen shows something different. Before entering the White House, Trump exhibited little appetite for war. Not exactly in the Bernie Sanders category, to be sure, but definitely subdued. Donald Trump’s shortage of warmongery could just have easily been the basis of Hope Yen’s article. My own Quadrant Online Fact Check reveals, not so surprisingly, that the widely syndicated Hope Yen herself suffers from TDS. Her monomaniacal mission to disparage President Trump at every turn, never allowing any positive aspect of the man to see the light of day, is thinly disguised as “fact checking”.

If the TDS brigade gave the POTUS the benefit of the doubt, just this once, three significant things might help them to sleep easier. Take, for instance, this line: “Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.” If we can accept this is true, that he is not just making this up, as TDS folk are insisting, then we have some cause to be optimistic for our children’s children. It means that the US has the technological and human resources not only to track down and destroy terrorists – without harming civilians – but actually thwart their acts of violence in a pre-emptive fashion. How good is that? Better than looking up to discover the tallest buildings in your city on fire.

Here is a second thing the TDS casualty might like to consider. What was the local intelligence the Americans received in order to strike not only Commander Qasem Soleimani but also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iranian-sponsored militia in Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU), as they conspired in the back of a car departing Baghdad International Airport? Recently, the government in Baghdad, with the assistance of the PMU, has been engaged in a bloody crackdown against Iraqi southerners – Shiites, no less – who have been protesting Iran’s domination of their country. Next door in Iran, correspondingly, Soleimani played a role in the Islamic Republic’s latest bloody suppression of its citizenry. We are, apparently, talking hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. President Trump, in his first televised remarks, claimed that the action taken against Soleimani and al-Muhandis was not about regime change. But regime change in the Islamic Republic, from the ground up and not imposed by the armed forces of the United States, remains a project in progress. Friday’s targeted assassination does not harm America’s reputation with supporters of freedomists in Iran, and doubtless advanced their cause, but nobody is asking the U.S. to spill the blood of its youth.

Did the domestic and regional enemies of Tehran just find a way to make it a win-win for President Trump? The stoush between a faction of the PMU and the US began after a militia group murdered an American civilian contactor working in Iraq. Washington responded with a military strike against the responsible paramilitaries, prompting Commander Soleimani to up the ante by sanctioning the ransacking of the outer sector of the US embassy in Bagdad on December 31. For twenty years Soleimani had promoted Iranian terrorism/imperialism throughout the region with seeming impunity. On this occasion, though, it took less than three days for him to face justice.

Did anti-regime elements in Iran and/or Iraq assist President Trump in his action? Trump, for instance, was careful to include this observation: “I have deep respect for the Iranian people. They are a remarkable people with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential. We do not seek regime change.” Something for the TDS brigade to consider: has Donald found a better way to, as they say, move things forward than either George W. Bush or Barack Obama ever managed?

After all, terminating the military commander of Iranian imperialism is a win for America, as is working with the domestic and regional enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Here, perhaps, lies the outline of the Trump Doctrine. America paid a terrible price for George W. Bush’s Iraq War, not least the eight-year incumbency of Barack Obama which followed as night follows days. If the Bush Doctrine was a failure, so was its antithesis, the Obama Doctrine. The emerging Trump Doctrine, extrapolating from Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran Deal in May 2018 to the fireworks at the Baghdad International Airport last Friday (left), might be the opposite of Obama’s 2015 Munich Moment, and yet – are you still with me, my TDS friend? – that does not make it the same as the Bush Doctrine. The opposite of the opposite, as someone must have written somewhere, does not bring us back to our starting point. Donald Trump is taking America to a place where neither a full-sale, boots-on-the-ground war (Bush Doctrine) nor the cowardice and humiliation of appeasement (Obama Doctrine) are the only options on the table. Something more dynamic and flexible is in the air. Even as I write this – as if to make my point – the leader of an Iranian resistance movement has described the demise of Qasem Soleimani as an “irreparable blow to the clerical regime”. Iran’s virtual annexation of Iraq, our prospective TDS reader might allow, was the culmination of the Bush Doctrine and the Obama Doctrine.

The third and final matter we might consider is the hysterical tone of the TDS folk on the likelihood of Qasem Soleimani’s sudden passing starting World War III. Candidate Joe Biden has now asserted that President Trump “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox”. To whatever extent that is true, it is only fair to mention that Joe Biden spent eight long years helping Barack Obama (2009-17) to defuse the said tinderbox and surely that is time enough to try out your ideas on the world. Leave the stage, Joe. Candidate Elizabeth Warren, while allowing that Soleimani was “a murder”, asserted that President Trump’s “reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and the Middle East conflict”. Candidate Sanders pointedly reminded everyone that, as a long-time radical socialist, he opposed the Iraq War from the start – something, I assume, that not all his Democratic rivals can claim. I would only say this: was there ever an American military initiative action since, say, the end of the Second World War that he did support? We could search Bernie Sanders’ record on this score, but life is short.

Sanders’ basic point, as with the other Democratic presidential contenders, the Democrats’ “Squad”, progressive journalists, progressive celebrities, progressive statesmen, progressive academics and progressive thinktanks, not to mention progressive Evangelicals, Anglicans and the Pope, is that another conflict in the Middle East “could cost countless lives and trillion more dollars”. To this, we might just ask any of them if they were aware that Commander Soleimani had been plying his trade these past twenty years in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Libya and Yemen. He wasn’t assassinated in Tehran, after all, but in Baghdad. And he had just flown in from either Beirut or Damascus, two other cities that are outside Iran. Killing Qasem Soleimani could not start a Middle East war since this active military figure was in the middle of fighting one already and long underway. Soleimani, as Sam Dagher points out in Assad or We Burn the Country (2019), played a key role in developing Bashar al-Assad’s murderous winning strategy in the Syrian Civil War, which has so far resulted in between 370,000 and 570,000 deaths. The young people of Lebanon, irrespective of traditional sectarianism, have become bolder in confronting Commander Soleimani’s local flunkies, are are now able to hope that they might not have to endure Hezbollah.            

The US Justice Department even claims that Commander Soleimani’s agents attempted in 2011 to hire Mexican drug cartel warlords to blow up Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington D.C. It is likely that his terrorist connections financed and perhaps co-ordinated the September 11, 2012, massacre of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Just one reason why Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser at the time of Benghazi, claiming that the targeted execution of Soleimani “does not serve America’s interests” sounds, to put it as politely as possible, phoney. Through his control of Hezbollah, the Iranian-sponsored Lebanese “extremists”, Qasem Soleimani’s reach has extended as far as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile and Peru. To assert that killing Soleimani might provoke regional on even global conflagration is to ignore the obvious: it has been underway for quite some time. President Trump’s characterisation of the Iranian regime as “terrorist warlords who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad” seems closer to reality than the Healer-in-Chief’s fantasy that he could bring the Islamic Republic of Iran in from the cold.

The counter argument to President Trump’s assertion that “the world is a safer place without these monsters” will be that it is – at least in the longer-term sense – simply untrue. That is to say, an experienced and deadly operator such as Commander Soleimani, reckoned by some to be the second-most powerful man not just in Iran’s colonies but in the Islamic Republic itself, will be hard to replace, and yet the regime itself will endure, and sooner or later will recapture the sense of despotic invulnerability that encouraged Qasem Soleimani to appear in public more and more over the past few years. But there is my point: the species of hubris that encouraged our terrorist-at-large to believe he could wander around Baghdad International Airport with impugnity will have vanished like dew on the mid-morning grass. Or, to put it less poetically, eviscerated like the two VIP vehicles and their felonious occupants.

It is a strange irony, perhaps, that seeking peace at any price with totalitarian despots often comes at the cost of more war. Did, for instance, the $1.3 billion in cold, hard cash that President Obama began delivering to Iran’s theocratic kleptocrats – coincidentally, cough, cough, at the same time as American hostages were released – make the world a safer place? Or did it bankroll the Iran’s hush-hush ongoing nuclear-weapons program? Did it chasten homicidal criminals like Soleimani or embolden them?

Is it too much for my imagined TDS reader to consider, if for only a moment, that President Trump has just made the world a little safer, if only because the decision-makers in the tyrannical regime are now directly answerable to Donald Trump in ways they had not contemplated before last Friday?

11 comments
  • John Wetherall

    Far too much common sense here Daryl.

  • deric davidson

    An attack on American embassies is an attack on America, an attack on American soil. Trump had every right to defend American soil using force. In this case he decapitated the snake.
    History tells us appeasement of bullies and thugs never works. Their demands simply escalate until the appeasers are consumed or extinguished. Trump is applying measured force against these tyrants and woe betide them if they try escalating their terror anywhere outside of Iran.

  • Ian MacDougall

    Yes, Daryl. What goes around tends to come around. But I suggest you broaden the scope of your historical research a bit.
    Iran, believe it or not, was once a representative democracy, with a population all in favour of same. Its democratically elected Prime Minister was Mohammad Mosaddegh, “the 35th prime minister of Iran, holding office from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état orchestrated by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom’s MI6.”
    (CAUTION: Source: [choke! caaargh! splutter! hawk! spit!*] WIKIPEDIA!!! )
    But this just illustrates an important point about democratic elections: the people who put themselves forward as candidates in democratic elections tend not to be democrats themselves.
    Thus it came to pass that the democratic government of Mosaddegh was replaced by the ruthless, antidemocratic and blood-drenched regime of the Shah from the Pahlevi dynasty. And when the Shah was finally overthrown, his regime was not replaced by a movement led by democrats, but by Iranian theocrats: the Mullahs, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose successors still run Iran. Democracy was deliberately and consciously destroyed by those pretending to be in favour of it; when all they could see was oil.
    A similar story led the US into the Vietnam War of 1965-75, and its defeat there was alluded to by Donald (‘Captain Bonespurs’) Trump in his election slogan: ‘Make America Great Again!’, Trump, while declining to go himself to Vietnam, was all for other young Americans doing so.
    (NB Eisenhower in his memoirs gave America’s justification for not holding the 1956 elections called for in the Geneva Agreement of 1954: US Intelligence reported that Ho Chi MInh would get 80% of the vote. So neither Eisenhower, nor Kennedy, nor Johnson, nor Nixon, nor Ford, nor Carter was in that or any other sense that mattered, a democrat.)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Mosaddegh

  • Ted

    “Donald Trump’s thinking on foreign policy hardly fits the pattern of a warmonger, in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter.”
    I think that is a fair point. I was concerned when he hired neocon John Bolton. Thankfully, that appointment did not last long. Let us hope that the US doesn’t become more entangled in the Middle East. An open conflict with Iran would be disastrous for the Middle East, for the US and for Trump himself.
    To quote Patrick Buchanan: “In former times, a confrontation or shooting war often benefitted the incumbent, as there was almost always a rallying to the flag. Those days are gone. This generation has had its fill of wars.”
    https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/will-war-derail-trumps-reelection/

  • rosross

    When any nation in the Western world thinks it can bounce around murdering whomever it likes, we are in a downward slide. To be fair, the Americans have been doing it for a very long time, taking out leaders in Africa and South America, even when democratically elected, that don’t fit their puppet agenda.

    When the Iranians rightly take out an equivalent American military official the yanks will have no-one to blame but themselves. First class thug is the US of A.

  • deric davidson

    Come on rosross this guy Soleimani was a really bad dude. A political/ideological serial killer (terrorist) of the worse kind. Equivalent in the eyes of many to bin Laden and al Baghdadi. Do you think the latter were unjustifiably “murdered” as well?
    So you’re happy to have Iran organize and fund, through its proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorist attacks on innocent people around the world all planed by guys like Soleimani? You’re happy to have them, to use your words, ‘bouncing around the world’ murdering people in large numbers with impunity? Your extraordinary anti-US sentiment is palpable. Or is it TDS?

  • Ted

    Well, there are lots of wicked people in the world. Not sure if taking out someone because they’re “bad” is enough to justify a strike that risks leading to full-scale war (I’m pretty certain it won’t – Tehran isn’t suicidal).

  • Doubting Thomas

    Trump acted in response to attacks on a US Embassy. I think that was a perfectly reasonable and measured response. Hopefully, the Mullahs will learn from it, because the next response to any similar attacks sponsored by Iran should target them directly, war or no war.

  • Roger Franklin

    Doubting Thomas: Yesterday, Trump warned Tehran that any attempt on its part to retaliate would result in immediate strikes on 52 already-selected targets. Why 52? Because that was the number of US hostages they took back in 1978, safe in the knowledge that Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    The problems for Iran are that they have almost no navy, no usable air force and the armour it has lacks air cover. Only through the proxy war does it have a chance against the USA.
    But Iran has uranium enrichment.
    Trump has thrown down the gauntlet. He was going to withdraw from Iraq anyway, he stood on a platform to disengage from endless wars.
    However he is not going as happened in Vietnam.
    He is going on his terms.
    Once the Iranians shot down the US drone they must have revealed all their emplacements, order of battle, codes and radars when Trump ordered an attack and then, for no apparent reason, withdrew.
    The push back started when an Iran proxy shelled US civilians in Northern Iraq.
    Then there was the proxy US embassy attack.
    Trump’s threat to pick and choose unknown targets could include the uranium enrichment plants.
    A smarter move would be to cut all power and communication with their weapon upgrade centres without delivering a final blow.
    The peace deal would be the stopping of enrichment and the building of gas fired power stations in return, if this is the real game.
    Crippling sanctions, which prevent Iran waging a declared war, would be lifted as part of the deal.
    Were any proxy step out of line and attack a US person on US or foreign soil, then more targets would be ticked off the list.
    He would take out the ‘navy’ straight away, crippling the ability of Iran to prevent smuggling of distillate to
    boycotted customers.
    It would prevent the ‘navy’ from seizing international tankers.
    The radars and command centers would be next.
    The only moral context can be that the US claims that those assassinated were about to unleash Jihad, so the US has just stopped that war.
    After all, Iran must be upset that it has fewer soft targets in Iran.
    The US will still, no doubt, continue no fly zones over the Kurds.
    This action will strengthen the hand of the Russians in Syria, but notably, local countries are not busting to take the US on.
    The US started this war. It made a mistake.
    Just as the British left Hong Kong, Iraq may turn to the local sovereign dictatorship to control it.
    But then, if Trump gets out of Iraq without the loss of US lives, it will help with negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    However,whither us Australians.
    Best we go too if the US is out.
    Or are we going to try a tit for tat with the Iranians?

  • Lawrie Ayres

    Any Iranian leader will have to think carefully before retaliating and keep looking for that Predator lurking over the horizon. Then again there are the seventy two virgins. Mind you as some wit observed Allah did not say human virgins.

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