Lies, War, and Collateral Damage

A missile launcher

President Trump with missile launchers
According to President Trump, Iran’s terrorist General Qasem Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack on the American embassy in Baghdad, so our commander-in-chief ordered a pre-emptive, missile strike assassination of the bad man. No doubt Soleimani had orchestrated numerous atrocities and deserved to be held accountable, perhaps even executed, but his murder didn’t happen in a vacuum, and innocent lives were lost as a result. Following the attack on Soleimani, Iran responded by firing missiles at a joint US/Iraqi military base. In the confusion, Iran also fired a Russian-made SA15 surface-to-air missile into the night skies which decimated Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752, killing all 176 people aboard, including two newlyweds returning from their honeymoon. Friends and loved ones of the victims are now left to mourn and wonder why the tragedy occurred. So are the rest of us.

Naturally Trump blames Obama for the conflict. He told a press gathering that the former president paid Iran billions of dollars to play nice, only to have that country turn around and buy missiles with our money. Not surprisingly, nothing Trump said is true. Obama merely unfroze Iranian assets as soon as we had assurances that Iran would curb its production of uranium. And since Trump lies all the time, we don’t know if an attack by Soleimani was truly “imminent”, or just in the works, or nonexistent. Even Trump supporters in the Senate like Mike Lee and Rand Paul are upset and confused by the President’s lack of transparency over matters that could still lead us into war. For example, if an attack on us was truly imminent, then assassinating Soleimani would not have stopped it, and if the attack was not imminent, then Trump had a constitutional obligation to brief Speaker Pelosi before taking military action. Trump also implied that Iran fired on our military base with no intention of killing anyone (they were “standing down,” he said), but he followed that statement by saying our early warning systems gave our troops time to get to cover. Those two statements seem a bit incongruous. Showing their disdain for the President’s executive overreach, mixed messages and lack of transparency, Democrats in Congress tweaked the War Powers Act last week as a reminder to Trump that he is not a dictator.

This is not the first time that a president has lied and abused his powers in order to “sell” his military strategy to the American public. It also isn’t the first time that such actions have led to collateral damage. Following the 9-11 attacks, George W. Bush told us that Saddam Hussein supported the attacks and was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Nearly every member of Congress took Bush at his word, and authorized an invasion of Iraq. Later it was discovered that Bush had relied on faulty intel. In fact, Saddam had no WMDs, and Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9-11. Yet even after he learned the truth, Bush continued his attack, invasion, and subsequent occupation of Iraq. And what was the result of Bush’s unjustified war? Over one million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children were killed, the region was de-stabilized and primed for terrorists to gain a foothold, and America wasted over $2 trillion dollars which could have been used here at home to alleviate childhood hunger and provide medical care for the uninsured.

It’s bad enough that men like Bush and Trump obfuscate during a crisis, but when their knee-jerk reactions lead to the deaths of innocent civilians, that’s criminal, and they should be held accountable. Yes I know that Saddam was a tyrant who killed his own people, and yes I know that Iran had a hand in the recent death of an American contractor, but we expect our leaders to be informed and exercise some modicum of judgement before they pull the trigger, and that means having an understanding of, and appreciation for, the concepts of cause (unnecessary war) and effect (unnecessary casualties). Our current crisis may have abated for now, but it’s far from over. Just ask those who are in mourning.


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