The Inauthentic Opposition is “Stunned” by a Crime it Encouraged
Liberal politicians, talking heads, and pundits are alarmed at Trump’s statements that a war with Iran “would be over very quickly” – a clear suggestion that he might employ nuclear weapons – and his promise of massive retaliation (“52 strikes”)when Iran strikes back.
But there’s no basis for establishment shock and surprise. Trump is an amoral militarist and faux-isolationist who opened his presidency by going to the CIA’s headquarters to complain that the United States had gone too long without “winning wars” and to say that the U.S. might have another chance to invade Iraq and “get the oil.”
Trump has complained that he doesn’t see why the United States has a giant nuclear arsenal if it can never use it and has advocated giving nuclear weapons technology to the arch-reactionary and absolutist Saudi Arabian regime.
Trump has out-paced his murderous predecessor Barack Obama as the all-time targeted assassination drone-killer. And impulsivity has been a hallmark of his presidency from day one.
Trump is also concerned about his low approval rates and an imminent impeachment trial heading into the 2020 presidential election. He has a strong “wag the dog” incentive to move the headlines off his domestic political trials and try to “unify the nation” around the flag and fog of war.
At the same time, Democrats and their media allies have little moral ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing Trump’s action. From the beginning of Trump’s anti-Iran and Teheran-provoking- and punishing presidency (replete with previous war-scares and a brutal sanctions regime imposed after Trump pulled out of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran) and before, Democrats and the “liberal” media have fully participated in advancing the ludicrous imperial notion that Iran is a uniquely evil, dangerous, belligerent, destabilizing, and terrorist actor in the Middle East – the region’s top malign aggressor.
It’s an absurd narrative. The most truly aggressive, destructive, and malevolent state actor in the Middle East beyond the racist occupation and apartheid state of Israel (a U.S. ally and the region’s preeminent military power) and Superpower itself (the U.S. has murdered well more than a million Iraqis since 1990 and is the sponsor of Saudi Arabia and Israel) – is the U.S.-backed Saudi kingdom.
The Saudis spend four times as much on military force power as Iran and are equipped with far superior U.S.-linked weapons systems.
The regional power that’s wreaking havoc in Yemen isn’t Iran. It’s the Saudi regime, which has joined with the United Arab Emirates and taken military assistance from the U.S. to impose an epic humanitarian crisis by blockading and bombing Yemen.
The regional power providing the great majority of state support for jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda isn’t majority Shiite-Muslim Iran. It’s the Sunni-Muslim Saudi regime, along with other Sunni-led Gulf monarchies.
By comparison to the Saudis and Israel, Iran is a defensive power. Its modest interventions beyond its borders are about standard realpolitikdefense of regional allies (the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Shiite government in Baghdad), not destabilizing regime change and terrorism.
Still, top Democrats have long obsessed over the supposed supreme wickedness of Iran, absurdly calling Teheran the leading source of Middle Eastern conflict and terrorism.
It’s always been a dangerous game. By playing along with “the Trump administration’s description of Iran as singularly irrational and menacing,” the liberal journalist Peter Beinart argued last year, “Democrats help ensure that normalized U.S.-Iran relations are impossible” and that “the prospect of war…will return again and again.” By opposing war with Iran while they continue to advance the Evil Teheran narrative, Beinart rightly noted, “Democrats may believe they’re splitting the difference. But if they can’t describe Iran as a normal regional power…they can’t effectively challenge the sanctions the Trump administration keeps piling on the Islamic Republic.” And “over time,” as in Iraq in the 1990s and early 21st century, “permanent sanctions can become a formula for military conflict,” Beinart added.
As the latest crisis has unfolded it has been darkly amusing to watch “liberal” talking heads like CNN’s Anderson Cooper (a former CIA intern) and Fareed Zakaria (a Council on Foreign Relations hack) play along with the notion that Soliemani “deserved” his fiery murder because he “had the blood of American soldiers on his hands.” The U.S. troops Soliemani is accused of killing were enlisted in a criminal Empire occupying foreign lands. That Empire has killed Iraqis and others across the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and northern Africa in the millions. But U.S. imperialism and crimes are of unmentionable on CNN.
The main problem with Trump’s action as depicted in much of the “liberal” media isn’t that it was an imperial war crime. It’s that it was ordered by the wrong president, an irresponsible narcissist who lacks the proper imperial credentials and credentials for carrying out such a deadly, provocative, and sensitive transgression. The message is clear: it would have been fine for Obama to kill Soliemani. It would be okay for Joe Biden or former U.S. Army intelligence officer Pete Butiggieg to commit the crime.
It is reflexively taken for doctrinal granted by “liberal” Democrats no less than Republicans that the United States possesses the right to maintain a massive and lethal military and political presence in and around the oil-rich Middle East. It’s okay because, as the liberal imperialist Bill Clinton’s’ liberal imperialist Secretary of State Madeline Albright once said, “we [the United States] are good.”
Remember Albright? She’s the former Madame Secretary who worries about fascism and who once told CBS News that the murder of half a million Iraqi children by U.S. economic sanctions was a “price worth paying” for the advance of Washington’s inherently noble foreign policy goals.
On the night of Soliemani’s assassination, Cooper told leading U.S. “foreign policy” (imperialism) talking heads Zakaria, Dexter Filkins, and Max Boot that “thousands of Americans died to bring democracy to Iraq.” The “expert panel” nodded along with this hopelessly ridiculous statement. These know-it-all Know Nothing apparatchiks of American Empire, Fake Resistance, and Inauthentic Opposition really believe that kind of bullshit – or at least know well enough to act like they do.
Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)
Assassination, Lies and the Trump Difference
by PAUL STREET
United States presidents have long lied about the pretexts for, and the nature of, their murderous and criminal foreign policy actions. Remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s fraudulent claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq government possessed vast stocks of “weapons of mass destruction” that threatened the world and that Iraq had participated in the September 11, 2001 jetliner attacks?
Lyndon Johnson obtained Congressional authority to escalate the crucifixion of Vietnam by spreading disinformation about a 1964 naval incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. He campaigned that year on a pledge not to “send American boy 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” The following year he did exactly that, using the Tonkin lie as his justification.
Richard Nixon campaigned for the presidency promising to end the “Vietnam War” while working with Henry Kissinger to undermine peace negotiations in Paris to ensure Hubert Humphrey’s defeat in the 1968 election. Nixon went on to extend and expand the U.S. was on Southeast Asia with the secret bombing of Cambodia.
Ronald Reagan ludicrously justified his regime-change invasion of Grenada with the idiotic claim that the tiny Caribbean island’s radical government posed a lethal threat to the U.S.
George H.W. Bush absurdly sold the U.S. regime-change invasion of Panama as a defense of “democracy” and “human rights.” He advertised his mass-murderous attack on Iraq (“Operation Desert Storm) with the lie that Washington was committed to defending small and peace-loving nations against “wanton aggression.”
Bill Clinton lied when he claimed: that the U.S. bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant because it was manufacturing a chemical nerve agent; that the U.S. bombed Serbia to protect Kosovar Albanians; and that he ordered the military occupation of Haiti to “restore democracy.”
Barack Obama deceptively described his savage aerial destruction of the Libyan government as a noble humanitarian attempt to stop the slaughter of civilians. His assault quickly became an imperial regime-change war with disastrous consequences across North Africa.
Obama promised to end the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 16 months. He never moved to fulfill that promise. Along the way, he never felt the need to tell Americans the truth about the endless Afghan campaign. In the words of an Obama national security official quoted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”
Did anyone seriously think the terrible truth-trashing tyrant Donald Trump – a president who has so far totaled up more than 15,000 junk statements (surely a world record) – and his underlings would not contribute to the rich U.S.-presidential tradition of bold imperial mendacity? Trump and his supine bootlickers Mike Pence (Christian Fascist Vice President) and Mike Pompeo (“Secretary of State”) have preposterously claimed that the White House’s assassination of a top Iranian commander on Iraqi soil – an epic war crime – was required because Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani presented “imminent threats to American lives.”
There is no evidence for the claim. “According to one United States official,” the New York Times reported, “the new intelligence indicated ‘a normal Monday in the Middle East’ — Dec. 30 — and General Soleimani’s travels amounted to ‘business as usual.’” Pompeo had been nagging Trump to murder Soleimani for months, the Washington Post has divulged.
Pence even claimed that the assassination was defensible because Soleimani’s Quds Force helped al-Qaida in the 9/11 attacks — a preposterous charge disproved by George W. Bush’s own 9/11 Commission. Yes, Pence went there.
Pompeo denied that Trump threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites even though the videotape of the tangerine-tinted despot doing precisely that is crystal clear.
In a pathetic teleprompter speech awkwardly uttered with stone-faced generals by his side, the United States’ freshly impeached president absurdly argued that the missiles Iran fired at U.S. military bases in retaliation for the assassination “were paid for with funds made available by the last [Obama] administration.” That’s a farcically Orwellian take on Obama’s agreement to unfreeze Iranian assets in return for Teheran agreeing to dismantle its supposed nuclear weapons program.
From the start of his sick presidency and before, Trump has been falsely claiming that Obama and Europe’s nuclear deal left Iran “free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”
It isn’t just about Trump and his subordinates, of course. Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin lie was spawned in a bigger Cold War sea that falsely portrayed the Vietnamese national independence and social justice movement as nothing more than an arm of international Communist expansions directed out of Moscow and Beijing.
In a similar vein, Trump’s assassination lies swims in a richly bipartisan sea of U.S.-imperial falsehood on Iran and the Middle East. Democrats, conservatives, and the dominant U.S. media have long and fully participated in advancing the fabricated and dishonest notion that Iran is a uniquely evil, dangerous, belligerent, destabilizing, and terrorist actor in the Middle East – a totally absurd narrative (as I argued in my last CounterPunch essay: ‘By comparison to the Saudis, Israel, and above all their sponsor the U.S., Iran is a defensive power. Its modest interventions beyond its borders are about standard realpolitik defense of regional allies [the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Shiite government in Baghdad, not destabilizing regime change and terrorism.’)
Since they buy into all the idiotic doctrinal nonsense about Iran’s special “terrorist” evil, all but a few establishment politicos pull their punches on the arch criminality of Trump’s assassination of Soleimani. They concede endlessly that Soleimani was a “really evil guy” and “bad actor” who “deserved to die” because he was supposedly responsible for the death of “hundreds of American troops” in Iraq – as if Superpower America (which surrounds Iran with U.S. military bases) hasn’t directly and indirectly killed more than a million people in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen in this century alone; as if Muslims both Persian and Arab don’t have the right to defend themselves against imperial intervention and violence.
Soleimani “won’t be missed,” the talking heads say, dismissing the millions mourning their fallen national hero Soleimani in the streets of Iran.
The pundits fault Trump not so much for committing a war crime as for operating impulsively and without a “clear idea of the [unmentionably imperialist] strategic path forward.” One gets the distinct impression that they would have been perfectly fine with a President Hillary Clinton murdering Soleimani as part of a strategy designed and approved by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Why the timing of Trump’s criminal, high-risk assassination? The most likely explanation is that was an attempt to divert the U.S. media and populace’s attention away from his impeachment trial and to make Trump look strong as he enters the election year with remarkably low approval ratings for a president riding a “strong economy.”
That is not without precedent in U.S. presidential history. Recall that the phrase “wag the dog” was invented in connection with the sociopath Bill Clinton’s launching of bombs and missiles while Congress pursued his impeachment for lying about extra-marital fellatio.
So, same as it ever was with lying imperial presidents in the case of the Soleimani assassination? Yes and no. Consistent with the numerous other indications that Trump has made a qualitative neofascist break with the normal bourgeois conduct of the U.S. presidency, the Trump difference here is at least five-fold:
#1. The remarkably reckless and provocative audacity involved in directly assassinating a top military and political figure in a foreign sovereign state on the territory of another government without the government’s permission.
#2. The strong likelihood that Trump impulsively ordered the Soleimani assassination over and against the advice of most top U.S. military and intelligence officials.
#3. The almost complete absence of any effort to wrap Trump’s brazen crime in the flags of international law and coalition-building.
#4. The strong link Trump made between his action and his determination to demean and discredit the other major U.S. capitalist-imperialist party (the Democrats) and his predecessor.
#5. The openly thuggish, mob-like threats to quickly devastate Iraq (a not-so veiled brandishing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal) and to attack Iran’s cultural sites (also a war crime).
For what it’s worth, I sent this this email to Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton this Thursday: ‘Ms. Glanton: did you really write the following in today’s Tribune: “But Wednesday morning, Donald Trump gave us a gift. And we are grateful…Instead of retaliating with military force against Iran for bombing an American military base in Iraq, Trump chose to implement harsher sanctions designed to further weaken the country’s ability to sustain itself economically”? Good God, Ms. Glanton. So, you do not understand that ordinary civilians suffer and die when they live in a nation that cannot “sustain itself economically”? (Perhaps you recall the half-million plus Iraqi children killed by US sanctions in the 1990s). You do not grasp that economic sanctions are a form of crippling and murderous warfare – and part of the context that gives rise to full-on military war? Ms. Glanton, you appear to have lost your moral bearings because you have a “loved one” – you mention your 20-year old nephew – among the US troops who are currently occupying Iraq. Where is your love for the ordinary people, the women, boys, girls, and men of Iran? And why do you think the U.S. has any business occupying the sovereign territory of Iraq (a country “we” criminally and mass-murderously assaulted and occupied in 2003) with military bases in the first place?’ (Email Ms. Glanton at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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^5000The mainstream imperialist media lie CONSTANTLY. Literally 24/7. And it's getting worse.
All of them do it: radio, tv, the newspapers, the movies. The internet. No exceptions.
The corporate Big Lie is pervasive and totalitarian. CBS does it. NBC does it. ABC does it.
CNN does it. FOX does it. NPR does it. And of course the NYTimes and WaPo do it.
Thousands of "diverse" voices telling you the same lies. Enough to convince anyone.
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