His bigoted comments about Mexicans and Muslims aside, billionaire Donald Trump actually makes some common sense when he talks about working with Russia, Iran and other powers to bring the Mideast wars to an end, rather than pushing for endless “regime change,” Sam Husseini notes.
By Sam Husseini
At first I thought it hopeful (albeit ironic) that Saturday’s Republican presidential debate happened in the “Peace Center” in Greenville, South Carolina. I thought perhaps the location would have a positive effect. But no as witnessed by the raucous booing of Donald Trump’s few comments about the folly of the Iraq War and about ways to bring other conflicts to an end. [video and transcript]
Though people say Trump is loud and bombastic, the discerning listener also might note that Trump actually has been critical of U.S. militarism for some time, regarding Russia, Syria, Iraq and North Korea. On those topics, I don’t think Trump has been loud and bombastic enough.
But Trump’s anti-war moments though only half of what is needed have not escaped the angry attention of the Republican Party’s one-percent donors who filled the Peace Center and booed Trump whenever he suggested some war restraint and meaningful cooperation against terrorism.
Trump: “You fight ISIS first. Right now you have Russia, you have Iran, you have them with Assad and you have them with Syria. You have to knock out ISIS. … You can’t fight two wars at one time.”
But, of course, to some of the U.S. Establishment, two wars at a time is slacking off. They want more than two wars at once.
Trump continued: “We shoulda never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. … The World Trade Center came down (BOOING) during the reign [of President George W. Bush]. He kept us safe?”
And, if anyone noticed, even as the auditorium packed of moneyed interests booed Trump, the tracker at the bottom of the screen went up for him. Trump’s rivals met his truth-telling with more ridiculousness and lies.
Jeb Bush described Trump’s attacks as “blood sport” against the Bush family. Yet, given the subject matter at hand his brother’s appetite for illegal war and failure in his responsibility to protect the U.S. public Jeb’s comment was, to put it mildly, ironic.
Then Bush appealed to the values of his family, which, evidence would show, includes hands quite drenched in blood.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s reaction on Iraq WMDs was to appeal to former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s credibility, which has been a late night TV joke for over a decade. Kasich also claimed that the U.S. got into a civil war, which is wrong the U.S. invasion helped foster the sectarian violence. And no, Kasich, the borders of the Mideast were not “drawn after World War I by Westerners who didn’t understand what was happening there”; they were drawn by Westerners who wanted to divide and rule and who understood quite well how to achieve that aim which has remained the actual goal of Western interventions to this day.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was perhaps the most priceless deceiver on the state, declaring falsely that “Saddam Hussein was in violation of UN resolutions, in open violation, and the world wouldn’t do anything about it.” That, of course, is a total lie, as was confirmed by investigations after the U.S. occupation showing that Iraq had destroyed its WMD in the 1990s as Hussein’s government informed the United Nations in fall 2002.
The actual history is that Iraq had disarmed and the Bush-43 administration did everything it could to prevent the UN from verifying that disarmament so that the draconian sanctions would continue on Iraq indefinitely and could lead to a “regime change” war. [See my time line: accuracy.org/iraq.]
But many Republican candidates and neoconservative ideologues don’t want to give up the false history. The worthies at the Weekly Standard now write: “Interviewers should press Trump on this: What evidence does Trump have that George W. Bush and his top advisers knowingly lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? How many other government officials does Trump believe were in on the deception? What does Trump believe would have been the point of such a lie, since the truth would soon come out?”
In fact, it’s quite provable that the Bush administration lied about Iraqi WMDs before the invasion. I know, I helped document such lies at the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work, before the 2003 invasion:
In October, 2002, John R. MacArthur, author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, noted: “Recently, Bush cited an IAEA report that Iraq was ‘six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.’ The IAEA responded that not only was there no new report, ‘there’s never been a report’ asserting that Iraq was six months away from constructing a nuclear weapon.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what was knowable at the time. See other such news releases from before the invasion: “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit” and “Bush’s War Case: Fiction vs. Facts at Accuracy.org/bush” and “U.S. Credibility Problems” and “Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight.”
The problem in 2002 and early 2003 was that Bush didn’t get those tough questions. Just like there are no real tough questions about U.S. policy in Libya, Syria, etc. now.
What we are getting is Trump raising these issues years later when it seems some of the public is finally/still willing to hear the facts. And that’s commendable because the Establishment has tried to just keep rolling along with wars and deceits after the Iraq invasion. No accountability, no nothing.
To answer the Weekly Standard’s question — the truth still hasn’t come out fully since Bush and other pro-war deceivers, who included not just neoconservatives but many “liberal interventionists,” have managed thus far to get away with it all.
The only problem with what Trump is saying is that he’s not saying it loudly and strongly enough. He didn’t support impeachment of George W. Bush for the Iraq invasion, which was the point of one of the questions to him, though several legal scholars have done so, including Francis Boyle, Jonathan Turley, Bruce Fein and Elizabeth Holtzman. Reps. Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney and John Conyers, in different ways and at different times, pursued the possibility.
Some are deriding Trump for apparently exaggerating his objections to the Iraq War in 2003 and 2004. Maybe so, but the fact of the matter is that most who spoke out meaningfully against Iraq War early were drummed out of establishment media and politics.
Trump is serving as Pat Buchanan 2.0, meaning some real bad comes with some reasonable positions opposing America’s imperial overreach. And quite arguably in a post 9/11 world, the good is more important than it was in 1992 when rightist commentator Buchanan challenged President George H.W. Bush’s New World Order.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I have no idea what Trump would actually do in office and what his current motivations are. He’s been contradictory, but the thrust of his comments is quasi-isolationist or quasi-realist. His campaign could be an opening to groups wanting to reach out to millions of working-class whites on issues of foreign policy, trade and some core economic issues.
Of course, even on foreign policy, Trump can be extremely dangerous. For example, the apparent force behind his anti-Muslim comments is Frank Gaffney, a rightwing pro-Israel militarist.
The point is that Trump is appealing to an electorate that is sick of deceit and perpetual wars and there’s a lot of good that comes with that. It should be an opportunity for anyone claiming to care about peace to reach out to a large segment of the American population that previously was considered wedded to right-wing “patriotic” appeals to militarism.
It should not be a time for “progressives” to simply mock the people supporting Trump.
But, for Democrats, the significance is this: What’s it going to look like if Trump is the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton, a war hawk who voted for the Iraq War and co-authored the Libyan conflict, is the Democratic nominee.
Trump — with very good reason — will tie the stench of perpetual wars and the lies that accompany them around her neck. She will make the 2004 John “I-was-for-the-war-before-I-was-against-it” Kerry look like a stirring exemplar of gracefully articulated principles.