Party leaders did not challenge the president’s decision to once again have the U.S. dictate behavior to the rest of the world, writes Jeff Faux.
By Jeff Faux
Polls tell us that American are not isolationists, but that they strongly oppose their country playing the role of global police officer.
For many of President Donald Trump’s 2016 voters in depressed communities in battleground states, “America First” meant spending less time on the world’s problems and more time on their own. As Trump loyalist Steve Bannon said the day after the assassination of the Iranian leader Qasem Suleimeni, “One of the central building blocks of why he [Trump] was elected president was to get out of these wars.”
Trump has clearly betrayed that trust. Over the last three years he has spent most of his limited attention span indulging a childish master-of-the-universe obsession with picking fights around the world while his voters’ unattended domestic needs pile up.
Democrats scold and scorn Trump for his recklessness and ignorance. But as the Iranian crisis shows once again, the party’s leaders are not willing to challenge his claim that military might authorizes the United States (i.e., Trump, as president) to dictate and enforce the rules of behavior for the rest of the world. In effect, they are letting him slip off his own hook, and may well be helping him get re-elected.
‘Gets the Job Done’
The murder of Suleimeni is consistent with the media storyline being promoted in Trump’s TV and social media re-election ads: “You may not like him, but he gets the job done.”
The “job” in this case was ridding the world of a bad guy who “has targeted, injured, and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen.”
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As Trump tells it, his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush did not have the guts to do, it. He alone had the moral courage to act.
With the exception of Senator Bernie Sanders, the most prominent Democrats
running for president — Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar — along with the congressional leadership, agreed with Trump that Suleimeni deserved to be killed.
Their complaints are about process. First, he didn’t inform Congress. So House Democrats passed a non-binding resolution telling Trump that in the future he should. Even if the Senate concurs, Trump has already make it clear he will ignore it.
The Democrats second objection is that the murder was risky because the timing wasn’t right. Typical was the response of Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee: “I believe there was a threat, but the question of how imminent is still one I want answered.”
As one military source told a Reuters reporter, it all depends on how you define
The media followed Democrats down this semantic rabbit hole. “If there was real intelligence of impending strikes,” wrote The New York Times’ David Sanger, “then the long-time principles of pre-emption, enshrined anew in American policy by George W. Bush, would apply.”
Ordinary voters may not share Sanger’s reverence for the policy principles of the president who gave us the Iraq War. But they can certainly spot the logical dead-end in the Democrats’ parsing of the word “imminent.” If Suleimeni was the master criminal dedicated to killing Americans, does it matter that whatever he was planning had a timeline of weeks rather than days, or months rather than weeks?
The administration’s subsequent farcical briefing of Congress demonstrated that it was naïve to the point of simplemindedness to expect Trump to provide any serious answers to the “imminence” question. As with the fake Gulf of Tonkin incident that justified the Vietnam War and the myth of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction that rationalized the invasion of Iraq, Americans’ will not know the truth in time for it to make any difference. And far too late to address suspicions that the murder of Soleimani was a wag-the-dog election year ploy.
Lost in this preoccupation over process is the awkward fact that Suleimeni’s acts of violence were not committed against Americans in the United States; they were committed against Americans in the Middle East who have been sent by both Republican and Democratic presidents to intervene in regional religious and ethnic civil wars that the vast majority of Americans think is none of their business. If there were any doubts that “Operation Iraqi Freedom” represented an army of occupation, Trump’s arrogant rejection of the Iraqi parliament’s demand that U.S. troops surely dispelled them. And, by the way, Suleimeni and his Iranian backed “terrorist” forces were essential to the defeat of ISIS, for which Trump takes virtually sole credit.
The assassination is now sinking us back into the quagmire that has already cost U.S. 4,500 lives, 32,000 casualties, some $2 trillion and has swelled the ranks of the people who hate our guts.
After 17 years, it is stupefying that Democrats should be so intimidated by both the shallow-brained Trump and his ostensible enemies among the Deep State hawks, that they cannot bring themselves to articulate the simple question that a majority of the electorate is clearly ready to hear: why — especially now that the U.S. is virtually self-sufficient in oil and gas — are we still spending blood and dollars on a hopeless effort to impose our will on the political snake pit of the Middle East?
By giving Trump a pass on this fundamental question, Democrats are allowing him to have it both ways as we move toward the November election.
If there is no war with Iran, he can claim, with some credibility, that he crippled Iranian terrorism by being brave and tough where Democrats were frightened and weak. In the less likely, but still possible event of an expanded war, Democrats’ concurrence that Iran is our deadly enemy will give a wartime Trump president everything he needs to take us the rest of the way to fascism.
Jeff Faux founded the Economic Policy Institute and was its first president, from 1986 to 2002. He is now the institute’s distinguished fellow. Among other books, he wrote “The Global Class War and The Servant Economy.”
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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