In case you’re wondering how 2020 is going so far, the top trending topic on Twitter last night was (for a time) “World War 3.” This was a response to the assassination of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on the orders of America’s favourite orange-hued war hawk, Donald Trump.
MAGA Twitter celebrated the killing-via-airstrike of a foreign military official without congressional approval with a zeal usually reserved for a Luke Bryan concert — despite the fact most Americans had never heard of Soleimani before he was killed. And, in fairness, Soleimani was held to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers by Washington and seen as an evil man. There’s an argument to be made that the world is better off with him dead.
Killing him, though, is a dramatic escalation by the United States in what up to this point had been mostly cold hostilities with Iran. It is such a recklessly provocative move that George W Bush considered it and passed on the opportunity. When a man who isn’t beyond using overstated intelligence reports to justify a war says, “too risky,” you know it’s a bad idea.
The events of last night are frightening precisely because of what we don’t know. They’re infuriating, though, because of what we do know. What we know is that Iran will (rightly, if we’re being frank) view the killing of one of their top generals as an act of aggression. We know that America has been at war in Afghanistan for 18 years — the longest war in our nation’s history. We know that more than 6,700 Americans died fighting in that war and in the quagmire that was Iraq.
We know that Donald Trump pledged to get Americans out of the Middle East —indeed, he painted Hillary Clinton as an imperialist who would get America into an endless stream of endless wars during the 2016 election—but is instead doubling-down in the region, the ill-advised Syria withdraw aside. And, we know Trump, facing an impeachment trial in the coming weeks and reelection later this year, is underwater when it comes to his approval rating; the majority of Americans disapprove of his job.
I'm not saying Donald Trump is wagging the dog because that would be assuming he thinks strategically. But the fact is that state-sponsored assassinations are exactly the kind of “world policing” the isolationist idiot campaigned against, yet his supporters are lapping this up. “Thank you for actually handling this,” Trump sycophant and political strategist Caleb Hull tweeted in response to Trump’s jpeg of an American flag—his gloating, jingoistic and—maddeningly—only comment on the subject of practically declaring war.
Watching the the MAGA crowd dance on the grave of someone the US has long seen as a terrorist was annoying not because he was a good guy, but because they don’t (or can’t) consider what his death could precipitate. What should make us all apoplectic, though, is that Donald Trump might well lead us into a regime-change war that he is far from equipped to command. This is a man who cannot think beyond his next tweet, let alone create a strategy for a victorious invasion of an entrenched and determined foe.
I hope it doesn’t come to that, because there’s a real human cost to this. Aside from the aforementioned thousands of American soldiers who have died in two decades worth of wars in the Middle East, more than half a million Iraqis died as a result of the American invasion of that country, with nearly a quarter million more dead in Afghanistan. That’s about the population of Seattle, dead because of wars we entered without having the faintest idea of what we hoped to accomplish or how we would win.
It’s too early to know how Tehran will respond or how close to the brink of being bogged down in another Middle Eastern war we are. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the assassination was “a foolish escalation,” and that the United States “bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.” What those consequences are remains to be seen.
Happy New War, y’all.
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