Trump’s reckless Middle East rampage makes mad Bush’s rush to war look thoughtful
The US killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iran’s subsequent response has raised fears of a full-scale war in the Middle East.
Former official of the Bill Clinton administration and philanthropist, Amed Khan, says this escalation of violence in the region is the likely brainchild of Donald Trump’s key advisers, who embrace the idea of a biblical prophecy to mark the end of times.
The costs and consequences of American military misadventures in the Middle East since 9/11 are well-documented and almost indescribably astonishing.
Brown University project sets the financial cost to American taxpayers at over $6.4bn, to say nothing of the costs borne by our allies and the countries in which these wars have been waged.
These wars have killed 801,000 people, including 335,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 US military service members, and have forced 21 million men, women, and children to flee their homes.
Numbers can never sufficiently convey what war does to a place, or a person, but I have seen the impact of these wars first hand. I have been working on the ground in the Middle East, and with people displaced from the region, since the war in Iraq began in 2003.
I have pulled innocent children’s bodies from rubble in Mosul and catatonic families off of boats in the Mediterranean.
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I have tried to do my best in the years since to, in some small way, make up for the devastation we wrought – rebuilding homes destroyed by fighting in Iraq and running programmes for refugees still migrating to Greece 17 years after the war’s onset – but nothing can ever undo the consequences of America’s original decision to invade Iraq.
I fear we are on the precipice of making the same disastrous decision once more.
To date, Trump has done the impossible and made Bush look slightly less thoughtless for his doomed decision to go to war in Iraq.
Watching Trump’s utterly reckless rampage into the same region, followed by the administration’s startlingly vague and contradictory justifications for the targeted killing of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, intensified by Trump’s trademark Twitter outbursts threatening to commit war crimes by bombing cultural sites inside Iran, mad Bush’s misguided rush to war fuelled by rampant disinformation look almost thoughtful by comparison.
Previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat, had long elected not to target Soleimani, understanding the profound consequences killing him would have, despite his crimes.
Whoever helped goad Trump into the likely unlawful killing of Soleimani, it was done by someone who either wanted to escalate tensions in the region or who didn’t understand the instant Shia martyrdom status the slain general would receive once killed in the American attack. He now stands as an heir to Husayn ibn Ali, the martyr of Shia martyrs.
Soleimani had been instrumental in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq, and had already earned the admiration of many Shias there, who lived under oppression during Saddam Hussein’s rule.
The fallout of his death immediately commenced.
Diplomatically, Iran has already signalled it will tear up the remnants of the globally applauded nuclear arms deal of 2015, and remove the restrictions on its uranium enrichment.
And of course, the Iraqi parliament signalled its desire to expel American troops from Iraq, which has been a long-term goal of the Iranians.
The last time the US carelessly withdrew troops from Iraq, IS rushed in and seized huge blocks of territories throughout the country.
Inside Iraq, chants of “Death to America” overnight replaced what had been simmering anger about Iranian influence inside the country.
So if this targeted killing was clearly not a strategic choice that will contain Iranian nuclear ambitions or prevent the reemergence of IS, what motivated it?
Just as close advisers helped manipulate George W Bush into launching America’s first pre-emptive war against Iraq in 2003, it certainly appears that extremists around Trump helped push him into creating an international crisis by ordering the assassination of a military general.
Trump’s ongoing misadventure remains so illogical that perhaps the only lens through which it makes sense is the one through which a certain set of evangelical extremists view the Middle East – some of whom are now counted among Trump’s closest advisers.
This time, the GOP war games in Iraq feature worse actors and more dangerous conspirators.
The impeachment-fearing president – a permanent foreign policy novice – proudly understands nothing about the region, its politics, or its religions.
That means that like Bush before him, Trump remains susceptible to manipulation from top advisers who have larger plans. Just as Bush got steered down the road of Iraqi ruin by Dick Cheney, who kept one eye on his Halliburton stock, as well as a flock of neoconservatives who remained committed to their decades-long plot of Iraqi regime change, Trump’s advisers on Iran include key players like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.
Both believe there is a battle between good and evil that will end with the “Rapture” – following an apocalyptic war in the Middle East, Jesus Christ will return to Israel, bestowing eternal redemption to Christians, who will be “raptured” or ascended, into heaven. Jews, however, will be punished.
Pompeo and Pence embrace the idea of a biblical prophecy to mark the end times, which must be brought about by an escalation of violence in the Middle East. Pompeo has been particularly open about his beliefs.
Last year, Pompeo sat for an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network and was asked if he thought Trump had been “raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” and Pompeo responded: “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.”
That same year, a reporter noticed an open Bible in Pompeo’s office, with a Swiss Army knife marking his place at the end of the book of Queen Esther.
“Mr Pompeo has made Iran a signature issue, blaming it for stirring unrest in the Middle East,” the New York Times has noted.
“We will continue to fight these battles,” Pompeo said at a rally in 2015, because there is a “never-ending struggle” until the Rapture.”
Last week, 750 of an expected 4,000 members of the 82nd Airborne were deployed to Kuwait in support of an unknown mission in a moment of incredible tension.
By a wide two-to-one margin, Americans think the killing of Soleimani makes us “less safe”, while a large majority say Trump’s move was “reckless”, according to a USA Today poll.
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America continues to pay a huge price for Republican misadventures in the region.
And like Bush’s long-lost Iraq War, Trump’s thoughtless drone strike will likely mark an extended period of US turmoil for American forces and their standing in the region.
If extremists like Pompeo and Pence want Trump to create chaos in the Middle East in order to quicken the Rapture, they ought to just say so and let swing state voters this year decide if that’s America’s best path forward.