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Most people with brains bigger than the size of a pea know that anyone who whacks a live hornet’s nest with a stick without having a viable plan of response is going to get stung — a lot.
My real fear is that our reckless and feckless president, whose emotional maturity is on the level of his ability to tell the truth, has done exactly that — whacked a seriously important Iranian general in a way that has a high likelihood of putting America very seriously — and unnecessarily — in harm’s way.
Everybody ought to know the situation by now. On Thursday, President Trump stunned the world and some of his own military advisers by ordering a drone missile strike to kill Gen. Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s second-highest official and the mastermind behind the Islamic Republic’s military operations throughout the Middle East, after he had just arrived in Baghdad to meet with various Iraqi militia groups allied with Iran.
Most Americans have had no clue who this Suleimani character was, and absolutely no experience in trying to pronounce his name, but apparently back in Tehran, Suleimani was a cultural icon, respected by many and feared by many more. He was a rock star of terrorism who fluttered the heart of jihadists everywhere. As the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, he was the brains behind many terrorist attacks on the U.S. or our allies, credited with being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. When news of his death hit Tehran, Iranians went nuts with grief and anger.
And Trump’s grinning like he just bagged a big tiger on safari. He showed how tough he was, now about to claim great strength and decisiveness at a time when his impeachment rants were making him look weak and scared, cornered like a political animal hiding from the Democrats. And all because he could give an order and make an evil human being go boom, taking a few other bad guys with him.
It’s been reported that his military advisers were brainstorming how to respond to protest attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and as usual, they gave him a list of possible actions, using the drone strike as an extreme example to make the other options look good — and Trump chose it, to their horror. Somehow it sounds a little bit like a high-level military example of “be careful what you wish for.”
From our standpoint, the strike doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. A couple of Reaper missiles leave a big bang and two flaming vehicles in a Iraqi highway. It’s not our road. And nobody who really knows the guy is sorry he’s been blasted out of existence. The general was an evil man, called a monster by some. He got what was coming to him and the fact he may or may not have been actively plotting more military attacks on American troops makes payback all the sweeter. Boom. Bye bye.
I certainly don’t have sympathy for the general. If Trump did have some real evidence Suleimani was on the brink of causing mayhem and death, then he had a legal right to protect our own country. And he wasn’t the first terrorist Trump had watched being taken out.
So what’s the big deal? Problem solved, right? Republicans think so.
The big deal is that Trump didn’t just whack a man, he killed a high-ranking government official, making Iran a victim as much as Suleimani, and nations have their honor and credibility to defend. Over the years, Iran has proven itself to be prideful and arrogant, and Trump just pushed its button. That’s a problem.
It’s a problem that Trump then went on to threaten not only 52 more attacks if Iran retaliates but also to threaten to attack Iranian cultural sites. Not only is attacking cultural sites an international war crime, threatening 52 attacks is escalating the tension, pushing more Iranian pride buttons. And it’s not hard to imagine Iran striking back even harder. Imagine what kind of response Americans would want if Iran blew up the Statue of Liberty. Every time someone escalates the problem, they are drawing us closer to another war no sane person wants.
Other problems include Iran’s renewed nuclear push, which Trump had already started. Another is that Iran has more ways to cause trouble for America than we do to Iran because Iran could choose to strike back through some proxy terrorist group. Iran is also capable of 9/11-style evil.
Trump’s other problems are personal and legal. He failed to follow American law in notifying Congress. His legal rationale for the strike is not backed by public evidence and Trump is a known liar, so we don’t have a lot of allied support we should have sought.
If Trump wins his gamble and nothing happens, then the world is at least safer from Suleimani. But if Trump is wrong, we’re in deep, deep trouble.
Don’t hit a hornet’s nest. Well, we did. And that’s scary.
Ken Ripley, a resident of Spring Hope, is The Enterprise’s editor and publisher emeritus.