What President Donald Trump said to the nation about the prospect of war with Iran impressed many listeners far less than the way he said it — or slurred it. Unlike the manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made her appear drunk, Trump delivered a live speech that made him sound impaired.
The president’s sputtering crystallized the danger of this perilous confrontation. Over the tense days that followed the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the nation’s commander in chief showed that he knows almost nothing, reacts impulsively to events and cannot decide whether he is an isolationist or an imperialist. Such enormous power in the hands of this incompetent, incontinent figure is frightening. And even the Republican politicians who routinely tolerate and even praise his worst offenses seemed to feel the fear.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who complained loudly about the “insane” White House briefing on Iran attended by him and his Senate colleagues, is one of the most right-wing members of that deliberative body. Angry and shaken, Lee clearly believes that this president is in need of congressional restraint. For him and the Democrats who passed a war powers resolution seeking to restrain Trump, the daily chaos of his presidency now seems to be a prelude to catastrophe.
On the simplest scale of logic, nothing that the president did or said in the current crisis made sense, but every moment reflected the mindless confusion that has characterized his policymaking from the moment he entered the Oval Office.
Trump ordered the extrajudicial killing of Soleimani on the pretext that the Iranian general was plotting the same kind of assault against American diplomats and soldiers. So thin was the justification for this assassination that even Mike Lee didn’t find it persuasive. And even if the Iranian were indeed fomenting plots against Americans, his death would hardly forestall such attacks and rather encourage them for the sake of vengeance.
He condemns Iran as a threat to regional peace and stability, which is at least nominally true. But he threatened, more than once, to perpetrate dozens of war crimes by blowing up Iranian cultural sites. With those barbarous declarations, he managed to make himself (and our country) seem less civilized than the bloody authoritarians in Teheran.
He routinely denounces and insults our allies in NATO, yet he quickly sought their support when his confrontation with Iran appeared to be spiraling out of control. Not surprisingly, those appalled allies rejected his overtures and sought a safe distance from his manic macho. Having lined up alongside our troops in Afghanistan for decades, the NATO countries don’t need to prove their steadfastness. But even our staunchest friends can’t support a president who discards the Geneva Conventions and stumbles toward war on a whim.
And when the killing of Soleimani provoked the Iraqi parliament to expel U.S. forces from that country, Trump instantly threatened to impose ruinous sanctions on that country — where we have spent billions supposedly for the purpose of reconstruction. Of course, Trump has always claimed he wants to pull all our troops from Iraq, so it is hard to understand why he would punish its government for sending them home. He simply erupts in anger, with no thought or plan filling his vacant mind.
Has he escaped a politically ruinous war this time? Maybe, but the conflict with Iran will continue until the nuclear agreement he wrecked can be renegotiated or reinstated. Amid the destructive confusion, this much is obvious: Once more, he has advanced the objectives of America's adversaries by alienating our friends, damaging our prestige and dividing our country.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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