BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs, a veteran journalist, covered Iran over many years, from the revolution to the hostage crisis to the ramifications as Iran spread its Islamic revolution well beyond its borders. What Greg says he has learned from it all is this: because our histories are different, our cultures are different, our aspirations are different, and the way religion drives our lives is different, we in the West cannot claim to understand how the Iranians think. That’s why, in this Boomer Opinion piece, he opines that heating up the hostility with Iran is a dangerous gamble.
Writing about the crisis with Iran is like shooting at a moving target. Especially when it’s the president of the United States and his henchmen who keep moving it.
We took out Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Suleimani because he was organizing “imminent” attacks against American targets? Well, “imminent” eventually was downgraded— by Donald Trump’s own secretary of state and his attorney general— to “deterrence.”
Fine. For my part, having spent many years covering anti-American movements in the Middle East, deterring attacks on Americans is an appropriate approach to self-defense. If only that were the end of the story. But it’s not.
Because the debate is not just about whether or not attacks were imminent. It is about whether or not we can trust our leaders to tell us honestly why the next imminent action might be all-out war. It seems increasingly clear, they didn’t.
To wit, the discourse about imminence soon took a back seat to a more unequivocal assurance from the president himself that Suleimani was “looking to blow up our embassy” in Baghdad, which on Fox News he then equivocally expanded to, “I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.” Trouble is, his own defense secretary was asked if he’d seen any pieces of evidence about four American embassies in Suleimani’s sights and said, “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies.”
Adding to the saga of shifting stories, security officials at the State Department, who oversee the safety of our embassies, say they were never told of any imminent threats. You’d think, especially since they work under the secretary of state, that they would be, wouldn’t you?
It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the word of an already unprincipled president.
Of course this all got bulldozed under the insanity of the alternating accounts when earlier this week, Trump tweeted his ultimate justification: “It doesn’t really matter.”
No, when it comes to justifying this assassination, maybe it doesn’t. Suleimani was a nasty man. He had our blood on his hands.
But now, permit a digression. From Trump on down, some Republicans have been pointing their fraudulent fingers at Democrats and charging them with taking Iran’s side, not America’s. None less than the president’s press secretary, the seldom-seen Stephanie Grisham, said that Trump’s opponents were “parroting Iranian talking points, almost taking the side of terrorists.” She even deplorably declared Democrats “to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.” The president himself unconscionably asserted, “When the Democrats try and defend Suleimani, it’s a disgrace to our country.”
No, Mr. Trump, you are. For as if the president’s words weren’t despicable enough, he retweeted a photoshopped image depicting his two most important rivals in Islamic headgear, in front of an Iranian flag. [Click on the link to reveal the photoshopped tweet.]
How dare him turn a hypersensitive crisis into a coarse, corrupt campaign scheme. How dare his press secretary. How dare the dishonorable doormats who feed his unappeasable ego. None has offered up a quote— a single quote, spoken or written— to back up their contemptible claims.
Democrats haven’t questioned whether Qasem Suleimani was a treacherous antagonist. But what many have questioned is the risk the president took by taking him out. A high-risk gamble that could lead to all-out war. Another bloody war that could cost our country dearly. A war quite possibly rooted, like Iraq seventeen years ago, on bad intelligence. Would we likely prevail? Yes. Iranian firepower is no match for ours. But remember “Shock and Awe” when we went into Iraq? It might have won the day but it didn’t win the war.
What’s more, look at what the assassination left in its wake. Did Iran forsake its support for terrorists? Hardly, not when the head of Hamas was an honored speaker at Suleimani’s funeral. Did Iran come back to the table to negotiate an end to its nuclear ambitions? To the contrary, according to Republican senator Rand Paul, “The death of Suleimani is the death of diplomacy with Iran. I don’t see an offramp, I don’t see a way out of this.”
Did it secure the safety of Americans in the region? Not at all, since U.S. bases have come under Iranian attack. And did it strengthen the influence of the United States in the region? Regrettably, no. Instead, after Soleimani died at Baghdad’s airport, the Iraqi parliament voted to oust all American troops, which is precisely what Iran— and specifically Suleimani— have long worked to achieve. “American influence in Iraq,” according to Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and author of Anatomy of Terror, “is now living on borrowed time.”
That might not matter to all Americans but it should. I wish we didn’t have to be in Iraq. Or Syria. Or anywhere else in the Middle East. But as this president slowly erodes American influence throughout the world, you know what they say about a vacuum; when you create one, someone is going to fill it. Russia. China. Iran. And lest we forget, ISIS. They will not just threaten American security, but will shape a world even more menacing than the one in which we live today.
From the standpoint of security for us and our allies, some wars are necessary. One right now with Iran is not.
So in the wake of Donald Trump’s precarious decision to kill one powerful general from Iran, the question is, is the world now closer to warfare or further? Is the United States more secure or less?
I know the awful answers. You do too.