by Joseph Gerson
We woke on Friday to the news of Trump and the U.S. military’s assassination of Iranian General Soleimani. It was an act of war.
Our priority, as communicated Saturday in 70 demonstrations across the U.S. must be to do all that we can to prevent a wider and disastrous war with Iran.
Americans will be consumed by what will be the inevitably deadly blowback. Trump’s ignorant threat of responding to Teheran’s retaliation by destroying 52 critical targets across Iran can only result in spiraling escalation and to wider war that will consume lives across the Middle East and likely here in the United States.
Trump’s decision making will, once again, be driven not by the interests of the U.S. people, but by what he deems essential to winning reelection and staying out of jail. Trump is likely counting on continued support from Fox News and by the megaphones of the militarist and white supremacist right, anticipating that once the body bags begin returning home, that people will rally around the flag and the president. We’ve been here before.
Among the challenges before us will thus be maintaining sufficient respect for history and its tragedies to prevent the nation from becoming lost in an orgy of war hysteria. Among the most disturbing notes that have come my way in the hours after the assassination was one from New Zealand. It worried that Soleimani’s murder may prove to be the equivalent of the assassination of Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 that triggered World War I. Once the fires of war are lit, containing them is less than easy.
Our task now is to do all that we can to prevent a wider war in response to what will certainly be Iran’s retaliation. With Secretary of State Pompeo stating that he hopes the assassination will contribute to de-escalation of tensions with Iran, one has to wonder what he’s been smoking, what Kool Aid he’s been drinking.
No doubt, Soleimani had his share of blood on his hands, and he may well have been planning retaliations for the United States recent bombings of five Iranian related facilities in Iraq and Syria. BUT, Iraq, Syria and Iran are sovereign nations, and the spokeswoman for General Miley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff has warned us that we are being fed “false” information about the reasons behind Soleimani’s assassination. These U.S. attacks have been gross violations of international law which prohibits aggression. They have also humiliated and outraged the government and people across Iran. How would we expect our country to respond were China to destroy military installations at U.S. bases in Japan or Korea, or if Cuba assassinates General Miley?
We should have learned from our country’s two decades of disastrous 21st century wars across the greater Middle East, not to mention Vietnam that WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER.
The U.S. is anything but an innocent in the Middle East. As in the past, the U.S. bombings and assassination of Soleimani are continuations of U.S. seven decades of U.S. efforts – military, diplomatic, economic, cultural and otherwise – to enforce U.S. hegemony/control over our oil under their sands. It began with that handshake aboard a U.S. battleship between Franklin Roosevelt and King Saud which secured U.S. control of what was then the jugular of Western – now global – capitalism: Saudi and Middle Eastern oil. When that hegemony was challenged by anti-colonial Iranian nationalism, the CIA and British intelligence overthrew the government of President Mossadegh and restored the corrupted and brutal Shah to the Iranian throne. The U.S. subverted and overthrew governments across the region, joined Israel in its efforts to destroy the Palestinian nation, launched wars from Afghanistan and Iraq to the shores of Libya, and repeatedly prepared and threatened nuclear attacks to retain its regional domination. (These nuclear threats began in 1948 during that Iran crisis, continued through the Iraqi revolution, U.S. wars against Iraq and most recently with the Obama and Trump threats that “everything is on the table.).
Even now memory is short. Trump and company argue that the preemptive assassination was necessary, but we should recall that the P5-1 Iran deal negotiated by the Obama Administration, other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and Germany provided the foundation for diplomatic resolution of U.S.-Iranian tensions. Trump’s and Bolton’s violation of this U.N. Treaty opened the maw into which the world may now be falling. Thinking that it could do in Iraq and Syria what Israel has done in the latter, in response to a militia killing of a U.S. contractor Trump and company bombed and destroyed those five military targets in Iraq and Syria. It should have come as no surprise that after those bombings there was a disturbing illegal and militant protest at the U.S. embassy, and that forces were gathering to retaliate after the U.S. bombings.
Instead of initiating a war with the assassination of General Soleimani, rationale leaders would have pursued diplomacy to reverse the spiraling dynamic of military escalation, not thoughtlessly and murderously fueling it.
Tragically, President Trump and his loyal Republican apologists and followers are not alone in their responsibility for this war with Iran. of More. As 2019 came to an end, Congressional Democrats approved another $738 billion in annual military spending. The spending bill originally included an amendment introduced by Representative Ro Khanna requiring Trump to receive congressional authorization before waging war on Iran. But that amendment was deliberately stripped from the National Defense Authorization Act, with most Congressional Democrats voting for the spending authorization. That freed our ignorant and arrogant President and his acolytes the free hand they needed for war with Iran.
The Bible and James Baldwin have warned of “the fire next time.” Now we have it. Midst the passions to be unleashed as U.S. Americans again join the legions of war dead, our task is to use all nonviolent means to prevent further escalation of the war and to bring it to an end. In addition to our calls to Congress, protest marches and vigils urging no wider war our responsibilities must include helping our fellow and sister U.S. Americans to face our country’s responsibility for creating our ever-deepening crises.
*Dr. Joseph Gerson is President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security and Vice President of the International Peace Bureau