Suppose They Held a War…
People aren’t rallying around Trump’s crap
January 12th, 2020
There was an op-art poster popular in the late 60s, at the height of the Vietnam conflict, which read, “Suppose they held a war and nobody came?” Even then, it was seen as a bit of whimsy, even amongst the “Oh-wow-that’s-heavy” crowd. Americans have a long and often sordid history of responding to calls to arm with vicious and irrepressible war fever. The dubious conflict that got tens of thousands of Americans killed and lead to that plaintive poster was a largely fictional incident in the Gulf of Tonkin in which a couple of Vietnamese war boats in Vietnamese waters approached to within 10 kilometers of the USS Maddox and the Maddox opened fire. In the exchange, one US aircraft was slightly damaged, as was the Maddox itself, which took a single bullet hole in an non-vital part. The Vietnamese saw four dead, six wounded, and three boats moderately to severely damaged. The Johnson administration lied about the incident, claiming the Vietnamese fired first, and the vaunted American press dutifully repeated that lie. Nor did the press explore the reasons for the tensions; Vietnam had a fair and open election in which Ho Chi Minh and the communists won, and the cold war hawks in LBJ’s cabinet couldn’t stand for that. It took thousands of deaths and vast sums of dollars wasted before a significant protest movement formed, only to be vilified by America’s “silent majority” as traitors, cowards and commies.
World War One was even more mystifying. The US had no interest, strategically or ethically, in the war, and by 1917 it was obvious that it was a bloody, inconclusive and hideously expensive pigs-wallow of a war. A large majority of Americans wanted to stay the hell out. But then the Zimmerman telegram emerged, with the self-same German foreign minister begging Mexico to start a war with America and making the unlikely promise that they would give Mexico back those territories lost in the 1848 US-Mexico war. That infuriated President Wilson, who had run—and won—on a campaign slogan of “Too proud to fight” just a few years earlier. This was followed soon after by a German decision to target neutral shipping in the Atlantic, and subsequently sank five American freighters. Wilson used this to whip the country into a war frenzy the like of which nobody had seen since the Civil War, made more incredible by the fact that America still had scant emotional involvement with the European conflict. (Americans get annoyed by attacks, real or imaginary, on their ships, except when they don’t—in 1942 German U-boats were sinking US freighters at a expense in lives lost and dollars squandered the equivalent of a 9/11 attack every two weeks, and still had to declare war first before America made a military reaction.) So it’s safe to say that Wilson used the incident to whip up the war frenzy.
He almost certainly knew that Germany was slowly losing that war. He was probably far more worried about the revolution in Russia, and the threat of communist uprisings in the west. Given the disgraceful nature of the Industrial Revolution and the deplorable conditions the working class suffered, it was a quite legitimate fear from his viewpoint.
In scant weeks, millions of Americans who were “too proud to fight” and glad they weren’t involved in that bloody, unending mess were screaming for German blood, talking about rounding up German-Americans and putting them in camps, and denouncing anyone who questioned all this as cowards and traitors. Just like that! Snap fingers. The government passed repressive laws to shut up the dissenters that were so draconian that the Supreme Court was forced to look up the Constitution and see what it had to say about this kind of stuff. Turns out the Constitution takes a dim view of punishing people for having doubts. But that was later. In the meantime people gleefully punished people for opinions they shared just scant weeks earlier.
So historically, it’s not hard to con Americans into a war, no matter how dubious, bloody, or unnecessary.
So when Trump had Suleimani assassinated and Iran responded by shelling some US bases in Iraq, I got a sinking feeling that Americans, with a whoop and a holler, were going to repeat the same tired bloody mistakes once again, and would probably enthrone the despicable Trump in the process.
Certainly Trump tried to rouse the American people to arms, giving reason after reason, each more dire than the last, for why it was necessary to ambush and murder this man. The latest iteration of that, just nine days later and the ninth different reason given, was that Suleimani was planning to attack “four embassies”. Each of Trump’s rationales has been knocked down for lack of evidence to patent absurdity (Suleimani was most certainly no friend to ISIS, and indeed was a lead ally in stymieing the terrorist organization.) The “four embassies” rationale died an ignominious death this morning when Trump’s Secretary-of-Defence-This-Week, Mark Esper, admitted on national television that he had no idea what Trump was talking about.
Faux News and all the other horse-manure factories of the far right tried to whip up war fever, and didn’t get much of anywhere. Oh, they got the Trumpkins riled up, but that was a given. They’ll do whatever their God-daddy leader wants.
But outside of the deplorables, nothing. Outside of that, the 60% of Americans who aren’t part of his cult know he lies: he lies when he has to, he lies when he doesn’t have to, he even lies when it would be to his advantage to either keep his mouth shut or tell the truth. They know he lies. They know he’s had it in for Iran for years, and especially since the hated Obama got that nuclear agreement with them. They know that in 2016, Trump had no idea who Suleimani was, and will be totally unsurprised to read in today’s Washington Post that in early 2017 he was asking his cabinet for ways to assassinate Suleimani, and his cabinet was ignoring such requests.
A majority of those polled yesterday believe that Trump was wagging the dog, using Iran to try and detract from his looming impeachment trial.
Trump’s advisors and enablers have to be looking at this and wondering what would happen if there was a real international incident that required an American military response, another Pearl Harbor or a 9/11. Would people follow Trump, or just conclude that he staged the event for his own purposes.
Yet another reason to get rid of him. When America does need a leader, all they’ll have is Trump, and he’s utter shit at that.
Horrible as the assassination and repercussions have been, it could have been far worse. At least Iran’s response was carefully crafted to avoid escalation, with the exception of the shooting down of that Boeing 737 passenger jet. I have little doubt it was an accident: Iran had little to gain from killing scores of their own citizens, plus 67 Canadians and 39 Ukrainians. And that’s on Trump, too; negligent as someone in the Iranian military was, it wouldn’t have happened were it not for the crisis Trump created.
Millions of people in Iran are outraged by the shooting down. Perhaps they remember when the US accidentally shot down an Iranian plane in the 80s, killing 232. As a result, the government is facing mass protests of a kind not seen since the days of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Nobody likes the Iranian regime. They are religious nuts, vicious, and troublemakers. It would be delightful if this tragic incident caused their downfall, and a more secular, reasonable regime were to replace them.
But for now, it’s in the realm of wishful thinking. But if Trump tries to take credit for it (and he would) then tell him to buzz off.
Even with the threat of war fever manipulation, America is better off with a leader than a bullshit artist.