Trying To Make Sense of Suleimani

As with many, I’m struggling to make sense of Suleimani’s assassination.  It’s not a simple matter, even for those of us who try to follow world affairs as well as we’re able.  It wasn’t an assassination because that’s against the law, so says the administration.  But it sure looks like one.  

Yes, but he’s responsible for the deaths of many Americans, says the administration.  

We all agree that’s true, but we’ve been engaged in war like conflict in the region since 1990, that’s thirty years during which we also have been responsible for uncounted deaths, including a few too many “Oops, terribly sorry, didn’t mean to bomb that wedding” incidents.

Yes, but we’re the good guys, says the administration.

I would like to think so, and Iran has tried hard to live up to its bad boy reputation.  But a quick look at a map of U.S. military installations surrounding Iran, and they do surround it, suggests Iranians may not agree that we’re the good guys.  Nations dislike being surrounded by military bases of an imperial power.  Who’s the enemy among enemies depends on whose side one is on, and let’s face it, we’re the occupying army.  There has never been a beloved occupying army, never in the history of empires. 

Well, he had it coming because he fought dirty with diabolical IEDs, ragtag militias, and alliances with any disaffected terrorist he could find.  

It’s pretty much the same thing British commanders said about American revolutionaries in 1776.  It’s the way small countries fight big ones.  Consider what the Roman tribune said to Paul when he was arrested in Jerusalem: “Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” (Acts 21) 

None of that makes Suleimani an honorable man, and there is some evidence his public relations staff had burnished his reputation far beyond credulity, leaving some Iranian leaders suspicious of his political intentions.

Trump says he ordered the killing because of an imminent threat that has now been stopped.  I wonder.  In 2012 he tweeted up a storm predicting Obama would go to war with Iran to boost his chances of wining reelection.  It didn’t happen then, but in 2020 Trump appears to be following the script he wrote to boost his own chances at reelection.  Some of my right wing friends love it.  It’s the kind of “We’ll show them, and they’ll learn not to mess with us” bravado that demonstrates American toughness.  No more of this namby-pamby diplomacy that Pompeo labeled as Obama “trying to buy them off.”  

Where does that kind of thinking come from?  I said to a few others that Trump chose the Dirty Harry option, believing it would make him look like a Clint Eastwood character full of virtue and violence acting as judge, jury and executioner.  But as Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations,” which it appears Trump doesn’t.  It’s not just Dirty Harry, it’s the macho imagery of every action and super hero movie where virtuous, lethal revenge is equated with justice, and in the end all is well.  Revenge, lethal or not, is neither virtuous nor just, and it never ends well.  Tough guy swagger from politicians is cover for a lack of courage and wisdom.

Four years ago Iran was adhering to the terms of a nuclear agreement it had made with an alliance of Western nations.  They were being eased back into the community of nations.  Their economy was prospering as it hadn’t for years.  Ordinary Iranians were experiencing political and economic freedom in new ways.  The government was still sponsoring terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, but the West held all the economic cards that could force them in another direction.  Trump ended the agreement, reimposed sanctions, and alienated our Western allies.  So here we are. Now what?

I have no idea.  The ideal of Iranian self respect may demand an eye for an eye: the assassination of some top American.  A cable news commentator listed a dozen other options involving attacks on various installations, oil fields, etc.  Cooler heads in Tehran may prevail as they consider the consequences.  I hope so.  

In the meantime, maybe, at long last, Republican leaders will show some backbone, and take a firm stand against escalation of armed conflict we can’t win, can’t get out of with dignity, and don’t know what victory means.  Maybe, at long last, conventional conservatives will wake up to recognize this president is not a conservative and not worthy of their support.  Maybe, at long last, some who looked to Trump to save the white middle class will realize he never intended to, and doesn’t really care about them.  Maybe, at long last, some conservative evangelicals will realize he’s not one of them, not even a Christian in any recognizable way.

What about Trump’s hard core base?  They bought into his dream world, and they’ll stick with it.  Remember Hillary’s basket of deplorables?  They’re in it. 

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