Amidst the Iranian protests, many wondered why President Trump was apparently going out of his way to call out the Iranian government. Throwing around terms like ‘violence’ and ‘bloodshed’ in conjunction with Iranian leadership, the president professed to care for the Iranian people’s welfare despite not allowing them to enter the United States as part of the temporary ban on travel from certain Arabic nations. Some had to wonder whether something greater was going on amidst all the rhetoric and virtue signaling.
Now, a former member of the George W. Bush administration who had a hand in stirring up public sentiment for the Iraq War has said he sees direct parallels between the way Trump has handled Iran and the tact taken before invading the Sunni kingdom of Saddam Hussein.
Lawrence Wilkerson, who is now a professor of Government and Public Policy at William and Mary, served as chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, the man tasked with trumpeting the necessity of war circa 2003. Wilkerson professes to have had great influence on a now-infamous speech given by Colin Powell that year, a speech in which he told the American people unequivocally that war was the only answer and that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power to ensure global safety.
Fear was at the center of the address.
“When we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future,” Powell’s speech reads.
In a New York Times editorial, Wilkerson now says that the same lack of tangible evidence and fear-based rhetoric regarding the regional power of Iran is being used by the Trump administration to nudge America back toward yet another war in the Middle East. Even though Iran and Iraq are not the same in terms of potential power in the Middle Eastern region nor their views on America and Israel, Wilkerson may have a point.
And, it’s not like he is an unabashed, ride-or-die liberal with a track record of blind Republican-hating. He worked in the Bush White House and admittedly facilitated the machinations that led to one of the most regrettable American conflicts in history. He says that he is seeing those machinations play out again, albeit at a distance this time.
For one, the primary talking points regarding Iraq and Iran are nearly identical: regional power, likely harboring weapons of mass destruction, oppressive to its own people who deserve liberation.
The key, though, is the impression given to the American people by the president and his proxies: war is the only option for resolving a potentially catastrophic event. In other words, fight conflict with conflict.
In his comparison, Wilkerson likens the Colin Powell figure to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley.
‘Just over a month ago, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that Iran was not complying with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen. Just like Mr. Powell, Ms. Haley showed satellite images and other physical evidence available only to the United States intelligence community to prove her case. But the evidence fell significantly short.’ (NYT)
Remember when we had ‘undeniable evidence’ that Saddam Hussein was harboring chemical weapons of mass destruction?
Who’s to say that Haley and others in the Trump administration don’t have undeniable evidence? Well, the obvious answer seems to be any American who has not seen that undeniable evidence in full. Consider the thorough bungling of the war in Iraq and the state of the veterans who have returned from that conflict irreparably damaged and with little idea as to why they were there in the first place. Viewing the ‘undeniable’ evidence before any war-like conflict is sparked seems like one the most reasonable of requests the American populace can levy.
Wilkerson continues in his adamancy of just how similar the scenarios, approximately 15 years apart, have played out. It shows how quickly Americans tend to forget.
‘As I watched Ms. Haley at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I wanted to play the video of Mr. Powell on the wall behind her, so that Americans could recognize instantly how they were being driven down the same path as in 2003 — ultimately to war.’
Making the matter more serious, Wilkerson warns of what many Americans with a solid grasp of global politics already know: a conflict with Iran would be far more treacherous than the one with Iraq. Consider that for a moment.
‘Only this war with Iran, a country of almost 80 million people whose vast strategic depth and difficult terrain make it a far greater challenge than Iraq, would be 10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs.’
Everybody has their own phobias, and perhaps a nuclear Iran frightens you deeply. I don’t blame you, as it’s an alarming prospect. But when we talk about what is truly frightening from the American perspective, the prospect of 10 to 15 times the casualties incurred during the Iraq War is terrifying. The potential for even more veterans to come back even more damaged than the ones still returning from the Middle East, haunted by physical scars and suicidal thoughts, is downright scary.
Not to sound like some hippie here, but forgetting how easy it is to be goaded into conflict would be catastrophic. As Americans, we have to remain vigilant not just to global powers, but to the words and actions of our own representatives, reading between the lines and seeing where these words and actions are likely to lead.