On January 2, 2020 – while former President Donald J. Trump was vacationing on his estate in Palm Beach, Florida – Trump ordered a strike on Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Soleimani – an Iranian Major General who led the elite Quds Force and was responsible for Iran’s military operations outside of Iran – was deeply revered within Iranian society. Soleimani’s assassination stunned many (both domestically and abroad) and signalled a heightened, dangerous escalation in the ratcheting up of U.S.-Iran tensions that Trump and his administration vigorously stoked throughout his tenure in Washington.
Trump’s administration was littered with NeoConservative war hawks who thirsted for war with Iran. Whether it was evangelical fundamentalist and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who contended that Trump was “sent by God to defend Israel from Iran” or the appointment of arguably the most degenerative figure in modern American foreign policy – John Bolton – who should be standing trial at the ICC (International Criminal Court) for war crimes, Trump’s tenure in Washington saw America once again engaged in endless cycles of war.
Despite empty campaign promises to end forever wars, Trump increased drone strikes significantly from previous administrations, vetoed a historic bi-partisan call in Congress to end the genocide in Yemen , became one of the most aggressive arms dealers in history, and abused his office en route to having one of the most unaccountable drone/air strike records in history, fuelling U.S. killings worldwide with little (if any) check on his executive power.
So it was no surprise that Trump continued forever war policies – whether that featured Trump’s strikes in Syria or continually seeking historic increases to already bloated Pentagon defense budgets. The empty rhetoric of Trump during his campaign for the presidency quickly morphed into an obedient Trump administration that willfully did the bidding of the Foreign Policy Establishment and Military-Industrial Complex that Dwight Eisenhower so poignantly warned us about.
Enter Joe Biden – who campaigned on countering Trump’s destructive forever war policies with an emphasis on diplomacy and restoring dignity in our foreign relations – or so some thought. Just days into his presidency, Biden ordered a strike in Syria that killed 20+ people, targeting “Iranian-backed militias” in what many (including Rep. Ro Khanna) are calling an illegal strike on a sovereign nation without consulting Congress for authorization.
Great question. https://t.co/79K8uyzwGi
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 26, 2021
Rep. Ilhan Omar wasn’t alone in pointing out the hypocrisy of Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki (who once lectured Trump on his lack of legal authority to strike Syria) who is now all of a sudden silent on the constitutional mandate to consult Congress prior to engaging in offensive military action. Senator Bernie Sanders issued his own statement citing his deep concern with Biden’s cavalier approach to striking Syria. Former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard – who was ridiculed, maligned and slandered in the 2020 Democratic primary as a “Russian Asset” for calling out the bi-partisan hypocrisy in Syria – also reiterated her long-standing warning of meddling in the Middle-East and siding with extremist proxies for no legitimate reason as it pertains to U.S. security and stability in the region. Even moderates (from both parties) have lined up to critique Biden, introducing legislation to strip him of war powers in the aftermath of his recklessness in Syria.
Ironically, both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris openly criticized Trump for his foolish actions in Syria (and rightfully so) – but now have replicated Trump’s foolishness, exposing an ugly truth about American politics vis-à-vis foreign policy: with few exceptions, Presidents from both parties have wilted mightily when it comes to challenging the bi-partisan consensus that has fueled the war machine for decades upon decades.
The president needs to lay out a comprehensive strategy in Syria in consultation with Congress — and he needs to do it now.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 14, 2018
Trump’s erratic, impulsive actions are the last thing we need as Commander-in-Chief. No president should order a military strike without fully understanding the consequences. We don’t need another war in the Middle East, but Trump’s actions toward Iran only make that more likely.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 23, 2019
Coincidentally, as Biden was continuing the bi-partisan trend of obsessively bombing the Middle-East and stoking war with Iran, he was simultaneously refusing to sanction or exact any punishment against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his obvious complicity in the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. When asked about his decision to bomb Syria – Biden issued this warning to Iran: “You can’t act with impunity.” Apparently, that warning doesn’t apply if you’re a Crown Saudi Prince who fuels genocide in Yemen and orders the murder of journalists. Then, presumably, one can act with as much “impunity” as their heart desires.
Predictably, retaliatory action was taken in the wake of the strike in Syria – when rockets hit Al Asad air-base in Iraq (housing U.S. troops) on Wednesday (3/3/21) – signalling a continuation of the never-ending tit-for-tat that has typified the instability in the Middle East – bringing us ever closer to all-out war in the region.
When Trump took office in 2016 – he immediately moved to rip up the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – better known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.” This was a toxic and inherently dangerous strategy by Trump designed to goad Iran into war, squandering the hard-fought gains from the Obama administration where exemplary diplomats (from both the U.S. & Iran) engaged in painstakingly difficult negotiations to both normalize relations with Iran and prevent further nuclear proliferation. Biden had a “slam-dunk” opportunity to enter office with an emphasis on restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. Iran was eager to re-enter the JCPOA as Biden took office (as it had complied with the terms of the agreement) prior to Trump’s reckless abandonment of the deal. Instead, Biden has chosen to erratically strike Syria, mirroring his predecessor, rendering it far more difficult to restore productive diplomacy with Iran.
Former President and abolitionist John Quincy Adams once warned us of the very predicament we find ourselves in today:
“She (America) goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world.”
Unfortunately – not only have we searched abroad for monsters to destroy – but in many instances we have actually *created* those monsters – and continue to do so to this day.