Just a short post today to pass on two reading recommendations that put the current crisis with Iran in useful perspective.
If you read nothing else on the crisis in the next couple of days, you should take a look at this piece by veteran political and intelligence analyst Paul Pillar, which very effectively summarizes most of the reasons the assassination of Suleimani was a bad idea.
I also like this piece by journalist Geraldine Brooks, which, like Pillar’s, pokes holes in the good guys/bad guys narrative that passes for conventional wisdom in discussions of the US role in the Middle East. Even most critics of the assassination hasten to make clear their conviction that Suleimani was a very bad guy, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and other nefarious deeds. Pillar and Brooks supply important context to that observation that is mostly missing in our mainstream media. Pillar points out that Suleimani, a hero in Iran’s fight against ISIS, was wildly popular in Iran. And, while he did have American blood on his hands,
Most of those American deaths occurred in a war of choice that the United States launched in Iran’s neighbor Iraq and that triggered both a sectarian civil war and an insurgency against an occupying power.”
Brooks similarly observes
General Suleimani killed Americans and, we are told, had plans to kill more. He was a military commander. Military commanders have plans to kill their enemies. And the United States is Iran’s enemy, reneging on the nuclear agreement and choking its economy, impoverishing and immiserating civilians who have nothing to do with, and no say in, their government’s policy.”
This is pretty obvious stuff, but it’s stuff that respectable commentators, much less politicians, are loath to acknowledge. (Brooks could have added that Trump’s sanctions will surely result in some increase in mortality among Iranians.)
Brooks also takes us back in history, pointing to the US help Saddam Hussein enjoyed as he was bombing Iranian civilians and to the 1988 downing of an Iranian civil airliner by an American warplane, killing 290 civilians. That horror was probably not a deliberate act of mass murder, but it almost surely was a criminally negligent mass homicide. The American pilot was never disciplined for his recklessness; instead, he was decorated.
Of course, none of this would matter to Trump and his minions even if they were remotely aware of it. The rest of us should view with appropriate cynicism Trump’s pose as the righteous defender of American lives and avenger of American blood spilled.