To the editor:
For the third occasion in my lifetime, a U.S. president is concocting a phony rationale for launching an illegal war against a distant nation.
The first time was on Aug. 10, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which had been passed by Congress at his urging. The resolution gave Johnson broad powers to escalate the war in Vietnam, which he did, with terrible consequences for millions of people on both sides. Its legacy included 58,220 American soldiers dead, a huge drain on the nation’s finances, and the tarnishing of the reputation of the United States.
The resolution was based on an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin in which North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly attacked a U.S. destroyer. The “attacks” never took place. In 1965, President Johnson commented privately, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”
Why did Johnson escalate the war in Vietnam? The reason was purely political. He didn’t want to be criticized for being the president who “lost” South Vietnam to the communists.
The second time was on October 16, 2002, when Congress passed The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution. This resolution authorized President George W. Bush to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in order to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” The subsequent invasion and war in Iraq lasted seven years and cost the U.S. $1.06 trillion. A total of 4,424 U.S. soldiers lost their lives and 31,952 were wounded in action. An estimated 250,000 Iraqis died, and countless more were injured or displaced. The conflict continues to this day.
The 2002 resolution was based on the assertion by President Bush that Iraq was manufacturing and stockpiling “weapons of mass destruction” that posed an imminent threat to the United States. This assertion was a lie, and our invading troops found no such WMD stockpiles and no evidence of an imminent threat by Saddam Hussein against the United States.
Why did Bush invade Iraq? No one knows. Some say Dick Cheney goaded him into it so that Cheney’s business partners could profit from government contracts. Others say that George W. Bush wanted to prove to his father, President George H.W. Bush, who wisely did not invade Iraq, that he was tough and could finish the job that daddy didn’t.
The third time is happening now. President Trump, after sulking at Mar-a-Lago for two weeks while surrounded by people such as Rush Limbaugh, suddenly ordered the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who is roughly the equivalent of our secretary of defense, but with far more political power.
Soleimani, who unlike Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, traveled freely and openly, had not been targeted by either President Bush or President Obama precisely because such an act would have been a massive provocation.
President Trump justified the assassination by saying he acted to prevent an “imminent” and “sinister” attack against the U.S. directed by Soleimani. As of this writing, the administration has offered zero credible evidence to back it up. In addition, President Trump is a proven habitual liar, and no rational person would believe a single word coming out of his mouth.
Why would President Trump provoke a needless and destructive war with Iran? There are too many reasons to list here. Suffice to say his action is consistent with his general pattern of deranged behavior. Perhaps he believes that a “wartime” president is guaranteed re-election. Perhaps he just wanted to create a distraction from impeachment headlines. Whatever the reason, the people of the United States must not allow this dangerous despot to drag us into his terrible war.