Katie Halper joins Krystal and Saagar to compare how the media treated the deaths of Mike Gravel and Donald Rumsfeld.
As shocking as it is to write this sentence, it must be said: Donald Trump did something right.
He finally noticed the abyss once he was right on top of it, calling off a retaliatory strike on Iran after belatedly learning, he said, that 150 people could die.
“I didn’t like it,” Trump told Chuck Todd. “I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
And thank God — and Allah — that he stumbled out just as he stumbled in.
It’s breathtaking that Washington’s conservative foreign policy mandarins would drag us back into Mideast quicksand when we haven’t even had a reckoning about the lies, greed, self-interest and naïveté that led U.S. officials to make so many tragic mistakes in the region.
We sweep in with oblivious swagger, with most Americans not knowing the difference between Shiites and Sunnis, assuming we’re going to swiftly kick butt in an asymmetrical cakewalk. And then we end up stalemated and playing into our enemies’ hands, with hundreds of thousands dead and a $5.9 trillion bill for the post-9/11 wars — not to mention that Trumpworld has ended up deeper in the murderous House of Saud’s embrace.
The president blundered into the crisis by canceling the Iranian nuclear deal, tweet-taunting about the “end of Iran” and hiring the hirsute Iran warmonger John Bolton. And our president is such a mercurial blowhard, he could screw it all up again before this column even hits The Times home page.
I’ve been at this treacherous juncture before with presidents. Once the gears in Washington get going, once the military-industrial complex is “cocked & loaded,” once the hawks around you begin Iago-whispering that if you don’t go forward, you’ll be unmanned, it’s awfully hard to reverse course.
Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld steamrollered W. into the forever war in Iraq by playing on his fears of being a wimp if he pulled back once the Pentagon had moved troops, carriers, covert agents and B-2 bombers into the Persian Gulf. The Saudis told W. that Saddam was not sitting on a cache of W.M.D.s, and was simply blustering like any Arab despot would, but W. dreaded being labeled a wimp, as his father had been in his first presidential campaign.
By Friday morning, Republicans were already painting Trump as a scaredy-cat and Iran as a feral cornered cat.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois and Iraq war veteran, told MSNBC that the idea we could now negotiate with Iran “has the potential of inviting a look of weakness.”
Cheney came back to haunt us in the form of his dagger-tongued daughter Liz, the Wyoming House member, who said Trump’s inaction “could in fact be a very serious mistake.” She lobbed the nastiest insult she could think of, comparing Trump to Barack Obama.
Even “Fox & Friends,” which can always be counted on to fluff Trump’s ego, raised doubts. Brian Kilmeade warned: “North Korea’s watching. All our enemies are watching.”
But maybe something new could work with the impossible child-man in the White House: positive reinforcement.
That was very smart, Mr. President, not to tangle with the Persians, who have been engaged in geopolitics since 550 B.C., until you have a better sense of exactly what is going on here. Listen to your isolationist instincts and your base, not to batty Bolton. You don’t want to get mired in a war that could spill over to Saudi Arabia and Israel, sparking conflagrations from Afghanistan to Lebanon and beyond.
Just remember: The Iranians are great negotiators with a bad hand and you are a terrible negotiator with a good hand.
Trump told Todd that he thought the Iranians shot down a $130 million drone to get his attention because they wanted to talk. (Like when a little kid flicks a paper airplane at your head, but more expensive.) A rare case of Trump’s bloated ego working to our advantage.
It is not hard to imagine Bolton and Mike Pompeo conjuring a Tonkin specter, with a drone or U.S. plane buzzing Iranian airspace to provoke Iran to respond, so we can start a war. It’s also not hard to imagine the two uber-hawks doing this without Trump understanding what’s going on. And it’s certainly easy to think that Trump might not be leveling with us about how this went down.
At least, unlike W. — another underinformed president — Trump is not a captive of the neocons. He has outside advisers, after all: Fox News anchors.
It’s hard to believe that the man standing between us and another world war is Tucker Carlson, late of “Dancing With the Stars.”
But we must count on Carlson, who, The Daily Beast reported, has been calling Trump directly to counteract Sean Hannity, who has been cheerleading on air for a strike, threatening Iran: “You’re going to get the living crap bombed out of you.”
Carlson is pointing out something that Trump needs to hear: “The very people — in some cases, literally the same people who lured us into the Iraq quagmire 16 years ago — are demanding a new war, this one with Iran.” He compared the warped intelligence Bush officials used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion with the “misplaced certainty” exhibited by Pompeo over iffy evidence that Iran attacked a pair of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Carlson also cogently noted that Bolton is goading Trump because, for him, a war with Iran would “be like Christmas, Thanksgiving, his birthday wrapped into one.”
Donald “I always attack back … except 100x more” Trump has always been a faux tough guy. In this case, the faux caused a pause — and that was a good thing.
Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the United States would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, Shinseki testified to the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services on February 25, 2003 that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation. From then on, Shinseki’s influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned. Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of Staff because of his comments on troop levels; however, his retirement was announced nearly a year before those comments.
When the insurgency took hold in postwar Iraq, Shinseki’s comments and their public rejection by the civilian leadership were often cited by those who felt the Bush administration deployed too few troops to Iraq. On November 15, 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid said that Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.
Stephen tries to pin down the notoriously evasive former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
“The war is over.”
— Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in Afghanistan
in April 2002
“I believe victory is closer than ever before.”
Mr. Gates’ former boss, President George W. Bush–who has stayed largely out of political affairs since leaving office–called the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, to push the Tillerson nomination. Mr. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, also a former defense secretary, has called Mr. Tillerson “an inspired choice.”
Yet another former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, went on Twitter to call Mr. Tillerson “a talented exec” and a “skillful negotiator.” Former Secretary of State James Baker has called Mr. Tillerson a personal friend and an “excellent choice.” Another former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, as well as Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser, both praised the choice as well.
.. In part, the reason is simply that these figures all know Mr. Tillerson. Exxon Mobil has been a client of the consulting firm run by Ms. Rice and Messrs. Gates and Hadley, and a client of Mr. Baker’s law firm.
.. But perhaps more important, these establishment figures are comfortable with him, and probably feel his presence at the State Department will give them some input on the course of American foreign policy
There are few countries in the West where anti-Americanism is as vociferously expressed as in Argentina, where a highly politicized culture of grievance has evolved in which many of the country’s problems are blamed on the United States.
.. The documents revealed that White House and U.S. State Department officials were intimately aware of the Argentine military’s bloody nature, and that some were horrified by what they knew. Others, most notably Henry Kissinger, were not.
.. The latest revelations compound a portrait of Kissinger as the ruthless cheerleader, if not the active co-conspirator, of Latin American military regimes engaged in war crimes. In evidence that emerged from previous declassifications of documents during the Clinton Administration, Kissinger was shown not only to have been aware of what the military was doing but to have actively encouraged it.
.. During the Dirty War, as it became known, as many as thirty thousand people were secretly abducted, tortured, and executed by the security forces. Hundreds of suspects were buried in anonymous mass graves, while thousands more were stripped naked, drugged, loaded onto military aircraft, and hurled into the sea from the air while they were still alive. The term “los desaparecidos”—“the disappeared”—became one of Argentina’s contributions to the global lexicon.
.. Immediately after the Argentine coup, on Kissinger’s recommendations, the U.S. Congress approved a request for fifty million dollars in security assistance to the junta; this was topped off by another thirty million before the end of the year. Military-training programs and aircraft sales worth hundreds of millions of dollars were also approved. In 1978, a year into Jimmy Carter’s Presidency, mounting concerns about human-rights violations brought an end to U.S. aid. Thereafter, the new Administration sought to cut the junta off from international financial assistance. In early 1981, with Reagan coming into the White House, however, the restrictions were lifted.
.. One of his foremost critics was the late Christopher Hitchens, who in 2001 wrote a book-length indictment entitled “The Trial of Henry Kissinger.” Hitchens called for Kissinger’s prosecution “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture.”
.. generals habitually denied that anything untoward was occurring. Questioned about los desaparecidos, the coup leader, General Videla, explained with chilling vagueness, “The disappeared are just that: disappeared. They are neither alive nor dead. They are disappeared.” Other officers suggested that missing people were probably in hiding, carrying out terrorist actions against the fatherland. In fact, the vast majority were being brutalized in secret prisons by government-salaried employees, and then, more often than not, executed. As happened in Germany during the Holocaust, most Argentines understood what was really going on, but kept silent out of a spirit of complicity, or fear. A see-no-evil national refrain was adopted by those Argentines who witnessed neighbors being dragged from their homes by plainclothes men, never to return: “Algo habrán hecho”—“they must have done something.”
.. Kissinger, the longest-lasting and most iconic pariah figure in modern American history, is but one of a line of men held in fear and contempt for the immorality of their services rendered and yet protected by the political establishment in recognition of those same services. William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, Robert McNamara, and, more recently, Donald Rumsfeld all come to mind.
.. Unlike McNamara, however, whose attempt to find a moral reckoning Kissinger held in such scorn, Kissinger has shown little in the way of a conscience. And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him.