During more than a half-century of Washington watching we have seen stupidity rise from one height to yet another. But nothing – just plain nothing – compares to the the blithering stupidity of the Donald’s Iran “policy”, culminating in the mindless assassination of its top military leader and hero of the so-called Islamic Revolution, Major General Qassem Soleimani.
To be sure, we don’t give a flying f*ck about the dead man himself. Like most generals of whatever army (including the US army), he was a cold-blooded, professional killer.
And in this day and age of urban and irregular warfare and drone-based annihilation delivered by remote joystick, generals tend to kill more civilians than combatants. The dead civilian victims in their millions of U.S. generals reaching back to the 1960s surely attest to that.
Then again, even the outright belligerents Soleimani did battle with over the decades were not exactly alms-bearing devotees of Mother Theresa, either. In sequential order, they were the lethally armed combatants mustered by Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, the Sunni jihadists of ISIS and the Israeli and Saudi air forces, which at this very moment are raining high tech bombs and missiles on Iranian allies and proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
The only reason these years of combat are described in the mainstream media as evidence of Iranian terrorism propagated by its Quds forces is that the neocons have declared it so. That is, by Washington’s lights Iran is not allowed to have a foreign policy and its alliances with mainly Shiite co-religionists in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen are alleged per se to be schemes of aggression and terror, warranting any and all retaliations including assassination of its highest officials.
But that’s just colossal nonsense and imperialistic arrogance. The Assad government in Syria, the largest political party in Lebanon (Hezbollah), the dominant population of northern Yemen (Houthis) and a significant portion of the Iraqi armed forces represented by the Shiite militias (the PMF or Popular Mobilization Forces) are no less civilized and no more prone to sectarian violence than anybody else in this woebegone region. And the real head-choppers of ISIS and its imitators and rivals have all been Sunni jihadist insurrectionists, not Shiite-based governments and political parties.
The truth is, America has no dog in the Shiite versus Sunni hunt, which has been going on for 1300 years in the region. And when it comes to spillover of those benighted forces into Europe or America, recent history is absolutely clear: 100% of all Islamic terrorist incidents in the US since they began in the 1990s were perpetrated or inspired by Sunni jihadists, not Iran or its Shiite allies and proxies in the region.
So we needs be direct. The aggression in the Persian Gulf region during the last three decades has originated in the Washington DC nest of neocon vipers and among Bibi Netanyahu’s proxies, collaborators and assigns who rule the roost in the Imperial City and among both political parties. And the motivating force has all along been the malicious quest for regime change – first in Iraq and then in Syria and Iran.
Needless to say, Washington instigated “regime change” tends to provoke a determined self-defense and a usually violent counter-reaction among the changees. So the truth is, the so-called Shiite crescent is not an alliance of terrorists inflicting wanton violence on the region; it’s a league of regime-change resisters and armed combatants who have elected to say “no” to Washington’s imperial schemes for remaking the middle eastern maps.
So in taking out Soleimani, the usually befuddled and increasingly belligerent occupant of the Oval Office was not striking a blow against “terrorism”. He was just dramatically escalating Washington’s long-standing regime-change aggression in the region, thereby risking an outbreak of even greater violence and possibly a catastrophic conflagration in the Persian Gulf where one-fifth of the world’s oil traverses daily.
And most certainly, the Donald has now crushed his own oft-repeated intent to withdraw American forces from the middle east and get out of the regime change business – the very platform upon which he campaigned in 2016. There are now upwards of 50,000 US military personnel in the immediate Persian Gulf region and tens of thousands of more contractors, proxies and mercenaries. After Friday’s reckless maneuver, that number can now only go up – and possibly dramatically.
In joy-sticking Soleimani while lounging in his plush digs at Mar-a-Lago, the Donald was also not avenging the innocent casualties of Iranian aggression – Americans or otherwise. He was just jamming another regime-change stick in the hornets nest of anti-Americanism in the region that Washington’s bloody interventions have spawned over the decades, and which will now intensify by orders of magnitude.
Sometimes a picture does tell a thousand words, and this one from the funeral procession in Tehran yesterday surely makes a mockery of Secretary Pompeo’s idiotic claim that the middle east is now safer than before. If there was ever a case that this neocon knucklehead should be immediately dispatched to his hog and corn farm back in Kansas, this is surely it.
The larger point here is that Imperial Washington and its mainstream media megaphones have so egregiously and relentlessly vilified Iran and falsified the middle east narrative that the Iranian side of the story has been completely lost – literally airbrushed right off the pages of contemporary history in Stalineseque fashion.
Not that the benighted, mullah-controlled Iranian regime is comprised of anything which resembles white hats. One of the great misfortunes of the last four decades is that the long-suffering people of Iran have not been able to throw-off the cultural and religious shackles imposed by this theocratic regime or escape the economic backwardness and incompetence of what is essentially rule by authoritarian clerics.
But that’s exactly the crime of Washington’s neocon-inspired hostility and threats to the Iranian regime. It merely rekindles Iranian nationalism and causes the public to rally to the support of the regime, as is so evident at the current moment.
Worse still, the underlying patriotic foundation of this pro-regime sentiment is completely lost on Imperial Washington owing to its false narrative about post-1979 history. Yet the fact is, in the eyes of the Iranian people the Quds forces and Soleimani have plausible claims to having been valiant defenders of the nation.
In the original instance, of course, Soleimani earned his chops on the battlefield contending with the chemical weapons-dropping air force of Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. And Saddam was the invader whose chemical bombs achieved especially deadly accuracy against often barely armed teenage Iranian soldiers owing to spotting and targeting assistance rendered by the U.S. air force – a Washington assisted depredation that a whole generation of Iranians know all about, even if present day Washington feints ignorance.
Then after Bush the Younger visited uninvited and unrequested Shock & Awe upon Baghdad and much of the Iraqi countryside, it transpired that the nation’s majority Shiite population didn’t cotton much to being “liberated” by Washington. Indeed, the more radical elements of the Iraqi Shiite community in Sadr City and other towns of central and south Iraq took up arms during 2003-2011 against what they perceived to be the American “occupiers” because, well, it was their country.
Needless to say, their Shiite kinsman in Iran were more than ready to give aid and comfort to the Iraqi Shiite in their struggle against what by then was perceived as Iran’s own mortal enemy. After all, a full year before Bush the Younger launched the utterly folly of the second gulf war in March 2003, his demented neocon advisors and speechwriters, led by the insufferable David Frum, had concocted a bogeyman called the Axis of Evil, which included Iran and marked it as next in line for Shock & Awe.
But the idea that the Iraqi people and especially its majority Shiite population would have been dancing in the streets to welcome the US military save for the insidious interference of Iran is just baseless War Party propaganda.
Stated differently, Washington sent 158,000 lethally armed fighters into a country that had never threatened America’s homeland security or harbored its enemies, and had no capacity to do so in any event. But contrary to the glib assurances of Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest of the neocon jackals around Bush, these US fighters soon came to be widely viewed as “invaders”, not liberators, and met resistance from a wide variety of Iraqi elements including remnants of Saddam’s government and military, radicalized Sunni jihadists and a motley array of Shiite politicians, clerics and militias.
Foremost among these was the Sadr clan which emerged as the tribune of the the dispossessed Shiite communities in the south and Baghdad. They rose to prominence after Bush the Elder urged the Shiite to rise up against Saddam after the 1991 Gulf War, and then left them dangling in the wind.
No US support materialized as the regime’s indiscriminate crackdown on the population systematically arrested and killed tens of thousands of Shiites and destroyed Shiite shrines, centers of learning, towns and villages. According to eyewitness accounts, Baathist tanks were painted with messages like “No Shiites after today,” people were hanged from electric poles, and tanks ran over women and children and towed bodies through the streets.
From this horror and brutality emerged Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, the founder of the Sadrist movement that today, under the leadership of his son Muqtada, constitutes Iraq’s most powerful political movement. After the collapse of the Baathist regime in 2003, the Sadrist movement formally established its own militia, known as the Jaysh al-Mahdi, or the Mahdi Army.
The vast Shiite underclass needed protection, social services and leadership, and the Sadrist movement stepped into these gaps by reactivating Sadeq al-Sadr’s network. In the course of US occupation, the Mahdi Army’s ranks of supporters, members and fighters swelled, particularly as sectarian conflict intensified and discontent towards the occupation grew out of frustration with the lack of security and basis services. At one point the Mahdi Army numbered more than 60,000 fighters, and especially as Iraq degenerated into total sectarian chaos after 2005, it became a deadly thorn in the side of US forces occupying a country where they were distinctly unwelcome.
But the Mahdi Army was homegrown; it was Arab, not Persian, and it was fighting for its own homes and communities, not the Iranians, the Quds or Soleimani. In fact, the Sadrists strongly opposed the Iranian influence among other Shiite dissident groups including the brutal Badr Brigade and the Iran-aligned Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI). As the above study further noted,
Iraqis today refer to the Sadrist Movement’s Peace Brigades as the “rebellious” militias, because of their refusal to submit not only to Iran, but also to the federal government and religious establishment. Muqtada al-Sadr has oriented his organization around Iraqi nationalistic sentiments and derided the Iran-aligned militias. In line with the true political outlook of his father and his followers, Muqtada’s supporters chanted anti-Iranian slogans and stormed the offices of the Dawa Party, ISCI and the Badr Brigade when they protested against the government in May 2016.
As it happened, the overwhelming share of the 603 US servicemen the Pentagon claims to have been killed by Iranian proxies were actually victims of the Mahdi Army uprisings during 2003-2007. These attacks were led by the above mentioned Iraqi nationalist firebrand and son of the movements founder, Muqtada al-Sadr.
In fact, however, the surge in U.S. deaths at that time was the direct result of subsequently disgraced General David Petraeus’ infamous “surge” campaign. Among others, it targeted al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in the hope of weakening it. Beginning in late April 2007, the US launched dozens of military operations aimed solely at capturing or killing Mahdi Army officers, causing the Mahdi Army to strongly resist those raids and impose mounting casualties on US troops.
So amidst the fog of two decades of DOD and neocon propaganda, how did Iran and Soleimani get tagged over and over with the “killing Americans” charge, as if they were attacking innocent bystanders in lower Manhattan on 9/11?
It’s just the hoary old canard that Iran was the source of the powerful roadside bombs called Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) that were being used by many of the Shiite militias, as well as the Sunni jihadists in Anbar province and the west. Yet that claim was debunked more than a decade ago by evidence that the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias were getting their weapons not just from the Iranians but from wherever they could, as well as manufacturing their own.
As the estimable Iran expert, Gareth Porter, recently noted:
The command’s effort to push its line about Iran and EFPs encountered one embarrassing revelation after another. In February 2007 a US command briefing asserted that the EFPs had “characteristics unique to being manufactured in Iran.” However, after NBC correspondent Jane Arraf confronted the deputy commander of coalition troops, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, with the fact that a senior military official had acknowledged to her that US troops had been discovering many sites manufacturing EFPs in Iraq, Odierno was forced to admit that it was true.
Then in late February 2007, US troops found another cache of parts and explosives for EFPs near Baghdad, which included shipments of PVC tubes for the canisters that contradicted its claims. They had come not from factories in Iran, but from factories in the UAE and other Arab countries, including Iraq itself. That evidence clearly suggested that the Shiites were procuring EFP parts on the commercial market rather than getting them from Iran.
Although the military briefing by the command in February 2007 pointed to cross-border weapons smuggling, it actually confirmed in one of its slides that it was being handled by “Iraqi extremist group members” rather than by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). And as Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the US commander for southern Iraq, admitted in a July 6 press briefing, his troops had not “captured anybody that we can directly tie back to Iran.”
On the other hand, what the Iranian Quds forces have actually accomplished in Iraq and Syria has been virtually expunged from the mainstream narrative. To wit, they have been the veritable tip of the spear in the eradication of the Islamic State.
Indeed, in Iraq it was the wobbly Iraqi national army that Washington stood up at a cost of billions, which turned tail and ran when ISIS emerged in Anbar province in 2014. So doing, they left behind thousands of US armored vehicles, mobile artillery and even tanks, as well as massive troves of guns and ammo, which enabled the Islamic State to briefly thrive and subjugate several million people across the Euphrates Valley.
It was also Washington that trained, equipped, armed and funded the so-called anti-Assad rebels in Syria, which so weakened and distracted Damascus that that the Islamic State was briefly able to fill the power vacuum and impose its barbaric rule on the citizens of Raqqa and its environs. And again, it did so in large part with weaponry captured from or sold to ISIS by the so-called moderate rebels.
To the contrary, the panic and unraveling in Iraq during 2014-2015 was stopped and reversed when the Iranians at the invitation of Baghdad’s Shiite government helped organize and mobilize the Iraqi Shiite militias, which eventually chased ISIS out of Mosul and Anbar.
Likewise, outside of the northern border areas liberated by the Syrian Kurds, it was the Shiite alliance of Assad, Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds forces that rid Syria of the ISIS plague.
Yes, the US air force literally incinerated two great cities temporarily occupied by the Islamic State – Mosul and Raqqa. But it was the Shiite fighters who were literally fighting for their lives, homes and hearth who cleared that land of a barbaric infestation that had been spawned and enabled by the very Washington neocons who are now dripping red in tooth and claw.
So we revert to the Donald’s act of utter stupidity. On the one hand, it is now evident that the reason Soleimani was in Baghdad was to deliver an official response from Tehran to a recent Saudi de-escalation offer. And that’s by the word of the very prime minister that Washington has stood up in the rump state of Iraq and who has now joined a majority of the Iraqi parliament in demanding that Iraq’s putative liberators – after expending trillions in treasure and blood – leave the country forthwith:
Before the vote Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the parliament that he was scheduled to meet with Soleimani a day after his arrival to receive a letter from Iran to Iraq in response to a de-escalation offer Saudi Arabia had made. The US assassinated Soleimani before the letter could be delivered by him. Abdul-Mahdi also said that Trump had asked him to mediate between the US and Iran. Did he do that to trap Soleimani? It is no wonder then that Abdul-Mahdi is fuming.
At the same time, the positive trends that were in motion in the region just days ago – ISIS gone, Syria closing in on the remaining jihadists, Saudi Arabia and Iran tentatively exploring a more peaceful modus vivendi, the Yemen genocide winding to a close – may now literally go up in smoke. As the always sagacious Pat Buchanan observed today,
What a difference a presidential decision can make.
Two months ago, crowds were in the streets of Iraq protesting Iran’s dominance of their politics. Crowds were in the streets of Iran cursing that regime for squandering the nation’s resources on imperial adventures in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen. Things were going America’s way.
Now it is the Americans who are the targets of protests.
Over three days, crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands and even millions have packed Iraqi and Iranian streets and squares to pay tribute to Soleimani and to curse the Americans who killed him.
We have long believed that there is nothing stupider in Washington than the neocon policy mafia that has wrecked such unspeakable havoc on the middle east as well as upon American servicemen and taxpayers who have been marched time and again into the jaws of their folly.
But, now, the Donald has single-handedly given even neocon stupidity a run for the money.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.