If it is true the United States killed Iranian Quds Forces Commander General Qassam Soleimani in Iraq yesterday, unverified by the Iranians as I write this, then there is no hyperbole or exaggeration too great to encapsulate what may befall tens of millions of families. The equivalent of the killing of General Soleimani would be as if the Iranians assassinated General Richard Clarke, the US four star general in charge of all US special operations, but only if General Clarke had the name recognition of Colin Powell and the competency of Dwight Eisenhower. Those Iranians in government and civil society who want restraint, de-escalation and dialogue will find it hard to argue against retaliation. After more than 20 years of Iran enduring insult after insult, provocation after provocation, and attack after attack, I find it hard to believe there are many Barbara Lees in the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
A young man, better and brighter than those who sent him to Iraq to be in my command in the Marines in 2006, asked last evening:
“So let’s assume Soleimani is responsible for the embassy raid on the 27th. What should the proper response be? I think it would have been a great reason to talk to the Iranians and start from a 0-0 standpoint.”
That is what we are promised each election cycle by the two war parties: thoughtful, wise and judicious leadership – recognize the abyss and don’t step into it.
Imagine if President Trump were to say before Congress and the American people: “I know the danger of where we are, I respect Iran’s grievances and I ask them to respect ours, I am going to Tehran to meet with President Rhouhani. I have seen what Bush and Obama wrought, I will do different.” And what if then he told every member of Congress or the media who criticized him to stand and to offer up what they had sacrificed in the last 20 years. Would not that kind of leadership get him re-elected? Would there ever be a tally of the bodies, minds and souls saved? Yes, a late night fantasy of mine, pushed by the eternal hope of the too many unforgiving ghosts of these wars, but hope seems to be all we have right now.
2000 years ago in Rome a bull would have been slaughtered in the Temple of Mars to placate and appeal to the God of War. This weekend in DC, as well as most assuredly in Tel Aviv, and quite possibly London, the finest wines and liquors will be opened, without a seeming care that the sacrifice required will not be measured in a single animal, but in millions of dead and destroyed humans.
In Rome they worshiped Pluto as the God of the Underworld and of Death. Fittingly, Pluto was also the God of Money and Wealth. In these times it seems neither Mars or Pluto seems sated by the bodily and spiritual forms of the dead. If we pull down Lincoln and Jefferson in DC and hoist Mars and Pluto in their places I doubt Mars and Pluto’s appetites will be met, but as least we would be honoring those who are served.
Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the US Marines. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy.