Stop Trump’s war on Iran

We are on the brink of another American war — this time against Iran. After Iran shot down a U.S. drone in its own airspace, Donald Trump ordered a military strike which, by his administration’s own estimates, would have killed 150 Iranians. But then, as if scripted for Reality TV, Trump changed his mind with just minutes to spare. That’s how close we came to a war on Iran.

New Bedford Democrat Richard Drolet recently wrote an excellent overview of the history of Iranian-American relations, appealing for Congress to block any move to attack Iran. As Richard points out, U.S. claims of Iranian attacks on marine vessels in the Persian Gulf have precedent in other deceptions of the American public. Remember the Gulf of Tonkin? Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Remember the Maine?

It doesn’t take much to deceive a credulous and poorly-informed American public. Despite the administration’s claims of Iranian aggression, this will not be a war over drones and shipping channels. This will be a long-desired war to ensure Israel’s status as the only nuclear superpower in the region. And, if Trump’s neoconservatives John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, and Michael Pompeo get their way, it will also be another chance to effect regime change in the Middle East.

Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the US-Iranian nuclear agreement, placing the Iranian military on a terrorist watchlist, supporting violent Iranian exile groups like the MEK, hitting Iranian civilians with more crippling sanctions, and deploying the U.S. military force to the Persian Gulf have all brought us to this crisis.

Trump’s neoconservatives have convinced Republicans that invading Iran is one way to make America Great Again, and that an American invasion would be a “slam dunk.” Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton thinks it wouldn’t take much to defeat Iran — “two strikes, the first strike and the last strike.”

But an entire generation has gone by since the first Gulf War and the US is still not out of Iraq, a much smaller country than Iran. After hundreds of thousands killed, and trillions of dollars squandered, the US is also still in Afghanistan propping up a puppet regime.

Cooler and better-informed heads remind us that a US invasion would be the Mother of all Quagmires. Juan Cole, a Mideast expert at the University of Michigan, published the “Top Ten differences between the Iraq War and Trump’s Proposed Iran War.” Among them:

  • Iran is 3.7 times bigger than Iraq — 1.5 million square miles, almost the size of Alaska.
  • Iran has 3 times more people than Iraq — 81 million.
  • Iran can mobilize 1.5 million paramilitary forces and 500,000 active duty personnel.
  • While the Gulf War “Coalition” drew on NATO allies to fight Iraq, Europe is now skeptical of a war on Iran.
  • Many of Iraq’s neighbors were happy to see Saddam go. Iran still has many regional friends.

Congress must reclaim its Constitutional authority and pass legislation to prevent an unauthorized conflict with Iran. 71 House Representatives have sponsored H.R.2354 — the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019. Shamefully, of the 9 Massachusetts Congressional Representatives, only Jim McGovern and Ayanna Pressley are co-sponsors.

So here we are, again, on the brink of another American invasion of a country in the Middle East. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and leave a message with your Representative. Remind them that, under the Constitution, it is up to Congress, not the President, to declare war. Demand that they hold Donald Trump accountable for any illegal military actions. And ask them to cosponsor H.R.2354 to stop what will surely be another disastrous war of choice.

Regime Change

We now have a proto-fascist in the White House, breaking everything he touches. Trump is at war with minorities, gays, women, non-Christians, science, education, the environment, the poor, Congress, the Constitution, Mexico, Central America, China, Russia, and even European allies. Americans are always willing to make regime change elsewhere — but we sure could use some here.

Even if we were not in the middle of a Constitutional crisis, distracted by Trump’s chaos and his intentional destabilization of government, most Americans wouldn’t pay much attention to militarism and foreign policy. The appointments of John Bolton, Michael Pompeo, and Elliott Abrams were no doubt less compelling than the Mueller Report, Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings or James Comey’s firing. But they were chosen to throw bloody red meat to Trump’s “base.”

Elliott Abrams is a war criminal convicted of lying to Congress, though he was subsequently pardoned. Mike Pompeo is fond of threatening enemies with US invasion. Like Pompeo, John Bolton has never met a war he didn’t love, pressing for “regime change” in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, Yemen, North Korea, and Iran. With the selection of these three sociopaths, Trump is telegraphing plans for Venezuela and Iran. Like Iraq, both countries have long been in the crosshairs of American neoconservatives. The administration’s plans may be old but they’re reliable — coups, puppet regimes, and manufactured threats to the US and its allies. All depend on gullibility and attention deficit from the American public.

In March 2017, amid US sanctions and right-wing sabotage and violence which included ongoing assassination attempts, the Venezuelan Supreme Court granted Nicolás Maduro emergency powers and dissolved the National Assembly. The “old” legislature was replaced by the Constituent Assembly, which was originally formed to rewrite the Constitution. Since then Venezuela has been divided over the legitimacy of both the “new” and the “old” legislature. But this is what happens when a nation grants special powers to a leader, who then uses them to delegitimize the legislature. Since 2017 the “old” legislature has functioned as Venezuela’s opposition and — like it or not — the “new” legislature is now the people’s house. In 2018 Maduro was re-elected president of Venezuela, which — again, like it or not — should have answered the question of legitimacy.

But in January 2019, after receiving an OK from Vice President Pence, the chairman of the “old” legislature, Juan Guaidó, simply took microphone in hand and declared himself president of Venezuela. This was apparently enough legitimacy for the Trump Administration’s John Bolton, who then set about to create rebellion among the Venezuelan military. Guaidó follows a long history of US puppetry — the Pahlavis, the Somozas, Batista, Ngo Dinh Diem, Costillo Armas, Rios Montt, Chalabi, Micheletti, Karzai, to name a few. By recognizing Guaidó and then expelling Maduro appointees from their own embassy, the Trump administration is now trying to depose the head of a divided but democratically-elected government.

Yet, of all the chaos that Trump has unleashed, the threat of an attack on Iran is the most terrifying. Neocons have never been happy with John Kerry’s Iran deal, in which Iran and the US agreed to an accord that would keep Iran from enriching weapons-grade plutonium in exchange for relief from US sanctions. Despite zero evidence of violations by Iran, Trump withdrew from the deal and is considering prosecuting Kerry for violating the Logan Act — for speaking with foreign diplomats, as most former American diplomats do even after leaving their diplomatic posts.

To escalate the provocations even further, Trump denoted the Iranian Guard a “terrorist” organization. And last week, following the deployment of a carrier strike force and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf, the US accused Iran of sabotaging tankers. Two Saudi, one Norwegian, and one Emirati ship were allegedly attacked with improvised limpet mines close to the Emirates. Trump threatened to send 120,000 troops to the region, telling the press, “It’s going to be a bad problem for Iran if something happens, I can tell you that. They’re not going to be happy.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested that the sabotaging of vessels was a “false flag” operation and ascribed war noises to the work of the “four Bs” — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, United Arab Emirates crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and White House national security adviser John Bolton, who in 2015 advocated bombing Iran. And if one looks at a map of US military bases surrounding Iran, it is hard to imagine why Iran would want to provoke the US.

Europeans, who remain party to the Iran agreement, are skeptical of Trump’s accusations. Norbert Röttgen, chair of the Foreign Affairs committee of the German parliament, downplayed American warnings of imminent Iranian attacks. He said that the BND (German intelligence) has not found any escalation in Iranian threats. In fact, Röttgen described the US warnings as mere “saber rattling, a show of force to demonstrate seriousness and to justify American foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran.”

But, after a generation of American wars in the Middle East, there is still an appetite for more. The Trump administration and its supporters believe invading Iran would be a “slam dunk,” as the Bush administration thought Iraq would be. Almost a generation has gone by since the first Gulf War and the US is still not out of Iraq. And after a generation, hundreds of thousands killed, and trillions of dollars squandered, the US still remains in Afghanistan propping up a puppet regime. Geniuses like Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton doubt it would take much to defeat Iran — “two strikes, the first strike and the last strike.”

Cooler heads remind us that a US invasion would be the Mother of all Quagmires. Juan Cole, a Mideast expert at the University of Michigan, published the “Top Ten differences between the Iraq War and Trump’s Proposed Iran War.” Among them:

  • Iran is 3.7 times bigger than Iraq — 1.5 million square miles, almost the size of Alaska
  • Iran has 3 times more people than Iraq — 81 million
  • Iran can mobilize 1.5 million paramilitary forces and 500,000 active duty personnel
  • While the Gulf War “Coalition” drew on NATO allies to fight Iraq, Europe is now skeptical of a war on Iran
  • Iraq’s neighbors were happy to see Saddam go; Iran still has many regional friends

Even FOX News host Tucker Carlson was concerned about Bolton’s influence. “More than anything in the world, national security adviser John Bolton would love to have a war with Iran. It will be like Christmas, Thanksgiving, his birthday [all] wrapped into one,” Carlson said.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has introduced a petition to block Trump’s unilateral entry into a war with Iran, and Nancy Pelosi reminded everyone that “the responsibility in the Constitution is for Congress to declare war. So I hope that the president’s advisers recognize they have no authorization to go forward in any way. They cannot call the authorization, AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force that was passed in 2001, as any authorization to go forward in the Middle East now.”

Impeachment might be largely a formality in the almost certain absence of Senate prosecution of Trump’s crimes, but proceedings should be initiated anyway. Congress must insist on all its rights and powers, which include declaring war. As for Abrams and Bolton, they deserve tenures just as short as Anthony Scaramucci’s — if not cells at the Hague.

But if anyone should be getting regime change this month, please, let it be the American people.

The Monroe Doctrine

Americans love invasions. Trump and his Republicans are on the warpath this week against Venezuela. We’ve heard precious little criticism from either party of Donald Trump’s recognition of “self-declared” president Juan Guaido. Democrats generally remained silent in 2009 when Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, supported a coup in Honduras. And today the “liberal” press still loves US interventions. The New York Times is all but calling for a US coup in Venezuela (“That Mr. Maduro must go has been obvious for some time.”) and the Washington Post ran an editorial by Guaido calling Maduro a “usurper.”

So it was really only a minor, and extremely temporary, aberration in 2013 when Secretary of State John Kerry told the Organization of American States (OAS) that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” As the UPI reported: “Kerry’s declaration of the end of the Monroe Doctrine era was greeted with hesitant applause among the OAS delegates.”

The OAS had every reason to be suspicious.

It may be useful to recall what the Monroe Doctrine really was — just a few sentences in President James Monroe’s 1823 message to Congress:

“We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”

Students are taught that the Monroe Doctrine declared that American interests in the Western Hemisphere consisted mainly of the benevolent protection of smaller countries from aggression by the world’s colonial superpowers — France, England, and Spain. Monroe’s assertion that “we have not interfered and shall not interfere” was as quickly abandoned as it was declared. Scarcely twenty years later the United States invaded Mexico. Monroe’s Doctrine, seen in historical light, was actually a declaration that the US fully intended to get into the superpower business itself.

Since then the Doctrine has been interpreted to mean that the US has every right to interfere in its neighbor’s affairs — and the protection of neighbors has nothing to do with it. As the list below shows, there hasn’t been a decade in which the United States didn’t interfere by invasion or imposition of dictatorships.

And we wonder why we have so many refugees at our southern border.

Still not convinced the US is a malevolent imperialist nation? Stephen Kinzer’s book The True Flag is an account of the moment the United States fully embraced Imperialism and never looked back.

One scholar has documented exactly how we have lived up to Monroe’s promise that “we have not interfered and shall not interfere.” I’ll bet you didn’t learn this in Social Studies class:

Period Location Intervention Comments on U.S. Role
1823     Monroe Doctrine – “shall not interfere”
1846 Mexico War Mexican-American War – US takes a third of Mexico
1890 Argentina Troops Buenos Aires interests protected
1891 Chile Troops Marines clash with nationalist rebels
1891 Haiti Troops Black workers revolt on U.S.-claimed Navassa Island defeated
1894 Nicaragua Troops Month-long occupation of Bluefields
1895 Panama Naval, troops Marines land in Colombian province
1896 Nicaragua Troops Marines land in port of Corinto
1898 Cuba Naval, troops Seized from Spain, U.S. still holds Navy base at Guantanamo
1898 Puerto Rico Naval, troops Seized from Spain, occupation continues
1898 Nicaragua Troops Marines land at port of San Juan del Sur
1899 Nicaragua Troops Marines land at port of Bluefields
1903 Honduras Troops Marines intervene in revolution
1903 Dominican Republic Troops U.S. interests protected in Revolution
1906 Cuba Troops Marines land in democratic election
1907 Nicaragua Troops “Dollar Diplomacy” protectorate set up
1907 Honduras Troops Marines land during war with Nicaragua
1908 Panama Troops Marines intervene in election contest
1910 Nicaragua Troops Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto
1911 Honduras Troops U.S. interests protected in civil war
1912 Cuba Troops U.S. interests protected in Havana
1912 Panama Troops Marines land during heated election
1912 Honduras Troops Marines protect U.S. economic interests
1912 Nicaragua Troops, bombing 20-year occupation, fought guerrillas
1913 Mexico Naval Americans evacuated during revolution
1914 Dominican Republic Naval Fight with rebels over Santo Domingo
1914 Mexico Naval, troops Series of interventions against nationalists
1914 Haiti Troops, bombing 19-year occupation after revolts
1916 Dominican Republic Troops 8-year Marine occupation
1917 Cuba Troops Military occupation, economic protectorate
1918 Panama Troops “Police duty” during unrest after elections
1919 Honduras Troops Marines land during election campaign
1920 Guatemala Troops 2-week intervention against unionists
1921 Costa Rica Troops  
1921 Panama Troops  
1924 Honduras Troops Landed twice during election strife
1925 Panama Troops Marines suppress general strike
1932 El Salvador Naval Warships sent during Faribundo Marti revolt
1947 Uruguay Nuclear threat Bombers deployed as show of strength
1950 Puerto Rico Command operation Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce
1954 Guatemala Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat CIA directs exile invasion and coup d’etat after newly elected government nationalizes unused U.S.’s United Fruit Company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua; long-term result: 200,000 murdered
1958 Panama Troops Flag protests erupt into confrontation
1961 Cuba Command operation CIA-directed exile invasion fails
1962 Cuba Nuclear threat, naval Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union
1964 Panama Troops Panamanians shot for urging canal’s return
1965 Dominican Republic Troops, bombing Marines land during election campaign
1966 Guatemala Command operation Green Berets intervene against rebels
1973 Chile Command operation CIA-backed coup ousts democratically elected Marxist president
1981 El Salvador Command operation, troops Advisors, overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash; long-term result: 75,000 murdered and destruction of popular movement
1981 Nicaragua Command operation, naval CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution; result: 50,000 murdered
1982 Honduras Troops Maneuvers help build bases near borders
1983 Grenada Troops, bombing Invasion four years after revolution
1987 Bolivia Troops Army assists raids on cocaine region
1989 Panama Troops, bombing Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed
1994 Haiti Troops, naval Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup
2002 Venezuela Command operation Failed coup attempt to remove left-populist president Hugo Chavez
2004 Haiti Troops Removal of democratically elected President Aristide; troops occupy country
2009 Honduras Command operation Support for coup that removed president Manuel Zelaya
2019 Venezuela Unfolding Support for coup