It finally happened: our unstable olive loaf brain of a president nearly got us into a full-blown war with Iran at the behest of the hardline Islamophobes in both his real administration—John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and so on—and his fake administration, the war-mongering clowns he watches on Fox News every day.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump approved an air strike in retaliation for Iran shooting a U.S. surveillance drone out of the sky—an Iranian general claimed on Friday that Iran warned the U.S. several times with no answer before firing the missile that took it down—and then abruptly called it off on Thursday evening. According to the New York Times, an administration official said that “the planes were in the air and ships were in position.”
Trump himself tweeted about why he stopped it on Friday morning:
According to the Times, Trump advisers were split about whether or not to retaliate. The names will likely not surprise you:
Mr. Trump’s national security advisers split about whether to respond militarily. Senior administration officials said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; John R. Bolton, the national security adviser; and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, had favored a military response. But top Pentagon officials cautioned that such an action could result in a spiraling escalation with risks for American forces in the region.
Everything that has happened in the Trump presidency has led us to this moment. The abandonment of the nuclear deal with Iran; the hiring of Iraq War hawk Bolton to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser; even the disgustingly effusive praise Trump got from the media for ordering air strikes in Syria two years ago. It doesn’t matter that there’s a painfully flimsy pretense for the whole incident which started this particular escalation in tensions in the first place, attacks on two oil tankers owned by countries that are not the United States—Norway and Japan—both of whom appear very reluctant to start a global conflict over this.
Already, Trump’s friends on the television are giving him a bad grade for pulling out of the strike, with Fox’s Brian Kilmeade implying that Trump not bombing the shit out of a country over a piece of equipment “looks like weakness.” These are the opinions Trump pumps into his brain every day before and after a full day of pumping the opinions of war hawks into his brain, with the exception of Tucker Carlson and a few people at the Pentagon who know better. (It’s also worth pointing out that there’s currently no Senate-confirmed, permanent secretary of defense, and that the opening gives Trump a new opportunity to put yet another war hawk in his Cabinet.)
By his own admission, Trump only asked how many people would die as a result of the strike 10 minutes before it actually happened. That he ultimately decided to pull back from ordering the deaths of 150 people over a piece of shit drone is unquestionably a good thing—and, for someone so morally bankrupt, a display of a surprisingly straightforward aversion to bloodshed that far too few presidents ever show. But it should serve as only the briefest of solaces. The problem is that we got to this point in the first place. The problem is that Trump doesn’t know the right questions to ask.
“How many people will die?” should be first, of course. But there are others. What will the consequences be? What happens next? What is the ultimate goal of all of this? What are—to borrow a phrase from another war criminal—the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns? All of the people in the room with Donald Trump know to ask these questions. They willfully refuse to, because it will stop their mad dash to war.
As long as Trump is president, this will keep happening. We will keep pushing right up to the brink of a conflict that, if the dominoes fall a certain way, could make the Iraq War look like a schoolyard scrap. We will keep peering over the edge, keeping our fingers crossed that Trump might once again randomly locate a vague sense of human decency 10 minutes before the bombs drop, our fate and the fate of Iranians in the hands of the man who doesn’t know and the bloodthirsty villains who know one thing above all else—that this war is all they’ve ever wanted.