Donald Trump hasn’t yet killed anyone on Fifth Avenue, as he famously boasted he could do and get away with it.
But he appears to have gotten away scot-free with committing murder in Baghdad.
Trump killed Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general, the easy way. He simply gave the order and didn’t have to pull the trigger or even push the controls on the drone. But Soleimami’s blood is on Trump’s hands just as if he had.
The decision to assassinate – murder – Soleimani surprised the Pentagon and Trump’s military advisors. It was the most extreme of the options presented, and if there was a real rationale for the decision, it has not materialized.
First it was because of “imminent” threats of attacks that could claim American lives. Then maybe not so imminent. Maybe four embassies were at risk of attack. Or maybe not. The story kept changing until Trump declared that “it doesn’t really matter because of his horrible past.”
No matter that it risked escalation and the very real possibility of another war in the tinderbox that is the Middle East. He was a bad guy and we killed him. End of story.
At a Milwaukee rally Tuesday, the crowd roared when he said: “The Democrats are outraged that we killed this terrorist monster even though this monster was behind hundreds and hundreds of deaths. Great percentages of people don’t have legs or arms because of this son of a bitch.”
Luckily for Trump, and perhaps millions of others who would have been victims of a US-Iran war, the Iranian leadership settled for what amounted to a face-saving launch of some missiles at US bases, after a warning that allowed Amercians to escape without casualties.
Trump then said the U.S. would not react militarily, but would apply new sanctions to further squeeze Iran economically. And he said, with a straight face, that “The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”
A whopping 71 per cent of people surveyed by Morning Consult and Politico last week said they supported Trump’s decision not to further escalate a war he very nearly started.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Polf found that by a 49%-42% margin, respondents disapprove of the general question of Trump’s handling of Iran, and a Quinnipiac survey had similar results.
And a Marquette University poll released this week showed no real change in Trump’s job approval ratings or his likely vote in Wisconsin, both hovering in the high 40s, despite 51 percent disagreeing with the statement: “It’s about time that the U.S. struck back against Iran,” while 43 percent agreed.
But what are the consequences for the embattled but seemingly Teflon Trump? Seemingly, almost none. His job performance and popularity ratings don’t vary much no matter what he does – although he probably realizes that starting an actual war might affect his reelection chances, since he was the one who promised to end our endless wars.
What can citizens, or even supposedly co-equal branches of government do, to prevent him from starting a war, accidentally or intentionally, in the year he is guaranteed to be the commander in chief even if he loses the 2020 election? The Iran crisis suggests that the answer is, “Not much.”
The House passed a war powers resolution to limit Trump’s military adventures and reassert Congressional war-making authority. A joint resolution introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) apparently has enough Senate Republican support to pass it. But then Trump can veto it.
The peace movement, in Wisconsin and nationally, reacted with a flurry of petitions, emails, calls and letters to Congress, and some rallies and marches. But for the most part they seem to have had little impact, called on short notice and without big numbers taking part. Milwaukee and Madison, the two most reliable antiwar cities in the state, had no large events.
A coalition has called for a Global Day of Protest on Jan. 25 to oppose war in Iran. Trump is no more going to be swayed by a peace march than Richard Nixon was when half a million people marched near the White House in the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium. He said he didn’t even watch. In 2003, perhaps 10 million people worldwide marched and rallied against a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were not moved. Massive protests have forced changes in policy and even toppled governments, but not in this country.
It is hard, even for longtime peace activists, not to be discouraged. But they continue the struggle on a daily basis, hoping sustained action will move mountains and change public opinion. There are no signs they are abandoning hope.
In Wisconsin, you can count on the Democrats in our delegation to do the right thing most of the time, whether you contact them or not. You can write or call Sen. Ron Johnson and the Republican House members as often as you like, but it is guaranteed not to change anyone’s mind – or their vote.
Trump is clearly not going to be removed by impeachment. The place to decide whether he should remain in office should be the ballot box, his supporters in Congress keep saying. After all, there is an election in November.
The presidency has amassed such powers that there is little a politically divided Congress can do to rein him in, and the conservative Supreme Court is not likely to be of help. Trump has so little regard for history, the law, political precedent, the Constitution or public opinion he is highly unlikely to respond to any pressure – unless he thinks his second term is in jeopardy.
Ultimately, the Trump defenders may be right. Assuming Trump doesn’t blow all of us up in the meantime, the day of reckoning will be Nov. 3. If he wins again, Katy bar the door.