Colum­nists share their thoughts

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Kath­leen Parker Colum­nist

Find out what peo­ple have to say about lo­cal and na­tional is­sues.

It did have a wag-the-dog feel to it, a cynic might say.

With the Se­nate dis­cussing plans for Pres­i­dent Trump’s (al­beit un­cer­tain) im­peach­ment trial, the U.S. com­man­der in chief or­dered the killing of Iran’s top se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence com­man­der, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, at Bagh­dad In­ter­na­tional air­port. By most ac­counts, he de­served to die. He had Amer­i­can blood on his hands and was be­hind Iran’s deadly clan­des­tine op­er­a­tions abroad. “How­ever ...,” said nearly ev­ery so-called ex­pert snagged by Amer­i­can news pro­grams to com­ment on a va­ri­ety of hy­po­thet­i­cals re­lated to Iran.

Spec­u­la­tion was wild as a spring break: What would hap­pen next? Would Iran, which promised re­venge, at­tack Is­rael? Would Ira­nian cit­i­zens feel em­bold­ened and de­mand regime change? Does the United States re­move a sit­ting pres­i­dent so soon af­ter what some have called an act of war?

In the 1997 movie “Wag the Dog,” the U.S. pres­i­dent man­u­fac­tured a faux war in Al­ba­nia to dis­tract from a sex scan­dal just two weeks be­fore his likely re­elec­tion. A spin doc­tor en­gaged to help man­age the mess ac­cu­rately pre­dicted that the me­dia would fo­cus en­tirely on the war, for­get­ting all about that other in­con­ve­nience. And, voila. Co­in­ci­den­tally, the com­edy ap­peared in the­aters just months be­fore then-Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, en­meshed in a sex scan­dal of his own, sent 14 cruise mis­siles to pul­ver­ize the Al Shifa phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal fac­tory in Khar­toum, Su­dan, on a day that Mon­ica Lewin­sky tes­ti­fied be­fore a grand jury. Talk about the tail wag­ging the dog. Or, rather, should I say, na­ture im­i­tat­ing art?

Clin­ton’s at­tack re­port­edly was in re­sponse to al-Qaida’s bomb­ing of U.S. em­bassies in Kenya and Tan­za­nia.

Need­less to say, there’s noth­ing hu­mor­ous about what tran­spired last week in Bagh­dad. Ac­cord­ing to De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper, Soleimani “was ac­tively de­vel­op­ing plans to at­tack Amer­i­can diplo­mats and ser­vice mem­bers in Iraq and through­out the re­gion.”

In­tel­li­gence sources helped pin­point Soleimani’s lo­ca­tion. As mil­i­tary ac­tions go, the killing of Soleimani was one for the text­books. One may also find con­so­la­tion in the fact that Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing has ap­par­ently im­proved dra­mat­i­cally since the U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003, which was based on bad, if widely be­lieved, in­for­ma­tion.

What’s clear is that Soleimani, com­man­der of Iran’s elite Quds Force, had been in­stru­men­tal in at­tacks against Amer­i­cans and our al­lies for years. Given such, why wouldn’t U.S. pol­icy be to re­move him as soon as pos­si­ble? Re­moval of bad ac­tors is of­ten folded into poli­cies, such as the stated goal adopted dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion of oust­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein.

Cer­tainly, de­ci­sions of when and where are teth­ered to le­gal­i­ties and con­gres­sional over­sight, de­pend­ing on cir­cum­stances, as well as in­ter­na­tional considerat­ions. The at­tacks of 9/11 pro­vided an ex­cuse to in­vade Iraq, to put it bluntly, un­der the um­brella of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s fiat that our en­e­mies there­after would in­clude any coun­try that aided ter­ror­ism or sought weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

The so-called “axis of evil,” of course, in­cluded Iran.

Thus, given Trump’s with­drawal from the Iran nu­clear agree­ment — and his cage-rat­tling for­eign pol­icy — Soleimani’s death prob­a­bly shouldn’t come as a sur­prise. A wor­thy spec­u­la­tion is: Why did it take so long?

It is dis­turb­ing, none­the­less, to con­sider that Trump might have been prompted to act for rea­sons other than the na­tion’s best in­ter­est — such as his be­ing mocked by Ira­nian Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei. On Wed­nes­day, two days be­fore the airstrike that killed Soleimani, Khamenei wrote this on Twit­ter:

“[Trump] has tweeted that we see Iran re­spon­si­ble for the events in Bagh­dad & we will re­spond to Iran. 1st: You can’t do any­thing. 2nd: If you were log­i­cal — which you’re not — you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanista­n ... have made na­tions hate you.”

First, Trump could do some­thing and he cer­tainly did. Sec­ond, be that as it may, some would ar­gue that re­li­gious state­hood de­fies rea­son.

Re­ac­tions around the world will be in­ter­est­ing to ob­serve, if not very sur­pris­ing. More testos­teron­event­ing; more pis­tol-cock­ing; more threats, taunts and, yes, prob­a­bly, vi­o­lence. Here at home, par­ti­sans brawled and blovi­ated as ex­pected:

“[The] Trump Ad­min owes a full ex­pla­na­tion of airstrike re­ports,” tweeted Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn. Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, RS.C., chimed in, “To the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment: if you want more, you will get more.”

Were we not en­ter­tain­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of mil­i­tary may­hem, such Twit­ter-pos­tur­ing would send com­edy writ­ers scur­ry­ing to their key­boards. Then again, maybe first drafts have al­ready ar­rived in agents’ in­boxes.

If Amer­ica loves any­thing more than a good war, it’s a se­quel — but prefer­ably on the big screen served with dark hu­mor and a side of pop­corn.

Kath­leen Parker’s email ad­dress is kath­leen­[email protected]­post. com.

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