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writing for godot

Trump Transactionalism Writ Large: The Soleimani Assassination and the Letter

Written by Steven Jonas   
Monday, 06 January 2020 07:15

By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.


"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)


"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President . . . is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

Theodore Roosevelt, Editorial in The Kansas City Star May 7, 1918


In brief, after an analysis of the all the information publicly available at the present time (that is, 1-3-20), and a review of all the indications that it was (to say the least) apparently done with no planning, no foresight, and no consideration of all the possible negative outcomes, given by a wide variety of authorities through the media to date (other than his "Trump-can-do-no-wrong" allies), it seems that the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the Iranian Quds Force, was ordered by President Trump for just one reason. A word that begins with the letter "U." To which we shall come at the end of this missive.

"Assassination" is a word believed to be derived from Arabic that means "political murder." Now Trump may think that the Iranians speak Arabic. For after all, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt (no lefty he) in 2015, after he had declared for the Presidency, Trump did not know the difference between "Quds" (as in the Iranian Quds Force) and "Kurds." Then when Hewitt pressed him a bit, Trump went on the attack against Hewitt for trying to "run a quiz show." (Hewitt has since become a strong Trump supporter.) Trump may also not know (randomly) that Iran is not an Arab country; that they have a language of their own, Farsi; that they have a history of civilized settlements going back over 8000 years; that they had a revolution in 1952 that among other things nationalized what is now British Petroleum that was overthrown by the CIA under the leadership of Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. (a grandson of Teddy's); and that when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan following the 9/11 Disaster, Iran offered to help control the Taliban in Western Afghanistan but was turned down by Pres. G.W. Bush.

Trump likely has very little Iran-specific historical knowledge, and very likely has a very poor grasp of what is actually going on the Middle East since, to fulfill one of his many random, not-thought-through, anti-Obama-policy political promises, he walked out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, without thinking through the potential consequences.  Thus he likely gave little thought to what might, and very likely will, happen were Soleimani to be assassinated. After all, this is an action contemplated under several U.S. administrations but never carried out, because of the potential for dire consequences arising from it.

So why did he order it? (We are leaving aside here all the Constitutional implications of essentially declaring war not only without consulting Congress, not even the pro forma consultation with the “Gang of Eight:” the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, the Speaker and the House Minority Leader and the Chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.  (He did consult with the Trumpubs.© in the House and the Senate.) He offered no cover beyond "I think that it is the right thing to do." Which of course fits right into Trump's dictatorial approach to Presidential power: "I can do anything I want to."

There has been much speculation in the media and among his poltical supporters: Soleimani is a very bad man who needed to be dealt with, finally; Soleimani has killed many Americans; Soleimani ordered the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; Soleimani is indispensable to the Iranian military and government (BTW, a successor was appointed within about 12 hrs.; presumably the Iranian leadership, including Soleimani himself, given his visibility and the "evil man" label given to him by the U.S., has likely been preparing for this possibility for quite some time); and so on and so forth.

Really? Well, if it were for any of these reasons, particularly when the likely outcomes are taken into account, there would have been some long-range (or at least short-range) planning done at the Pentagon and the State Department to begin with to deal with the predictable fall-out. But the was apparently none, and apparently a whole bunch of senior officials were taken entirely by surprise. Of course, this reflects the fact that there is no long-term strategy for dealing with Iran other than John Bolton's "regime change" by trying to grind it into the economic dirt through sanctions, which seems further away now than it ever was, since he is out of the government.

Furthermore, this assassination has, by all accounts thoroughly unified an Iranian polity that was beginning to show some cracks, especially under that U.S. sanctions-regime which is hitting the Iranian economy and standard of living very hard. It is also apparently already unifying the U.S. Western allies --- against the Trump/U.S. more than it already has been. The Russians and the Chinese are not going to take this very lightly, either. (Putin must also be wondering if his control over Trump is starting to fail. The attack came just after Iran, Russia and China ran a joint military exercise in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.  Given the adoration for Trump by his followers, it is possible that none of the ton of stuff Putin must have on him would carry much weight with them.  And anyway, Hannity would then quickly maneuver to make Putin part of the “Deep State.”)

OK. So, no real understanding by Trump of what is really going on in Iran and Iraq for starters. No long-range strategy for dealing with Iran in light of the U.S.'s unilateral abandonment of the Nuclear Deal. No achievable goals for peace in the region. No plans for war either, apparently. No close allies for this latest provocation. So why, and why now?

I have come to the conclusion that Transactional Trump did this for just one reason. It happens to have nothing to do with Iran, Iraq, the rest of the Middle East, Israel, and the U.S. European allies. As noted above, it all comes down to one word, that begins with the letter "U." Ukraine of course. If Trump is the master of anything beyond his constant strategy/tactic of "Always attack; Never defend," it is his mastery of his own WMD: Weapons of Mass Distraction. On Dec. 29, 2019, came out The New York Times report on what really happened in the engineering and attempted implementation of the Ukraine Extortion Plot.  This report is supported by numerous unredacted emails made available under a FOIA request that the Administration could not block (for some reason or another).  Indeed, it was really that, an attempted extortion plot led by no one other than Trump, with tons of now un-redacted email content showing just how the attempt was carried out.

This report lays it all out, in a way that Trump, Mulvaney, Pompeo, and various White House staff would have no way, if under oath that is, of wiggling out of this one. Trump clearly did commit an impeachable offense.  Now that the report shows that there was a clear violation of the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, Trump may have provided the basis for a Third Article of Impeachment to be added by the House. (Please, Madam Speaker: DO NOT send over the first two articles anytime soon!)

This news had been all over the front pages of the real newspapers, all over the chirons of real television news, for several days now. Have you noticed? It's not there today (that is Jan. 3). And it won't be for some days now. Depending upon what the House does with the new Ukraine Extortion Plot Report it may come back into the news. But for now, for starters risking the lives of senior U.S. military officials around the world, Trump has what he wants, transactionally. The Trump-action has taken away almost all of the attention from a set of documents that seal the deal on the Trump-Ukraine-Extortion plot, to attention to "Trump as a man-of-action." That is even though he didn't bother to leave Mar-a-Lago for the totally secure White House Situation Room in the face of the largest international crisis of his time in the Presidency. Can't miss too many rounds of golf, donchaknow.


This column has been previously published in two versions:, and your social media marketing partner
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