By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO
The US is facing rising tensions with Iran that could lead us down the road to war, but some question how much we can believe coming from Donald Trump after more than two years of his lies and bombastic rhetoric.
A serious situation like dealing with a hostile foreign regime is always difficult for a US President, especially an untested one like Trump.
A young John F. Kennedy was tested in his second year in office during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when Russia parked nuclear missiles just 90 miles from Florida. Kennedy had to deal with Nikita Khrushchev, who eventually backed down.
When Ronald Reagan faced the Russians in the 1980s, the two largest militaries in the world carried on an arms race that eventually led to the fall of the Soviet Union. Reagan’s credibility helped him
build support among Americans that ended the Cold War without a shot having been fired.
And back in 1941, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt that kept the US out of World War II until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and left us no choice but to engage. FDR rallied the American public behind the biggest military buildup in history.
In escalating military situations like these, one of the most important factors that determine the outcome is whether our adversities and the public can trust what the President says.
When the US was moving toward military action against Iraq in 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush worked with the United Nations to build international support to authorize an invasion to liberate Kuwait.
Bush sought and received the support of 35 member countries that participated in what became known as Operation Desert Storm, the largest military buildup since World War II.
The public and foreign governments trusted when Bush and others argued that the World was compelled to act to protect the sovereignty of a member state, Kuwait, from a lawless invasion.
By contrast, in 2003 when George W. Bush assembled forced to invade Iraq for a second time, some questioned the claims that Saddam Hussein was a threat and had amassed weapons of mass destruction.
Although a UN Security Council resolution had been passed declaring that Hussein was in breach of previous resolutions, counties including France, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand were still opposed to invading Iraq.
But, George Bush and his advisors continued to push the narrative that Iraq was a danger to the world and provided a safe-haven for terrorist. They also claimed, without evidence, that Hussein had been involved in supporting the terrorists that attacked the US on September 11th.
A month before the war, protests in opposition to the war were held around the world. In Rome, over 3 million people gathered in the largest protest in history. In all, over 36 million people gathered in over 3,000 rallies to protest the war.
Bush went ahead anyway.
After the invasion, Bush quickly claimed victory, announcing the end to combat operations at an event aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego with a banner that read “Mission Accomplished”.
Many critics claimed that Bush and his neo-conservative advisors were bent on invading Iraq and used the pretext of weapons of mass destruction to push for war. Some thought Bush was trying to finish the job that his dad hadn’t when the end of the 1991 invasion left Hussein in power. Either way, that invasion paved the way for what has now become the longest war in American history which recently passed the 18-year mark.
But the main issue is that the public and other world leaders doubted Bush’s true intentions and didn’t believe his rhetoric. It was difficult for some to separate the man from the issue.
Now we find ourselves in an escalating political confrontation with another country in the Middle East, Iran.
After years of concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities and goals, an international group of counties began negotiating a framework for a deal in 2013 to limit Iran’s programs and put verifiable inspections in place.
In 2015, the final deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was approved by five permanent member countries of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, known as the P5+1. The deal called for Iran to limit its Uranium stockpiles and only have low-grade Uranium for nuclear power plants, not weapons, and to allow international nuclear inspectors to monitor its programs.
The deal was as good a deal as the UN members had hoped for, and then-President Barack Obama signed the deal.
Then came the 2016 presidential election and then-candidate Donald Trump vowed, if he were elected, he would undo the Iran agreement that he called “a disaster”, “the worst deal ever”, and so “terrible” that could lead to “a nuclear holocaust”.
In May 2018, President Donald Trump officially withdrew the United States from the Iran deal, and left the burden of dealing with Iran to our European allies.
Trump had criticized the deal as having been too easy on Iran, and also claimed that Iran was not living up to the requirements of the agreement. No evidence has surfaced to prove the Iran violated any of the provisions of the deal. In May of this year, the international inspectors reported that Iran was still in compliance. Trump just lied.
Since the US withdrew from the deal, Trump has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran and countries that engage in trade with it, leading most European countries to end trade with Iran for fear of retaliation from the US.
Now, Iran announced it will increase its nuclear material stockpiles above the limits in the deal, and could disrupt shipping routes through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrowest point leading in and out of the Persian Gulf where 33% of natural gas and 20% of the world’s oil sails through.
Trump is now demanding that Iran live up to the deal that he himself called horrible and walked away from. He wants the Iranians to stick to a deal we didn’t stick to. Hypocritical, isn’t it?
This week, as Trump vowed to send 1,000 more American troops to the region in addition to an increased amount of US warships, a US Global Hawk drone was shot down admittedly by Iran. The US says the drone was in international airspace; Iran says the drone violated Iranian’s sovereignty.
As the world inches closer to a possible military action against an adversary with a long history of aggression toward the US, every word our President says will be interpreted, literally and figuratively, to try to anticipate his next move.
That would be troublesome with any President, but it may prove to be nearly impossible with one who is documented to have lied about things big and small.
When Donald Trump has lied about the size of the crowd of his inauguration, about having proof Barack Obama was born in Kenya, about global warming being a Chinese hoax, about payoffs to women, and about contacts with Russians, just to name a few, then how can we trust what he says about Iran?
It is true the drone was not in Iranian airspace? It is really as bad a deal as Trump said, or was he just looking to renegotiate, like a lease on a New York condo?
Trump called NAFTA a bad deal, then negotiated a nearly identical deal with a new name. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as the TPP, and now we’re in a trade war with China that hurting American companies to the point the Congress approved $26 billion in bailout programs for farmers who lost exports to China. Now he wants a new trade deal with China.
The Washington Post has counted over 10,000 lies that President Trump has said since his election. That count is about 12 lies per day, everyday.
Now we have to hope that, when Donald Trump tells us Iran is the problem, and that young men and women of our military may be sent into war, that it’s not one of the 12 lies of that day.
Credibility is a currency that Trump has squandered by lying about both trivial and important things. Now he should huddle together enough respected experts and allies to bolster his arguments, or no one will take him seriously.
War is not a negotiation to be taken lightly, with bombastic rhetoric and flippant lies. The truth matters. Lives depend on it.