There was much rejoicing around the world when the news broke that President Trump had fired his warmonger National Security Adviser John Bolton over their differences in opinion on the Afghanistan peace talks. Somehow, despite all his efforts to the contrary, we managed to endure a year and a half of Bolton with just the one failed coup under his belt.
To his begrudging credit, it appears that the President did not see eye to eye with the bellicose and bloodthirsty neocon on the need for the United States to solve every geopolitical conflict at gunpoint, reportedly mocking him with comments like “let me guess, you want to nuke them all?” and “Is Ireland one of those countries you want to invade?”
But the president’s inability to get along with any underling who doesn’t agree with everything he says and does should not be viewed as evidence that he is somehow opposed to war or the use of the American military to carry out an imperialist agenda overseas. That obvious conclusion is somehow lost on certain members of the media who have concluded that Trump is somehow a “dove” because he doesn’t take the jingoism-as-usual approach to international relations that the Extremely Serious Washington Foreign Policy Think Tank Blob and the establishments of both political parties dutifully follow.
A Twitter exchange between VOX’s Ezra Klein and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver gave an illuminating glimpse into how even the slightest deviation from the bipartisan lobbyist-approved agenda of aggressive confrontation with governments resistant to American hegemony is seen as a disappointing streak of pacifism. Far from being a check and balance on imperial power, the American mainstream media is often its loudest cheerleader, patriotically refusing to give appropriate coverage or even cursory acknowledgment to the forgotten and ignored casualties of America’s endless wars, of which there are tens of thousands.
Trump has been fairly dovish so far. That may or may not predict anything going forward, but it's notable. https://t.co/aBQvdXN55y
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 10, 2019
There is a wide range of reasons why President Trump may be unwilling to start a war with Iran or Venezuela, but being a “dove” is not one of them. The implication that Trump is somehow averse to deploying the United States military to inflict violence upon the world would be laughable if it weren’t so gruesomely false. On the contrary, few presidents’ administrations have ever shown as little regard for human life as the Trump administration has.
President Dove’s very first military mission came in his first week as President. A Navy SEAL team hit Yakla village in Yemen on January 27th, 2017, where they massacred over 35 people, including ten children under the age of 13 and then failed to accurately report how many civilians they had killed. Reckless violence and lies about the ensuing death tolls would become the defining theme of President Trump At War; civilian casualty monitoring group AirWars reports that the Trump administration’s bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria killed 6,000 civilians in 2017 alone. Since 2014, the US-led coalition has killed anywhere from 8,148 to 13,097 innocents in Iraq and Syria. In Afghanistan, US forces killed more innocents (717) than the Taliban did in the first half of 2019.
Apparently, the killing of thousands of innocent people every year while flying record-breaking numbers of airstrikes doesn’t count as “going to war” for pundits like Klein and Silver since they don’t include any countries that weren’t also heavily bombed by President Obama. The idea of the United States military being involved in multiple overseas wars and racking up appalling death tolls is so normalized that it doesn’t even register as a “war” for these people.
The refusal of the mainstream media and political leadership of either party to challenge or even acknowledge the slaughter being carried out in our name is not only an affront to human rights and to the values that the United States is supposed to stand for but also plays right into Trump’s hands. The American failure to recognize and mourn the lives of the Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, and Afghans killed by our bombs contributes to their dehumanization and feeds into Trump’s favorite Islamophobic tropes that paint all Muslims as terrorists who deserve their deaths.
So let’s dispense with this absurd notion that Trump is a “dove” because he’s too lazy or cowardly to start a war with Iran or North Korea like a rEaL pReSiDeNt would.
After all, he hired Bolton in the first place!
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.