The seriousness with which the Trump administration is taking the public pushback against his march to yet another Middle East war can be measured by the number of Sunday morning news programs that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was sent to in order to defend the president’s assassination of Iranian military leader Qassim Suleimani on Thursday evening.
In the face of protests from thousands of anti-war protestors across more than 80 communities across the country yesterday, Pompeo outdid a Sunday morning news trifecta by two, appearing on programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox in an effort to sell the administration’s actions as something more than merely a desperate and dangerous attempt to distract the public from his impeachment.
In each of his appearances, the Secretary of State channeled the spirit of George Orwell, so reminiscent was his rhetoric to the quote from the British author’s quote from his book 1984 that “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”
In his interview on CBS’s Face The Nation, Pompeo managed to say with a straight face that Donald Trump’s tweets yesterday threatening to target 52 culturally significant Iranian sites if that country retaliated against the murder of the leader of its Revolutionary Guards were “entirely consistent” with a policy of de-escalation.
“The Iranian leadership needs to understand that attacking Americans is not cost-free. The entire strategy has been one of deterrence,” Pompeo said. “To take a terrorist off the battlefield does not increase the risk of terror… the risk of terror is increased by appeasement,” he declared.
How deterrence equals de-escalation was not something that Pompeo was able to explain.
Over at ABC‘s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos tried to get the Secretary of State to explain how Trump’s threats to target 52 sites “important to Iran & the Iranian culture” fit in with the Geneva Convention’s prohibition against attacks on places of worship and cultural objects.
“We’ll act lawfully,” Pompeo said. “We’ll behave inside the system. We always have, and we always will.”
“The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed at the singular mission of protecting and defending America,” Pompeo said.
NEW: @GStephanopoulos presses Sec. of State Mike Pompeo on Trump's tweet warning cultural sites could be targeted if Iran retaliates: "Why is the president threatening Iran with war crimes?"
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 5, 2020
Pompeo responded similarly to CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on President Trump's threat on Iranian cultural centers: "We will respond with great force and great vigor if the Iranian leadership makes a bad decision. We hope that they won't" #CNNSOTU https://t.co/SoFha51rCl pic.twitter.com/GS1COvnUy0
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 5, 2020
On NBC‘s Meet The Press, Chuck Todd asked the Secretary how he could reconcile his claim that America is safer after the illegal assassination of a foreign military leader of a country with which the United States is not formally at war with the advice the administration is giving to Americans to leave Iraq and prepare for a wave of cyberattacks.
“President Trump is focused deeply on keeping Americans safe over the long haul, preserving, protecting, defending America is the mission that we have,” Pompeo said.
“It may be there’s a little noise here in the interim, that the Iranians make the choice to respond, I hope that they don’t. President Trump has made clear what we will do in response if they do.”
In other words, Pompeo considers any potential collateral damage to the lives of American citizens as the result of Trump’s deadly decision and Iran’s reaction to be mere “noise.”
"We do expect retaliation on American citizens, correct?"
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) January 5, 2020
The height of Pompeo’s double-speak, however, came during his appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.
Asked how the U.S. would respond when the Iraqi government calls for the expulsion of U.S. troops — as the Iraqi parliament indeed did earlier today — Pompeo incorrectly predicted the desire of the Iraqi people to maintain a U.S. military presence in their war-torn country.
“We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there,” the Secretary of State said, misplacing his confidence.
Pompeo also dodged a question regarding the intelligence behind the supposedly imminent attack that motivated the assassination of the Iranian general, claiming that “any reasonable person” with access to the intelligence reports would have reacted the same way, but saying that the information was too sensitive to be made public.
We’ll do everything we can to share this information with the American people, but I think the American people understand too there’s things you just can’t put out in public,” the Secretary of State said, putting the report into the same category as Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined FOX News Sunday to discuss breaking news regarding heightened US-Iran tensions in the wake of an attack that killed Soleimani. The Trump administration says he was planning imminent attacks. Secretary Pompeo reacts. #FNS #foxnews pic.twitter.com/zo7nkdtrZ1
— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) January 5, 2020
As the Secretary of State was making his rounds on TV, Trump was tweeting increasingly bellicose threats, putting on a threatening posture as he tried to forestall retaliatory attacks from the country where “hundreds of thousands” of people turned out in demonstrations to mourn the death of Suleimani and protest Trump’s murderous move.
They attacked us, & we hit back. If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before! https://t.co/qI5RfWsSCH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020
The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 5, 2020
The level of cynical media manipulation and false propaganda generated by the Trump administration surrounding the president’s latest attempt to distract from his impeachment crimes with a national crisis of global proportions is overwhelming and overwhelmingly transparent.
Hopefully the majority of Americans — and Congress — will see through Trump’s weaselly attempts to escape removal from office and add his latest misdeeds to those for which he has already been impeached.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.