If there’s one thing President Trump has learned throughout his presidency, it’s the value of violence as a distracting tool.
Whether the issue is his impeachment, FBI investigations, or a pandemic, he knows that a bout of saber-rattling at one of the nations that the neocon foreign policy blob and the military-industrial complex has designated a Permanent Enemy brings immediate rewards.
Very Serious Op-Ed columnists will nod in approval and praise him for taking the threat to American interests seriously while the cable news networks can be relied upon to soil themselves with glee at the slightest taste of blood in the water and immediately pivot into 72 hours of rabid commentary from think tank weenies and Iraq War criminals.
So it is sadly predictable that President Trump, running out of excuses for his appalling mismanagement of a pandemic whose death toll is racing towards 50,000 American lives, took to Twitter this morning to declare that we will “shoot down and destroy” any Iranian gunboats that approach our ships at sea.
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2020
It appears that his outburst was prompted by the Pentagon’s complaining that Iran recently sent 11 “fast boats” on “harassing approaches” against American ships in the Persian Gulf.
Why our ships are close enough to Iran to be harassed by gunboats in the first place is never discussed; the American right to threaten and trespass along the coastlines of other nations is a given in the exceptionalist mindset, while any response or retaliation by the other nation is cynically condemned as unprovoked aggression.
President Trump recently brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran when he ordered the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Souleimani as he left the Iraqi airport in Baghdad, leading to an Iranian missile barrage against a U.S. base that resulted in over a hundred traumatic brain injuries to U.S. troops.
Tensions have since cooled, but it appears that the tidal wave of criticism that the President is facing for his failure to adequately respond to the coronavirus crisis has him looking for new distractions anywhere he can find them.
Let’s hope this is just a one-off tweet inspired by something he saw on FOX News and not the beginning of something bigger.
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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.