“All is well.”
That’s what President Donald Trump said just hours after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops Tuesday in retaliation for the U.S.-ordered killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani the previous week.
That’s what he said as thousands of troops are readying to deploy to the Middle East — to a hotbed of anger, where wearing an American flag on your shoulder gets more dangerous by the day. That’s what he said as our nation seemed to be careening toward a reckless, unauthorized war of his own making, borne out of his illiteracy in matters ranging from foreign policy to common sense.
A potential global conflict still looms, and it’s because of President Trump. It’s because he was manipulated once again by a hostile regime into decisions that further their goals while endangering the security of the nation Trump’s actually supposed to lead.
As a result, America is drastically less safe.
So no, Mr. President. All is certainly not well.
When I deployed to Iraq in 2004, I saw firsthand just how eager the country was to shake off Iran’s influence. Protests that arose then continued long after I flew my last mission, roiling as recently as last month.
Now, after Trump decided to kill Soleimani on sovereign Baghdad soil, those same streets are filled with protesters once more. Yet this time, they’re marching in solidarity with the same enemy that hundreds of Iraqis died marching against just a few short weeks ago.
In one fell swoop, Trump managed to villainize the U.S. and victimize Iran, isolating us from our long-term partner in Iraq and amping up Iran’s influence in a country everyone knows is vital to our security interests throughout the Middle East.
Iran didn’t want Trump to kill Soleimani, but it was hungry for all that has happened as a result, including the swing of public opinion in the region and a new excuse to attack Americans.
We’ve had the Monroe Doctrine and the Truman Doctrine. Now, we have the Trump Doctrine, in which the leader of the free world gets manipulated again and again by the dictators of hostile regimes.
We’ve already seen it too many times since he was sworn into office. We’ve seen it play out on the streets of Venezuela and the deserts of northeast Syria. We’ve seen him get manipulated by tyrants in North Korea and Saudi Arabia, subjugated by despots in Russia and Turkey.
All these dictators have realized the same thing: The president of the United States is as easy to control as a toddler. Sweet-talk him or thump your chest and issue a few schoolyard threats, and you’ve got him. He’ll fall for it every time, doing your bidding as if it’s his own.
I wish this weren’t true, but my diaper-wearing 20-month-old has better impulse control than this president. Kids in school cafeterias know not to look up when someone tells them that “gullible” is written on the ceiling. But I’m pretty sure that Trump — a man who once stared directly into a solar eclipse — would be caught stealing a glance, just to be sure.
Sixteen years ago, I was one of the many Americans who deployed to Iraq, willing to sacrifice everything after our then-commander in chief convinced Congress that our nation’s security depended on replacing Saddam Hussein’s regime with a democracy.
A decade and a half later, we’ve spent trillions of dollars to achieve that goal; hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or displaced; thousands of our bravest have died for that goal; tens of thousands more have been wounded.
We did not make all of those sacrifices so that Trump could turn our Iraqi partners into adversaries who now want us out of the democracy we helped build.
Our troops show up, ready to do their jobs, whenever we ask, no matter what. Now, especially after Iran’s attacks on our bases in Iraq, we in Congress need to do ours.
We are the branch vested with the solemn duty of declaring war. So we need to exert our constitutional control over this out-of-control president and vote to prevent him from entangling us in another major war without legal authorization from Congress.
In this moment, we need to be doing whatever we can to break the cycle of escalation. We need less chest-thumping and more diplomacy.
I implore my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to recognize our president for who he really is. Trump will never willingly cut the puppet strings that the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are using to make him dance. We need a strong majority in the Senate to force such action.
Until then, small-time dictators will have access to the world’s most powerful marionette — and we will all suffer the consequences.