When US president Donald Trump followed the insane advice of his Evanglical Christian-Zionist Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and gave the order to murder General Qassem Soleimani, he set himself on the horns of a dilemma — several dilemmas, actually.
The first dilemma concerns how the unjustifiable can be justified. International Law is clear and unambiguous: any so-called “pre-emptive” attack on another nation — in this case, two nations, Iran and Iraq — is deemed aggression, the supreme war crime, punishable by death. Under the Nuremburg precedents and the United Nations Charter (Article 51) the only legitimate use of force is “self-defense if an armed attack occurs.” Experts generally agree that this law could be stretched to encompass a situation in which a massive and imminent attack is clearly about to occur; in such a case, the nation about to be attacked is within its rights in defending itself. Such an action would be considered “anticipatory self-defense.”
Since the September 11, 2001 false-flag deception, a new category of “pre-emptive self- defense” has been invoked to justify attacks on non-state actors. A travesty of International Law, this doctrine is nonetheless cited by the cowardly mass murderers who use drones to blow up wedding parties and other assemblies of innocent civilians. The criminals claim that among the innocent civilians being murdered and maimed, a few might have been “terrorists” harboring evil ideologies and intentions (though no specific crime or plot need be cited).
George W. Bush’s attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq occurred under the lame excuse of “preemptive self-defense.” Those who defended Bush’s war crimes argued that the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan were aiding terrorists who were actively planning to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction. It is now universally acknowledged that those claims were lies. Even Donald Trump has called Bush’s criminal attack on Iraq “the worst mistake in US history” and argued that Bush should have been impeached for committing that crime.
Now Trump has dug an even bigger hole for himself, by committing an even worse crime and an even bigger blunder. Trump’s murder of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis is not a “preemptive” attack on non-state actors, it is a brazen crime of aggression against high-level military officers of two sovereign states. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, tweeted immediately after the attacks, “The targeted killings of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis most likely violate International Law [including] human rights law. Lawful justifications for such killings are very narrowly defined and it is hard to imagine how any of these can apply to these killings.”
Alongside other forms of retribution, Iran is prosecuting Trump and Pompeo in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Experts expect Iran to win the case. Trump has changed his story multiple times, first claiming General Soleimani was about to attack US troops, then that he was about to attack the US embassy in Baghdad, then that he was about to attack multiple embassies, and finally that none of those stories were true but that “it doesn’t really matter.” Two weeks after the murder, Trump admitted that his earlier justifications were lies; he actually killed Gen. Soleimani over alleged past actions and/or because Gen. Soleimani “was saying bad things.” Like Saudi Clown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s changing stories about the Khashoggi murder, Trump’s shifty excuses for murdering Gen. Soleimani amount to clumsily inadvertent confessions of guilt.
Since the USA has effectively declared itself a nation of war criminals by refusing to join the ICC, Trump will not be hauled to the Hague in handcuffs any time soon. But Iran’s likely victory at the ICC would reinforce the global perception of the Liar-in-Chief as not only a mendacious moron and blathering buffoon, but an actual, bonafide, convicted-in-court war criminal. That would not help Trump’s political prospects and international stature. Nor would it help keep him out of prison (for domestic crimes, not international war crimes) if he loses the 2020 election.
Trump’s second dilemma involves reconciling the inevitable result of the Soleimani-Muhandis murder — heightened anti-American militancy in Iraq and throughout the region — with his re-election campaign. Trump won the White House by opposing the Iraq war, and interventionism in general. As US presence in the region comes under increasing attack, both rhetorically and physically, Trump will have no good options as he faces a tight race with a Democratic contenderwho will accurately portray him as a reckless and incompetent commander-in-chief.
Trump’s least-worst option, in terms of popularity with his base and the independent voters who will decide the election, would be to declare victory (!) and fully withdraw from the entire Muslim East, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The American electorate does not understand why its government needs to waste trillions of tax dollars policing the world. US voters would welcome a definitive end to the so-called “War on Terror” and would probably reward Trump with a landslide victory if he chose that route.
Such a choice would entail risks, both political and physical. Politically, the pro-Israeli segment of the media and those with financial clout in the US would throw everything they have at any president who threatened Israel’s interests by pulling out of the region. The military-industrial complex (MIC) would also be unhappy. And though Trump narrowly won in 2016 despite opposition from much of the media and the financial world, the level of opposition would be much higher if the 2020 election follows a big US pullout from the Muslim East. And even extremely popular presidents headed for easy re-elections can be murdered, as happened to John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Trump might well conclude that he cannot declare victory and leave. So, he will probably feel obliged to thump his chest and pursue escalatory “retaliation” for the wave of political, economic, and military attacks on US interests that will likely occur. The result will be bloody chaos at best, major war at worst.
In the long-term historical perspective, Trump and the US have been dealt a losing hand. US and Western shares of global GDP are plummeting. The global economic center of gravity has shifted to China and its Belt and Road Initiative, even as a new generation of ultra-lethal anti-ship missiles has put an end to the Mahan era of sea power ruling the world. Sir Halford Mackinder’s thesis that the heartland of Eurasia (today led by Russia, China, and Iran) would eventually overthrow the sea power empires of the UK and US appears to be coming true.
The US cannot stop this process. All it can do is try to prepare a soft landing. The best strategy would be to devote dwindling American diplomatic and military power to preserving stability during the transition period. A de-dollarization global currency reset needs to happen sooner rather than later, following which the US will have to fold up its global military tent and go home to take care of pressing domestic problems. Unfortunately, the US is run by unstable individuals with messianic delusions. Rather than enhancing stability, they are pursuing a global doctrine of destabilization in hopes that the spreading chaos will somehow preserve their unipolar privileges.
In the end, Trump’s dilemma is more apparent than real. He is in the position of the captain of the Titanic, just seconds away from the lethal iceberg that will send it to the bottom. Will he turn the doomed ship to the right and still hit the iceberg, or will he turn the ship to the left and still hit the iceberg?
The neoliberal USA’s ship of state is steaming toward a cataclysmic collision with history. Even if the captain were not a narcissistic madman and semi-literate buffoon, his chances of mitigating the inevitable disaster would be negligible. Given this president’s personal defects, incompetent advisors, and calamitous track record, it seems likely that Trump will take his punishment for murdering Gen. Soleimani and commander al-Muhandis in this world as well as the next.