Donald Trump is a liar. It’s probably the one thing he does more consistently than anything else. It is the core of who and what he is. As the Washington Post noted, on April 26 the number of lies Individual 1 has told as president reached the five-digit territory. He’s barely been president for 25 months, so we’re talking 400 lies per month. As Eric Alterman pointed out, the topics of his lies range from windmills to steel mills, and the pace of his lies is only increasing. Trump makes the boy who cried wolf look like young George Washington in that invented story about the cherry tree.
More importantly, the lies are getting increasingly dangerous. On the domestic front, he’s telling lies about abortion and infanticide that could well incite terrorist violence. In the realm of foreign policy, he and his administration are spreading dangerous lies about Iran and greatly exaggerating the threat—which is a real one, albeit not near as great as Trump’s warmongers would have us believe—that that country poses to peace and to American interests.
Since coming into office, Trump has taken a number of steps to ratchet up hostilities between the U.S. and Iran. He has pulled out of the Iran deal negotiated under President Obama and reimposed severe economic sanctions, among other measures. Trump took these steps not in response to what Iran was actually doing, instead offering falsehoods rather than evidence as justification.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser under Obama, laid out the litany of Trump’s lies on Iran since taking office:
Trump’s Iran policy has long been rooted in falsehoods. In 2017, his administration refused to certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the Iran nuclear deal — on the premise that Iran wasn’t complying with the terms. That wasn’t true. Earlier that year, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran’s compliance; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported to Congress that “Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations”; and the U.S. intelligence community presented no evidence justifying Trump’s decertification.
Trump’s subsequent decision to withdraw from the JCPOA was no surprise. For years, he had railed against it as the “worst deal ever negotiated” by tossing out a raft of easily debunked assertions: that Iran was given $150 billion under the terms of the deal, a claim The Washington Post’s Fact Checker rated with four Pinocchios; that Iran’s regime was verging on “total collapse” before the deal, implying that somehow the deal lent the regime new life. After pulling out, Trump has continued to dispute his own intelligence community’s assessment that Iran had been complying. Numbed to a president who lies so regularly that it’s become the background noise to our political culture, his reckless exit from a multilateral, U.N. Security Council-endorsed arms-control agreement that wasn’t being violated was treated as just another routine turn of events in Trump’s Washington.
This past week has seen the Trump administration get itself twisted in knots over Iran. John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have long been salivating over starting a conflict that could lead to the overthrow of Iran’s government, have hyped up recent incidents in the Persian Gulf to justify the U.S. taking a significantly more aggressive stance toward Iran, including developing a plan to deploy 120,000 troops to the region in order to respond to Iranian aggression. The problem is that not everyone sees things the same way.
Major General Chris Ghika, a high-ranking British official who serves as deputy commander of the American-led, anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, offered the following, radically different take:
“No – there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” Ghika said in a videolink briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon. “We’re aware of that presence, clearly. And we monitor them along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in. We are monitoring the Shia militia groups. I think you’re referring to carefully and if the threat level seems to go up then we’ll raise our force protection measures accordingly.”
Pompeo “didn’t show us any evidence” about his reasons Washington is so concerned about potential Iranian aggression, said one senior European official who took part in one of Pompeo’s meetings. The official’s delegation left the meeting unconvinced of the American case and puzzled about why Pompeo had come at all.
Should we really be surprised that our allies aren’t buying what the Trump team has been selling on Iran? Given Trump’s track record of (dis)honesty—on Iran, on the size of his inaugural crowd, or even on the weather (not climate change, mind you, but on the weather outside at a given moment in time that people could see for themselves by looking out the window)—can you blame them?
Even within the Trump administration, not everyone is willing to stay silent as the top guys peddle their bullshit:
One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal planning, said the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was “small stuff” and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton. The official also said the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States.
The whole world remembers that a previous Republican administration also lied to justify starting a war in the Middle East with a regime it wanted to see changed. They also remember John Bolton’s prominent role in that campaign of lies. Here’s Bernie Sanders on the matter: “What worries me is that the architect of the effort right now to get us into a war in Iran is the guy who was the architect to getting us into the war in Iraq. That is John Bolton.”
Sanders, along with Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen, Ed Markey, and Jeff Merkley, have penned a letter to the Man Who Lost The Popular Vote, in which they accuse his administration of “inflating threats and bending intelligence” in a way that could put the United States on a “path to another war in the Middle East.” Sens. Tom Udall and Dick Durbin expressed the same type of broad concerns in a recent Washington Post op-ed.
Now Trump is saying he doesn’t really want war with Iran, and that he is “annoyed” at Pompeo and especially Bolton for “getting way out ahead of themselves” on Iran. Daily Kos’ own Meteor Blades explained that whole kerfuffle—including Mr. 46% of the Popular Vote’s denial that said kerfuffle even existed—in depth here.
Why anyone would believe Donald Trump or his Administration on anything is beyond me. One thing is definitely true: If Trump does ultimately side with uber-hawks like Pompeo and Bolton and plunge us into another war for regime change in the Middle East, it will be an unmitigated disaster for our country, for the region, and for the world that will make Dubya’s invasion of Iraq look like Grenada.