On Saturday, President Trump threatened to commit what is widely regarded as a war crime:

Asked about it on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo does what he usually does, namely, gaslight the American people. “As for these critiques, President Trump didn’t say he’d go after a cultural site. Read what he said very closely," the secretary lied on “Fox News Sunday.” "We’ve made clear that the cost, if they use proxy-forces in the region, will not just be borne just by those proxies. They’ll be borne by Iran and its leadership itself.”

That is not what Trump said.

The president swiftly doubled down, confirming that Pompeo was lying. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people,” he asked incredulously. "They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”

Actually, that is what makes them terrorists and used to make the United States a democratic, respected and law-abiding country, as every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine knows. (They are sworn to uphold the Constitution and obligated to disregard illegal orders.)

Asked by a CNN reporter about the president’s words, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Monday responded, "We will follow the laws of armed conflict.” The reporter followed up: “And that means no because targeting a cultural site is a war crime?” Esper replied, “That’s the laws of armed conflict.”

Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was clear-eyed enough to say he wouldn’t back such actions by the United States.

It is reassuring that the civilian leader of the Defense Department understands that he cannot order men and women of the armed forces to commit war crimes, but how exactly do Esper and Pompeo justify working for someone who does not know or care to know why we do not commit war crimes? There are two possibilities: They know he is a monster and think they are saving the day (as did the anonymous New York Times op-ed author), or they think he just talks nonsense and should be ignored. In other words, the people closest to Trump apparently understand they cannot possibly do what the commander in chief orders because he is nuts, morally defective or both.

And what if they do receive such an order? They apparently did not expect Trump to order the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, yet he did. (By the way, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff inadvertently shed significant doubt on the intelligence behind the strike: “Did it exactly say who, what, when, where? No. But he was planning, coordinating and synchronizing significant combat operations against U.S. military forces in the region — and it was imminent.” Um, how can some unidentified something-or-other of unknown timing be “imminent”? But I digress.)

The complicity of men (and they’re all men at this point) such as Esper, Pompeo and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien in facilitating Trump’s schemes, ignoring or reiterating his lies and risking full-blown war boggles the mind.

The complicity and dishonesty of senior administration officials are two of many reasons why House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) needs to open hearings immediately on the killing of Soleimani, the rules of war as senior officials understand them (and whether Trump asks or encourages them to break them), and the extent of planning and the implications for defending ourselves against the Islamic State — if we now must defend ourselves against Iran and its militia proxies, and if we get kicked out of Iraq.

Adding to the horror show, the following unfolded, as The Post recounted a letter to Iraqi authorities:

In the letter, released Monday, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William H. Seely III said that U.S. forces “respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” A U.S. military official confirmed the letter’s authenticity.
But on a day of confusion, Esper said that he could not confirm the authenticity of the letter because he had seen it only after it was leaked, adding it is “inconsistent with where we are right now.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter incorrectly implies withdrawal and “was a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released.”

How could such a blunder happen, and was the “draft” signifying withdrawal from Iraq actually the intended or expected outcome from this metastasizing debacle?

The only way to know where Trump advisers’ mendacity and incompetency end and Trump’s begins is to conduct robust, open hearings. Should senior officials refuse to respond to questions, they should be subpoenaed and held in contempt if they fail to appear (ideally, they should face impeachment — but only one of those proceedings at a time, I suppose). If we cannot hold Trump to account for his actions before November, perhaps we can hold his enablers accountable and thereby dampen their willingness to cover up, dissemble and carry out bizarre and/or illegal orders.

Oh, and given the utter lack of information to justify the action or to explain the alleged strategy, Congress should use its authority under the War Powers Act and its power of the purse to restrain Trump from further offensive action until such time as Congress gets to the bottom of this. Extreme? Perhaps, but the president is giving Congress no other choice.

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