Pressed to explain what threat was imminent, Pompeo haughtily replied, “If you are looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Qasem Soleimani.” In other words, there was nothing concrete, nothing different from what we have witnessed for days (or for that matter, weeks and months).
When asked about the president’s plans to destroy cultural sites, a war crime, Pompeo arrogantly proclaimed it was Iran that had “done damage to Persian culture.” So that would make any war crimes we committed acceptable? He then falsely insisted he did not deny in an interview on Sunday that the president wanted to hit cultural sites. We have now reached the point where Pompeo lies about his lies.
It was evident from the fact that President Trump was given a menu of options regarding action against Iran that there was no specific event pertaining to Soleimani. The strike was conducted to retaliate for the prior Iranian aggression. The strike was the most extreme option, potentially a trigger for war, and was taken without Congress’ authorization (or even notice). It was not a defensive action for which the president is authorized to act alone on an emergency basis as commander in chief.
In a sense, this is worse than the run-up to the Iraq War, when both Republicans and Democrats were wrongly convinced — or had at the very least talked themselves into believing the intelligence was more conclusive than it was — of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Here, the administration is not even pretending.
To be clear, unlike the Iraq War, there is no relevant authorization for use of military force in place for Iran. Vice President Pence’s pathetic attempt to tie Soleimani back to 9/11, thereby bringing the strike under the ambit of the Iraq AUMF, was quickly shot down. (Iran’s advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, let alone involvement in them, was debunked by the 9/11 Commission.) In short, from all appearances it seems that Trump’s advisers who have long pined for regime change have set out on an offensive campaign, not one designed to deescalate tensions.
Now the question is what to do about this. As a first step, it is imperative to deny funds and authorization for further offensive actions absent congressional consent. Unless Congress wants to trust the words of recidivist liars and the judgment of a president who cannot understand why we cannot commit war crimes, it is incumbent on Congress to act. Next, open hearings are needed to educate the public that there was no imminent threat and that the potential consequences are grave. Bring in Pompeo, the generals and the rest to testify under oath. The American people have overwhelmingly expressed opposition to war against Iran, and now they need to understand whether the president is defying their wishes and instigating another war.
Trump is on the verge of unilaterally starting a war of choice without an inkling of the ramifications. It is up to Congress to pump the brakes.