Master of War: The Threat of Trumped-Up Military Action

Are we doomed to repeat history?

With so much covfefe coming out of the White House these days, it’s easy to forget the last time 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was occupied by shameless liars, and the ramifications of such recklessness. This month marks an ignoble anniversary in this regard, with lessons that are still important today.

On July 23, 2002, the infamous Downing Street Memo was authored by British foreign policy advisor Matthew Rycroft. In that document, made public in 2005, Rycroft noted that based on the recent discussions British intelligence officials had with higher-ups in the George W. Bush administration, it was abundantly clear that Bush was fixated on invading Iraq at all costs.

The Bush administration began publicly stampeding towards war with Iraq around the time the memo was written, inveighing against the alleged threat of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. By the fall of 2002, Congress effectively granted Bush permission to invade Iraq. By March 2003, the bombs began to drop.

We’d like to think that something like the national seduction that led us into Iraq could never happen again. We’d like to think that we could never be hornswoggled into another senseless war. We’d like to think that Donald Trump could never pull off what George W. Bush did.

What if we’re wrong? What if he could do it again? What if we’re conned for a second time, swindled into another Republican-led war that costs billions of dollars and takes thousands of lives?

This is the fear–that as the investigation of Russiagate heats up, and Trump’s poll numbers continue to drop, he could protect himself politically through war. Another Gulf of Tonkin-style incident could be exaggerated to make the case for an invasion of a convenient country. An attack on the homeland could be exploited to emotionally manipulate the American public, just as Bush and his cronies exploited 9/11 to make the case for the Iraq War.

It could happen. Don’t think it can’t…and don’t think mainstream-media entities wouldn’t immediately move to squelch criticism of a rush to war; what Phil Donahue and Ashleigh Banfield went through in 2003 would be mild compared to what would happen to media figures who questioned Trump’s war.

Russia talk would cease in the mainstream press. Flags would wave, anti-war protestors would be mocked, casualties would be ignored. We’ve seen it before. We could see it again.

Trump knows that he can stay in the White House regardless of Russiagate, so long as the has the power of propaganda at his disposal. If Trump launches a protracted war, he knows he won’t face the threat of impeachment even if Democrats were to win the House and Senate in 2018. How eager do you think Democrats would be to move to impeach a President in wartime? Remember, American troops were out of Vietnam by the time Watergate started heating up in earnest.

In his campaign, during his young presidency, even this past week in his rhetorical assault on MSNBC star Mika Brzezinski, Trump has proven to be the master of malevolence, the LeBron James of loathsomeness and jackassery. Imagine this man leading our troops into a protracted war. Imagine him running for re-election as a “wartime president,” just as Bush successfully did in 2004. Imagine this country’s citizens being bullied into silence after questioning whether such a war was just.

Don’t think it can’t happen. I, for one, don’t want to think about what it will say about our country if it does.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.