A U.S. Army soldier in Iraq in 2003. John Moore/Associated Press

MAY 19, 2019

For the servicemembers of Postindustrial America — and the world: Please don’t invade Iran

States like Pennsylvania and Ohio send a significant number of people to the military. Don’t put them into another pointless war

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OP-ED BY CARMEN GENTILE
PHOTOS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

It’s a movie sequel any rational, thoughtful viewer would never watch.

You know the story all too well: puffed-up Washington war hawks press a gullible and ill-informed president into waging war against a Muslim-majority country with nothing more than manufactured reasons for bombing innocent folks into the Stone Age.

In the original, it was Iraq that bore the burden of President George W. Bush’s ability to be duped by the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and his band of bloodthirsty minions, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has a starring role in the sequel.

In the proposed second act that no one with a functioning memory wants, it’s neighboring Iran that’s poised to get the old “shock and awe” treatment. While the hardline leadership in Tehran is by no means an innocent on the world stage — funding armed Shiite groups in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen —  Iran is not the existential threat to America’s well-being that Bolton and his goon sidekick, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, make it out to be.

This is particularly concerning to me — and to a region I hold dear. I spent a considerable amount of time in neighboring Iraq, which had a population of about 25 million during the initial 2003 invasion, covering the Bush administration’s ill-advised war that killed nearly 5,000 American service members and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. The Iraq misadventure was one botched attempt at creating a democratic, pro-American foothold in the region after another. The Iraq War gave birth to Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later morphed into the even more hideous and brutal Islamic State.

 

John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2017. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Most recently, I was in Iraq in 2017, this time in Mosul as Iraqi forces, along with Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias, fought to retake that city from the Islamic State. It was a battle so gruesome and destructive that the dead are still being pulled from mountainous piles of rubble.

A war in Iran, which is significantly larger in size and population than Iraq, would draw hundreds of thousands of young men and women into the fight, many from Postindustrial America. Pennsylvania alone has the fourth-largest veteran population in the country at just under a million, only behind California, Texas, and Florida. Ohio is sixth, with some 860,000 veterans.

Any attempt to wage a full-scale war on Iran would be disastrous, plunging the U.S. and world economy into a tailspin, and, worse yet, needlessly sacrificing thousands more men and women who swore to protect and defend the rest of us.

Meanwhile, Tehran has so far remained in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal that Trump summarily backed out of, simply because President Barack Obama orchestrated it.

Once Bolton saw that Trump was willing to cast away carefully negotiated diplomatic agreements out of sheer spite, he knew the timing for his much-coveted Iran war was now.

He’s been lying in wait for more than a decade to hatch this insane plan, plying his Iran conspiracy theories and warmongering on Fox News, waiting for someone witless enough to come along and fall prey to his ludicrous prevarications.

U.S. Army soldiers in Istaqlal, north of Baghdad, Iraq, in 2011. Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press

U.S. Army soldiers in Istaqlal, north of Baghdad, Iraq, in 2011. Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press

Enter Trump, who had already blown through a whole roster of respectable and respectable-adjacent State Department, Pentagon, and National Security heads by the time Bolton climbed aboard his administration last year. So when Bolton — who was reportedly kept off the short list at the beginning of the administration due to Trump’s revulsion toward his ghastly mustache — got the call, the conditions for a war with Iran were near perfect. A month into his tenure as Trump’s Iran whisperer, the United States pulled out of the international nuclear deal heralded by many as a mechanism for curtailing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

All it took was a little prodding by the mustachioed Mephistopheles to bring America to the brink of yet another calamitous war serving no real geopolitical purpose.

And with Trump facing an ever-expanding set of probes into his business dealings, an economy he’s doing his damnedest to tank with misguided tariffs, and the looming specter of a potential presidential showdown with Joe Biden, the commander-in-chief is looking for an international distraction/boogeyman/adversary that will rally his faithful to the polls come 2020.

The president knows all too well that his state-media minions at Fox News will break their backs bowing down to him in a tizzy of frothy adulation were he to order a full-scale war on Iran, as would much of the Republican “leadership” in Congress.

Of course, all of this saber rattling and potential bloodshed comes without anyone in Trump’s orbit of pro-Iran annihilators giving a single thought as to what happens after the smoke clears following the initial salvos that render that country of more than 80 million people a chaotic mess.

With so many of Postindustrial America’s youth deciding to serve, it behooves those of us on the homefront to reach out to our respective lawmakers and make sure they know that under no circumstances do we support a sequel to the Iraq disaster epic.

Carmen Gentile
Carmen Gentile has worked for The New York Times and CBS News, among others. His book, "Blindsided by the Taliban," documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade while embedded with U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan.

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