UPDATE: As the Washington Post reports, White House aides are unsure about the timeline presented by President Trump regarding a potential military strike against Iran. It doesn’t help that Trump is now openly contradicting himself:
The precariousness of the moment was compounded by widespread uncertainty about the president’s decision-making process, which he detailed Friday in tweets and statements that drew scrutiny from even his own aides.
Early in the day, the president said he called off the attack at the last minute because it would have killed 150 people in retaliation for the downing of the drone. “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” he tweeted.
But administration officials said Trump was told earlier Thursday how many casualties could occur if a strike on Iran was carried out and that he had given the green light that morning to prepare the operation…
…Trump’s initial tweets suggested that he had canceled his own order. “10 minutes before the strike I stopped it,” he said. But in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd for “Meet the Press,” the president said that he had not given final approval for any strikes and that no planes were in the air. [Pols emphasis]
This pretty well sums up our original point below.
By the time you woke up this morning, it was quite possible that the United States would have been at war with Iran. As the Washington Post explains:
President Trump ordered an attack on Iran on Thursday in retaliation for the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz but called off the strike at the last minute because it would have caused disproportionate casualties among Iranians, he said Friday.
In a series of morning tweets, Trump said he canceled strikes on three Iranian sites minutes before they were to be launched because he was informed of the likely loss of life on the ground.
“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump tweeted. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”
Such a death toll was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” Trump wrote, adding: “I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
Trump’s Friday morning tweets appeared to gloss over the fact that he was the one, as commander in chief, who had ordered the retaliation against Iran in the first place. [Pols emphasis]
You might have expected Americans to be very nervous about a potential conflict with Iran today. Instead, the top trending hashtags in the U.S. on Twitter this morning were #FirstDayofSummer, #NationalSelfieDay, #SummerSolstice, and chatter about two shows on Netflix (#Evangelion and #Shinji).
It would be easy to cast this relative indifference as a product of American consumerism/individualism and a general disinterest in world affairs. Some of that is probably true. But imagine how this news would have been received had it come from literally any other President in the history of the United States.
The difference today is that it is impossible to know if and when President Trump is telling the truth about anything. We’re not arguing here that Trump is lying about calling for – and then cancelling – an airstrike on Iran, but you can’t blame the average American for not taking Trump seriously. We’re not arguing that this cancelled airstrike story is completely fabricated by Trump, but would you really be surprised to find out that was the case? Is it completely out of the realm of possibility that this is all an elaborate story from Trump to make it appear as though he is ready and willing to attack Iran? Of course not. When you display an unprecedented habit of making things up, this is the result.
President Trump is a more evolved version of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Trump tells lies like the rest of us breathe. In less than three years, Trump has vomited out more than 10,000 false statements on everything from immigration and Russia to crowd sizes and air quality. In fact, as Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, our current state of tensions with Iran are largely based on a big Trumpian lie about President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran:
As many observers have noted — see this from Evelyn Farkas, or this Post editorial — it is Trump’s decision to pull out of the international nuclear deal negotiated by President Barack Obama that has led to this moment.
The short version: Iran was abiding by the deal, and was being constrained from developing nuclear weapons. But Trump pulled out — then reimposed sanctions to choke the Iranian economy, and has since dictated terms for sanctions relief that appear deliberately unrealistic, cornering Iran into a choice between escalating on its side or submitting entirely to those terms.
If Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office and announced that the United States was going to attack Iran, the American public would be somber and frightened. If Donald Trump made that announcement today, a good portion of Americans wouldn’t give it a second thought. Trump can’t fix this by actually attacking Iran; a serial liar can never convince people that he is ever being straight with them.
President Trump has freely given away the assumption of truth in his administration. The response from the American people is more telling than any fact-checking database.