I’ll tell you when the nightmare that TomDispatch regular Bob Dreyfuss raises so eloquently first hit me hard. I’m talking about the possibility that the next U.S. military disaster of the twenty-first century might be Iran. That country has, of course, had a significant spot on Washington’s war-making to-do list since the days of George W. Bush’s presidency. After all, the Washington catch-phrase of that moment when neocons like… well, John Bolton… helped take us so disastrously into Iraq was “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” The “real men” didn’t make it then. The question is: Will they now?
You remember, of course, that, on entering the Oval Office, Donald Trump turned to America’s generals for a hand. For secretary of defense, he proudly tapped retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, reveling in his nickname, which was “Mad Dog.” As it happened, Mattis already had a rep for obsessiveness on Iran that seemed to fit that moniker perfectly. As the head of U.S. Central Command in 2011, he reportedly responded to a query from President Obama about the top three threats across the Greater Middle East by saying, “Number one: Iran. Number two: Iran. Number three: Iran.” In the end, he was evidently removed from that command early because he hatched a scheme to take out an Iranian oil refinery or power plant in a “dead-of-night U.S. strike” to pay Iran back for supporting Iraqi Shia militias then fighting American troops.
I truly started worrying about Iran in the Trump era, however, only when the media began reporting that the same James Mattis was acting as a crucial restraint — yes, restraint — on the president, National Security Advisor John Bolton (famous for a 2015 New York Times op-ed entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”), and that other notorious Iranophobe, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Bolton, a man who never saw a regime he didn’t want to change, has had similar urges when it comes to North Korea and may recently have been responsible for torpedoing the president’s summit with Kim Jong-un.) Now, of course, Mattis is gone and I leave Dreyfuss to fill you in on the rest.