is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT.
For decades, the US establishment has talked about an international community, rules-based order, the importance of NATO allies, democracy and sovereignty. Then President Donald Trump had an Iranian general assassinated.
“Snow doesn’t fall to cover the hills, but to reveal the tracks of every beast,” goes an old Serbian saying. The proverbial snow in this case is last week’s killing of General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, which exploded not just the convoy he was riding in, but decades of accumulated platitudes about the US, its allies, and the world.
Time and again, the Washington establishment has sought to assert legitimacy for its actions by invoking the “rules-based” world order, sometimes also prefaced with “liberal,” and how the US was supposedly backed by the “international community.” All of these terms were conveniently vague, mind you, capable of being stretched to fit whatever definition was required at any given moment.
The killing of Soleimani made crystal clear there are no such rules, no community, no order. There is only the American Empire, its vassals – euphemistically known as “allies” – and its targets, also known as “adversaries.” Iran made it to the adversaries list in 1979, after the Islamic Revolution overthrew the US client regime in Tehran. The Empire deals poorly with being scorned.
Trump did not say “we do what we want, where we want, and how we want, and there is no power in the universe that can stop us” – but he didn’t have to; his missiles did all the talking.
Allies or vassals? Funny you should ask
There has been much pearl-clutching about Trump’s repeated brow-beating of Washington’s “allies”, but NATO’s response to the Soleimani affair only confirms that the alliance is made up of spineless yes-men, vassals rather than partners.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg admitted on Monday that the alliance was not consulted about the killing, but said they all stood by Washington and condemned Iran, demanding Tehran “refrain from further violence and provocations.”
In a typical display of impotent virtue-signaling, leaders of the UK, France and Germany issued a joint statement on Monday calling for “all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility” and talking about the “current cycle of violence.”
Remember how European nuclear powers, signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal, were supposed to repair and preserve it after Trump’s unilateral exit in 2018? They have not actually done so. Instead, France is now accusing Iran of “repeated violations” of the deal that US ditched. For all their claims to independence, at the end of the day they all march in lockstep with Washington.
Democracy and sovereignty
Going back to the First World War and Woodrow Wilson, the US has had a fetish about democracy, as in “making the world safe” for it. The assumption that world peace will break out when everyone mimics the US political and economic systems is an article of faith in Washington. Trump seemed to buck that vision by calling for a world of sovereign countries and an end to nation-building.
Yet what has been his administration’s response when the Iraqi parliament voted to disinvite the US from its country? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring that no, he knows better what the people of Iraq want, and Trump saying that the US won’t leave until the Iraqis “pay us back” for an expensive airbase.
The (fake) war on terrorism
Trying to justify the assassination, Trump called the Iranian general the “number one terrorist” in the world. Vice President Mike Pence accused Soleimani of a veritable laundry list of atrocities, going so far as to assert a link between Iran and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Conveniently left out of this narrative is that Iran and the US collaborated back in the 1990s in supporting jihadist militants – from Afghanistan to Bosnia – that eventually turned on their sponsors. Soleimani actually helped the US overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan, until the George W. Bush administration insisted on declaring Iran part of their “axis of evil” in the run-up to the blatantly illegal – and likewise unrelated to 9/11 – invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In reality, Trump may have a different style of running the Empire, but the substance of its actions has not changed one bit since Russian President Vladimir Putin called it out in his 2015 speech at the UN General Assembly.
“Do you realize now, what you have done?” Putin asked, pointing to the chaos in the Middle East wrought by the Obama administration’s support for ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions and regime-changes. He then answered his own rhetorical question by saying that “policies based on self-assuredness and belief in one’s exceptionalism and impunity have never been abandoned.”
He was right, and you know it. The tracks are right there, in the snow.