So what in the world just happened here?
That’s the question of the moment as we struggle to get our heads around the latest head-snapping episode in the bizarre presidency of Donald Trump. In the last few days, we’ve seen: 1) a U.S. drone strike in Iraq, killing Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force; 2) Trump’s justification of the killing on grounds that Soleimani, architect of hundreds of American military casualties, was planning imminent violence; 3) bellicose threats from Trump to bomb Iranian cultural sites (which would be a war crime); 4) vows of revenge from Tehran, and, 5) Iranian missile attacks upon the Iraqi Green Zone, where the American embassy is located and upon Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops. The attacks caused no casualties and thus may — may — have allowed Iran a face-saving way to avoid escalating hostilities.
And there is also word — breaking as this is written — that U.S. officials now believe a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran killing 176 people after the retaliatory attack was shot down accidentally by Iran.
Somewhere in the midst of that chaos, Marco Rubio, Florida senator and Trump sock puppet, tweeted a call for unity. “#Iran is now openly calling for American’s (sic) to turn on each other. The time will come to debate U.S. policy. Tonight American & allied troops have come under direct attack by a nation-state & Americans must come together to support & protect them & respond appropriately.”
In other words, support the troops and don’t ask any questions.
It’s an appeal to the same sense of patriotic duty that welded Americans together after Sept. 11 and December 7. And you might even allow yourself to be persuaded, if this president were not such an infernal liar.
Yes, presidential lying is hardly unique to Trump. But no president has ever lied as profusely, prolifically or prodigiously as this guy — 15,413 falsehoods since Inauguration Day, according to a December tally in The Washington Post. Truth finds itself not simply assaulted, but also deposed by Trump followers convinced that reality is whatever their great and powerful Oz says it is from one moment to the next. They blithely parrot lies as if they were truths and it’s hard to decide if they don’t know the difference or just don’t care.
But here’s the thing: a president can make no more consequential a decision than to use military force. When that happens we need and should demand a full understanding of what makes it necessary. If we are to risk the blood, flesh and treasure of our people, we should at least know why.
And we don’t. Oh, we know what Trump has said. Unfortunately, 15,000 lies later, no president has ever had less credibility as he deployed U.S. military assets. That includes Bill Clinton who, in the midst of a scandal over his relationship with a White House intern, authorized strikes against terrorist targets.
No one comes close to Trump. This lying liar lyingly lies — nonstop.
So you’d like to believe there was good reason for what we just did. And that an attack was, indeed, imminent. And that killing Soleimani was the best option — not just a diversion from Trump’s impeachment. And that we have a plan for the aftermath.
You’d like to, but you can’t. That’s the sad state of our Union. That’s the graveyard we whistle past.
And Rubio says we must support the troops and ask no questions? No. Let us support them by asking questions, questions as bold and shameless as the lies we are told. Begin with these:
What in the world just happened here?
And what in the world will happen next?
Leonard Pitts is a best-selling author and nationally-syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald.