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Spoiler Alert: They Want a War

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Win McNamee - Getty Images

From Esquire

Here they come again, the oldies act, just in time for the summer shed shows. Take it away, New York Times.

They have stopped short of telling lawmakers or aides in large group settings that the 2001 authorization for the use of military force from Congress, which permits the United States to wage war on Al Qaeda and its allies or offshoots, would allow the Trump administration to go to war with Iran. President Trump has said he does not want a war, but he ordered 2,500 additional troops to the region in the last month in response to what American officials said was a heightened threat. Statements tying Iran and Al Qaeda by Mr. Pompeo and other officials point to the potential for the administration to justify invoking the 2001 authorization, some lawmakers say. And when asked in recent weeks by lawmakers and journalists whether the administration would use the 2001 authorization, Mr. Pompeo has deflected the questions.

Spoiler Alert: they want a war.

In a classified briefing that Mr. Pompeo gave on May 21 with Pentagon officials to the full House, “he discussed the relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, Democrat of Michigan. She said Mr. Pompeo’s talk of that relationship in both public and private settings and his refusal to answer questions on a potential use of the 2001 authorization “raises the specter that to him, the relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda gives the administration that authority.” Ms. Slotkin, a former C.I.A. analyst and Pentagon official who has worked in Iraq, added, “Any of us working on national security should be looking at any talk of ties between senior Iranian leaders and Al Qaeda with a real skeptical eye.”

Good for Representative Slotkin, who clearly does not come to work every morning on a turnip truck. My god, the people pushing for war still don't know the difference between Shiite Iran and the largely Sunni members of al Qaeda, and they've had 16 painful years to learn it. But Pompeo's not clever enough to pull off the full Wolfowitz yet.

Photo credit: ERIC BARADAT - Getty Images

The trick will be what happens when this administration gins up an incident, or the Iranians do something stupid under pressure, or both. Pompeo will then no longer duck questions about the use of the old AUMF. He'll just do it. At which point, Congress will either stand up for itself or take us into another war that will end badly, if it ever ends at all.

Any relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda is one of convenience and not a real alliance, said current and former American officials, and there is no public evidence that Tehran has allowed Al Qaeda operatives to plot attacks on the United States from Iran or offered a haven for large numbers of fighters. Lawmakers are wary of officials using links between Iran and Al Qaeda as a pretext for war because the administration of President George W. Bush talked of a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda in 2002 to build a case for the invasion of Iraq. There were never close ties between the two.

This time, there's no 9/11 aftershock to blame. There's no political PTSD to which we can attribute our acceptance of transparent propaganda and obvious bait-and-switch. If the guns go off in that region this time, they do so with our eyes wide open.

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