The US and Iran continue their heated exchange as concern spreads throughout the nation – from Capitol Hill to Wall Street – over the threat of escalating military conflict in the Middle East. Responses have ranged from Democratic presidential contender Cory Booker citing the perils of a commander-in-chief who lacks a coherent strategy and conducts foreign policy “by impulse, by tweet” to Black Twitter followers engaging in a bit of gallows humor through commentary and memes under the hashtag #WWIII.
Wall Street’s reaction Friday to Iran’s vow of retaliation for President Donald Trump ordering the airstrike that killed its military leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani: skittish investors caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to plummet some 230 points – its greatest one-day decline in a month – as oil prices spiked. Expect continued market volatility as Trump declares he’s “prepared to take whatever action necessary” if Iran attacked Americans.
“THEY ARE MOTIVATED NOW TO RETALIATE”
The potential for military, civilian, technical and economic hazards are real. Susan Rice, former UN Ambassador during the Obama Administration, told MSNBC Saturday that killing Soleimani does not eliminate the looming threat of an attack from Iran: “We can be certain that they are motivated now to retaliate in far greater scale than they may have been planning.”
USA Today reported that even though analysts confirm that Iran can’t match American military might, it can initiate a plan for revenge through rocket attacks on US allies such as Israel or sabotage oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway considered the most sensitive transportation choke point for global oil supplies. Moreover, observers also noted that Iran could engage in a series of cyberattacks as well as target American citizens and troops abroad near embassies, consulates or military installations. In the US, cities like New York beefed up security at landmarks, structures and other “sensitive areas” as Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained that “we’re at this point in a de facto state of war between the United States of America and Iran. None of us knows how this will play out.”
Trump told reporters Friday that he ordered the drone strike at Baghdad Airport to prevent a conflict with Iran because Soleimani was plotting attacks that endangered American troops and officials. However, he did not produce any evidence to back up his assertion. Despite the president’s claim, Democrats – including members of the Congressional Black Caucus – demanded more information about the strike, condemning Trump Saturday for not notifying Congress – including the Gang of Eight senior leadership — ahead of the airstrike.
“NO STRATEGY FOR CHALLENGES IN MIDDLE EAST”
Moreover, the Trump Administration’s action will most certainly impact the 2020 presidential race. In fact, US Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic presidential candidate, and Congressman Ro Khanna of California announced Friday introduction of legislation to prohibit any funding for offensive military force in or against Iran without prior congressional authorization. The measure to restrict funds for such military activities passed by a bipartisan 251-margin vote in the House but was later removed from the National Defense Authorization Act adopted by Congress in December. Sanders stated: “After authorizing a disastrous, $738 billion military budget that placed no restrictions on this president from starting an unauthorized war with Iran, Congress now has an opportunity to change course. Our legislation blocks Pentagon funding for any unilateral actions this president takes to wage war against Iran without Congressional authorization.”
US Sen. Booker of New Jersey has made the rounds at CNN, MSNBC, TIME and other media outlets to share his views on Trump’s reckless actions in the Middle East. “I have a lot of concerns right now as this is unfolding about that standard of the use of military force and I have a lot of concerns about a president who’s already shown to have no strategy for the larger challenges we have in the Middle East, especially around Iran,” Booker said in television interviews. “These are statements coming from the Trump White House. There’s a lot more facts that have to come out to see if indeed this president, who already has done things that have undermined what people on both sides of the political aisle in the Senate have said do not constitute the authorization for the use of military force.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, a founding member of the Congressional No War With Iran Caucus, said in a released statement: ”The assassination of Iran’s notorious high-ranking top paramilitary general, who is immensely popular in Iran, could trigger a deadly galvanized response from the regime and undoubtedly lead us to the brink of war. Tragically, [Trump] has done so without securing an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran from Congress or properly briefing the American people.”
“IMPEACHED PRESIDENT’S ACTIONS PREDICATED IN POLITICS THAN POLICY”
She further expressed concern that “the now impeached president’s actions may have been predicated in politics rather than sound foreign policy.” In fact, she cited claims that Trump made against President Barack Obama of seeking to employ military action in the Middle East as a means of boosting voter approval to gain a second term. “In 2011, Trump tweeted, In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran,’ and in 2012, he again tweeted, ‘Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate,’ ” Waters stated. “Perhaps Donald Trump believes that if he drags the country into war, the American people and Congress will rally behind him. Perhaps he thinks that war is a diversionary tactic. Perhaps he thinks it will drown out the criticisms of his scandal-plagued administration and protect him from removal by the Senate.”
Once again, partisan warfare broke out over the airstrike when Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas clashed with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – a member of “The Squad” – after she tweeted: “We are outraged the president would assassinate a foreign official, possibly setting off another war without Congressional authorization and has zero plan to deal with the consequences.”
Omar rebutted the GOP opposition Saturday: “They’re going to accuse anyone who cautions against war of ‘siding with our enemies’ or ‘supporting terrorists.’ This is the exact rhetoric that got us into the War in Iraq.”
“WILL DRAFT COME BACK?”
On Twitter, hashtag #WWIII was trending online. The New York Times reported that the Selective Servuce System website, which maintains the database for those eligible for military if the draft was reinstated, crashed. Even though mandatory conscription ended in 1973, all men from 18 to 25 years old are required to register with the system by checking a box to register when getting a driver’s license or signing up when applying for federal student aid to attend college. Many now ask, “Will the draft come back?” And despite the irreverence of omments and images, a number of black Twitter followers offered their concerns on people of color being placed “on the front lines” if war broke out.
In responding to the possibility of war, the NAACP’s Crisis Magazine invoked the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., tweeting one of his powerful quotes: “We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”