Invoking God, Trump Calls for International War Against ISIS – Is Iraq Next?
Paul Jay and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson discuss the potential foreign policy of the new administration in light of President Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. might re-invade Iraq and take the oil
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
Well, over the weekend the media focused on, of course, Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the mass protests. When it comes to the inauguration, or when it came to Donald Trump’s speech at the headquarters of the CIA, most of the attention was on Trumps arguing with the media about how many people showed up for his inauguration. Or whether, in fact, he had a dispute, or fight going on, or a feud going on, with the intelligence community. And that really dominated most of the discourse on the media punditry.
I thought, in fact, there were far more important things to talk about, including this. This is from the inauguration.
DONALD TRUMP: …and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth. We are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
PAUL JAY: “We will be protected by God.” So, the American war against ISIS, that will become a world war against ISIS will be protected by God. Which is very much similar to the language that we hear from ISIS. Now, put that together with what he said at the CIA. That is, wipe out ISIS, and then this.
DONALD TRUMP: The old expression, “To the victor belong the spoils.” You remember I always used to say, “Keep the oil.” I wasn’t a fan of Iraq, I don’t want to go into Iraq, but I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, “Keep the oil.” Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So, we should have kept the oil. But, okay, maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is, we should have kept the oil.
PAUL JAY: “Keep the oil.” “Perhaps we’ll have another chance.” “To the victor go the spoils.” In other words, if you invade and you overthrow the government, well then that country’s natural resources are now yours. And that’s the lesson of the Iraq war Donald Trump thinks we should learn. That once we went into Iraq, won the war; we should have taken the oil for ourselves. And then he adds, “Perhaps we’ll have another chance.”
Well, how would this war be fought? Well, here’s another clip from the CIA speech.
DONALD TRUMP: We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained. We have to get rid of ISIS. Have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice.
PAUL JAY: So, a world war against ISIS. Keep the oil, get the oil, fight this war without restraint, and God will protect us, so we will win. So, is this a foreign policy?
Now joining us to talk about all this, is Larry Wilkerson. Larry joins us from Williamsburg, Virginia. Larry is the former Chief of Staff, to U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Currently Adjunct Professor of Government, at the College of William & Mary and a regular on Real News. Thanks very much for joining us again, Larry.
LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.
PAUL JAY: So, what do you make of this vision of the world of President Trump?
LARRY WILKERSON: The first thing that leapt out at me was how resonant of the Wehrmacht, or Hitler’s military that was. You may remember that they had on their belt buckles, “Gott mit uns.” God is With Us. Invoking God and saying he’s on our side and that sort of thing, while we’ve done it from time to time throughout our history, is really a sacrilege, God’s not on anybody’s side.
I don’t know what that means, other than he’s appealing to those people in his 20% that are so zealously religious, and particularly, the zealous fundamentalists, I call them, American Taliban. And I suspect that’s what he’s doing. He’s sound biting for each one of these select groups within those that voted for him, less than one in four Americans.
PAUL JAY: And I think one shouldn’t underestimate the strength of evangelical Christianity within the American military. We’ve done stories about this, which has been virtually encouraged by much of the military brass. It does sound like the kind of way you would talk to troops before you send them into battle. Is this what he’s planning?
LARRY WILKERSON: Don’t know. But the other clips you played, and some of the remarks he’s made outside of those about destroying ISIS entirely, which, of course, is, an impossibility, and about reclaiming Iraq, surging in Iraq, against whom? One assumes ISIS, but the Iraqis, with some support from us, and others, are doing a pretty good job of that right now. So, whom would one surge against?
And other things that he said, taking all the oil, for example, how would you do that? Physically, logistically, how would you do that? And we couldn’t even defend some of our most critical areas in Iraq when we were occupying it, particularly in 2004, 2005, 2006; we had to fight some pretty bloody battles. So, how are we going to seize this oil, much of which is still underground, and how are we going to defend this oil against the inevitable attacks that would come?
We would provide for ISIS, for example, and other terrorists in the region, a target-rich environment. With every marine and every soldier a big bull’s eye on his or her back. These are statements made by a person used to sound biting for an audience used to receiving only soundbites. They don’t deal with the complex realities of the world and the security situation in that world today; they just are soundbites, nothing more.
PAUL JAY: Well, Vice President Pence has said he wants to model his vice-presidency on Dick Cheney. And much of Pence’s statements, and others in the Cabinet, pick up to a large extent where Cheney left off, and also pick up from where the documents of Project for New American Century, left off, which called for asserting U.S. military power around the world and overthrowing the regimes, governments, I should say, in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Their great regret about Iraq is that U.S. troops left.
Do you think… And Pence and the way they look at the world, and one doesn’t have to be rational about it, ’cause every piece of advice Cheney-Bush got about Iraq was not to invade, and they didn’t listen to any of the professional opinion. Are these guys planning to pick up where the Cheney-Bush administration left off?
LARRY WILKERSON: I don’t know, but let’s examine a couple of things that you said there. First of all, Pence is not Cheney. Cheney was one of the most brilliant bureaucratic entrepreneurs I’ve ever met. Cheney was one of the most experienced, if not the most experienced member of the government at that power management level. And Cheney knew exactly what to do, where to do it, and whom to do it to. Regardless of what we might think about his policies and his actions, he was the best.
He was better than my boss, he was better than Secretary Rumsfeld, he was better than the President of the United States. Pence is a neophyte, to say that Pence is going to be Cheney, is to say that an ant is going to be Goliath. This is absurd. Pence will probably cause more problems, maybe even major problems, than he will solve or he will deal with.
PAUL JAY: One second, Larry, just for the sake of it… apparently Pence now is talking to Cheney every few days. So, I wonder how much Cheney might be indirectly, directly involved in all this.
LARRY WILKERSON: Well, he could be involved, but you can’t just paint someone with this level of experience. You can’t take a guy like Pence who has zero experience at this level of decision-making, and transmit what you’ve got, into his soul, or into his brain. It’s simply impossible.
Not only that, you may have seen the body language between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and, for that matter, others who were in the George W. Bush administration. Cheney is checked out, in many respects, with regard to his ability to deal with things, with regard to creeping senility, with regard to the capacity that I just described as being so superb, in terms of dealing with bureaucracy. So, getting advice from Cheney, for Pence, hah, that’s a disaster too.
But the other aspects of what you were saying, let’s just look at the logistics of this. First of all, how would you go back to Iraq? You’ve got very few men and women in the armed forces today. No matter how you look at it, it is one of the smallest armed forces we’ve had in the modern era. We couldn’t do Afghanistan when we were doing Iraq. In fact, we neglected Afghanistan entirely while we were doing Iraq.
Two major regional contingencies, in the language of the Pentagon, is impossible today. So, where are we going to get the ground forces that would be necessary? And I’d estimate them in the neighborhood of 500 to 600 thousand, to reinvest ourselves in Iraq in a way that would be sustainable, and effective, and ultimately positive. Taking the oil, or whatever we took. You just can’t do it. So what are we going to do, reinstitute the draft? Are we going to call young men and young women back to the colors, so to speak, in order to reinvade Iraq?
I think we’ll see Donald Trump fading off even faster with the American people, even those one in four, one in five that did vote for him, than we suspect is going to happen anyway. This is not common sense, it’s not good strategy, it’s just soundbites to satisfy those people who voted for him.
PAUL JAY: Certainly the geopolitical vision of Trump, Pence and this cabinet, certainly in terms of the way they talk, all have Iran as enemy number one. He says ISIS is enemy number one, but when you really read what these guys say, they have much more interest, at the very least, weakening Iran as a regional power, if not more than that.
How does that jibe with his calls for a world front against the, what he calls, radical Islamic terrorism? Does he include Iran as part of the target of that world front?
LARRY WILKERSON: Well, I have to assume that, like many people dealing with these issues today, that he considers anyone who uses death and destruction in a way that’s not conventional, against the interests of the United States, is a terrorist. George the III actually used that phrase, in English, “terrorist” to describe the revolutionaries in 1775 and in 1776 in this country.
So, what we’re looking at is a person who, and I have to say, there are a lot of scholars and others who do this too, for their own nefarious reasons, anyone who’s opposed to our national interests and does not use conventional force to express that opposition, is a terrorist.
So, that lumps a lot of people into that bag. And if you’re going to defeat all of those people, Donald Trump, whether they be Persian or Arab or whatever, lots of luck to you because you don’t have the military apparatus, the means, the capability to do that.
PAUL JAY: And what does Israel want the Trump administration to do? Because Trump, perhaps he believed this before, and Pence too, but after $25 million of Sheldon Adelson’s money, he seemed to believe it even more fervently, wants to be the closest possible ally Netanyahu has ever had.
LARRY WILKERSON: I noticed today that even Netanyahu, has started to speak as if he might have some rational thoughts. I think even Netanyahu is somewhat stunned, and maybe even a little bit worried about what this President has shown of himself, to this point.
I also know that in Israel, amongst the cognoscenti, the elite, that includes the Israeli Defense Force, the Mossad, most of the political structure that is vested in the Knesset right now, and even those who are, what I would call, ultra-right wing, there is similar concern. Because the last thing Israel wants is a blundering behemoth behind them that really doesn’t know what he’s doing, or what he’s talking about.
So, I think you’re going to see increasingly, the Israel elite, sort of being more circumspect about what they’re talking about and doing, until they figure this guy out. So far, he’s extremely difficult to figure out, as this discussion has demonstrated. Are we going to go back into Iraq? Are we going to try to eradicate ISIS from one end of the globe to the other? Are we going to seize the oil in Iraq?
This man has made so many promises to that one in four who voted for him, he can’t possibly carry them out, and he’s worrying even those people for whom, in the beginning, it looked like those promises were going to give more operating room, like Netanyahu. I think the Israelis are a bit concerned now too, and I think over the next six, seven, eight weeks, their concern is gonna grow.
PAUL JAY: All right, thanks very much for joining us, Larry.
LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.
PAUL JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network