We’ve heard this anecdote before. The military or some group in government gives President Trump the most extreme option in a list of options knowing that it will make the other options seem more reasonable. Then damned if Trump doesn’t go with the most extreme option.
I can’t remember where we’ve all heard that one before, but I know we have. I think it was the so-called Muslim travel ban. Or maybe it was shutting down the government to get border wall funding. But we have heard this anecdote.
Then it made it into this New York Times story that sought to undermine the President’s justification for killing Qassim Soleimani.
In the chaotic days leading to the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, top American military officials put the option of killing him — which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq — on the menu they presented to President Trump. They didn’t think he would take it. In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.
We’ve heard that before. It sounds too much like progressive fan fiction to be true and, again, we have heard it before.
But now we hear something else. NBC News reports that President Trump said to kill Soleimani seven months ago at the urging of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton.
The NBC News report directly contradicts the New York Times report. Both are designed to undermine the reason for killing Soleimani, which even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says was necessary to stop an imminent attack.
So which is it?
In the rush to undermine the President for supposedly not keeping his story straight, the press is directly contradicting each other with off the record sources who are supposedly familiar with rationales.
In fact, the only consistency in any of the stories is that the Joint Chiefs, senior military and intelligence leadership, and the President’s top advisors all say an imminent attack was being prepared by Soleimani and killing him would undermine preparations. Who should we believe? The consistent voices including within the professional military or the anonymous sources recycling old stories and anecdotes to reapply afresh?