Trump and Pence Lie About Soleimani, Linking Iranian to 9/11, Benghazi - Rolling Stone
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Trump and Pence Demand Trust, Then Lie, Blaming Soleimani For Benghazi and 9/11

We’ve seen this before. It ends terribly

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 18: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence listen during a conference call with the International Space Station on October 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump spoke with NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch as the pair became the first women to conduct an all female space walk outside the space station.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence listen during a conference call with the International Space Station on October 18, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s 2003 all over again. In a throwback to the lies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are spreading misinformation to justify military aggression in the Middle East. 

Trump ordered the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, carried out late last week via a drone strike at Baghdad international airport. There’s no gainsaying that Soleimani was a ruthless leader who orchestrated bloody militia violence throughout the region. But the leaders of the current U.S. administration are distorting his record — even as they’re asking for Americans to trust that the killing was necessary to preempt what Trump called “imminent and sinister attacks” on U.S. interests.

Pence got the ball rolling Friday in a series of tweets enumerating the “worst atrocities” of an “evil man,” in which he painted General Soleimani as part of the 9/11 plot. In the eleventh tweet of his thread, Pence asserted Soleimani had:

Pence’s math is muddled of course. There were 19 hijackers on 9/11 — and all but one of them were from Iran’s religious and geopolitical rival, Saudi Arabia.

Far more important and disturbing: Pence’ implication that Iran was involved in the 9/11 plot was explicitly debunked by the 9/11 Commission, the formal federal inquest that followed the terrorist attack. Al Qaeda members, including future 9/11 hijackers, did transit through Iran to Afghanistan because the country did not stamp Saudi passports at the time. But the commission concluded: “We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack,” and it noted: “At the time of their travel through Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the specific details of their operation.” The commission report does not include any mention of Soleimani.

The White House did not respond to a request for a source on Pence’s tweet. Pence’s press secretary, Katie Waldman, responded on Twitter with a link to a State Department document:

 

Yet this report also does not corroborate Pence’s tweet. It restates that Iran had allowed “several of the 9/11 hijackers, to transit its territory on their way to Afghanistan for training and operational planning,” but it does not name Soleimani.

In short, the administration has provided no evidence that Soleimani personally assisted the transit of future 9/11 hijackers. And the formal investigation into the 9/11 attacks absolves Iran of fore-knowledge and operational involvement in the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Whatever other sins Soleimani may have committed, he was not to blame for this atrocity.

For his part, Trump threw conspiratorial fuel on the fire. In the aftermath of the drone strike, Trump retweeted a claim that Soleimani had orchestrated the 2012 attack on diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. Trump retweeted a claim by Jack Prosobiec — an alt-right troll infamous for backing the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory — that Soleimani was “responsible for Benghazi”:

In fact, this claim is contradicted by the findings of the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi, which concluded in its 800 page 2016 report that: “The Committee found no evidence of involvement by the Iranian government, specifically he Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Quds Force (IRGC–QF),” which Soleimani led.

The fringe Iran-did-Benghazi theory springs from a book published by the president of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. This outfit sounds authoritative, but its website looks like it was designed in GeoCities, and its advisory board is stocked with notoriously unreliable neocons, including former Defense Department official Frank Gaffney and former CIA director James Woolsey — both of whom touted debunked theories seeking to blame Iraq for 9/11.

For anyone who lived through the build-up to the Iraq war (or unpacked the official lies that were used to justify that conflict), the misinformation now coming from this White House is an unwelcome flashback. But we should not be surprised. While Pence has less of a reputation for lying than the president, he participated in the deceptions of the Iraq conflict, declaring on the House floor following the invasion that WMD had been found in Iraq. (What had been discovered were retired stockpiles from Iraq’s long-shuttered chemical weapons program.)

Trump’s lies are habitual and bottomless and his social media is often full of garbage. Yet it is striking that he is retweeting a fringe theory from notorious source at the same time that he’s declared that his Twitter feed is formal enough to declare war:

 

The White House is also peddling in “alternative facts” precisely at a time when the administration is demanding that the nation trust that the killing of Soleimani was necessary to prevent an “imminent” attack. Yet that claim too has cracks in it, according a reporter for the New York Times:

Reporting by the Washington Post suggests that the attack — far from being based on urgent new information — had come about after months of plotting, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finally convincing Trump to kill the Iranian general.

The post truth hellscape of the Trump administration’s domestic misadventures appears to have finally bled over into foreign policy — undermining the single virtue of the Trump administration, that it had no appetite for the reckless militarism of the Bush/Cheney gang. And now the nation stands again at the precipice of a new conflict with a formidable Middle East power, with misinformation and outright lies buttressing the cause for war.

Time is a flat circle.

In This Article: 9/11, Benghazi, Donald Trump, Iran, Mike Pence

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