When I found out this morning that Iran had shot down a U.S. drone, I read the story with interest. Not surprisingly, the U.S. and Iran differed on whether the drone was over Iranian airspace when it was intercepted. Surprisingly, however, I was skeptical about the United States military’s assertion that it was not.
It was a pretty short interval of disbelief, but it happened. Since President Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the multi-party Iran nuclear deal and labeled the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, Iran has been engaging in provocative behavior. They planted mines on oil tankers last week to disrupt the oil markets and shipping lanes, and they likely attacked other oil tankers weeks earlier with drones. They announced that they will begin enriching and stockpiling uranium again which increases the risk of nuclear conflict in the volatile Middle East. And they have threatened the United States with a military and foreign policy disaster should the latter choose to attack Iran.
In so many ways, the obvious party to believe in this dispute about the facts is the U.S. military. The drone was most likely outside of Iranian airspace when it was shot down.
So why the moment of skepticism? For me, and I suspect many others, it is the contagion of disbelief in everything that President Trump touches.
I believe I have good reason to doubt what comes out of the EPA and Department of Education. Likewise, the Commerce Department has been caught in many lies and the person at the State Department in charge arms control negotiations with Russia failed to disclose that unregistered Russian agent Maria Butina attended her wedding.
But the U.S. military? Why would I pause for even a second before trusting the military’s version over Iran’s?
Well, of course, if a mistake was made and the drone actually was over Iranian airspace without authorization, the military may not wish to disclose that. And then, maybe there was approval at a mid- to high-level in the chain of command, and those officers wish to keep their jobs. There’s that possibility. Just look at the Pentagon Papers from the Vietnam War. There’s a strong incentive to keep bad news quiet.
But still, believe Iran?
No, it’s the Trump effect. I have gotten so used to blatant lies coming out of the administration that it is tainting everything that falls under the president’s control, and unfortunately, that now includes the military.
The Trump taint is found in the president’s tweet that Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan would withdrawal from consideration for the permanent position “so that he can spend more time with his family,” following an allegation of domestic abuse. The Trump taint is also found anytime he breaks from the narrative that military leaders put out over one international situation or another. How long before those military leaders try to guess what the president wants to hear and shape their stories to fit.
Let’s face it. Trump would not want to hear that the downing of the drone was justifiable under international law because it was over Iranian airspace. It may just seem best to put out the story the president wants to hear rather than risk finding out that you have been fired via Trump tweet.