Iran affair takeaways: fighting another losing battle

Ellen Wang, Viewpoint Editor

Donald Trump ordered a drone strike to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, whom the administration has considered responsible for several attacks on American citizens and property, on Jan. 3. Tensions have been intensifying between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled out of an Obama-era nuclear deal intended to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran responded by launching missile strikes at two U.S. military bases in Iraq and the U.S. announced new sanctions on Tehran and the deployment of more troops.

Here are a few key takeaways.

 

You’re Not Getting Drafted Because Poor People Exist (and will continue to be exploited for a long time)

The military draft ended in 1973 and has since operated on a volunteer basis. However, military recruiting targets young people, especially those in poorer communities, because the armed services require large numbers each year to maintain their population and younger people are more likely to stay and build a career after joining. 

A 2008 study from Syracuse University found that “the all-volunteer force continues to see overrepresentation of the working and middle classes, with fewer incentives for upper-class participation.” Military service appeals more to marginalized communities in offering the potential of free rides to higher education, insurance coverage or accelerated paths to citizenship.

According to the Selective Service System, an independent government agency created during World War I, some of the most common reasons for draft deferment were college enrollment or being or related to an elected official. The Selective Service System in 2020 still requires everyone ages 18-25 male-assigned at birth to register. If the mandatory draft returns, students with more affluence and access to higher education are at an advantage.

Donald Trump avoided the draft for the Vietnam War four times for medical disqualification despite being an active athlete through a favor from a doctor (a quid pro quo, if you will). Bill Clinton was a congresswoman’s son. Wealthy men during the Civil War hired substitutes to take their place in the draft. Marginalized communities continue to be disproportionately affected by the repercussions of war and powerful, rich people continue to make split-second decisions at the expense of innumerable innocent civilians and citizens. Irvine citizens have leverage over underserved communities in avoiding the “dirty work necessary to protect our national security.”

 

This Looks Familiar…

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t remember 9/11. Or Bush lying about finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify a trillion-dollar war, capitalizing on the widespread fear in the American public after the attacks on various American political landmarks orchestrated by al-Qaeda, a militant Islamist multi-national organization founded by Osama bin Laden. 

The Washington Post published in Dec. 2019 an extensive investigation of the lies the U.S. government propagated to the public about the ongoing war in Afghanistan through the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations—none managed to deliver on their promises regarding the war. An estimated 160,000 people have died in the longest war the U.S. has ever been involved in, yet previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war reveal the U.S. was “devoid in a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan.” 

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) was created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone. A series of reports included findings that “the stabilization strategy and the programs used to achieve it were not properly tailored to the Afghan context, and successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops and civilians.”

According to various people directly involved in the war, including a National Security Council official, there was constant pressure from the White House and Pentagon to produce metrics to show success in the war effort, despite hard evidence to the contrary, thus leading to manipulation of figures throughout the war.

In an age of misinformation and unrestrained propaganda, we need to be especially cognizant of the same patterns history has seen repeated over and over. The atrocities involved in war are only accepted in the dire and tense situations bred through fear and resentment, often exacerbated by over-exaggeration from the press. The New York Times was complacent in whitewashing the lies propagated by the Bush administration in order to justify intervention in Iraq and cover up ulterior economic motives.

 

We Should Be Extremely Concerned For and Stand With Iranians and Muslims

Many American citizens will be indirectly affected by the Iran affair, but it’s not us we should be worried about. 

Less than 24 hours after Trump’s decision to assassinate Suleimani, Iranian-Americans were being detained and questioned while trying to reenter the United States by Customs and Border Protection agents. 

Time and time again throughout history, from the wake of the 9/11 attacks to the Red Scare of the ‘60s, the masses have accepted the infringement of civil liberties in order to protect their own security, willingly sacrificing the safety of certain groups of people to secure their own.

The wrongful treatment and harmful caricature of Muslims after 9/11 has especially exposed this rot in our democracy. Anti-Muslim efforts singled out Muslims for special treatment in domestic counter-intelligence, devoting extraordinary FBI resources to mass surveillance, undercover informants, and entrapment. 

Even more than a war on Muslims, this profiling without any suspicion of guilt erodes our democratic ideals and beliefs in universal human freedoms that will inevitably give way for worse down the line. A society that allows for the infringement of liberties in certain cases does not guarantee protection for anyone.