Maple Leaf Rage

When I first saw a tweetstorm by Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain blaming Donald Trump for Iran’s shootdown of Ukranian Airlines Flight 572 – on his company’s official Twitter feed, no less – I was immediately reminded of the immortal words of Ann Coulter:

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

The far-right commentator was mourning the loss of her friend Barbara Olson in the 9/11 attacks when she penned these provocative, fiery words. I have no doubt Coulter was sincerely stricken with grief and anger when she wrote this. But that sure doesn’t excuse it.

Michael McCain isn’t nearly as repellent a person as Coulter, and his angry tweets don’t come close to her borderline promotion of genocide. But in both cases, their heartfelt grief led to lash out at people who didn’t deserve it. And, yes, there are many good reasons to lash out against Trump, but this one isn’t on him.

After the Flight 752 disaster killed his colleague’s wife and 11-year-old son, Michael McCain, chief executive of Maple Leaf Foods Inc., took to Twitter on Sunday night to admonish the Trump administration for escalating tensions with Iran.

“I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry,” McCain wrote on Maple Leaf Foods’ official Twitter account. “A MLF colleague of mine lost his wife and family this week to a needless, irresponsible series of events in Iran.”

McCain is at the helm of a major Canadian meat processing empire, with 12,500 employees and production facilities in Canada and the U.S., including a planned $310-million plant-based protein plant in Indiana.

[…]

Without ever naming Donald Trump — referring to him instead “a narcissist in Washington” — McCain criticized the president’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear agreement and the recent U.S. killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Iran retaliated with missile strikes on U.S. military positions in Iraq, then hours later, Iran fired on Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 on board, the majority of them en route to Canada via Kiev. After initially denying any involvement, Iran admitted on Friday to shooting down the plane, calling it a “disastrous mistake” caused by human error. Iran said the air defences were fired in error while on alert after the missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq.

It would be one thing if McCain blamed Trump and Iran for the shootdown, like this past weekend’s Chronicle Herald cartoon. I still don’t think it would be accurate, but at least it would acknowledge that the people who actually shot down the plane must bear some responsibility or their actions.

But if you knew nothing else about the incident, you would read McCain’s tweets and assume the U.S. shot down the jet. Whether he meant to or not, McCain treats the Iranian government and military not as professionals but as wild animals who just can’t help themselves.

Which, ironically, isn’t that far off from the way people like Coulter view the people of Iran – many of whom are risking their lives to hold their own leaders accountable for this disaster.

It's Iran's fault. Period.

As we argue about who is really responsible for the downing of Ukranian International Airlines Flight 752, Tom Nichols – whose anti-Trump credentials are second to none – places the blame squarely on the country that actually shot down the plane.

Trump is a reckless, ignorant fool. He is not responsible for everything bad that happens in the world, and to say otherwise is to deny everyone else any responsibility for their own actions.

In other contexts, that would be considered racism.

As for Iranian cooperation and openness in finding out what happened, this is not a promising sign:

Our worst fears confirmed

The crash of Ukranian International Airlines Flight 752, which claimed the lives of 176 people – including 62 Canadians, many of them with connections to Halifax – was likely caused by an Iranian surface-to-air missile:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says intelligence now indicates the Ukrainian passenger aircraft that crashed outside of Tehran on Wednesday, killing everyone on board — including 138 people destined for Canada — was shot down by an Iranian missile. 

“We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” he said during a news conference in Ottawa, adding that it might have been an unintentional act.

[…]

The crash happened just hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers, in response to U.S. President Trump’s decision to order the targeted killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani

When asked if the U.S. air strike was in part to blame for the crash, Trudeau said only that Canada needs a thorough investigation.

I’m not normally inclined to give the Iranian government any benefit of the doubt, but I really don’t think they intended to destroy this civilian plane. At a time when they’re on the verge of war with the United States, this is the last thing they needed. Plus, 82 Iranians were among the victims.

When the U.S. Navy shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988, it was because they mistook the plane for a fighter jet. The downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine was likely carried out by Russian-backed separatists who thought they were firing on military aircraft. The most likely explanation is that the same kind of terrible, negligent mistake happened here.

As for President Trump, I guess you can say he bears some responsibility for this, in the same way President Johnson bears some responsibility for Forrest Gump’s friend Jenny getting abused by her boyfriend. The word “crossfire” is being thrown around, but at the time this happened only one side was actually doing any shooting.

The orange one himself is much less bellicose than you might expect:

Trump declined to share his theories around why the plane crashed but said he thought “something very terrible happened. Very devastating.”

“Well, I have my suspicions. It was very – I don’t want to say that…because other people have those suspicions also.”

He also said someone “on other side” could have “made a mistake.”

Trump is being roasted online for his cavalier remarks about the plane ” flying in a pretty rough neighborhood.” Maybe not the most sensitive way to put it, but my goodness, could you realistically expect anything better?

World War III? Not necessarily

“Let’s Go Places.”

Gen. Qasem Soleimani is dead. Good.

And now we’re speculating about whether this could trigger a Third World War. Not good.

David Schanzer, a terrorism expert and professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, warned the killing “will strengthen the Iranian regime domestically, the exact opposite goal of our policy.”

“President Trump’s decision to escalate hostilities by killing Qassem Soleimani epitomizes the failure of his strategy for dealing with Iran,” he said in a press release obtained by McClatchy News. “ … By engaging in a unilateral act of aggression inside Iraq, we have pushed our Iraqi allies even closer to Iran.”

Quincy Institute analyst and Colby College International Relations Professor Steven Simon said it is unlikely weapons of mass destruction will fall on a city such as Chicago in the near future.

Still, many on Twitter feared the worst.

People on Twitter always fear the worst. Still, while I’m shedding no tears for this guy, I’m anxious about what happens next. If the 21st century has taught us anything, it’s that killing even the most deserving bad guys doesn’t automatically result in peace.

The one halfway-decent thing you can say about the Trump Administration is that it hasn’t gotten America trapped in any more Middle Eastern wars, but who could possibly have any confidence in their ability to handle a major international crisis?

Hopefully, Daniel McCarthy’s take on this is correct:

Iran’s Islamic revolutionary regime might well want revenge. But is avenging Soleimani worth risking the regime’s existence? If killing him was an act of war, is this a war Iran is prepared to fight and win? How, exactly? Iran couldn’t win a war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s. Contrary to what neoconservatives might want you to think, Iran has not become a military superpower akin to Nazi Germany in the 30-odd years since then. Also contrary to what neoconservatives sometimes say, Iran is not irrational to the point of being suicidal. But some panicky anti-war supporters of President Trump have adopted this implausible view of Tehran. They think honor will demand that Iran retaliate, leading to out-and-out war.

But nation-states are not 18th-century gentlemen fighting duels. Most regimes are concerned above anything else with their own survival. This is as true for Iran as it is for North Korea, another country which is not about to attack the United States, despite what much of the press and foreign-policy world would like you to believe. 

Are US forces in the Middle East in danger of being targeted by Hezbollah or other Iranian proxies? Here too the stakes are clear. President Trump ordered the strike that killed Soleimani because Iranian-backed demonstrators and militias were harassing the US embassy in Iraq and an American contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in December. The Trump administration has said that Soleimani was planning more mischief, which is easy to believe: far from being a martyr to peace and non-interventionism, Soleimani was a man whose business was fomenting war and insurgency. It’s tempting to call him an Iranian neoconservative. He was in Iraq on a mission of exporting revolution.

[…]

Donald Trump was elected to put Washington’s emphasis back on the well-being of Americans, rather than on the imperial politics of the Middle East. A war with Iran would be a betrayal of his mandate — a war that would lead to other wars and more prolonged occupation of the region. His domestic agenda, all his policies on trade and immigration, would fall by the wayside in the same fashion that George W. Bush’s did as a result of the Iraq War. He would become another war president, and another failed president. But killing Soleimani doesn’t make that inevitable — on the contrary, by itself Soleimani’s death brings an end to one of the villains whose role in stoking anti-American violence in the region made it harder for us to leave. President Trump has struck a blow for peace.

“President Trump has struck a blow for peace.” I know those words, but that phrase makes no sense.