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It always seems to work here in America, no matter how many times it shouldn’t work and no matter how many times the only real outcome is more dead bodies. So, this time it was Trump’s turn. Run up the flag, kick off an armed conflict, send off the troops, wipe out the “enemy” to save lives, stick around to kill a lot more, lose a few of our own, and then solemnly declare that any American killed or wounded is a hero. Repeat as needed.

It is mind-numbing how easily Americans buy into this drama each and every time it happens. I am still waiting for the first mother of a dead soldier to take the folded flag they hand her and throw it into the face of the nearest saluting officer she can find. A few mothers like that and maybe the addiction to killing won’t be quite so satisfying.

This time around, Trump and his goons kicked off the death fest with a good old-fashioned assassination on January 3 in Baghdad.* Then, without missing a beat, it morphed into a “take out,” as in: “American officials assured the public that in order to save American lives, it was necessary to ‘take out’ the terrorist Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.” In a split second, the media, politicians, and most of the commentariat jumped onto the “take out” bandwagon, as if an assassination hadn’t occurred. It won’t be long before Chick-fil-A adds some Iranian sauce to one of its chicken concoctions and makes it available for “take out” only.

Overseas, in places closer to the killing fields of the Middle East, enthusiasm for continued carnage is less popular. Only Benjamin Netanyahu and his merry band of Israeli provocateurs seemed certain about the wisdom of Trump’s latest international moment of steel.** Then, everybody breathed a sigh of relief when Iran just laughed at us and sent missals flying through the sky to targets in Iraq without people in harm’s way. Trump didn’t get the joke, but since no Americans were killed, he called off the war. Maybe.

Then, on January 8, just as the stock markets were celebrating the war that wasn’t, Americans awakened to 176 dead bodies in a field in Iran, apparently folks winging their way to Kyiv from Teheran just after the bombs were bursting in Iraq. For some reason, a perfectly happy Ukraine International Airlines jet was blown out of the sky not long after takeoff, apparently by an Iranian missile fired by “mistake.” It was a relatively new Boeing 737 jet (yes, that Boeing). Luckily for world peace, no precious Americans were on board; most passengers were Iranian and Canadian citizens.*** So, Trump was left to worry about Boeing profits instead of blowing up some Iranian cultural sites.

If this were some fictional romance novel about a US President, his love for America, and his willingness to seek vengeance on those who harm the love of his life, it would be a nice diversion for the romance novel set. But it is real and really happening. At a minimum, Iranian General Soleimani, at least six others with him, and those 176 passengers and crew on the downed plane are really dead. Bad things can and usually do happen when major figures are assassinated by those who think that THIS killing will make things better.

In circumstances like this, the term “collateral damage” is casually used to distinguish among dead people. The dead people are just as dead, but only the intended dead people get top billing. Using Trump’s assassination and its aftermath as instructive, all the original attention was on the now-dead General Soleimani. What of the others traveling with him from the Baghdad Airport – collateral damage. All have names, families, maybe children, and, most importantly, are just as dead.

Iran’s initial retaliation produced no American casualties (the only important type of casualties in this example), but seems to have caused some Iranian officer enough fear of American retaliation on his homeland, that he gave the go-ahead to shoot down what we now know was a Ukrainian passenger jet.*** This is big-time collateral damage, but thankfully for world peace, no Americans died in this part of the misadventure either. But think about it, if Trump doesn’t pull the assassination trigger, those Canadians, Iranians and the others on the plane would likely be alive and well.

I am sure that the families and friends of the collaterally damaged will take great comfort in the fact that no Americans were on the plane and that, therefore, Trump didn’t have to keep this collateral damage ball rolling. Since irony is not Trump’s strong suit (what is), I imagine even an apology on behalf of the American people is beyond him.

Humans killing humans should never have become a good idea, but humankind is way beyond that. Killing humans is what we organize ourselves to do and to protect against. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. Each country there seems to treat the region as a gameboard, where winning is measured by the number of “righteous” causes violently advanced by each player.

Then, in the advanced form of the game, major powers are introduced to the gameboard. One, the American piece, features Christian warriors “taking out” Muslims to gain oil and to protect the sacred Israeli homeland for later Christian rituals. Other major powers have their own pieces and their own strategic goals.

The lesson here for Americans should be that this is not really a game. For way too long a time, at least back to the Vietnam War, America has led the way in identifying and exploiting killing fields around the globe for its own often-delusional self-interest. To make this work, the American war machine has to assure Americans that our dead people will count more than “their” dead people. That our dead people are heroes and that “their” dead people are vermin.

Sadly, America always uses this deeply flawed formula to justify killing more of “their” people in a seemingly endless game of catch up. As a nation, America will never stop the killing as long as its citizens remain addicted to burying its “heroes” in search of a better world.

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