Taking The Profits Out Of Health Care.

In the US, health care organizations were once required to be nonprofit. But, following WWII, companies were short of workers. To entice them, they began offering health insurance. At first, it was non-profit. But as the market for company-provided health insurance grew, it attracted for-profit competitors offering a variety of plans.

The inevitable consequence was to dramatically increase the cost of health care, making it unaffordable for an ever-growing number of Americans. And though the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has helped, the cost of health care rose from an average of $355 per person in 1970 to $11,172 in 2019. Accounting for inflation, that’s an increase of roughly 6-fold!

Indeed, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), US spending on health care reached $3.6 trillion in 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available) 17.7 percent of our GDP. And the earnings of health insurance companies exceeded $236 billion in 2018.

Perhaps the biggest winner in the health care industry is big Pharma. According to Statista, Americans spent $360.3 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2019 – up $15.8 billion from the previous year. And up a whopping $239.3 billion from 2000. That increase is reflected in the cost of most medications. A case in point: For asthma patients like me (of which there are nearly 20 million in the US), the annual cost of preventative medication is roughly $2,500 per year – almost double what it cost less than 10 years ago. Has the drug changed or improved over that period? No, only the price has changed. And, of course, the profits for the manufacturer and their distributors.

The increase in the cost of many other pharmaceuticals is even more dramatic.

Pharmaceutical companies justify the increases by claiming that the money is needed for research and development. Yet, you, the taxpayer, contribute roughly 30 percent of the cost of development of pharmaceuticals. Despite the increased costs and your contributions, there has been little increase in FDA approvals for drugs in recent years. That’s mostly due to the companies’ focus on acquisition and mergers. In other words, the companies are investing their profits in stock buyouts rather than research and development.

Since 1996, there have been 46 mergers and acquisitions of the world’s pharmaceutical giants. Over that same period, big Pharma has spent billions to lobby the US government. According to Statista, the industry spent $281.4 billion to lobby our government in 2019. And big Pharma is not alone. Organizations representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, medical equipment manufacturers and health insurers all spent billions on lobbying.

In total, the health care industry spent $711.3 billion on lobbying for 2019.

Is it any wonder then that our health care costs keep rising at rates far greater than inflation? Is it any wonder that we pay 4 times more per person for health care in the US than any other country in the world while experiencing steadily declining results?

Far too much of your health care expenditures are going to support the multi-million dollar salaries of executives, lobbyists and the profits of shareholders.

So, when political candidates are asked how they expect to pay for the cost of single-payer health care such as Medicare For All, the answer is simple. You’re already paying for it. But, instead of the money being used for medical care and the development of new technologies and treatments. It’s being used to line the pockets of executives and investors.

By moving to a single-payer health care system like most of the world’s advanced nations, you will pay more in taxes. Nevertheless, your savings should be significant. You and your employer will no longer have to pay for health insurance, deductibles, and co-pays. You will not be billed for seeing your doctor, for laboratory tests, for visiting the Emergency Room, for treatments or for needed stays in a hospital. As the single-payer, the government will also be able to negotiate the cost of pharmaceuticals saving you even more money. So your savings will continue to add up over your lifetime.

And no American will ever be denied health care again.

There’s yet another benefit that’s seldom mentioned: By removing the responsibility for providing health insurance from employers, there will be less incentive for employers to move jobs offshore. (Currently, the cost of an employee’s benefits is roughly equal to the cost of an employee’s salary.) Indeed, employers could use the savings to increase salaries and pay a more livable wage. That would not only provide a substantial boost to our economy. It would result in greater tax revenue that could be used to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create even more high-paying jobs.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Five – Defense and Foreign Relations)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” And certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Following are but a few examples:

North Korea: Trump promised to bring an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. In fact, after emboldening Kim Jong-Un with two meetings, North Korea has not only accelerated its program. It has developed long range missiles capable of reaching North America.

Afghanistan and Iraq: Trump promised he would bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, after his ill-conceived assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani, we now have 14,000 more troops in the Middle East than before he took office.

ISIS: Trump promised he’d defeat ISIS. But it was the Kurds, Iran and Russia who did the most to defeat ISIS. And after they helped defeat ISIS, Trump abandoned the Kurds to be slaughtered by Turkey. He then provoked Iran by assassinating its leading general.

Palestine: Candidate Trump said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be easy. Apparently, what he really meant was that it would be easy to pander to Israel while completely ignoring Palestinian issues. His actions have been completely one-sided: Recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capitol, legitimizing the Israeli development of the West Bank, legitimizing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, and “negotiating” an Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” without Palestinian participation.

China: Trump promised that he’d declare China a currency manipulator on day one. But, since the election, his administration announced that China is not a currency manipulator.

Syria: Trump promised he wouldn’t bomb Syria before ordering the bombing of Syria.

Russia: Trump promised that “nobody would be tougher on Russia than me.” But his election was aided by Russia and he kowtowed to Vladimir Putin at a summit meeting in Finland. Then he delayed congressional-imposed sanctions intended as punishment for interfering in our elections and took the word of Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence agencies.

On top of his broken promises, Trump has undermined our relations with allies, weakened NATO, and withheld nearly $40 billion in military aid to help Ukraine in an attempt to collect dirt on a political rival.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Four – Military and Veterans)

In contrast to the many Emails and Tweets emanating from The Trump White House labeled “Promises Made. Promises Kept,” the Trump has broken far more promises than it has kept. Following are just those that relate to military families and veterans:

Respect For Military: Before the 2016 election, Trump said, “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.” Yet he famously avoided service in Vietnam by paying a doctor to claim he had bone spurs. During the campaign he also insulted a Gold Star family who lost their son in Iraq. And he called Sen. John McCain a “loser” for being shot down over Vietnam.

Before the election, he said, “If they listen to the military people, we probably wouldn’t be having an ISIS right now.” Yet after taking office, he said he knows more about ISIS than the generals do.

Caring for Military Families: Trump promised that military service members and their families would have the best medical care, education and support – “both when they serve and when they return to civilian life.” And though he did increase the already bloated military budget, much of it going for weapons we don’t need, he also transferred $2.5 billion in military funds to build his wall on the southern border. Those particular funds were earmarked for military counterdrug programs and for the replacement of dilapidated buildings and schools for the children of military families. And Trump intends to divert yet another $7.2 billion in 2020.

Non-Citizen Soldiers: The US has had a long-standing policy of offering the opportunity to gain citizenship for immigrants who serve honorably in our military. There were 24,000 such service members in 2012 (the most current information available). But, following their service, the Trump administration has deported numerous such veterans. More recently, the administration stated that children born to non-citizen military and government personnel serving overseas will not automatically be considered US citizens.

VA Health Care: Trump promised to cut wait lists and scheduling backlogs at VA hospitals and clinics. But, instead of cutting wait lists, he cut VA funding. And he proposed cutting benefits for disabled vets once they reach the minimum age for Social Security benefits.

VA Hotline: Trump promised to set up a White House hotline to make sure no complaint about the VA would fall through the cracks. At this date, no such hotline exists.

Veterans’ Jobs: He promised to create jobs for veterans. Instead, he froze hiring for the federal workforce. That means federal agencies are unable to replace those who have retired from the federal workforce, eliminating job opportunities for more than 70,000 veterans per year. Many of these veterans are disabled making it difficult for them to find work elsewhere.

Wars: Trump promised to end the “endless wars” and bring our troops home. Yet, today, as a result of his failed diplomacy and ill-advised actions, we have more soldiers in the Middle East than when he took office.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Three – Immigration)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, some of the most notorious concern immigration. For example:

The Wall: When he announced his candidacy for president, Trump promised to build “a great wall on our southern border and have Mexico pay for it.” Instead, US taxpayers are paying $11 billion for the wall at the cost of $20 million per mile. The wall will dissect wildlife refuges, the National Butterfly Center, Native American lands, farms, and golf courses. And, if completed, it will block US residents from accessing much of the Rio Grande. The final cost of the wall could reach an estimated $21 billion.

Illegal Immigration: Trump promised to end all illegal immigration. (In reality, illegal immigration had steadily declined since 2000.) But there was actually an uptick in 2018 despite Trump’s “Zero Tolerance Policy.” Under that policy, Trump ordered a ban on virtually all Muslim immigration. His administration ripped children, including infants and toddlers, away from their parents. It placed immigrants, even toddlers, in cages without enough room to sleep and without access to water and the basic needs for hygiene. In addition, Trump purposely slowed the process of reviewing the refugee status of immigrants forcing most to stay in dangerous camps along the border.

At the same time, Trump labeled African nations and other predominantly black and brown nations “shithole” countries and wondered aloud why we couldn’t have more immigrants from countries like Norway. (In other words, he expressed his preference for immigrants that are white and Christian.)

Foreign Workers: Trump promised that Americans would stop losing jobs to foreign workers. Yet, until the media reported on his own hiring practices, his own resorts continued to rely on undocumented workers. And, even after dismissing many long-time workers, he continues to rely on foreigners. Mar-a-Lago is a case in point: Despite receiving hundreds of applications from US citizens, Trump instead hired foreign workers to help maintain the property and to serve his guests.

DACA: Despite promising to immediately terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump said that “we’re going to show great heart” toward DACA recipients. Again, after taking office, Trump stated that “they shouldn’t be worried. I do have a big heart.” Nevertheless, shortly after making that statement, he announced that he would terminate the program. To date, most of the more than 700,000 DACA recipients remain in limbo not knowing what to expect. And some DACA recipients, including US military veterans have been deported to the countries they left as children and scarcely remember.

Removing Undocumented Immigrants: Trump promised to remove all of the more than 11 million undocumented workers from the US. Unfortunately, this is one of the promises he has tried to keep. But, if he actually succeeds, the impact on the US economy will be devastating. In addition to the cost of removing them, which is estimated at $103.9 billion, the loss to our GDP will be roughly $1.6 trillion per year as estimated by the Harvard Kennedy School – money that is distributed throughout our economy. In addition, in 2014 it was estimated that undocumented workers contributed $38 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

Moreover, if he chooses to remove all immigrants who have illegally worked in the US, he will have to deport his third and current wife, Melania, who worked as a model before obtaining a green card.

Chain Migration: Trump promised to end so-called chain migration – the practice of legal immigrants bringing their families to the US. He hasn’t. And, if he had, his wife’s parents would not have been permitted to immigrate to the US.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Two – Health Care)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, many concern health insurance and health care. Following are but a few of his broken promises:

Insurance Premiums: Trump promised to allow individuals to deduct health insurance premiums from taxes. He hasn’t.

Affordable Care Act: Trump promised he’d repeal and replace the ACA with something “beautiful” that would provide “insurance for everybody.” But he has offered no replacement. Further, his administration has chosen to not defend the ACA in court against claims by several rightwing state Attorneys General that the ACA is unconstitutional. If the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs, up to 20 million Americans will lose access to affordable health care.

Pre-Existing Conditions: Trump promised to protect all Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. But, if the ACA is ruled unconstitutional as Trump hopes, private insurers will, once again, be able to deny coverage to tens of millions of Americans for pre-existing conditions.

Medicare and Medicaid: Trump promised that he wouldn’t “cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid as other Republicans want.” But his 2020 budget cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, $845 billion from Medicare over 10 years, and $25 billion from Social Security over 10 years. Moreover, he recently said that he will take a look at more cuts to Medicare and Social Security at the end of this year, presumably after the election.

Social Security Disability Insurance: Despite Trump’s promises, his budget cut retroactive pay for disabled under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by 50 percent over a 10-year period which began in 2019. Retroactive pay covers the time between when people are unable to work and when they apply for benefits. These cuts, along with cuts to SNAP (food stamps), will impose great financial harm to the disabled.

Drug Prices: Trump promised he’d cut drug prices by negotiating “like crazy” with drug companies. He hasn’t. Instead, drug prices have gone up and the catastrophic Medicare Part D threshold (the so-called donut hole) has risen by $1,250 in 2020.

Given his many lies and broken promises, why would anyone trust anything Trump says? As Senator Romeny once said, “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part One – The Economy)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” Certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But let’s look at Trump’s promises about the economy. You’ll see that the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Here are just a few:

Deficit and Debt: Trump promised to eliminate the federal deficit and reduce the debt. He hasn’t. The deficit is expected to reach $1 trillion for 2020 and the debt has soared to more than $23 trillion. And, recently, he was recorded saying that the debt doesn’t matter because “I won’t be here when it blows up.”

GDP Growth: Trump promised he would grow the GDP by 4 percent per year and maybe more. The reality is that the GDP has grown at a rate of approximately 2 percent per year – a growth rate lower than all but the first years of the Obama administration.

Trade Deals: Trump promised he would negotiate better deals with China, Canada and Mexico. Instead, he started a trade war with China passing the cost of tariffs onto US consumers. His trade war also forced many US farmers into bankruptcy despite $16 billion in subsidies that have mostly benefited the richest farmers.

Taxes: Trump promised he’d cut taxes giving the average US family a $4,000 annual pay raise. Instead, he cut taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. 53 percent of all Americans will see their taxes rise.

Tax Loopholes: Trump promised to close tax loopholes such as the “carried interest” loophole for private-equity managers, hedge fund managers, and real estate partners. He hasn’t. Indeed, his tax bill provides additional loopholes for…wait for it…real estate developers.

Infrastructure: Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But, after his tax cut and increase in military spending, there’s no money left for infrastructure.

Outsourcing Jobs: Trump promised he would stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. Instead, Trump is subsidizing companies that export jobs. As a result, the off-shoring of jobs for some major US manufacturers has reached record numbers.

Coal Jobs: Trump promised to bring back jobs in the coal industry. He hasn’t. Even after he relaxed pollution restrictions on coal mining and coal power plants, the number of coal-related jobs has remained steady.

Steel Jobs: Trump promised to protect American steel jobs so he imposed tariffs on foreign-made aluminum and steel. The tariffs protected some jobs. But our industries must now pay more for the materials, which has threatened jobs in other industries, such as auto manufacturing and construction. And the additional cost is passed on to consumers and taxpayers. It has been estimated that 400,000 jobs may be lost as a result of the tariffs.

Winning: Trump promised that we would all get tired of so much winning under his leadership. And, though the economy has grown under Trump, it has grown at a slower rate than under his predecessor. Likewise, fewer jobs have been created under Trump and the important employment-to population-ratio has slowed since Trump took office. At the same time, income and wealth inequality have accelerated as a result of the Trump tax cuts. Indeed, those of us who are not among the top 1 percent have not experienced a lot winning.

Given that the Washington Post fact-checkers have determined that Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading claims since taking office, it should come as no surprise that he has broken many of his campaign promises.

Journalistic Malpractice.

As a graduate of journalism school, an advertising copywriter, a teacher, an author, a journalist, a political commentator and a long-time critic of media, I am horrified with the current status of journalism.

Certainly, there are brilliant and dedicated investigative reporters who work long hours, often at the risk of their own safety, to bring us the information we need to be informed citizens and voters. Many have lost their lives by reporting the uncomfortable truth about powerful and dangerous people. Just in 2019, 49 journalists were murdered around the globe (a death toll that was actually the lowest in 16 years). But while the number of journalists killed dropped in 2019, the number jailed in 2019 climbed to 289 (an increase of 16 percent from the previous year). Most were jailed in China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for daring to publish stories that were unflattering to the government and the autocrats in power.

Even in the US, Trump and his supporters continue to call journalists the “enemy of the people.”

While it is true that there are media organizations doing great harm to our nation, they are not the ones Trump’s supporters imagine. Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Breitbart, rightwing radio, Facebook, various hate groups, and some churches are the true purveyors of fake news.

By unquestioningly repeating Trump’s statements, these media outlets regularly tell us that up is down, black is white, and false is true. Indeed, Trump and these media have led to the creation of a new industry of fact-checking that has been overwhelmed by Trump’s more than 15,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. Worse, the vicious lies about political opponents, people of color, women, gays, the poor, immigrants and foreign rivals too often lead to violence.

Even the media that have sterling reputations for accuracy have lowered their standards in their quest for speed and ratings or readership. Determined to be first to report a story, they sometimes rely on information from questionable sources. In an attempt to seem unbiased, they host guests from both major parties and permit them to engage in shouting matches filled with opinions and false information. They hire columnists who offer more opinion than fact. They seek the most sensational aspect of a story allowing sensation to overwhelm information. And, when unable to find controversy, they attempt to generate it.

The latest example is the exaggerated spat between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Apparently finding it too difficult to contrast the candidates’ ideas and policies, the media seized upon the superficial and sensational. It’s not that they truly believe that such personal conflicts matter. It’s merely because they believe sensational controversies create profits by attracting audiences. Since virtually every media platform is driven by profits, their success is measured less by accuracy and reliability than by ratings and readership. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the potential audience for television and print news continues to dwindle as more and more people “cut the cord” of cable TV and tune their smart TVs to entertainment provided by Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc. So the competition for attention is greater than ever.

It is this thirst for controversy and sensationalism that paved the way for Donald J. Trump. In 2015 and 2016, the media was filled with everything Trump. Not because the media liked him or believed his outrageous statements. But because they felt that he would be good for ratings. At the same time, the only media attention given to his opponent, Hillary Clinton, centered around the sensational accusations her enemies promoted – accusations for which she has since been fully exonerated.

Not surprisingly, there are also legitimate reasons for media failures. Most traditional media outlets have been purchased by large conglomerates. Like all corporations, they focus on increasing profits by increasing productivity. As a result, the budgets for news-gathering operations have been slashed. Reporters are expected to do more work with less time and money. They’re forced to take shortcuts. In addition, some newsrooms have hired young editors because they’re willing to work for less. These people, though they may be talented and energetic, lack experience, perspective and the context of history.

In addition, having torn down the firewalls between the newsrooms and business operations, these conglomerates sometimes dictate news coverage that is favorable to their greed and ambition.

Despite all of this, I believe there is a growing thirst among Americans for real information. Indeed, I think the growing superficiality of television and radio newscasts has led Americans to turn to the Web and social media for information. Online, they can search the websites of traditional news operations. They can find more in-depth news from around the globe. They can find legitimate websites that compile the top stories for them.

Unfortunately, they are also exposed to an overwhelming amount of false information and fake news stories – stories generated by hate groups and foreign rivals hoping to divide us.

The Web is filled with information created by ideologues, renegades, haters, and fakers. Yet, to date, our government and the social media platforms have, for the most part, refused to police it. Under Trump, the government has even stopped tracking the lies and hate-filled diatribes posted by white supremacists and other domestic terrorist groups.

It’s long past time for Americans to demand real and accurate journalism; to expose the liars and the phonies; to hold propagandists disguised as news sources accountable (I’m referring to you, Fox News Channel); to ask the government to reinstitute a form of the Fairness Doctrine that required media to operate in the public interest or lose their license to operate.

It’s time to demand the truth.

Two Different Sponsors Of Terror. Two Very Different US Responses.

The US annual terrorism report of 2017 named Iran as “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” But is it really? Even Trump, before the 2016 election, gave that title to Saudi Arabia, apparently basing his opinion on a leaked secret memo from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that stated Saudi donors “constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Indeed, there was good reason for Clinton and, by extension, Trump to feel that way. After all, Saudis comprised the majority of terrorists involved in 9/11 and they were funded by a Saudi citizen – Osama bin Laden. The Saudis also created the Taliban by teaching their extreme Wahabbist form of Islam to young Afghan refugee students during the Soviet-Afghan War. (Talib means student.) The Saudis continue to finance the Taliban. And, as if all that were not bad enough, the Saudi’s Wahabbism inspired ISIL or, as it is more commonly known as ISIS.

In addition, the Saudi royal family has long used its power and extreme religious beliefs to terrorize the citizens of Saudi Arabia. It tortures and incarcerates anyone who dares to defy its religious beliefs or openly criticizes the family. And it often publicly beheads the most outspoken dissidents, even crucifying their bodies following executions to threaten anyone else considering defiance. Commit a more serious crime and the Saudis will bury you up to your neck and stone you to death.

Yet the family’s brutality and excesses are largely ignored in the West because the Saudis have lots of money and oil. Of course, that fact did not go unnoticed by the Trumps and the Kushners who have relied on Saudi money to finance their developments. Indeed, one of Trump’s first official acts as president was to travel to Riyadh where he bowed to the royal family, placed his hand on a crystal globe and gushed about the Saudi’s purchase of weapons from the US. (It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has used those weapons to carry out a brutal war in Yemen, continuing to bomb and kill thousands of civilians as part of the near 1,400-year conflict between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam.)

Since Trump’s meeting in Riyadh, Trump’s ties with the Saudis have become as unshakeable as his ties with Putin. Even when the Saudi leader ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post contributor, Trump refused to hold him accountable or to even acknowledge his involvement. Not even the mass shooting of US military personnel by a Saudi at the Pensacola Air Station drew a rebuke from Trump.

As I’ve previously written, Iran, on the other hand, was a US ally until the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when it deposed the brutal monarchy of the Shah who had gained power after the 1953 coup of Iran’s democratically-elected Iranian prime minister orchestrated by the UK and US. The prime minister’s crime? He threatened to nationalize Iran’s oil reserves.

Our relationship with Iran has been exceedingly complicated ever since.

Following our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran, Iran’s goal has been to force the US to remove our military from the region. With that goal in mind, it has supported terrorist groups as proxies against both the US and Israel. In retaliation, the US imposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Yet we have occasionally worked together for common goals. Iranian militias helped the US and its allies end the violence in Iraq. They also helped fight against ISIS.

But it’s Iran’s support of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi militias that has led to its reputation as a sponsor of terrorism. Hezbollah is described by the US as the primary terrorist partner of Iran. Yet that claim is open for debate. To many, especially Palestinians and Lebanese, Hezbollah is a political party and a liberation movement that uses force to resist Israeli occupation.

Iran also supports Hamas, a group that has been labeled a terrorist organization since 1997. But some argue that Hamas is a resistance movement. Not a terrorist group. In addition, some claim Iran has links to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS. But those claims are murky at best. Indeed, Iran did as much to defeat ISIS as anyone, including the Kurds.

It must be emphasized that, unlike the Saudis, no Iranian has ever attacked Americans on American soil.

So which country is the greater sponsor of terror? Which nation commits the greater number of human rights violations against its own citizens? By those measures, it would be difficult to draw a clear line between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The obvious difference seems to be in how we treat them.

Trump’s Act Of War.

There is an old saying that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Never has that been more true than in describing Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani. Though Soleimani was reviled by Israel and the US for orchestrating terrorist attacks, he was celebrated in Iran for protecting his nation.

Indeed, Soleimani had a complex history. He first came to prominence during Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Iran – a war that resulted in the deaths of a million Iranians – a war supported by the US under the theory that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Soleimani is credited with creating and implementing the IED roadside bombs used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also credited with creating and supporting regional militias feared by Israel and others. Yet Soleimani led his militias to help bring an end to the War in Iraq. In addition, he fought against Iran’s and America’s common enemy: ISIS.

So, though Soleimani’s actions wounded and killed many US troops, one could reasonably argue that he also saved many. Moreover, he was a hero to many in Iran and arguably the second-ranking leader of the nation.

Was his assassination justified? Maybe. But it was most certainly foolhardy.

To put this into perspective, it should be noted that, not long ago, the US had begun the long process of normalizing relations with Iran. We had returned Iranian assets that were frozen in 1979 in exchange for an agreement that Iran would limit its nuclear program to peaceful uses. And, by all accounts, Iran was upholding its part of the bargain. That was hugely significant given the ugly history between our two nations.

In case you’re unaware, the ugliness began when, in 1953, the US helped Great Britain orchestrate a coup of the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran for daring to nationalize his nation’s oil industry. His overthrow led to a brutal dictatorship under the Shah who was considered a US ally. When the Shah escaped the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and was given safe haven by the US for medical treatment, the new Islamic Iranian government retaliated by invading our embassy and holding Americans captive.

Despite our history with Iran, there was an opportunity to negotiate a lasting peace. The government of Iran had moderated. Many of the people of Iran had demonstrated for more freedom. Many Iranians even looked to the US as friends.

Then Trump was installed as US president. Wanting to destroy his predecessor’s legacy, he quickly removed the US from the nuclear agreement. He increased economic sanctions on Iran. And though he relied on Iran and Soleimani to help defeat ISIS, when Soleimani no longer served a purpose to the US, and Trump was facing an impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination.

The consequences may well be devastating. Soleimani was not a rogue actor like bin Laden or al-Baghdadi. Rather, he was a sovereign nation’s highest-ranking general and second in command. Killing him by drone was nothing less than an act of war.

Further, Trump has shown that he cannot be trusted. Soleimani’s assassination comes on the heels of Trump throwing our Kurdish allies to the curb to be killed or displaced by the Turks. By not consulting our allies and others in the region before the assassination, Trump has shown a lack of respect because they, too, may be targeted by an angry Iran. And we have started a conflict that is almost certain to last generations.

Moreover, instead of weakening Iran, Trump’s rash action has strengthened it. If the US accedes to Iraq’s demand that the US remove our troops from Iraq, we will have less influence in the region. We will be leaving a weak Iraqi government and army to fend off what is certain to be renewed efforts by ISIS. That may well lead the Shiite majority Iraq to request the help of the Shiite majority Iran. If successful, the two nations will comprise part of a Shiite crescent surrounding Sunni nations – many of them our Middle Eastern allies. A strengthened Iran may well pose a greater threat to Israel.

And though, unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has never struck the US on US soil, it may well be motivated to do so. It knows it can’t win a war of confrontation with the US. So Iran’s only recourse is to fight an asymmetrical war through acts of terrorism and cyber attacks.

Worst of all, it appears that the Trump administration has no plan to deal with the consequences other than to threaten, bully and bluster, which is likely to escalate matters. So buckle up America. We’re in for a long, unnecessary fight.