“Is Trump starting a war with Iran?” The question, posed by Jacob Heilbrunn of the National Interest this week, is easily answered. With John Bolton serving as America's National Security Adviser, it's a go. In fact, armed conflict is an historic inevitability with him. Three years ago, he told the New York Times of the “inconvenient truth”: only military action will work with Iran, not sanctions, not nuclear deals.

Bombs away, says John Bolton

If belligerence is any indication, we're poised to strike. Bolton is the same militarist who pushed Bush to war in Iraq.

He's a quick-draw cowboy, and Trump is a wannabe. The way each talks, it's as if we have no history, no knowledge of the horrors of war. And in this nuclear age, any military action could be the end of us. Artist Leonard Baskin saw the future during the Cold War and created the giant woodcut he called “Hydrogen Man.” The image, detailing the effects of radioactive contamination, showed a figure reduced to a boneless mound of protoplasm. In the artist's words, noted on the exhibit label at the Museum of Modern Art in 1954, “Our human frame, our gutted mansion, our enveloping sack of beef and ash is yet a glory.”

When ignorance is not bliss

Talk about “inconvenient truth,” how can these Washington gunslingers be so oblivious to the consequences of war today?

Maybe Trump and Bolton should be pressed to see “Hydrogen Man,” or else learn the lessons of enmity from anti-war novels like “Novel Without a Name” by Duong Thu Huong of Vietnam in 1991. Particular lines live in the mind as graphically as Baskin's woodcut: “There is no way back to the source, to the place where the pure, clear water once gushed forth.

The river has cut across the countryside, the town dragging refuse and mud in its wake.” The key part of those simple, declarative sentences is, “there is no way back.”

When art and literature can make a difference

Another novel to wake up the president and his National Security Adviser to the collateral damage of aggression could be Erich Maria Remarque's story about the monstrosities of the first world war, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” They could see their cowboy ways played out by German teens pumped on the glory of battle and ultimately destroyed by it.

Even before death, they knew better when they witnessed soldiers' lives thrown away by commanders sitting in comfort away from the front lines. Trump and Bolton are the latter-day commanders – indifferent, uninterested.

Crash course in sensitivity training

But given that Trump doesn't like to read, he could skip to the final chapter of Remarque's book where the last teen standing, left to remember the nightmare of war, kills himself as the arm declares, “All quiet on the Western Front.”

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