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Minnich: Game of connect the dots begins with downing of civilian airliner

With truth being less and less relevant in the discussion of everything from politics to ethical standards, it might be useful to put aside the age-old rules of rhetorical debate and resort to still another game.

Let’s play connect the dots.

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You remember connect the dots. It still shows up in the Sunday comics and other venues for the amusement of those who like to be challenged and creative at the same time.

It begins with what looks like a sprinkling of random pencil points on a blank page, with a starting point and a finish line, like a maze with the path laid out but missing the walls. You have to look to the next numbered dot to continue making the drawing until you reach the end. It’s a mindless time-killer, but no worse than commercial TV. Maybe a step up, really.

It helps force the attention on the next move you make without being influenced by anyone’s compelling argument that each step in solving the puzzle is a matter of opinion or personal preference. B follows A here; or 2 follows 1 and so on.

Any puzzle needs a prompt. Let’s use the tragedy of 176 people being killed in the crash of a jetliner in Iran. Let’s examine the cause and effects of actions and inactions and the consequences.

One dot is the crash. It would not have happened if it had not been shot down by a missile. “If” is the key to a game of connect the dots.

The missile launch was a mistake. The mistake would not have been made if the Iranians were not on alert in expecting a retaliatory attack for an earlier decision to fire missiles at American military targets in Iraq — which, in turn, was a retaliation for an American attack that targeted an Iranian general changing planes in Iraq.

Retaliation for retaliation for retaliation; dot to dot to dot.

We were and remain an impulse away from world war.

What is presented as justification for all this — “He hit me, so I have to hit him back and he’d better stop now” — devolves into excuses and lies, which also have consequences.

At first, Iran denied it was a missile that brought down the plane. Then they denied it was their missile. Then they admitted it was their missile, but it was a mistake.

But the fact that they lied for several days infuriated the populace and the people, already stressed because of totalitarian rule at home and American sanctions that are pinching their economy and overall quality of life took to the streets demanding their rulers step down.

The people of Iran are revolting against the lies by their leadership.

Ironically, Americans continue to defend — or ignore — lies by their president, even when his own appointees fail to show any consistency in the artful misdirection and social media manipulations to cover up the fact that the killing of the general was an act of impulsiveness that Trump advisers did not support.

The determination to justify actions which led, dot by dot, to the downing of a civilian airliner and the deaths of 176 people, Iranians and Canadian for the most part, is an action that will have its own consequences.

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Already, American prestige is under a cloud. A Pew Research poll taken over years measures our standing in the world — our reputation. Before Donald Trump took office, this nation rated a 68 percent vote of respect around the globe. Today, it’s 29 percent.

Instability benefits only those who use it to dominate others. By tossing verbal and literal bombs and divisiveness, Trump plays to and for the dark purposes of lesser men.

Any benefits are temporary. War and societal disarray lead to misery at home and globally. The malaise that polarization has brought to America is now being stoked by the American president in Iran, as he prods the protesters in the streets to bring down their leaders. Divide, divide and destroy.

Dean Minnich retired from full-time journalism and served two terms in public office. His column appears Thursdays. His email address is dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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