This has to be some kind of record. Less than three days after a chemical attack about which we know nothing, our superlative moron of a president has used unilateral military force against the Syrian government. No doubt the move will be celebrated by all elements of the mainstream media—including the “liberal” elements that so despise Trump—despite the fact that it could have irreversible consequences, not only for Syria but for the entire world.
The gloating has already begun on Capitol Hill, with the usual suspects lauding Trump’s reckless and illegal (from both a domestic and international point of view) attack on a sovereign country.
Marco Rubio: “By acting decisively against the very facility from which Assad launched his murderous chemical weapons attack, President Trump has made it clear to Assad and those who empower him that the days of committing war crimes with impunity are over.”
John McCain and his lickspittle Lindsay Graham: “Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people.”
Chuck Schumer: “Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do.”
Nancy Pelosi: “Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
Paul Ryan: “This action was appropriate and just. These tactical strikes make clear that the Assad regime can no longer count on American inaction as it carries out atrocities against the Syrian people.”
Of course, no one is celebrating the cruise missile strike more so than the Salafi thugs that invaded Syria six years ago. A loss for Assad is a win for al-Nusra (al-Qaeda), ISIS and the several dozen other extremist groups infesting what was once a secular and heterogeneous society. The Syrian conflict is a zero sum game. That Moscow emphasizes this point doesn’t make it any less true. As Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton wrote in a piece for Alternet on April 5, “U.S. intervention would be the last hope for Syrian rebels, and a shot in the arm to al-Qaeda, which has grown to record size thanks to America’s military meddling across the Middle East.”
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly mocked Clinton for her belligerent rhetoric toward the Syrian government. He stated numerous times—correctly—that it would defy logic to fight ISIS and Assad simultaneously. As it turns out, he was ridiculing his own policy. I guess this is what happens when you elect a reality TV star president.
The whole thing has a sort of “Wag the Dog” feel to it, does it not? Trump was taking relentless heat for his alleged ties to Russia. The media obsession was verging on psychotic. It was all Russia-gate, all the time. Trump badly needed a diversion, and this latest chemical massacre was the perfect opportunity. After all, nothing garners bipartisan support like a declaration of war, especially one that directly threatens Russia’s strategic interests. (On that note, can we finally put to rest the ridiculous claim that Trump is a Kremlin stooge?)
And the media are, of course, absolutely complicit, having egged him on from the moment the attack in Idlib was reported. Thursday’s strike became a forgone conclusion during Trump’s hasty press conference alongside Abdullah II of Jordan, when he allowed himself to be painted into a corner by overzealous reporters who demanded to know whether he was going to stand by while Assad allegedly gassed innocent civilians.
There’s a good chance now that we’ll never find out who was behind the chemical attack, which I suppose was all part of the plan. That Assad has been officially “punished” in a perverse sense proves his guilt. Who needs independent investigations and empirical evidence when you’ve got tomahawk missiles?
Oddly, the State Department has tried to soft-pedal the violent escalation, with Rex Tillerson insisting that it should be interpreted as an isolated response to a single atrocity, with no broader implications.
“I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today,” he said. “There has been no change in that status. I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line and cross the line on violating commitments they’ve made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways.”
It will be interesting to see what the Russians and Iranians have to say about that.
Ultimately, the surprise military strike against the Syrian airbase reflects a complete reversion to business as usual in Washington. It took the media and foreign policy establishments less than three months to turn Trump into a neoconservative puppet. Trump is as big of a sucker as the people who voted for him. Like his predecessors, he is now a faithful servant of Empire.
Speaking of Empire, let’s not forget that removing Assad from power has been in the works for more than ten years. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that US officials were plotting to destabilize the Syrian government since at least 2006. They did so by channeling money to Assad’s political opponents and by exploiting sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia, specifically by fueling Sunni fears that Iran has disproportionate influence over Syrian policy.
The efforts were redoubled when war broke out in 2011, with the CIA opening up a covert passageway—or “rat line”—through which armaments could be smuggled into Syria via Turkey. Meanwhile our allies in the gulf trained and funded the takfiri opposition, ensuring that, even if Assad somehow stayed in power, the country would be smashed to pieces.
And all of this in spite of the fact that Assad had cooperated with us in our war on [of] terror, providing intelligence on al-Qaeda plots and even letting us send suspected terrorists to Syria to be tortured. Of course, his government’s use of torture is now cited as pretext for regime change. As always our hypocrisy is completely shameless.
The significance of Thursday night’s attack hinges on Russia’s response. Unlike our president, Putin is not a fool. He doesn’t want a third World War. But everyone has a limit. At one point does he put his foot down and decide that he’s no longer willing to capitulate to American aggression? The US has demonstrated over and over again that it is unwilling to negotiate diplomatic settlements when doing so would entail compromise. It would sooner risk terminal war, and one day that’s what it will get.