By Paul Street. This article was first published on Counterpunch.
Photo by DonkeyHotey | CC BY 2.0
I had five thoughts the minute I heard last Thursday night that the Orange-Tinted Freak Show – the “Unbelievable Baby Man” (Tom Tomorrow) – in the White House had launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria as a response (supposedly) to the Syrian regime’s (alleged) chemical bombing of innocent civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.
The first thought was that there was something very shady about the claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed the chemical weapon “red line.” Assad handed over his chemical weapons stock for destruction years ago. At the same time, it made no political or military sense for him to have provoked the West by deploying whatever chemical weapons he might have retained (or developed since) against innocents. Hadn’t the Trump administration just signaled that removing Assad was not a U.S. priority? Why would Assad want to mess with that? It didn’t add up.
My second thought was that Trump’s missile attack was very likely an act of theater driven largely by domestic political considerations. Clockwork Orangatun is plagued by incredibly low public approval numbers and a dismal early policy record. That has put him in dire need of a “wag the dog” moment – a “national security” event to rally people around the flag, to make him look like a big decisive and powerful man, and to divert public attention from his failures in Washington. The Syrian thing was perfect in that regard. It was an all-too made-to-order right-on-time pretext. Bombing Syria (well, hurling some missiles at an old Syrian airfield bearing a handful of broken-down Russian jets) would help Herr Donald look like a “man of action” compared to the weak, “do-nothing” Barack Obama, who passed (as Trump urged at the time) on a chance to bomb Syria after a chemical weapons incident there in 2013.
More importantly, Trump’s Tomahawk raid would help him come out from under the cloud of the preposterous Democratic Party and mainstream media charge that he is a tool or at least an ally of Russia. Russia is one of Assad’s critical allies.
My third thought was that it was difficult to take seriously Trump’s claim to have been moved to action by horror at the sight of Arab children and babies being murdered. The orange-haired beast has been more than willing to slaughter Arab women, children and other non-combatants in Yemen and Iraq. The terrible images of Syrian children who have suffered under the civil war there have not driven the vicious Baby Man to reconsider his nativist Muslim travel ban on Syrians. They have not led him to question the broader American policy of keeping all but a few refugees from (the U.S.-devastated) Middle East (and North Africa) out of the U.S.
My fourth thought was that the Democrats and their media allies bear significant responsibility for whatever terrible consequences might follow from Trump’s missile adventure. They have been leading the ridiculous charge that Trump is a Kremlin agent. Surely some of them must have considered the possibility that Trump would be driven to do something to suggest the falsity of the charge by “standing up to Russia.”
My fifth thought is that Trump’s missile spasm was completely illegal under national and international law. He responded without authorization from Congress, with no call for any sober investigation into who and/or what caused the chemical release in Khan Sheikhoun, and with no effort to garner sanction from the United Nations. (There’s nothing surprising about this, of course. Whoever sits in the White House, the U.S. “imperial presidency” has long and routinely trashed national and global law whenever that law doesn’t suit White House purpose.)
I am hardly alone in having such scurrilous if elementary thoughts. Go to the Website of The Real News Network (RNN) and you can watch RNN host Paul Jay interview former Colin Powell chief-of-staff Larry Wilkerson and the prolific American historian Gerald Horne on what’s really going with Trump and Syria. Wilkerson reports hearing from his sources that the Syrian government may well not be responsible for the chemical attack.
Jay, Wlikerson, and Horne all agree that Trump’s criminal act of war is rooted in the very “wag the dog” domestic political considerations I immediately suspected. None of them take seriously the notion that Trump was suddenly driven to act by humanitarian concerns. All of them note that any number of actors other than Assad – including jihadis trying to bring down Assad – might have been the real perpetrators in Khan Sheikhoun.
The Real News Network is a left outlet dedicated to, well…to real news. It is therefore marginalized in the reigning U.S. media landscape, which is all about the fake news of imperial propaganda. The most depressing thing for me about the Trump missile launch last Thursday wasn’t the action itself. It was the reporting and commentary it got in the mainstream television I viewed in the aftermath. Consulting CNN and “P”BS, I was disgusted (though not surprised) to hear outwardly knowledgeable and sophisticated (and deeply indoctrinated) journalists and foreign policy “experts”:
+ Raise no serious questions about the veracity of the chemical bombing allegation.
+ Say nothing whatsoever about the role that domestic political considerations – including desires to boost his approval ratings and to counter Russiagate – certainly played in Trump’s theatrical attack on some Syrian airfields.
+ Take seriously the claim that Trump was driven to act impulsively by moral outrage over the chemical killing of Syrian “children of God.”
The main criticism of the missile attack that I could pick up from the yakking bobble-heads was a faulting of Trump for appearing to have no worked out longer-term strategy behind his action – for acting “impulsively” and “emotionally.” (“P”BS “NewsHour” commentators David Brooks and Mark Shields argued over whether such “impulsivity” was a good thing or not: Brooks liked it “in this case”). The basic and obvious suspicion that there might have been political calculation (above all a desire to t/Trump Russiagate) behind the missile launch did not seem to cross commentators’ minds at CNN or “P”BS (at least it didn’t during the times I was watching). Trump’s brazen violation of national and international law was completely irrelevant to these power-serving chatterboxes
MSNBC’s disgraceful imperial cheerleader Brian Williams set a new standard for obsequious war worship. “We see these beautiful pictures, at night, from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams ejaculated during a Thursday night broadcast. The anchor even quoted a line from Leonard Cohen, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Williams continued: “They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this air field.”
It’s hard to imagine a corporate media operative sinking any lower than that. But CNN’s official in-house foreign policy guru, the suave globalist Fareed Zakaria, may have done so. “I think,” Zakaria proclaimed last Friday, “Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.” It was what CounterPunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair calls “yet more proof of the old maxim that you’re not really CEO of the Empire until you’ve killed a bunch of people in a foreign country.” (Though in fact, as St Clair noted, Trump drew his first blood in Yemen last February).
It’s one thing to have an openly disgraced buffoon like Brian Williams (who was kicked off his anchor position atop the NBC Nightly News two years ago for embellishing his overseas reporting with fake claims of having faced enemy fire) wax with sexualized glee over Baby Man’s dog-wagging military thrusts. It’s another and far worse thing for Zakaria to lend his imperial gravitas to Trump’s sordid projectile escapade, which reportedly moved the Kremlin to disconnect the U.S.-Russia “deconfliction line” – a communication channel meant to help prevent the thermonuclear self-elimination of homo sapiens.
I was on a television-equipped elliptical machine at the University of Iowa Recreation Center when I learned that the Orange Haired Beast had gone Tomahawk. As I got got off the machine I suggested to a young lady college student working out next to me that she “turn for a second to CNN. I think Trump could be starting World War III.” She screwed up her face and disgust and said “who cares? I don’t pay attention to that crap.”
That statement might seem criminally apathetic but it makes a certain amount of sense to me. The dominant U.S. media is a relentless purveyor of endless bullshit on numerous levels but with especially noxious distortion when it comes to U.S “foreign affairs” – an overly polite establishment term for American imperialism. To use a favorite term from the Trump era, it’s fake news. We need real news – like on the Real News Network.
The more you watch of U.S. “mainstream” news coverage without an eye trained to detect propaganda, the dumber and more dangerous to the world and yourself you get. The planet is probably better off without young Americans watching CNN or “P”BS. Now if we could get more of them to care about what they can learn at places like CounterPunch and the Real News Network and other left and actual news sites.