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The Master Distractor Strikes

April 10, 2017

What was the point behind President Donald Trump’s recent Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian airbase in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians purportedly carried out by President Assad’s military? Was he trying to demonstrate that his foreign policy decision-making skills eclipse those of President Obama’s when he was faced with a similar situation four years ago? Given his constant berating and slandering of his predecessor, that line of thinking may very well have played a part. A follow-up question on the minds of many concerns what he plans to do next in his apparently chaotic Syria policy.

Unlike President Obama’s request for Congressional input into what action should be taken regarding the Syrian civil war, President Trump decided to launch 60 missiles, each priced at over $1 million, to teach Assad a lesson and prevent any further such violations of international law by using chemical weapons against his own citizens. Almost all of us agree that using such weapons should not be an option for anyone (though Trump prides himself on not taking any options off the table – including the use of nuclear weapons). Certainly, innocent men, women and children should not be subjected to such attacks. Nor should they be made homeless amid an endless chaotic civil war – but what has Trump’s attack done to end any of that?

Ratcheting up the already tense Syrian situation by inserting American military might in the middle of a civil war with no articulated policy or stated goals for the eventual outcome of the conflict is folly, if not even worse, especially given the dangers of escalation inherent in launching such an attack in the presence of Russian and Iranian boots on the ground in far greater numbers than we current have there. What vital American security interest has been put at risk by Assad? Such an attack also appears to run counter to Trump’s stated goal of eliminating ISIS forces in the region. Assad may be a ruthless tyrant when it comes to ruling Syria. No doubt many Syrians would be better off with him out of the picture. Millions of Syrian refugees would probably cheer his demise. But such an outcome with no clear view of the country’s future may leave a situation similar to that in Libya for the years since the overthrow of that regime.

Perhaps Trump also saw this as an opportunity to distance himself from the Russian government and the problems he has been facing regarding his relationship with it and the accusations/investigations occurring in this country concerning alleged Russian interference with our elections last year.  Russia and Iran are among the few countries to voice strenuous objections to the American attack. The resulting press coverage of this attack, when added to the sudden lack of movement in Congressional investigations of the election tampering and possible collusion between Russia and Trump associates (conveniently timed to coincide with yet another lengthy Congressional recess), leads some to consider the episode to be another distraction from the recent setbacks the Trump Administration has faced in dealing with Congress and the media concerning lack of progress on his agenda as articulated during the campaign.

Our President seems intent on a course of increased militarization at the expense of programs designed to alleviate problems faced by the most unfortunate among us here at home. His budget proposals to date call for increasing defense spending and decreasing expenditures for peaceful pursuits or improving the lives of the most vulnerable among us. The only economic initiatives he has made thus far intentionally endanger the environment and the health and wellbeing of many American workers. His infrastructure plans, other than his intention to pay for his much ballyhooed border wall at the expense of the working poor while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy and corporate deregulation that will set back consumer protections and worker rights by decades, have not even begun discussion in Congress.

Like Reagan over three decades ago and George W. Bush earlier in this century, the numbers don’t add up. Building up military spending while providing enormous tax cuts for the oligarchs will increase the deficit while simultaneously harming the people Trump promised to benefit the most. Then, once again, the GOP will say they need to reduce spending on the social safety net to balance the budget without raising taxes. Ask the people in Kansas and other states which have tried this strategy in recent years how that’s working out for them.

Military adventurism to distract from his inability to make gains in enacting the platform used to bring him the White House will not help Trump with his main supporters for long. Throwing his weight behind a health care proposal that would decimate health coverage for millions just to give higher profits to insurance companies and a bonanza of tax cuts to millionaires would not have fooled many for long, but he has shown no willingness to actually take action which will improve the economy, wages, wealth distribution or future prospects for the vast majority of the American people.

Spending close to $100 million in one spectacular but highly ineffective display of military might that could very easily have alleviated the budgetary pressures being placed on more beneficial programs. This is a blatant waste of both time and money – except from the perspective of  the arms manufacturers whose coffers will be filled in order to replace the expended missiles. Even using the same money to alleviate the suffering of the refugees we helped place in harm’s way would be more productive than making things go boom without really changing the situation on the ground. How could taxpayer money be better spent than it is now on extravagant expenses for his weekly vacations in Florida and elsewhere? For a man donating his salary, he, his family and companies seem to be making out pretty well feeding at the public trough. The small amounts being spent on Meals on Wheels and other programs on the chopping block seem far wiser in comparison.

Congress needs to step up and perform its Constitutional duties when it comes to authorizing or forbidding expenditures advancing a poorly articulated and perhaps even non-existent policy designed to supposedly meet our national security interests in Syria and elsewhere in the world. Saber rattling and bluster do not adequately replace diplomacy for a country that prides itself on defending individual freedom and human rights. Trump’s generals make more sense in this regard than he does. At least Obama recognized limits on his authority when it came to enacting his foreign policy initiatives. Trump has shown no inclination to even ask before acting. That is a recipe for disaster. How many new anti-American terrorists are being recruited on a daily basis due to his ordering of military strikes in countries in the region (most notably in Syria, Iraq and Yemen)? How many innocents are being killed by American drone strikes and arms provided to both sides of the conflicts?

Some Congressional Democrats are beginning to speak out about these issues – but not to the extent that they’ll cut short another unearned recess. For most, it seems to be business as usual, biding time, only acting at the last minute to avert fiscal catastrophe while blaming their opponents for getting little else done. They all need to stop pretending they are there to serve the President instead of those they were elected to represent. Trump, McConnell and Ryan are in business primarily to make things easier on the oligarchs at our expense. Trump, himself, is proving to be very adept at blatantly enriching himself and his cronies while claiming the opposite with little if any accountability. How long will they succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of those they have thus far convinced to vote against their own interests?

Suggested Further Readings:

CREDO, MoveOn.org, Peace Action, and Win Without War Pledge to Resist Any Trump Administration Effort to Propel the United States into a War of Choice

Trump’s War on Terror Has Quickly Become as Barbaric and Savage as He Promised

Under Trump, the United States May Now Be Killing More Civilians Than Russia

Democratic Congressman Rips Trump For His Unconstitutional Strike On Syria

Syrian jets launch strike from base attacked by US missiles

War is the ultimate distraction

Here we go again: Another President Commits the Ultimate War Crime of Launching a War of Aggression

U.S. airstrikes have killed more and more civilians in Iraq and Syria since Trump took office

Media Spin Headlines to Downplay US Responsibility for Mosul Massacre

John Oliver Explains Why Trump’s Syria Strike Should Make Us All ‘Very, Very Worried’

Donald Trump personally profited from missile-maker Raytheon’s stock jump after his Syria attack

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6 Comments
  1. Rick gets it right. Congress needs to step up and govern or this country will be much poorer and at war

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately it’s become part of the Republican Congress culture to allow their Republican president to attack whoever he wants with prior authorization. But to muddy the waters further, this morning on the MSN wessite (which I hate but I will no longer make Yahoo my home page) had two opposing stories. One said it was constitutional. The other story said the Founding Fathers would have considered it an illegal action. I go with the founding fathers over some right wing rag.

    Then we’ve got some Russian ambassador saber rattling and claiming that an act like this could lead to nuclear war. Maybe yes, maybe no. Or…maybe Trump was in contact with Putin through ULTRA back channels and they hatched this plan together. OK, our guys toast a few jets. Oh dear, then oil rich Assad needs to buy replacement jets from…Russia. Notice that only aircraft was bombed and not the runways. Wow, what a lucky coincidence. And since Trump kindly and considerately gave Putin advance notice about the bombing, he made sure all his personnel was pulled and safely away from the bombing site. That left only the Saudi air force personnel and some very unlucky civilians. War is hell on collateral damage.

    But I’m convinced that Trump used the same “Look Over Here!” ploy that Reagan and both Bushies employed when their appproval ratings had tanked. You find a country or an island to attack that is either easily whipped or can’t attack or fight you back. With Reagan it was Granada. With HW it was Kuwait and Panama. With Shrub it was Afghanistan AND Iraq. the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Iraqis fought back far harder than Shrub, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all guessed wrong and no one has gotten it right since then.

    But Trump rallies the “A-MER-I-CA! A-MER-I-CA!” beer swigging right wing pep teams cheering for him and he gets positive press out of it in some corporate media corners. He’s bestowed with the temporary patina of “decisive leader” (as opposed to Shrub the Decider) until he started getting all that damn media blowback about the attack being unconstitutional. And Putin through his operatives gets to huff and puff and threaten to blow up the world but sends out Syrian pilots to go bomb more ISIS and rebel positions the very next day.

    This was all political theater on a global stage. Assad and Putin still are just fine and dandy.Trump’s now getting the political lambasting in domestic and global news coverage as well as from governments worldwide. Couldn’t happen to a nastier guy,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rick I need to ask: Who gave the US the right to decide who governs another country? 16 years ago the US invaded Afghanistan and is still there with the military asking for another 30,000 US troops. The US sanctions on Iraq killed over 500,000 people, mostly children, during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Libya one of the wealthiest nations in the middle-east now struggles to find food. Like Syria both Iraq and Libya had an elected parliament made up of every sector. Millions of people have been and continue to be killed because the US decided it didn’t like the nations leaders! Syrian’s have had to survive while under attack from the US-led NATO bombing for almost 6 years.

    Russia, upon a request, from Assad cleared out 90% of these so-called rebel mercenaries in a few months. Most have returned to Iraq where the US carries on another 14 year war.

    Rick if you ever traveled to any of these countries your knees would rattle at what you would see now compared to the year 2000. You’re right in asking why trillion of dollars were removed from handling domestic issues in the US. Today Tillerson and Lavrov are meeting in Moscow while the UN Security Council is deciding whether to investigate the so-called chemical weapon used in Syria.

    Try to look at what Syrian voters have to say about Assad. Assad and his Ba’ath Party were elected in 200 of the 250 seats in Parliament with a 58% voter turnout last year. http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/04/18/live-from-damascus-the-syrian-election-results/

    When I read the “stuff” the media say such as “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons..” it makes me sick.

    The world needs to US citizens to get out on the streets and protest the same way we did during the Vietnam war/conflict.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Outstanding comment, Dennis.

      Like

    • Dennis,

      Great points. No one gave the US the right to decide who other countries’ leaders should be. Predominating “wisdom” seems to indicate might makes right rules. When our heads of state decide to act, for whatever reason, to precipitate or exacerbate conflicts with insufficient will on the part of the opposition (such as it exists) to stand up to their bullying and call out the inhumanity of their policies, we are left with the situation we are faced with. We’ve made a humanitarian disaster of just about every country we’ve come in contact with in the region. I doubt many people living in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen (need I continue?) feels any freer or better off politically or economically than they would have been if we’d stayed out of it altogether.

      Neither major party here is blameless. Trump seems way too eager to force issues militarily than Obama was, but Obama and Clinton both set a fine example for him on how to maximize damage abroad while minimizing body bags returning to the states. I don’t know what any of these folks thinks things will look like if they actually succeed in “winning”. Not that there is any danger of that happening in the foreseeable future. They need to stop trying to rule the world when they can’t even govern this country satisfactorily, in my opinion.

      Liked by 3 people

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