President George W. Bush: “Mission Accomplished,” May 1, 2003. (Photo: BBC)

Mission Accomplished?

Donald Trump’s crowing Tweets prove the wisdom of Karl Marx’s dictum: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

Karl Marx (Wikimedia Commons)

This fact is a significant blessing, nonetheless, at least insofar as Friday night’s tactically and legally dubious missile raid by U.S. military forces on Syria is concerned.

How many Iraqis were slaughtered after Dubya stood on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished”? A million? More?

That was on May Day 2003, and President George W. Bush in fact told his captive audience of sailors that “our mission continues.” And, boy, did it ever! For nearly a decade and uncounted deaths, the vast majority of which must be categorized as those of innocent bystanders. That effort was estimated to have cost U.S. taxpayers between $1.1 and $2.4 trillion!

The United States has yet to recover from the domestic effects of that self-inflicted catastrophe, one of which was the election as president of Mr. Trump. Iraq may never be made whole again.

The late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may have sounded comical when he vowed the Mother of All Battles. But he delivered.

And while it’s easy to mock Mr. Trump as a comical figure incapable of understanding the complexities of the Middle East, let alone telling potential friends from actual enemies, it may only be a divinely inspired mercy that Friday’s raiders apparently managed to kill no one at all, and reduced to rubble only three reportedly unoccupied buildings.

Donald Trump (Wikimedia Commons)

That’s a far better outcome than could have been expected for an attack, supposedly on Syria’s “chemical weapons facilities” but most likely conceived and executed as a distraction from President Trump’s many troubles, with a side of Regime Change thrown in. We mustn’t forget the influence on the beleaguered Mr. Trump’s decision-making capacity of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Special Prosecutor (a former FBI man), the previous FBI director’s recent literary accomplishments, and, of course, the activities of the evocatively named Stormy Daniels.

No wonder Mr. Trump’s advisors were willing to risk a nuclear war with Russia that would have killed us all to get our minds off these interesting topics!

As for the Americans’ two loyal retainers in this effort, the prime minister of the barely United Kingdom and the president of France, the former has her own need to distract voters from the dismal performance of her teetering government, and the latter (whose pilots may or may not have taken part, depending on whom you listen to) may feel the need to fend off a 50th anniversary repeat of the insurrection of 1968 that could spill into the streets of Paris this summer.

According to Mr. Trump and his many generals, the raid was a spectacular success. All missiles hit their targets, the French were heroic, and, according to the Tweeter in Chief, it “could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

Well, it’s hard to completely disagree with the “better result” part of Mr. Trump’s assessment, for the reasons annotated above. As for all the President’s generals, they insist Syria’s chemical weapons program has been dealt a crushing blow.

According to the Russians, however, 71 of the 103 cruise missiles launched by the Americans and the British were intercepted by the 30-plus-year-old Soviet missile defence systems used by the Syrians, the French didn’t actually show up, the buildings were empty, the Syrians don’t have a chemical weapons program any more, and there were no civilian or military losses on the Syrian side.

Bill Clinton (Wikimedia Commons)

The Americans may or may not have informed the Russians where they would be shooting – U.S. explanations are openly contradictory. But none of the missiles flew anywhere near Russian forces in Syria, presumably by design. If the Russians turned on their own much newer defensive systems is not known. Thankfully, they didn’t feel the need to use them.

Whether it’s reality or just Russian President Vladimir Putin’s PR department making slick videos, the possibility the Russians get more bang for their defence rubles than the Americans do for their boondoggle-sapped bucks clearly worried U.S. commanders Friday.

Now, everyone is spinning about the raid’s impact. But given what we know about what actually happened in the air and on the ground – whether or not the raid was justified or legal – doesn’t the Russian version sound more credible than Mr. Trump’s?

Remember, the Russians may well be lying to us, but the Americans and the British almost certainly are.

This is true, at any rate, if you go by past performance: Curveball, yellowcake uranium, weapons of mass destruction, aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges, orange terror alerts, Iraq behind 911, Iraq’s biological weapons, Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, the Downing Street Memo, the ‘sexed up’ Dodgy Dossier, Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations, Donald Rumsfeld’s vow the troops would be home in five months, the promise the war would only cost $60 billion, and how the Iraqis “will greet us as liberators.” Two trillion dollars and million deaths later they are all exposed as lies.

Bashar al-Assad (Wikimedia Commons)

And who can forget the events of August 1998, which are now so powerfully evocative? The commander in chief was Bill Clinton, a person whose ethics were not dissimilar to Mr. Trump’s. The place was Sudan. The “chemical weapons” plant was manufacturing VX nerve agent, the U.S. government insisted. U.S. missiles destroyed it.

But the evidence that remained in the rubble suggests the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory was exactly what the sign said: a pill plant in a poor country.

How odd that misadventure seems not to have rated a mention in the news coverage of the events of Friday the 13th!

Are you really confident we won’t have reached the same conclusion about this raid on Syria in a year or two?

Mr. Trump says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a beast who gasses his own people. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, naturally, says Canada supports the president’s line. A majority of Canadians presumably believe their narrative is true. It’s possible it is.

But mission accomplished? Well, I suppose it depends on what you think the mission was. But don’t risk more than you can afford to lose betting on what these guys tell you. They have a track record.

Join the Conversation


  1. This is nothing but a PR move with deadly consequences (Historically shown to be innocent civilians.)

    The US likes to lob missiles every now and then to take pressure off the home front. In this case just pick one of a multitude of Trump gaffes, lies, distortions and likely treasonous activities.

    1. Replace “Trump” with Bush 43, Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, or Johnson (not too sure about Ford) and your comment will still be valid. This has been standard American political procedure for as long as most of us have been alive.
      By using “Mission Accomplished” I think Trump is just trolling the whole world now. He’s playing with the media. He’s going out of his way to be even more obnoxious than usual. I bet even he is surprised by how much he can get away with.

  2. Missing (warts-and-all) Jean Chretien more and more as time goes by…

    Re: Trudeau Says Canada Supports Attack On Syrian Targets

  3. One “chemical weapons facility” was the Barzah scientific research centre:

    23 March 2018 OPCW report:
    “the second round of inspections at the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities of the SSRC was concluded on 22 November 2017. …The analysis of samples taken during the inspections did not indicate the presence of scheduled chemicals in the samples, and the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations under the Convention during the second round of inspections at the Barzah and Jamrayah facilities.”
    (see section 11)

  4. “Missin Accomplished.”

    Creating ruins amidst the ruins: in Syria and U.S.A.

    A nod to Papa Marx.

  5. A fine summing up and pretty much the same conclusions I’ve reached. I’ve really only been concentrating on Syria for four years, but I do get distressed when CBC interviews academic drones pushing the Western propaganda line. Sunday Morning on Radio One today was a prime example. If one has spent a great deal of time trying to understand what has been going on, the standard Western propaganda line makes little sense. It’s for the average know-nothing who finds the Guardian and NYT treatment credible, you know like our Foreign, oops, Global Affairs Department.

    Nice to know someone else has had a bit of a real think on the matter. Good article.

    1. Thanks, Bill. A good example of the phenomenon you point to can be seen to the “Russian bots” story appearing in almost all Canadian news sites tonite, which claims a 2000 per cent increase in activity by automated social media comments in the wake of the Syrian raid. I expect the 2000-per-cent increase includes all negative commentary, and possibly all commentary, not just that which can be tied to automated posts originating in Russia. Whatever. But all these reports attribute the claim roughly 70 per cent of the missiles were shot down to bots, implying it is a fabrication. As anyone can see by following the links in this story, it comes from an official statement of the Russian Defence Ministry. The claim may not be true, of course, but it is not just a fantasy made up by a “bot.” I am prepared to wager that over the next six months or so, the Russian statement will be proved to have been accurate. DJC

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