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