Saturday, April 8, 2017

Moral Agony Or Moral Clarity?? Slate's Isaac Chotiner on Media Elite Giddiness Over Trump's Syria Airstrikes and Why That's Bad; But What of Bashar al-Assad's War Criminal Barbarity?

**This entry was posted April 8th, 2017.**

Daffodils, 1400 block of W Street NW, Washington, D.C., 3:22PM April 8, 2017.

I was walking to the gym when I took this picture.  


In lieu of a Saturday evening post, I want to repost the following in full precisely because of the agonizing levels of morality at work in this situation ...

Elites Are Giddy Over Trump's Airstrike in Syria, and That's Terrifying

By Isaac Chotiner
Slate, April 7th, 2017
Source here.

Finally, after months of fear and anguish and deep depression, liberals have been feeling good again. Trump's approval ratings are historically low, his adviser Steve Bannon is struggling to hold onto power, and the administration's major legislative achievements are nil. Meanwhile, the press is thriving in "opposition" mode (at least compared with its performance during much of the campaign), Democrats are furiously raising money, and the congressional GOP is in chaos. But the pathetic plaudits Trump received Thursday night for the airstrike he ordered against Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria should serve as a reminder of how capable Trump remains of regaining the narrative of his faltering presidency -- and why a relatively "normal" Trump administration may be even scarier than the cartoonishly villainous one we've seen up until now.

Continuing with the Chotiner piece:

As we saw following Trump's first address to Congress, the president is so nightmarish that some of us who observe him are desperate to forget who precisely America elected and are forever hoping he can change. This can manifest itself consciously or unconsciously. It began Thursday, before the strike, when Hillary Clinton said she believed the United States should take out Assad's airfields. That would have been a more plausible suggestion in a different universe than the one we live in -- a universe in which a bigoted, Muslim-hating, and incompetent man wasn't the commander in chief of the United States armed forces. It continued throughout the afternoon and evening as the missile strike launched and Trump received heavy praise on cable news. Fareed Zakaria said on CNN that this airstrike was the moment Trump had [[become] president." Not only was this nonsense a near-repeat of what Van Jones had said on CNN following Trump's speech to Congress, but it ignored January's botched Yemen raid, a military action that Trump ordered. (For what it's worth, the United States is already engaged in combat in Iraq and Syria with some of the groups fighting Assad.)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley holds up two photographs of victims -- including a young child -- of the chemical weapons (probably sarin gas) used by Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

I would like to interject here that Assad's repeated use of chemical weapons (see image above) on his own people render him a war criminal who should be taken out by the international community. But he was just as much a war criminal a few days ago as he is now. And for whatever reason(s), he is Putin's ally in the region -- and we all know Trump's relationship with Putin.


Continuing with the Chotiner piece:

The nonsense continued throughout Thursday night and Friday morning. Matt K. Lewis, the Daily Beast writer and CNN personality, took note of the references to God in Trump's statement on the airstrikes and salivated over the president's moral seriousness. Even worse was Mark Landler's "news analysis" in the New York Times on why Trump, who has shown a strong affinity for dictators and little concern for suffering, greenlit the attack. Failing to mention that the president was in the process of banning refugees from America, Landler painted a laughable picture of a man consumed with grief because of images of children dying. ("On Syria Attack, Trump's Heart Came First," the Times tweeted.) Not only does coverage like this badly distort an important issue like Syria, but it serves as a reminder (as if one were needed) of exactly the boost -- not to mention the political capital -- Trump would gain in the case of a national emergency or terrorist attack. As if a Trump with normal powers wasn't horrifying enough.

Abdul-Hamid Alyousef, 29, cries as he holds his twin babies who were killed during a suspected chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun (Alaa Alyousef via AP); Alyousef reportedly lost 22 members of his family.

It is important to understand, though, the utter barbarism of the Assad regime and in that sense, Trump's "moral clarity" in this situation is refreshing -- except for the fact that it isn't because he (Trump) is a reckless and impulsive lunatic who has no concept (strategic or humanitarian) of what he is doing.


Continued with the Chotiner piece:

If you are looking for extra reasons why these commentators may be looking to extend a warm hand to Trump, here's another one: There is something comforting about Trump acting in a manner that much elite opinion has been in favor of for years. Barack Obama was criticized for not launching an attack on Assad after the latter crossed Obama's "red line," and many people have made cases -- ranging from completely legitimate and thoughtful to entirely bonkers -- that America should be more involved in the anti-Assad side of the Syrian conflict.

A barrage of Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) -- 59 in all -- are launched in the predawn hours of Friday, April 7th, 2017 from the U.S. Navy destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea against the Syrian Air Force airstrip at Ash Shayrat, Syria.


Continued with the Chotiner piece:

Coupled with the news that the White House nationalists may be on the way out, or at least struggling against the more establishment-friendly wing of the administration, it makes sense that seeing Trump act like a normal politician would feel good. (The Clinton comments, coupled with those of her allies such as Anne-Marie Slaughter, only added to the sense that this was the kind of action most presidents would have undertaken.)

Let's remember what Trump tweeted about getting involved in Syria back in early September 2013 following Assad's use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21st of that year in Ghouta:


Continuing with the Chotiner piece:

But Trump is not -- and will never be -- a normal president. He is an uninformed and dangerously unstable one. If he wants to conduct military action without congressional approval, he should be challenged, not lauded. The prospect of someone with Trump's limited focus and understanding immersing the United States more deeply in another foreign conflict is unnerving -- especially when that conflict is taking place in a region that predominantly practices a religion Trump despises. And, as my colleague Jamelle Bouie noted Thursday night, there is something additionally terrifying about a petty and insecure man who seeks nothing more than praise ... receiving praise for military action. Trump's reversals and embarrassments of the past two months are heartening and invigorating, but America is still on the precipice. And the response of too many people over the past 24 hours shows the danger of forgetting that.

Aftermath of the Syrian chemical weapon attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, April 4, 2017.


I also recommend reading this piece by Ezra Klein: Trump's foreign policy is dangerously impulsive.

Sub-headline: Trump needs a foreign policy, not just reactions to what he sees on cable news.

I'm not going to excerpt it but I will say it's worth a read.

Having posted all of this, I am actually torn as to whether to "support" Trump in doing what he did. The barbarism of the chemical weapons attack is so extreme and intolerable that part of me is glad to see a response -- even if it is from such a morally compromised figure.

I don't know.

A young victim of Assad's April 4, 2017 sarin gas attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.


Another image of the TLAMs launch from the Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean in the predawn hours of April 7th, 2017 against the Syrian air force base at Ash Shayrat.


These destroyers are part of the U.S. Navy's forward-positioned destroyer force based in Rota, Spain, and are part of NATO's European ballistic missile defense -- which put them in the best position to undertake the Syrian strike.

What I do know is that serial bozo journo-celebrity Brian Williams made a total ass out of himself (again) with his weird, gushing braise of the Tomahawk missile launch as "beautiful" -- specifically, in response to seeing images such as these:

The guided - missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches one of a barrage of Tomahawks against a target in Syria while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017; source here.


It's so damn easy to hate these American elite journo-celebrities such as Williams going gaga anytime U.S. missiles are launched or the Republicans win some smash-and-grab power play. There's no moral ambiguity there.

The same cluster of daffodils featured in the lead image to this entry -- except at 7:06PM this evening and taken as I was walking home from the gym.


OK, that's all for this entry. I'm going to try to post a Jukebox Saturday Night edition shortly.


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