An occasional series on the new nationalists – dingoes and drongos like Trump, Farage, and Bernardi – and other Oz twerps.
The war games of a TV watcher
We already knew two things. The Middle East is far too complicated for poor Donald Trump – it is way above his pay level. But TV propaganda can be very effective on people with susceptible minds. Nothing in a ghastly civil war that has been going on for six years had changed, but a few minutes of footage on state owned television (Fox News) was enough to change the mind of the President of the United States – diametrically, and on many fronts. So like a bored spoiled child on a dull Boxing Day, he opened one of his more expensive presents and spat his dummy. And he killed a few more Muslims in Syria. After three times invoking the God of the Christians. (The notion that Trump might believe in God is just silly – and an affront to God.) This was a war game made by television and for television. The hero of the people, the Strong Man, would show the whole world how he deals with red lines. (And, yep, poor old Greg Sheridan bought that bullshit, too.) And Trump is now defending his decision by murdering the English language on Twitter. The Syrians keep burying their dead while the President of the United States takes his finger off the trigger and plays golf at that temple of vulgarity, Mar a Lago. And having killed more Syrians in the name of humanity, the President gets ready in the name of Trump to seek to uphold his ban on any refugees from Syria getting anywhere near the Statue of Liberty.
Now, some photos of war crimes in Vietnam – especially one involving a child – helped to shift public opinion about that cruel war over time – but that is very different to causing a President to reverse major policies and attack a former ally within about forty-eight hours. To repeat, the war has been on for about six years; to the agonies of wars about religion, the U S and Russia have now decided to use the theatre for their own proxy wars; about 400, 000 have been killed; only a tiny fraction of those deaths were caused by chemical weapons. The U S, as has been its sad wont, has been propping up a brutal dictator – until the other day, when it turned on him and bombed him. The U S and Russia have both decided that the sufferings of the Syrian people could be alleviated by deploying the world’s two biggest air forces to drop even more bombs on them.
The questions arising from the brash hubris of this attack, so entirely characteristic of its manic author, include the following.
Under what municipal law of the U S was this act of war undertaken? As is so often the case, when Trump takes a position, we can find him saying exactly the opposite. He had said that the U S should not even be in Syria; that Assad had to stay; and that only Congress could authorise a war – all three were hit clean out of Trump’s ground by some brooding clips on Fox News. I gather that the answer of Congress is that he might be allowed this one strike, but for any more he will have to consult them.
Under what international law were these killings undertaken? If France offends Germany, can it just take out the Eiffel Tower in response? If the answer is no, what is the difference?
Finally on lawfulness, were the intelligence agencies – which two months ago Trump regarded as less reliable than Vladimir Putin – as ‘slam dunk’ confident about chemical weapons in Syria as they were about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
We should, though, remember that it’s in poor taste to ask legal questions about this administration – it’s yet to get one right.
Now for some matters of substance.
If you want to intervene in a civil war that your main enemy is also in, is it a good idea to have your army and airforce attacking one side and your navy attacking the other? How can you hurt Assad without helping I S? How can you attack I S without helping Assad? Does this not tell the world that once again the U S does not know what it is doing in the Middle East?
If the war crimes of Assad are such that the U S is entitled to make war on him in the name of both God and humanity, how could the U S ever agree to leave that person in power over these poor people after having intervened in their war? If the answer is that they could not, does this mean that they now support regime change – with all of its fearful history in the Middle East and North Africa – and that they now accept some responsibility for the resolution of the Syrian civil war? If so, how do they avoid head-on conflict with Russia, and do they accept that they will have to be involved in Syria for a longer period than they were in Iraq, and for longer than they or the Russians were involved in Afghanistan?
If the first object of the U S is to combat terrorism, do they agree that botched attempts at regime change and the sight of Christians killing Muslims have been two of the main causes of our current scourge?
Those I think were some of the reasons why President Obama did not intervene in Syria – plus the fact that he was elected on that very basis, and that the American people had no interest in going into another war in a faraway land. And that they couldn’t afford more of such wars. Mr Obama understood the simple truth that being a little engaged in a war is as simple as being a little bit pregnant.
We can only hope that other nationalists like Farage and Hanson just stay out of this. Their poisonous loathing of Muslims is part of the problem. The hypocrisy of Trump about Muslim or Syrian refugees is beyond words. And Mrs May has started the process that will reveal to the English the fearful costs of their own nationalism – and the venom of people like Farage.
Well, we may wonder what part Mr Kushner, or his wife, played in all this, or whether Mr Kushner passed a rude remark to Mr Bannon while Mr Kushner was coming in, and Mr Bannon was going out. A lot of acid has been seen dripping out of the White House.
Finally, although it’s none of my business, might someone suggest to Trump that he might leave the God of the Christians out of all this? This is after all a war between Muslims, but in what sense are children of God different to the children of Allah? And then there is the danger that if he keeps talking about the God of the Christians and the people of Damascus, it may be just a matter of time before some bunny mentions the word crusade.