Opportunity Strikes: Becoming a War President May Yet Salvage Trump’s Presidency

Photo by Alan Cleaver | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Alan Cleaver | CC BY 2.0

It is a crushing blow to have your idols defrocked before your eyes. Generally speaking, the best course of action is denial, which can at least forestall having to cope with reality for as long as you can reasonably deny what happened. The neoliberal Clintonistas have done just that in the wake of their heroine’s epic meltdown last fall, when all manner of misdirection was employed to whitewash the neocon hobgoblin Hillary Clinton into some kind of iconic facsimile of humility and virtue, the brave flagbearer for female kind. Anyone familiar with Clinton’s record found themselves retching in alleyways as the pro-Hillary throngs flowed down the streets, chanting and punching the sky with their baleful banners.

The Clintonistas have chiefly attempted to salve their psyches by transmuting their worshipful emotions into a seething animus for Donald Trump, who has always presented as the antichrist to Hillary’s redeemer. The usefulness of Donald Trump is that he provided a perfect cipher into which identity politics neoliberals could pour all of their unbridled fury over the rejection of their political idol. Make America Great Again meant nothing. Much like Barack Obama represented for these same neoliberals a void on to which they could project all of their finest ideals about race, equality, and justice. Change You Can Believe In meant nothing.

To that end, Trump has thus far served as a punching bag for neoliberal tribes and their digital Sherpas, namely The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, among others. The palpitating witch hunt that neoliberals have launched, aided and abetted by the deep state, i.e., foreign policy community plus finance, has led us into a most unusual circumstance. First, the in-denial Democratic Party retooled itself into a Neo-McCarthyite cabal dedicated to the defense of democratic institutions against mythical Kremlin puppets. This, in turn, exerted tremendous pressure on the White House, as public hearings and a steady stream of leaks from the intelligence community put the administration on its heels, faltering and fearing impeachment. The president found himself lurching left and right looking for a means by which to fend off the increasingly imminent demise of his presidency. This led to the ill-conceived military action of the past week, as the president lashed out at a war-weary foreign nation, either as a misguided punitive measure, or in an attempt to flex enough muscle to scare away the Russophobes chopping away at his clay feet.

Just Do It, Dad!

Into this tense atmosphere some deviant soul along the Turkish-Syrian border introduced the second Syrian false flag event in four years. The first had nearly baited Barack Obama into directly bombing the Assad government. The second would have to do a better job. Evidently, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) bombed a weapons armory and inadvertently exploded a cache of chemical weapons that caught a breeze and killed dozens of locals. The mediasphere, a wholly owned subsidiary of the one percent, of the imperialists who need war in order to increase profits, responded with swift and unerring groupthink. Assad had done the deed on purpose, a claim that required no supporting evidence since the Syrian leader had been comprehensively vilified for years. Who could believe that this unfeeling monster could restrain himself from brutally attacking his own population at the most inopportune moments (i.e., just as UN weapons inspectors enter the country or just as his army had nearly won the war).

What happened next is an open question. Reports suggest that Ivanka Trump, which The New York Times comically referred to as the president’s wife, was so thunderstruck by the images of dead children in the wake of the chemical leakage, that she implored her floundering father to do something. In foreign policy matters, doing something usually means taking military or financial action, both of which decimate civilian communities, an always regrettable and unexpected side effect of our principled interventions, if Washington is to be believed. Still, Ivanka succeeded in luring the old man into a bootless act of international aggression based on nothing other than the crocodile tears of a pampered scionness in a gilt tower.

The other possibility, perhaps more likely, is that The Donald understood that there was probably only one thing that could make his problems go away: a war. Were these, then, ‘opportunity strikes’, like Bill Clinton’s missile attack on Iraq at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which some saw as a political diversion? As everyone knows, state violence produces consensus like nothing else. And not just consensus, but supportive and sycophantic groupthink designed to bolster the hand of the glorious leader, who must act to preserve our freedoms.

Bombing for a Boost

In the wake of the attack, Trump’s approval ratings saw a small boost within the margin of error. But if it didn’t springboard the pride of Mar-a-Lago into the stratosphere, it certainly changed the tenor of the conversation in Congress and in MSM editorial pages. Many of the deranged Congressmen who were ransacking digital files for evidence of Kremlin collusion found themselves ferociously applauding the presidential violence, including most of the Democrats. Even the unhinged vaudeville duo of John McCain and Lindsey Graham paused their side show to offer unqualified praise of the president’s imperial crime.

Had the president dodged the treason bullet? Perhaps. This will likely depend on whether or not he escalates the Syrian conflict into a full-blown regime-change operation that sidelines the Democrats’ witch hunt (sometimes known as “Russiagate”). Thus far the MSM is doing its best to justify the president’s attack, which a) was a criminal act of war on a sovereign state that violated international law and the UN Charter; b) was an illegal action that required Congressional approval but didn’t get it; c) was aimed at the wrong target, since the SAA did not launch a chemical attack, and ISIS has launched 52 in the last few years; d) turned the U.S. military into al Qaeda’s de facto air force by attacking the main means by which Syria is defeating them; and e) demonstrated complete contempt for Washington’s relationship with Moscow.

The action hasn’t been condemned on any of these points, but that isn’t too surprising. The MSM has become remarkably careless, almost extravagantly so, in its use of outright lies. Propaganda has historically consisted of some combination of fact, omitted fact, and lies, all adding up to a deeply misleading interpretation of world events. But the MSM seems now to have adopted pure fabrication as its tactical nous. The fatal tragedy involving the inadvertent release of chemical weapons has been regularly referred to as an “attack” with the blame assigned invariably to the Assad government. The mainstream has done its level best to bury arguments to the contrary. No proper or impartial investigation has been undertaken, of course. This was a lesson the new administration learned from the last: don’t hesitate or your justifications may be shown to be disingenuous and imbecilic. President Trump didn’t bother to wait for confirmation. Hearsay was enough.

The power-worshipping parasites that mottle the hide of the imperial beast could barely contain their glee. Such an unexpected boon to the champions of imperialism. The Obama administration last year and Trump last week had soured on the idea of forcing regime-change in Syria, not least because NATO’s proxy takfiris were getting blitzed and broken by incessant Russian and Syrian bombing. Hard to win a war without an air force. This caused considerable discouragement among the venerable warmongers at the Council on Foreign Relations, Heritage Foundation, Brookings Institute, and associated think tanks, plus frustration among defense contractors always looking for a stock spike thanks to a hot war. Now here was the author of The Art of the Deal eschewing all deals with comrade Putin and firing a fusillade of Tomahawks (Trump has a small investment in Raytheon) at a Syrian airbase. Did he do it for Ivanka or as a calculated strike to save his own imperiled hide? It hardly mattered, with Bill Kristol in The Washington Post, Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, and Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker all ‘weighing in’ with their pro-war editorials and, surprise, hinting at regime change. How quickly the topic has resurfaced. Thomas Friedman, also in the Times, has called for Manpads for “moderate rebels” and a Sunni statelet. Lindsey Graham happily declared that, “ISIS should be Germany and Assad should be Japan, like World War II…” Samantha Power impersonator and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has prophesied that she expects Assad to be replaced. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who troublingly resembles Lex Luthor, has announced that the administration is open to further military action in Syria but that Washington prefers a negotiated solution. Well, of course! Where would anyone get the idea that America hates effete diplomacy when it could just as easily dispatch a few destroyers to make the same points with cruise missiles? As a general rule in Washington, the cruder the better.

Fareed Zakaria now believes Donald Trump is truly the president of the United States (said with his ghoulish skeletal smile). Brian Williams, fan of battlefield fictions, summoned Leonard Cohen to explain that he was, “guided by the beauty of our weapons” as he gazed at pictures of Tomahawks launching from destroyer decks in a blaze of fire. So, while the verdict is still out on whether the president has saved himself, the media has certainly turned in his favor.

A Deep State Sigh of Relief

It seems the celestial bodies have returned to their natural orbits. It was a close scrape for the deep state, to be sure. Just think about the ‘horrifying’ near-catastrophes of the last year. First, there was the Bernie fiasco. What tremendous legwork was required to put down that spurious challenge to the world order. Compromising the DNC to favor Hillary; hastily burying the potentially campaign-shattering Seth Rich story; pressuring the media to marginalize Bernie and malign his bros.

And then for all that hard work to backfire and help put a semi-fascist rabble rouser in the White House. Who could have seen that coming? In any event, that required a new campaign of leaks and defamation to bring the new president in line. All of that foolish rhetoric about detente with Russia had to be discredited with fanatical conspiracies about Russian stooges and the republic in peril. Thank god the exhausted electorate didn’t fight back on that transparent fairy tale. In the end, it was surprisingly easy to push the president into complete conformity with deep state goals. All it really required was a nonstop supply of damning leaks to the press, which swiftly produced the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a temporary threat to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the removal of reputed white nationalist Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. Truly embarrassing appointments by The Donald, but fairly easy to rectify once Lex Luthor was installed as NSA. After banishing Bannon, Luthor brilliantly relocated Flynn’s former Svengali K.T. McFarland from her Deputy NSA post to a humid ambassadorship in distant Singapore, where her career will vanish in a pitiless monsoon. Flynn himself is pinioned in a desperate negotiation to dodge jail time.

Now that the table has been reset, and detente and defunding NATO are off the table, and war and full-spectrum dominance are back on, the only lingering questions are what additional crimes to pin on the Assad “regime” to rouse the public’s appetite for destruction. Rest assured, this will get ugly before it gets better.

Stay Tuned, More War and Chaos After the Break…

Not that anyone inside the beltway cares. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, knows the score. He recently conceded that Moscow has a pretty clear grasp of the imperial grand strategy in Washington. He called it “managed chaos.” Couldn’t have said it better. Look at the Middle East and you’ll instantly see the plan in action. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Congo, etc. All flaming dumpster fires with no firemen in sight.

Men like Bill Kristol know this, too. As FAIR’s Adam Johnson astutely noted, Kristol penned a flurry of pro-vengeance puff pieces for various mainstream papers in advance of the Libyan demolition job in late 2011. Once Gadhafi was deposed, captured, brutally sodomized, and slain, Kristol banished Libya from his byline. Not a word in five years. Beltway cowards that hyperventilate about conflict remind me of George Orwell’s comment about war, “It’s the same in every war. The soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets within a mile of a trench, except in the briefest of propaganda tours.”

Now Democrat Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has gone on Jake Tapper’s sycophantic CNN show, The Lead, and thrown the Obama administration under the proverbial bus. Reed once voted against allowing George W. Bush to invade Iraq, not because it was a transparently criminal enterprise, mind you, but rather, taking a position young Obama would echo years later, that it was a strategic mistake. But the days are long gone when principal factors into Congressional decision-making. The Rhode Island Senator told the Tapper that if you draw a red line, you ought to enforce it. Obama surely knew that he’d never be forgiven for not enforcing his red line and attacking Assad when he had a flimsy pretext at hand (a shamble of YouTube videos supplied by the venerable John Kerry). The entire interview with Reed featured not a single question by Tapper about whether or not Assad was actually responsible for the chemical chaos in Idleb or the attack in Ghouta in 2013. It was simply assumed that the Damascan optometrist was the only man capable of such perversity. Naturally, nobody mentioned ISIS’s 52 chemical attacks. But then ISIS is Washington’s battering ram, a rabid offshoot of al Qaeda, Zbigniew Brzezinski’s brainchild from the 1980s. Why undermine your own argument?

The president, if not teeing up a Titleist at Mar-a-Lago, is probably reviewing battle plans as we speak. Weighing options, listening to the various hypnotists at his side, H.R., Ivanka, Jared, Steve, as they pour their ideological potion in his ear. Russia’s evil President Vladimir Putin has said that new false flags are in the works around Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called for an unbiased investigation into the chemical incident. (When will Sergey learn that nobody in Washington cares about facts, except as tools for the advancement of imperial ends?) The administration’s wild-eye and possibly feral press secretary Sean Spicer mentioned that the president would now respond to the use of barrel bombs, which would guarantee a relentless bombing campaign. And the president himself approved Montenegro’s accession to NATO, adding another staging ground for NATO aggression. Secretary of State Rex “I didn’t want this job” Tillerson announced Assad’s regime is “coming to an end” as he traveled to Moscow to discuss whether or not Assad’s regime would come to an end. An uncomfortable presser followed, with Tillerson and Lavrov looking less than pleased to be there. Meanwhile, an American carrier group is steaming toward North Korea, which has promised a nuclear attack at any sign of a pre-emptive strike.

Status Update: Same As It Ever Was

Will any of this incautious behavior be challenged? No. The entire beltway establishment and its mainstream media back war, and there seems to be little appetite among the populace for mass protest unless it perceives that there are social justice issues at stake. As economist Michael Hudson lamented, “You don’t have a working class march. You don’t have a wage earners march. You don’t have a peace march. You don’t have an anti-war march. You don’t have a march against the New Cold War. You don’t have a march to keep infrastructure public. You don’t have a march for single-payer healthcare.” What we have are anti-discrimination marches by neoliberals who mainly care about sexual, gender, ethnic, and religious rights, but accept austerity at home and military and financial violence abroad (which happens to be racist). Fighting discrimination on all its fronts is definitely a valid cause, but if that is all the liberal side of the spectrum puts its energy against, we will wind up as timid surveillance slaves, impoverished by the costs of globalized imperial warfare, and spoon-fed a series of fairy tales that keep us afraid, broke, and counterintuitively self-righteous.

Hudson connects economics to war not simply by pointing out that money gets spent for war instead of social needs, but by pointing out that it is capitalism that produces wars. Hudson renames the UN’s Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine as “Responsibility to Privatize (R2P).” This is exactly it. We are interested in overthrowing Assad because he subscribes to a development model that does not privilege Western multinationals. It does not privilege our pipeline projects and it does not permit elite capital to buy up Syrian corporations and especially its infrastructure, such as its utilities–its energy companies, its ports, its communications infrastructure, and so on. That is the treasure that the restless capital of the one percent seeks. The surest way to get it is by force. Which gives the lie to West’s hypocritical but oh-so-predictable wringing of hands over the sight of dead babies in Idleb. This isn’t about bloody civilians or red lines or even black flags. It’s about green stacks and white power, and it always has been. As one friend likes to admonish me, don’t get it twisted.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire and Imperial Fictions, essay collections from between 2012-2017. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.