Apr 07

The $94 Million* Circus

* Each Tomahawk costs about $1.6 Million, Trump fired 59.

During Roman times Emperors would offer Bread and Circuses to assuage a restless population. Now Bread has immediate and obvious uses for the average citizen and to this day is heavily subsidized in most European countries. Circuses?

Well first of all they didn’t mean what they do today, gymnasts flying above cages of abused and disinterested animals that could potentially be dangerous if one were intent on committing suicide through stupidity like Roy of Siegfried &, punctuated by grotesques piling out of tiny enclosed spaces in incredible numbers to douse the ringside rubes in glitter.

Also they weren’t the most popular form of entertainment, Romans preferred NASCAR which is why there are ruined Hippodromes all across Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Kind of makes you wonder what’s going to happen to Daytona.

Still, who doesn’t like a ringside seat, safely out of range of any actual jeopardy, where one can be splattered with the sweat and gore of Barbarians?

Alas Bread is too expensive. All we have are Circuses.

Ten Years Ago: Bush Declared ‘Mission Accomplished’—and the Media Swooned
By Greg Mitchell, The Nation
May 1, 2013

On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today op-ed, “Relax, Celebrate Victory.” The same day, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq—with the now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner arrayed behind him.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” He added: “Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”

PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, “The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a—on a carrier landing.”

Bob Schieffer on CBS said: “As far as I’m concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time.” His guest, Joe Klein, responded: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me.”

Everyone agreed the Democrats and antiwar critics were now on the run.

Maureen Dowd in her column did offer a bit of over-the-top mockery, declaring: “Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.

“He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ”revvin’ up your engine” myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.

“This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.”

When Bush’s jet landed on the aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded. That was over 4,300 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, fatalities ago.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria
by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
2017-04-07

U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth in U.S. discourse within less than 24 hours – even though Trudeau urged an investigation, even though it was denied in multiple capitals around the world, and even though Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

Whatever happened with this event, the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years in what began as a citizen uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring, and then morphed into a complex proxy war involving foreign fighters, multiple regional powers, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Russia.

The CIA has spent more than billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the U.S. began bombing Syria in 2014 – the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama – and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist sites of ISIS and Al Qaeda, it targets the Syrian government – something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.

Leading Congressional Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – quickly praised Trump’s bombing while raising concerns about process. Hours before the bombing commenced, as it was known Trump was planning it, Hillary Clinton – who has been critical of Obama for years for not attacking Assad – appeared at an event and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning.

The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable. Already, the New York Times is gushing that “in launching a military strike just 77 days into his administration, President Trump has the opportunity, but hardly a guarantee, to change the perception of disarray in his administration.”

Political leaders across the spectrum rushed to praise Trump and support his bombing campaign. Media coverage was overwhelmingly positive.

Trump is going to see – and feel – the establishment and media respect he craves, the sensations of strength he most lacks, by dropping bombs. Every person, let alone Trump, would be tempted to keep pursuing war as a result of this warped incentive framework.

Those who instantly fall in line behind Trump as he bombs people are ensuring that he will keep doing it. As the instantly popular post-9/11 George W. Bush showed, those praising Trump for bombing Syria are also building him up in general so that he becomes stronger with everything else he wants to do.

Democrats have spent months wrapping themselves in extremely nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric. They have constantly accused Trump of being a traitor to the U.S., a puppet of Putin, and unwilling to defend U.S. interests. They have specifically tried to exploit Assad’s crimes by tying the Syrian leader to Trump, insisting that Trump would never confront Assad because doing so would anger his Kremlin masters. They have embraced a framework whereby anyone who refuses to confront Putin or Assad is deemed a sympathizer of, or a servant to, foreign enemies.

Having pushed those tactics and themes, Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. How could they possibly do anything but cheer as Trump bombs Syria? They can’t. And cheering is thus exactly what they’re doing.

For months, those of us who have urged skepticism and restraint on the Russia rhetoric have highlighted the risk that this fixation on depicting him as a tool of the Kremlin could goad Trump – dare him or even force him – to seek confrontation with Moscow. Some Democrats reacted with rage yesterday at the suggestion that their political tactics were now bearing this fruit, but that’s how politics works.

Much as George H.W. Bush was motivated to shed his “wimp” image by invading Panama, of course Trump will be motivated to prove he’s not controlled by Putin via blackmail by seeking confrontation with the Russian leader. And that’s exactly what he just did. War is the classic weapon U.S. Presidents use to show they are strong, patriotic and deserving of respect; the more those attributes are called in question, the greater that compulsion becomes.

Trump is the prime author of his wars, and of this bombing in Syria. He, and he alone, bears primary responsibility for it. But Trump is not an island of agency; he operates in the climate of Washington. A major reason why it’s so dangerous to ratchet up rhetorical tension between two major nuclear-armed powers is because of the ease with which those tensions can translate into actual conflict, and the motivation it can create for Trump to use war to prove he’s a patriot after all.

Whatever else is true, Democrats – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – have refrained from criticizing Trump’s bombing campaign on the merits (as opposed to process issues). Indeed, Democratic Party leaders have explicitly praised Trump’s bombing. They will have to continue to do so even if Trump expands this war. That’s what the Democratic Party has turned itself into to; indeed, it’s what it has been for a long time.

As it always does, the U.S. media last night was an almost equal mix of excitement and reverence as the bombs fell. People who dissent from this bombing campaign – who opposed it on the merits – were almost entirely disappeared, as they always are in such moments of high patriotism (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had two guests on after midnight who opposed it, but they were rare). Claims from the U.S. government and military are immediately vested with unquestioned truth and accuracy, while claims from foreign adversaries such as Russia and Syria are reflexively scorned as lies and propaganda.

For all the recent hysteria over RT being a propaganda outlet for the state, U.S. media coverage is barely distinguishable in times of war (which is, for the U.S., the permanent state of affairs).

It should be startling and infuriating that Trump is able to order a new attack on the Syrian Government without any democratic debate, let alone Congressional approval. At least when Obama started bombing Syria without Congress, he had the excuse that it was authorized by the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, since his ostensible targets were terrorist group (even though ISIS did not exist until years after that was enacted and is hardly “affiliated” with Al Qaeda). But since there’s no self-defense pretext to what Trump just did, what possible legal rationale exists for this? None.

But nobody in Washington really cares about such legalities. Indeed, we have purposely created an omnipotent presidency. Recall that in 2011, Obama went to war in Libya not just without Congressional approval, but even after Congress rejected such authorization.

What happened to Obama as a result of involving the U.S in a war that Congress had rejected? Absolutely nothing, because Congress, due to political cowardice, wants to abdicate war-making powers to the President. As a country, we have decided we want all-powerful president – one who can bomb, and spy, and detain, and invade with virtually no limits. That’s the machinery of the imperial presidency that both parties have jointly built and have now handed to President Trump.

Indeed, in 2013, Obama explicitly argued that he had the right to bomb Assad without Congressional approval – a precedent the Trump White House will now use.

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the last 24 hours has been watching those who have vilified Trump as an Evil Fascist and Bumbling Clown and Unstable Sociopath suddenly decide that they want him to bomb Syria. Even if you’re someone who in the abstract wanted the U.S. to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a completely unstable and incompetent monster prevent you from endorsing this war, with Trump as the Commander-in-Chief?

What happened to all the warnings about Trump’s towering incompetence and core evil? Where are all the grave predictions that he’s leading the world on a path of authoritarianism, fascism and blood and soil nationalism? They all gave way to War Fever.

During the campaign, Trump explicitly vowed to commit war crimes: to torture detainees and purposely murder the families of terrorists. Back in April of last year, I summarized Trump’s mindset this way: “he favors fewer wars, but advocates more monstrous, war-criminal tactics for the ones US does fight.”

Given everything that has been claimed about Trump by his critics, how can any of them justify cheering for a bombing campaign led by him? Do they experience no cognitive dissonance at all in having spent months depicting Trump as a lying, deceitful fascist, only to now turn around and trust him to bomb other countries with care, humanitarianism and efficacy?

Central to the conspiracy theories woven for months by Democrats is the claim that Putin wields power over Trump in the form of blackmail, debts or other leverage. As a result, this conspiracy theory goes, the Kremlin has now infiltrated American institutions of power and controls the U.S. Government, because Trump is unwilling – indeed, unable – to defy Putin’s orders.

Yet here is Trump – less than three months after being inaugurated – bombing one of the Kremlin’s closest allies, in a country where Russia has spent more than a year fighting to preserve his government. Will any of this undermine or dilute the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin controls the White House? Of course not. Warped conspiracy theorists are not only immune to evidence that disproves their theories but, worse, find ways to convert such evidence into further proof of their conspiracies.

Already, the most obsessive Democratic conspiracists have cited the fact that the U.S. military advised Russia in advanced of the strikes – something they would have been incredibly reckless not to do – as innuendo showing that Trump serves Putin. If Trump tomorrow bombed Red Square, Democrats – after cheering him – would quickly announce that he only did so to throw everyone off the trail of his collusion with Putin.

In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens. During the campaign, he vowed to murder the family members of alleged terrorists. He shut America’s doors to Syrian refugees, and is deporting people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood despite committing no crimes.

Given all that, could American elites possibly believe him when he says that he is motivated by humanitarianism – deep-seated anger over seeing Syrian children harmed – in bombing Syria? Yes, they could, and they are. That’s because American elites always want to believe – or at least want others to believe – that the U.S. bombs countries over and over not out of aggression or dominance but out of love, freedom, democracy and humanitarian concern.

The U.S. Government does not wage war, and the U.S. military does not blow things up, out of humanitarianism. It does so when it believes there is some benefit to be obtained for itself. Again, Federalist 4 warned us: “nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.”

If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. in Syria, it would take in massive numbers of refugees, but it hasn’t. If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. bombing of Libya, it would have given large amounts of aid to that country in the aftermath to help it deal with the ensuring anarchy and misery, but it didn’t. That’s because humanitarianism is the pretext for U.S. wars, not the actual motive.

(T)he psychological comfort of believing that the only reason your government bombs more countries by far than any other is because your country is just so uniquely devoted to humanitarian love is so powerful that it overrides all rational faculties. That’s why all wars – even the most malicious and aggressive – are wrapped in humanitarian packaging. And no matter how many times we see that this packaging is a lie – in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Libya – we keep wanting to believe that, this time, our bombs will be filled with love, help and freedom.

Those who oppose Trump’s new bombing campaign – or any U.S. bombing campaign – are instantly met with the predictable objection: we must “Do Something” about Syria. This mentality is predicated on a terribly false, and terribly dangerous, premise: that the U.S. military can and should solve every world evil.

But sometimes, the U.S. lacks the ability to solve other problems. Often, having the U.S. drop bombs exacerbates suffering, rather than alleviates it. As upsetting as it is to accept, sometimes doing nothing is the least bad of all the options. Again, if humanitarianism really were the motive, there are many things the U.S. could do besides bombing Syria and killing civilians, such as giving refuge and humanitarian aid. But the idea that a war can be justified by appealing to the vague imperative that we must “do something” is incredibly irrational and immoral.

The same is true – indeed even more so – of this horribly toxic premise long endorsed by the world of U.S think tanks that a President must go to war to preserve “credibility” – meaning that he must drop bombs and kill people to show the world that he, and the country he leads, is “strong.” To see that hideous premise in action, look at how the New York Times gloriously depicted Bush 41’s senseless invasion of Panama in the above article, or how the NYT yesterday described the view of “experts” about Trump’s need to bomb Syria.

There may be some things more evil and immoral than starting a new war based on the desire to avoid “looking weak,” but it’s hard to think of many things that qualify. And yet this belief continues to be gospel among America’s war-loving think tank and Foreign Policy Community.

Despite insisting that he had the power to do so without Congress, Obama resisted bipartisan demands to use military force against Assad. I personally view this as one of Obama’s smartest and best decisions and, according to today’s New York Times, so does he: “Mr. Obama said he was ‘very proud of that moment’ because he had stepped back from the Washington establishment’s warnings. Few of his top foreign policy advisers agreed.” Indeed, by the end of his presidency, the U.S. stopped claiming it was even seeking regime change.

But those who insist that the U.S. has a moral obligation to remove Assad or at least bomb him become tongue-tied when it comes to assessing Obama. If, as many claim, Assad is our generation’s Hitlerian figure – and recall how many recent foreign leaders were depicted as The New Hitler when some wanted them attacked – does that make Obama this generation’s Neville Chamberlain for his refusal to attack Assad? And does it mean that Trump has acted more morally than Obama by doing what Obama refused to do?

Again, I side with Obama in this dispute because I never believed that U.S. military had any positive role to play in Syria. But those who have long insisted that U.S. military action against Assad is morally imperative should follow those premises through to their conclusions when it comes to Obama and Trump.

Every time Trump drops another bomb, Democratic pundits declare vindication over those always unnamed-people who they claim argued during the campaign that Trump was more anti-war than Clinton.

Who are the people who argued that Trump would be more anti-war than Clinton? Their numbers were tiny; Maureen Dowd is one of the very people with a prominent platform to claim this. Trump expressly vowed to bomb more frequently and more aggressively, as was often pointed out.

It’s certainly true that any attempt by Trump to remove Assad would violate his oft-stated campaign vows. But whatever else is true, this specific bombing campaign is a bizarre instance to try to defend Clinton given that Clinton, for years – and again yesterday – endorsed this military action. Indeed, Clinton has long endorsed far more extensive military action in Syria than what Trump yesterday ordered, often advocating a no-fly-zone over parts of Syria – which would be a massive and incredibly dangerous military undertaking – and even yesterday calling for the destruction of Assad’s air force.

It’s certainly true that Trump vowed to involve the U.S. in fewer wars than Clinton wanted, and for a narrower range of reasons. And that may still end up happening. Indeed, many of Trump’s most vocal supporters yesterday were expressing anger even over this limited bombing campaign in Syria. But to take a military action that Clinton herself favored and try to use it to suggest that Clinton would have been less hawkish is just bizarre and deceitful beyond belief.

Ultimately, what is perhaps most depressing about all of this is how, yet again, we see the paucity of choice offered by American democracy. The leadership of both parties can barely contain themselves joining together to cheer the latest war. One candidate – the losing one – ran on a platform of launching this new war, while the other – the victor – repeatedly vowed to avoid it, only to launch it after being in office less than 100 days.

The one constant of American political life is that the U.S. loves war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 denunciation of the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is more accurate than ever.

Let me make it perfectly clear- the only solution in the Middle East is complete and total U.S. withdrawal. Let the Sunnis and Shi’ias have their war (my money is on the Shi’ias), we have no more business in it than the Thirty Years War.

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