Saturday, April 14, 2018

West of Eden: Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished banner, Arrested Development, via Arrested Development Wiki.
Screenshot just in case somebody tells Trump what he just did and the thing gets deleted. 
George W, in an undisclosed location, chuckles, remembering he's not the worst president in US history any more.

Meanwhile, special thanks from most of the world to Defense Secretary James Mattis and, I think, President Emmanuel Macron for satisfying our emperor's need to display his manly firmness and compassion at so little cost, taking no lives (apparently no casualties at all among Syrian troops or civilians, though hardly anybody seems to be asking, thanks BBC), and not making the Syrian situation markedly worse than it was before. Maybe even making it a little better, if it's true that facilities for making chemical weapons have really been damaged or destroyed.

I really do think there's something brilliant about Macron and the ability he's shown to mediate the behavior of the two emperors, Putin and Trump, with whom he's cultivated something like friendship, and I'm sure he deserves some credit for talking Trump down from demanding more war.

It was a scary moment last night when Trump (or the text written for him) suggested this might be the start of something big—

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” he said.
—but afterwards, in the Pentagon briefing, Mattis made it clear that it was a one-night stand, like last year's:
But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who had urged caution in White House deliberations leading up to the strike, told reporters on Friday night that there were no more attacks planned unless Mr. Assad again uses gas on his own people.
Not to say the same emergency can't keep cropping up in the coming months, whenever the Mueller squeeze starts getting him upset, but they've handled this one pretty well.

I'm not inclined to give any thought to the legality of the operation, other than to remind everybody that Barack Obama is the only president in modern times to have worried about congressional consent in a case like this, and he's still getting trashed for deciding not to attack Syria for crossing his "Red Line" after Congress's refusal to vote on it. Trump went and did his raid without asking Congress, killing nine Syrian soldiers and maybe nine or more civilians, and it's as if nobody even noticed; this morning I've got a nice note from Senator Elizabeth Warren letting me know that
If Donald Trump wants to expand American military involvement in Syria's civil war, he must seek approval from Congress – and provide a comprehensive strategy with clear goals and a plan to achieve them
without mentioning either last night's raid or last April's at all, as if she hadn't heard of either one of them, which doesn't seem likely, so she must have some reason for not wanting to talk about that.

She does, I should add, give attention to the only move available to the United States to alleviate the sufferings of Syrians in an unambiguously good way, as I've been pleading since forever, by taking in more refugees, thousands and preferably millions, against the emperor's wishes:
And if Donald Trump truly wants to help Syrians fleeing murderers, he should immediately drop his heartless, relentless effort to ban their children from America.
Partly thanks to the news that the US has admitted just 11 Syrian refugees all year (slightly distorted; it's 44 for fiscal 2018, which began in October, of whom 11 have been admitted since January, but it's perfectly possible that no more will be admitted for the rest of the year, see this Vox explainer), more and more people are starting to talk about the simple and inexpensive and profoundly American expedient of welcoming tired, poor, wretched, homeless, tempest-tossed people to our country from the catastrophe given them by the George W. Bush administration, and I imagined I even heard old Scott Simon alluding to it, very cautiously, on the radio this morning. Not during the Syria coverage, but in talking about last week's World Holocaust Remembrance Day, with reference to a very unsettling survey study finding that two thirds of US Millennials can't identify who or what "Auschwitz" is, 22% of them (and 22% of the overall population) haven't heard of the Holocaust at all or aren't sure whether they have or not; only 37% had heard that Jews were killed in Poland, site of 3.5 million of the killings, and so on.

I can't remember how he worked his way into it (transcript's not up yet), but Simon found himself talking about attitudes toward European Jewish refugees in the US in the 1930s, our failure to let almost any in, and the efforts of influential anti-Semites like Charles Lindbergh to keep them out—he didn't mention, but I instantly thought, of course, about the name and motto of Lindbergh's organization, America First.

We don't think that much about Syrian ordinary people until we see video of them being strangled by poisonous gases, but they're killed every day in Bashar al-Assad's prisons, as they have been for five years. and bombed with ordinary munitions. Almost 700 people had been killed in Syrian government airstrikes this year alone before the gas attacks killed 70 more a week ago. More than 13,000 are said to have been secretly executed by hanging in prison through the course of the war, and over 100,000 civilians killed in airstrikes, mostly by government forces. There are more than 13.5 million Syrians, out of a prewar population of 22 million, in need of humanitarian assistance, including 5.5 million who have made it out of the country and 6 million still internally displaced.

And here we are, eighty years after Kristallnacht, with a demagogue under the slogan America First telling us we can't do anything about it. Not to be too obvious or anything.

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