In hindsight, it’s amazing it took President Trump this long to figure it out. As he hedges the mythical 100-day threshold, his approval numbers are slightly to the south of shingles, his first-pick people are getting chased from their desks when not deploying food tasters to make sure their pea soup isn’t poisoned, Congress has become a gear-grinding calamity where legislation goes to die and despite all efforts to tweet it away, the question of Russian influence over the election continues to loom like a bird of prey riding the thermals of the high noon sun. Trump got one Supreme Court Justice approved, but even with the GOP in full control of both chambers, Mitch McConnell still had to break the Senate to get it done. What to do, what to do?
Of course! Let’s blow some shit up! That always works! And so it came to pass on Thursday night that orders were given, transmitted and received, the doors to silos rolled open, and some 59 Tomahawk missiles leaped from the bowels of a pair of US destroyers into the Mediterranean night, bound for Syria. For the eleventy-millionth time, a US president sought to change the subject at home by firing an attack abroad.
The effect upon the media was immediate, dynamic and utterly disgusting. Fareed Zakaria of CNN went full Van Jones and declared the attack to be, at long last, the true beginning of Trump’s presidency. Brian Williams of NBC upstaged Zakaria’s enthusiasm by breathlessly describing the missile launches as “beautiful” three times in 30 seconds, dolefully misquoted Leonard Cohen, and then asked one of his guests as an afterthought, “What did they hit?”
Funny you should mention that, Brian, you feckless hack. The Tomahawks, allegedly serving as avatars of vengeance for a horrific chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week, found their way to Syria, where they rained down on a military airfield. The airfield itself is older than most of its peers, and houses later-model aircraft that, while still effective because you can drop things off their wings, don’t hold a candle to the newer fighter models that grace the skies above Damascus. There was a symbolic aspect to the choice, as the airfield was where the fighters involved in the chemical attack came from, but all things being equal, Trump dumped hundreds of millions of dollars in ordnance on a used-car parking lot.
This is not to imply that it would have been better if the missiles had actually hit something of value or killed scores of people — that would have been, of course, far worse. Syria and the rest of the region at large has seen quite enough of that already: Aleppo looks like the shattered jawbone of some ancient leviathan statue.
In addition to the brutal attacks by their own government, Russia and ISIS, Syrians have absorbed a significant amount of violence from the US and other members of its coalition. In the 1,000 days since the anti-ISIS air campaign began, Syria has been bombed from the air almost 8,000 times. Attacks by US forces in Syria take place with chilling frequency. Put it this way: Because the default position in US politics is to start flipping missiles when the coverage gets cold, violence became our credo once again on Thursday night. The amount we spent on this attack could save Meals On Wheels. Instead, the only benefit goes to the networks — a slew of talking heads going, “ZOMG THIS IS SO AWESOME YOU GUYS” — and the politicians whose approval ratings tick up for the day.
As for Brian Williams, Fareed Zakaria and the rest of the anthropomorphic scum passing as journalists in today’s “news” media, what is left to say? War news rang the dinner bell and they came drooling like proper lapdogs. Williams may as well have been the bad guy at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the one who screams “It’s beautiful!” just before his face explodes. CNN’s looped footage of these most recent missile launches may as well have been stock b-roll from 1991.
Remember that? The missile cruiser at dawn, coiled like a snake, with the sleeping shadow of Iraq in the distance. The cough of a microphone being activated, and a voice saying, “Good morning, Mr. Hussein, your 5 am wake-up call is here” and then the deck turns white with the pyrotechnic push of a missile taking flight, and then another, and another. That’s 26 years of this and counting, for those of you watching at home. For Trump and much of the media, it is just another fireworks show.