• Fairfax: United shares fall as social media firestorm over forcibly removed passenger spreads to China • MSN via Washington Post: Was that doctor dragged off the United Airlines flight because he was Asian? Many in China think so*Cartoon: Martyn Turner, used with permission: https://www.facebook.com/martynturnercartoons/ . http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/martyn-turner
First published April 10
“What the world saw last night was the United States Commander-in-Chief, and also a father and grandfather,” explains Kellyanne Conway, Counsellor to the President, on Friday. “The world recoiled in horror at babies writhing and struggling to live. And who could avert their gaze – and that includes our very tough, very resolute, very decisive President.”
Choked-up, yet resolute and tough, hunkered down in his Mar-a-Largo bunker, the man who walked right off the set of Celebrity Apprentice and on to a world stage, Donald J. Trump, shows everyone he’s made of the right stuff, bigly. Ham.
Trump mugs the camera; a Ronald Reagan parody of fake sincerity. He’ll stop Bashar Al Assad from gassing children. Why, Assad has affected him profoundly, personally. “... a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.”
The President is responding to reports of a chemical attack on a building in Khan Sheikhoun, north-western Syria, that killed 80 civilians and left hundreds wounded. The Syrian Air Force is blamed for the bombing. Yet there is no proof.
Syria denies any involvement. Those responsible for the original report, the “White Helmets” function as a propaganda branch of ISIL and have long been discredited by Eva Barlett at the UN for their fake videos and disinformation.
The Shajul Islam video which purports to document Sarin gas in the Khan Sheikhoun attack is examined in detail by pharmacologist and lawyer Dr Denis O’Brien, author of Ghouta Massacre Murder in the SunMorgue, a detailed, forensic-pharmacological analysis of the Ghouta Massacre near Damascus, Syria in August, 2013.
O’Brien finds little or no evidence of Sarin gas but identifies symptoms consistent with cyanide poisoning. His reservations are echoed by other experts and critical observers. The “Sarin gas video” nevertheless receives widespread uncritical screening on mainstream media (MSM).
Trump is convinced. He orders a missile strike. It is set to launch during the main course of his welcome dinner for China’s President, for which he selects a pan-seared Dover sole with champagne sauce and herb-roasted new potato from a plain menu which signals business function as much as an impressive lack of inspiration. He has a deal to seal with Xi Jinping. He’s already threatened that the US will “solve” North Korea alone, although experts are sceptical.
“I am not going to tell you”
A mid-dinner missile strike on Syria ups the ante. Will North Korea be next? “I am not going to tell you” is all he will say. His deputy security adviser, KT McFarland, talks up North Korea’s nuclear threat. Trump says he wants China to “rein in” North Korea. “Trade is the key.” Yet he’ll need more than bluff and bluster if he is to seal any kind of deal. And he’ll need to deliver on his promises to put America first if he is to arrest his declining support at home.
“The Art of the Deal” author (ghost-writer Tony Schwartz) Donald, has always been an approval seeker. Now he’s keen to arrest his plummeting popular opinion ratings. Only 34 percent of Americans currently approve of the job Trump is doing, a figure two points below Obama’s all-time low, reports Investor’s Business Daily/TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (IBD/TIPP), a 10 percent drop since March. He’d do anything to get America to like him again.
Setting up a Syrian strike to upstage his dinner with Xi Jinping certainly gets a rise out of China’s state media:
“This is his first major decision on international affairs, and his haste and inconsistency has left people with a deep impression,” says the Global Times. It’s hardly an auspicious beginning but the US still puts on an incredible show ...
Australians are visually carpet-bombed Friday with sensational saturation video loop coverage of the firing of 59 long-range, all-weather, subsonic, Tomahawk cruise missiles Al-Shayrat air base in the Western Syrian province of Homs. A barrage of assertion, speculation and general ignorance is lined up in support. A case for regime change is brewing.
Across the nation, lounge rooms flicker in the ghostly glow of endless replays of giant missiles twisting skyward in early morning Eastern Mediterranean inky darkness. Swirling trails of thick smoke transform the Arleigh-Burke destroyers USS Ross and USS Porter, two of a US fleet of 75, into ghastly fire-breathing, death-dealing, vengeful dragons.
It’s a top quality performance, a Pentagon son et lumière; a spectacular display of righteous might intercut with images of gas attack victims supplied by US-UK and NATO funded White Helmet rebels in Syria who always put on a good show in return for a retainer of $123 million a year. What it lacks in narrative coherence, it makes up for in special effects.
... the value of each one of the lives of seven civilians ...
No expense is spared, although a 3.5% US Navy budget cut back to $152 billion in 2017 mean crews are halved to find savings. Replacing one destroyer would cost $1.8 billion. Each missile has a million dollar price tag. Yet inestimable; beyond all calculation is the value of each one of the lives of seven civilians, including four children who have been killed in areas nearby who remain unnamed statistics in a Reuters’ relay of a Syrian state news agency report.
The pipeline wars have taken a massive toll. More than 1 in 10 Syrians have been wounded or killed since the beginning of the war in 2011, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research in 2016 which finds the conflict has killed 470,000 either directly or indirectly. The United Nations stopped counting Syrian war dead in 2014.
Given these circumstances, it’s incredible that Trump’s humanity is affronted so late in the day. Also worrying is his blindspot - unless he’s seeking a diversion. Last month alone, 1472 civilians have been killed in his war on ISIS, a result of his decision to alter risk/reward ratio calculations. Yet none of this dints the President’s Australian support base.
Down under we’re gung ho. Huzza huzza, four cheers for Trump. Trump has done something. Thumped Syria. He’s OK. Local commentators love a bit of biffo. Suddenly we are all applauding the man with a plan. Loving that line in the sand.
Panels of experts are mobilised instantly. Cobber Kim Beasley gets a guernsey. Kim loves guns and knows stuff about America. And can he talk! Bobbing up everywhere is model of compassion, jolly Jim Molan, architect of “Stop the Boats” (at any price) and our resident chemical weapons expert, a Major General seconded from the ADF to the US command who deployed white phosphorous in Fallujah in late 2004, a choice corroborated by US Colonel Barry Venable in 2005.
The attack on Fallujah was launched by seizing the only hospital. Oddly, no-one asks for Jim’s special insights.
“Packed into an artillery shell, white phosphorous explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy’s positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body,” reports the New York Times.
... sounds ominously as if regime change is in the wind …
Prior to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no ISIS; no civil unrest in Syria. A lot of explaining is left to do. Yet all the talk is of “bringing the Assad regime into line”, as Malcolm Turnbull puts it. Pressure must be put on Russia because Syria is a vassal state, he says. The Daily Telegraph raves about Donald Trump’s “well-considered” attack which it sees as a “circuit-breaker”. Words come cheap but it sounds ominously as if regime change is in the wind.
There is precious little discussion of the gas attack itself; no pause to consider why Syria’s president might gas his own people at a time when things were going very much his own way. The people of Syria would decide their own future leader said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as recently as 30 March.
A more plausible scenario which fits history and circumstantial evidence is that al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions supplied the chemical weaponry. The White Helmets may have orchestrated the attack leaving US Neocons to supply the script. Yet our response has been largely uncritical, pliant and alarmingly receptive to official US propaganda.
More entreprenurial types want to take the false flag and run with it. Celebrity politician Christopher Pyne effortlessly blends expedience with rooting for Trump as he heroically battles over exposure and relevance fatigue to meet US Defence Secretary James Mattis. Like a rat up a torpedo tube, Pyne sees new opportunities for our “burgeoning defence industry” now Trump has upped US defence spending 10 per cent.
How quickly we move on. In 2014, former Defence Minister David Johnston disgraced himself by saying he wouldn’t trust the ASC to build a canoe. Jim Molan saw red. Now we are touting our defence industry to the United States.
Other urgers are waiting. Kevin “boots on the ground” Andrews, a big fan of the US from its wacky fundamentalism to its divine right to regime change in Iraq, is saddled up, incommunicado, on Pollie Pedal with pal Abbott. Wild horses wouldn’t get his Grecian head on the box now. But he’ll be back to argue our need to boost our commitment in Syria.
... a pack of hawkish US sycophants or apologists ...
In brief, with incredible unanimity, once again, our commentators, like our politicians are overwhelmingly, a pack of hawkish US sycophants or apologists. US cheerleader Marise Payne appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to spin the sudden US flip-flop or Trump’s latest impulse as a “considered, calibrated and proportionate” response.
A new world disorder is born. Nothing is certain; everything is cast into doubt. Michaelia Cash will proceed with internships regardless of Senate approval and against all advice that it’s exploitation because it helps businesses, Amen . Turnbull’s Adani coal safari will still go ahead but that’s locked in by his coal lobby bosses.
Never to be upstaged, or to pass up on a slogan, “Bashar Al Assad has to go”, the PM says, finding his inner Tomahawk.
Trump’s Operation random Tomahawk attack would upstage anyone. Each missile carries 450 kg of explosive in its nose. Fittingly, for an era of leaders who worship technological disruption, or for the growing army of critics of a US President who has proved an inept stooge, tomahawk comes from Powhatan tamahaac, ‘to cut off by tool’.
The attack is not a random act of gratuitous violence to distract from investigations into his Russian connections. He may owe billions to Russian banks but who cares? No-one else would lend the multiple bankrupt the money.
Instantly Trump is a moral hero. No longer is he stunningly inept, an accidental president desperate to be taken seriously. He’s drawn a line in the sand, Barnaby Joyce, our man in touch with nature suggests, a signal to Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad that he’s gone too far. It won’t stop at a Tomahawk warning. Regime change is in the wings.
Not only is Assad’s responsibility for the gassing not established, Trump did not bother to check. What is clear is that Trump has violated international law. University of Sydney International law expert international law expert Professor Ben Saul says that force is legal only in self-defence or with the authorisation of the UN Security Council.
Russia threatens to shut down its “deconfliction channel”
A Mexican wall of enmity is rising against him in Syria, if not throughout the Middle East. Russia threatens to shut down its “deconfliction channel” with the US, a means by which the two nations co-ordinate their efforts in Syria. Friday Russia’s TASS news agency reports that the Admiral Grigorovich, a frigate armed with Cruise missiles has been despatched from the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Calling upon Russia to bring Syria to heel is having the opposite effect.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov suggests a “complex of measures” to strengthen Syrian air defences will be carried out to help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities.” Not that he is impressed by the last attack.
Only 23 of the 59 missiles reached the Shayrat air base Konashenkov says “the combat efficiency of the US strike was very low”. Photographs on Syrian and Russian media confirm that the airbase is still operational.
The attack has been a wonderful opportunity for our PM, leader of “a government that gets things done”, to posture patriotically, invoke sacrifice and to not so innovatively call for regime change in Syria, the very same mistakes John Howard made when he was seduced by propaganda about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
There’s a bit of Anzackery to take care of with stirring speeches from Kokoda before Mal must dash to India, doubtless, a mercy mission to soothe the pillow of the dying in a nation where coal smoke fed pollution brings premature death to 3000 people every day. He leaves his trusty deputy PM, Air Vice Marshall Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce on hand to deal with the more nuanced parts of governing and getting things done such as why Assad would gas his own people.
Joyce doesn’t make a lot of sense but you can tell he’d be keen himself to put a Tomahawk up Assad’s clacker.
To Barnaby, it’s all about a line in the sand, code for a finger wagging ultimatum, a foreign policy strategy not known for its success rate, historically, especially when dealing with leaders whose nations are already a hotbed of insurgency.
... high-handed, patronising arrogance and hypocritical posturing ...
Effortlessly, Kaiser Barnaby, who has moved an entire government department single-handedly to shore up his own electoral prospects, grasps the nettle. He has the runs on the board when it comes to the high-handed, patronising arrogance and hypocritical posturing that a nation needs in a crisis. Not that there’s any crisis in our well-oiled economy.
Empiricism is so yesterday. But raise a glass. Government policy passes the pub-test this week. Despite its death spiral opinion polls and signs of an unbridgeable credibility gap in energy, environment, education and welfare and trickle-down economics, almost any policy area you can poke a stick at, really, the government has something to shout about.
Not only does the pub test trump all other forms of evaluation - as everyone knows, it also means the Coalition won’t bother to explain its company tax cuts for firms with turnovers up to $50 million. This frees up government no end. We’ve already had a taste of how it liberates foreign policy from the dreary burden of proof into mindless sloganeering.
No need to commission another dodgy report like BIS Shrapnel’s March 2016 calculation that cutting negative gearing would drive up rentals and push down prices, a case based on some rubbery figures including shrinking GDP to $190 billion from its true figure of $1 trillion per year.
Treasury said of the whole government company tax project it would deliver a 1 per cent growth dividend and a wage increase of $2 a day – and that wouldn’t be for 20 years.
Economist Saul Eslake is among the many experts who dispute that giving smaller companies a tax cut will generate the claimed benefits in jobs and wage increases. He points to much evidence. Joe Hockey rushed to give small businesses breaks. He gave a 1.5 per cent tax cut and an enlarged instant asset write-off in his second budget. Wages are stagnating; not growing. Unemployment and underemployment expand while our budget deficit soars.
A clearly elevated federal Treasurer Scott Morrison explains his government need not release any more fatuous fact-based projection, prediction or any other form of assessment to support its company tax cuts. It’s just not what small business folk are concerned about. He knows what’s best for us. Don’t you worry about that.
“If you go down the pub and you talk to small-business people, they’re not talking about econometric models. What they’re talking about is how they are going to grow their businesses.”
... a flash of the old born to rule arrogance ...
There’s a hint of Turnbull’s old saw, “the vibe of the thing” dressed down a bit as well as a flash of the old born-to-rule arrogance that is helping this government seal its fate.
Rivalling Pauline Hanson’s powers of clairaudience - or perhaps they are contagious, Morrison now claims he knows what’s on the minds of the Mum and Dads who own the businesses that are this nation’s backbone.
From your local Jim’s Mowing to the bloke who fixes your car; from your corner hairdresser to your mobile nail technician, none can stop talking about growing their businesses. As a unicorn is always talking about growing its horn. Everyone is planning to expand. Sounds absurd, impossible? It’s because it is. But Morrison won’t hear a word against it.
In fact many small businesses are unincorporated and their proprietors will continue to pay tax at personal income rates. Bugger the evidence. Truth is unassailable. Besides, who needs facts when you can hear the fat cats purring?
Sinking in the polls with not a stitch of useful policy nor a credible programme to its name, a failing government grasps with both hands the news of Trump’s crusade against the bad, mad Assad with his gas attacks on his own people without exercising due diligence, independence of thought or even a modicum of common sense.
It is a disturbing sign. An all-consuming self-destructive collective madness stirs, a type of folie a foule which is totally immune to reason’s blandishments. Writ small it expresses itself in a crusade for tax cuts, lower wages and a pogrom on the poor. Writ large it leads to foreign intervention and regime change; in brief, unholy, unmitigated disaster.
Phosphorous - also used by Israeli army
Bernard Keane in Crikey ...
Brief BBC report on the use of white phosphorus in Iraq ...
*David Tyler (AKA Urban Wronski) was born in England, raised in New Zealand and an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.