From Our Future
"Mission accomplished," says the President. What, exactly, was the mission? And what exactly was accomplished?
Donald Trump is being mocked for using this phrase in a tweet to praise what he claims was a "perfectly executed" airstrike against chemical weapons facilities in Syria. This recalls George W. Bush's egregious evocation of the phrase in 2003 to claim an early end to the U.S. entanglement in Iraq, which is still ongoing 15 years later.
History made a fool of Bush for that proclamation, which was printed on a banner behind the President as he delivered his speech proclaiming an end to the Iraqi conflict on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
But Bush's foolish and lethal incursion to Iraq had the backing of virtually the entire national-security establishment. So did Donald Trump's bombing attack on Syria, as did the bombing attack he ordered last year.The Costs of Intervention
U.S. media, for the most part, reinforce the idea that intervention by our military is the preferred solution to global conflicts. Some of the same reporters who now mock Trump for saying "Mission Accomplished" cheered on Bush's invasion of Iraq. They remember Bush's errors, but not their own.
The media's job, we are told, is to ask skeptical questions about the people in power. That didn't happen much in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, and it's not happening now. Here are the questions that should be asked -- not just on the eve of a bombing attack, but every day we continue our disastrous and drifting military intervention in the Middle East.
- Why couldn't the military wait for inspectors to do their jobs?
Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international non-proliferation organization, were scheduled to arrive in Douma, Syria on Saturday, April 15 to begin investigating the reported chemical attack on civilians there. The airstrikes took place on Friday, April 14.
This is a disturbing echo of the 2003 Iraq invasion. There, too, the United States was unwilling to wait for international inspectors to discover the facts before beginning the attack. Fifteen years on, we know that didn't work out very well. Why couldn't the bombing of Syria wait for inspectors to do their work?
- How do we know we're being told the truth?
"We are confident that we have crippled Syria's chemical weapons program," said U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. That statement was echoed by military leaders. But a report from Agence France Presse suggests that one destroyed building, described by attacking forces as a chemical-weapons facility, was actually a pharmaceutical and research facility specializing in food testing and antivenoms for scorpion and snake bites.
"If there were chemical weapons, we would not be able to stand here," said someone who identified himself as an engineer who worked at the facility.
Given our country's long history of public deception from military and civilian officials, why aren't we demanding independent confirmation of the airstrikes' effectiveness?
- Have strikes like these ever really "punished" a country's leader -- or "sent them a message," for that matter?
We keep hearing the cliche' that airstrikes like these are meant to "punish" leaders like Assad. This time was no different. And yet, it's unlikely that Assad personally suffered as a result of this attack.
So who, really, are we punishing?
Then there's this comment, from Defense Secretary James Mattis: "Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack."