Manly Trump Plays with Missiles
‘Wonder Boy’ plays with everything else
By Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2017 – Thomas Adcock
NEW YORK CITY, near America
On Monday afternoon in the final week of March, Donald J. Trump transferred the lion’s share of governmental authority to an unelected, unpaid, un-vetted, and largely unknown young man wanted for questioning by the United States Senate Intelligence Committee (and likely the Federal Bureau of Investigation) about his hush-hush dealings with Russian bankers and oligarchs, and shady Kremlin operatives tied to Moscow’s criminal underworld.
Thus did Mr. Trump make his son in-law, 36-year-old Jared Kushner, quasi-president of America. (Never mind anti-nepotism law under Title 5 of the U.S. Code § 3110.) Recently nicknamed “Wonder Boy” by Washington wags, young Mr. Kushner’s portfolio is prodigious:
• On the foreign affairs side, he is tasked with arranging the April summit between Chinese President Xi Jingping and the actual U.S. president; facilitating Mr. Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next month; dealing with Mexico in the preposterous matter of constructing a billion-dollar border wall; and jetting off to Baghdad in the company of the Pentagon chief, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. Plus brokering lasting peace in the entire Middle East, including war-torn Syria.
• Stateside, he is charged with ending the nation’s opioid addiction crisis, repairing the dysfunctional Veterans Administration, and reorganizing the sprawling federal bureaucracy so that it may “run like a business” in accordance with a long-running Republican Party shibboleth.
So proceeded Phase One, as complement to Mr. Trump’s previous family appointments to White House posts—daughter Ivanka (wife of Wonder Boy) as “assistant to the president”; sons Eric and Donald Jr. (nicknamed Usay and Quday, à la scions of the late Saddam Hussein) as frequent counsel at top-level executive sessions. (Bereft of consideration is younger daughter Tiffany, with whom Trump père has a distant relationship.)
Next came Phase Two. During the first Tuesday in April, an event of far-away violence seemed to incense Mr. Kushner’s father in-law, and thereby further advanced the four-corner definition of a classic third world state: 1) a haphazardly organized regime headed by an ignorant, narcissistic, billionaire strong-man in pursuit of public affection and ever more money; 2) war stunts on orders of an autocrat with a facility for thug-talk; 3) a compliant press; and 4) kleptocracy of a ruling clan, especially one that boasts little or no intellectual acuity.
Phase Three was already well underway, what with favor-seekers booking their business suites and banquet reservations at Mr. Trump’s numerous hotels, worldwide and just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in Washington, D.C.
The entertainment company West End Games seemed to have sensed the emergent reign of Trump. In 1985, the company released “Junta,” presciently designed as a board game of “power, intrigue [and] money” in which players “connive, cajole, threaten, and ally their way to the fattest Swiss bank account.”
After viewing television images of some two-dozen Syrian children suffering fatal convulsions upon exposure to Sarin nerve gas dropped on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, allegedly by President Bashar al-Assad’s air force, a splenetic Donald Trump took to television on April 4. He denounced the use of chemical warfare and its slaughter of “beautiful little babies.” Soon thereafter, Mr. Trump responded by firing off fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles from the deck of a Navy ship. The target: Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase near Hom. Cost to American taxpayers, according to the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah: $93 million (€87.8 million).
Apart from earning Mr. Trump a personal cut of that cost—he is a substantial stockholder in Raytheon Corporation, the Pentagon’s supplier of Tomahawks—and replacing a drumbeat of embarrassing headlines about his political ineptitude and corruption (and possible treasonous activity) with huzzahs of flag-waving endorsements from the trained seals of his party, the April 6 attack was pointless. Hours after destroying a few planes and creating a few potholes in a few runways at al-Shayrat, the Syrian air force resumed bombing runs over the country’s eastern sectors, the town of Khan Sheikhoun included.
Joining the chorus of unseemly congratulations were stars of corporate media bedazzled by White House propagandists.
Brian Williams, dean of MSNBC-Television News, said his vision of Tomahawk missiles pounding al-Shayrat was “guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Bob Woodward of the Washington Post spoke of Donald Trump’s manly disgust with the cruelty of chemical weapons assault: “Trump made it clear—‘I will act!’” Geraldo Rivera of Fox TV News gushed, “We love our Tomahawks!” And the normally cool-headed, understated Fareed Zakaria of CNN declared Mr. Trump’s pointless sideshow amidst the Syrian civil war “morally affirming,” adding, “I think this was actually a big moment…I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night.”
Nowhere in their hearty condemnations of Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weaponry—in this instance, Sarin—did the stars of TV punditry mention America’s own heinous experience in monstrosity. To wit:
• From 1965-72 in Vietnam, the U.S. military used a combined eight million tons of Dow Chemical Company’s jelly-like substance napalm—first with flame-throwers in ground combat, later with bombs dropped by B-52 warplanes. The purpose: to kill Viet Cong guerillas and civilians alike. The effect of napalm, which firmly adheres to human skin at ten times the heat of boiling water: about ten minutes of agonizing pain prior to death.
• From 1965-70, the U.S. used twenty million tons of the powerful “Agent Orange” to contaminate waterways and destroy Vietnamese forests and agricultural regions, and those same areas of neighboring Laos. The Red Cross recorded 4.8 million deaths as the result of defoliation, and some 400,000 children born with birth defects.
The hypocrisy is staggering—on the part of media as well the political class. Staggering, too, is the partiality of Mr. Trump’s theatrically humanitarian impulse: On the one hand, he mourns the untimely passing of innocent civilians in Syria; on the other, he declines to admit Syrian refugees, suspecting that Muslims, even beautiful little Muslim children, are prone to commit terrorist acts upon these shores.
NOTE: In the context of his dubious humanitarianism, Mr. Trump reportedly informed President Xi Jing Ping of the impending missile attack against Syria as the two enjoyed a gala banquet dessert of chocolate cake during their meeting at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump golf resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Mistaking Syria for Iraq (or vice versa), Mr. Trump said to Mr. Xi, “[L]et me explain something to you. …We’ve just launched fifty-nine missiles heading toward Iraq and I wanted you to know this. …So he paused for ten seconds, and then he asked the interpreter to please say it again. I didn’t think that was a good sign. And he [Xi] said to me, ‘Anybody…that was so brutal and uses gases to do that [to] young children and babies, it’s OK.’ He was OK with it. He was OK.”
Neither the Vietnamese nor Laotian militaries retaliated against the U.S. for its conduct in the 1960s and ‘70s with conventional armaments, let alone chemical weaponry. No court of law passed sentence on America for its grotesqueries; indeed, legal nicety classifies napalm is an “incendiary” rather than a chemical weapon defined by the Geneva Conventions, and Agent Orange as merely an overgrown herbicide.
However, a deeply ashamed Robert McNamara, the U.S. secretary of defense during the Vietnam War era, confessed guilt in an interview with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris for “The Fog of War.” Though he insisted against all evidence that America won in Vietnam when, in fact, my country retreated in murky defeat, Mr. McNamara said:
[U.S. Air Force General Curtis] LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d have all been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He and I [behaved] as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?
Was there a rule then that said you shouldn’t bomb, shouldn’t kill, shouldn’t burn to death 100,000 civilians in one night?
Perspective is not abundant at times of rally-round-the-flag American patriotism. Donald Trump knows this. As well as he knows The Art of Distraction—which I suggest as the title for a sequel to his best-selling, ghostwritten schlock, “The Art of the Deal,” a slim volume of bromides marketed to young eager-beavers spinning the wheels of commerce.
First and foremost in need of distraction is Mr. Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia’s government intelligence community during his election campaign last year—a scummy association allegedly executed by well-compensated underlings and potential fall-guys, for the most part, augmented by wealthy albeit witless stooges the likes of Jared Kushner.
Once the meat and potatoes of TV news, the Trumpists’ as-yet unproven collusion with Kremlin disinformation artists and computer hackers who posted fake reports on social media sites—now the number one source of “news” in America—seems relegated to the rearview mirror. To be sure, the dispensing of fake news helped derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. American citizens who aid and abet foreign interference in American elections face prosecution for treason, hence the need for underlings and stooges.
Never mind further hypocrisy. America has a long and odoriferous history of interfering in the elections of other nations.
Among the hundreds of Kremlin-sponsored fake news items, Ms. Clinton supposedly operated a child sex ring from the back room of a Washington pizza parlor. This was according to posts on Facebook and Twitter. One of Mr. Trump’s minions, 28-year-old Edgar M. Welch of South Carolina, took “news” of this poorly. He arrived one day at the pizza emporium with a pistol and his AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle. He fired into the shop, missed, and was promptly arrested. At arraignment in a local court, the heavily-tattooed Mr. Welch explained that he drove north to Washington in the cause of rescuing abducted children, but surrendered peacefully after finding no sign that “children were being harbored in the restaurant.” He awaits trial on four felony charges; if convicted, he should live behind bars for a while.
Republican voters, and not a few Democrats, tend to believe anything negative about Ms. Clinton, especially in the realm of sex—and absolutely everything and anything the Lord-God-Almighty-Donald-Trump has to say. I can imagine that if Mr. Trump claimed he’d gone ahead and walled off Mexico with his bare hands his supporters would believe him, thereby greatly sparing the national exchequer.
I think Jared Kushner believes every drop in the river of falsehoods that flow from the kewpie-doll lips of the pathological liar he serves. Young Mr. Kushner is not all that bright, after all, despite being an alumnus of Harvard University—thanks to a timely gift of $2.5 million (€2.34 million) to the venerable institution made by his father, Charles, upon Jared’s admission in 2001. Later, Kushner the Younger had to take over Kushner the Elder’s real estate empire when Daddy was sent to prison upon being found guilty in federal court of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering.
Jared’s contribution to Daddy’s empire was to sink $1.8 billion (€1.69 billion) into the purchase of a Manhattan skyscraper, then shortly thereafter falling short on monthly mortgage payments of $3.5 million (€3.28 million) due to the building’s thirty percent commercial vacancy rate.
Not to worry. When or if the boondoggle comes to insolvency, young Kushner can always find advice from a six-time veteran of Bankruptcy Court—Donald J. Trump, who likewise inherited a real estate empire from his daddy. This is how landlords roll.
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump, has been installed at the White House, where she performs unspecified chores as her father’s unpaid aide from an office one floor over her husband’s office. A jewelry and clothing designer by trade, her glitzy merchandise has been unceremoniously removed from high-end department stores due to lack of sales. At the moment, Ms. Trump works above her pay grade—which is zero.
Uday and Qusay fare much better as co-chiefs of Daddy’s web of businesses. On the side, Don Junior is plotting a run for the governorship of New York because the mayoralty of New York City “doesn’t interest me.” Eric recently told reporters, “Nepotism is a beautiful thing.” And, in the case of the Trump boys, at least, a most profitable thing.
There may not remain much cash on the table once Mr. Trump departs Washington, either by ouster or resignation. His cabinet officers—whom the Texas political activist Jim Hightower clocks as “ideological hacks, incompetents, and Wall Street grifters”—will have emptied the till, diverting tax revenues to their friends in corporations allied with government agencies.
Funds meant for the practical benefit of ordinary Americans—retirement insurance through Social Security, public education funding, housing and medical assistance, environmental protections, scientific research, et cetera—are destined instead for increased investment in the military-industrial complex, never mind a Pentagon drunk with hundreds of billions of dollars (that we know of); black bag escapades (that we shall never know of) carried out by corporate profiteers aligned with the Central Intelligence Agency; and Mr. Trump’s endless rounds of golf with fellow plutocrats.
Chris Hedges, the leftwing independent journalist, worries about Mr. Trump’s having realized his lifelong dream of becoming the center of a cult of personality. Accordingly, writes Mr. Hedges in the online magazine Truthdig:
We are glued to cable TV news, which usually sees a huge falling off in viewership after a presidential election. Ratings for the Trump-as-president reality TV show are up 50 percent. CNN, which last year had its most profitable year ever, looks set in 2017 to break even that record and is projecting a billion dollars in profit. The New York Times added some 500,000 subscribers, net, over the past six months. The Washington Post has seen a 75 percent increase in new subscribers over the past year. …This growth is provoked not by a sudden desire to be informed, but by Americans wanting to be continually updated on the soap opera that epitomizes the U.S. government.
Mr. Hedges decries the power of nonstop, truth-be-damned publicity for a president and his administration engaged in the production of lies and confusion. Item: On April 10, Mr. Trump’s official spokesman, the hapless Sean Spicer, declared that Adolf Hitler, unlike Bashar al-Assad, did not “stoop to the level” of dispatching people with deadly gas—as if there is some qualitative difference between Sarin and Zyklon B. (To his possible credit, Mr. Spicer admitted his historical error and his insensitivity during the week of Passover, of all weeks.)
The days are dangerous when we see power dedicated to defeating truth.
In a widely read Los Angeles Times editorial of April 2, Donald Trump was labeled “a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so un-tethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.”
The editorial closed with a calming note: “This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.”
But I am not so sure. As Mr. Hedges suggests, what is good for the profits of cable news networks is bad for the polity. The shenanigans of all-Trump-all-the-time news, as amusement or horror, “keeps us distracted as the kleptocrats transform the country into a banana republic. Our world is lifted from the pages of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel ‘The Autumn of the Patriarch,’ in which the eternal dictator is feared and mocked in equal measure.”
— Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag