Peter Cavanaugh

“Any way the wind blows”

by peter cavanaugh

War by impulse. The newsman’s voice rang with startling alarm: “Trump shows the world he’s not afraid to attack without warning.”


So much for calming down frazzled foreign fears - especially our closest allies. We should excuse them if they take a few steps back.

It didn’t take long for things to settle down after last week’s fusillade of Tomahawk missiles worth $30 million raining havoc (or at least sprinkling sparkle) on Syria’s Shayrat Air Force Base. This was supposed to be a message sent. It turned out to be more of an “itchy-kitchy-koo” tickle than a serious kick in the assets of President Bashar al-Assad.

Operations pretty much returned to normal at the installation the following day with renewed attacks by Syrian and Russian jets on Khan Sheikhoun, the same poor little town that had earlier undergone poisonous chemical exposure, precipitating American intervention in the first place.

It’s all Exorcist level head spinning - round and round we go, and where we stop nobody knows - particularly President Donald J. Trump.

A cheering cowboy chorus of clamorous congratulations has since given way to more somber reflection with the realization that once again our Philanderer-in-Chief has done exactly the opposite of what he promised countless times he wouldn’t do. No voice was louder than his in 2013 urging President Obama not to intervene with air power in Syrian affairs.

That position was repeated throughout Trump’s shockingly successful run for the presidency and echoed only days ago by Secretary of State Rex “Let’s Try That Again” Tillerson and his recommendation that any sort of regime change in Damascus be “left up to the Syrian people.”

I hope you’re sitting down for this. Ready?

Hooray for Tom McClintock.

Our Fourth District Representative has issued the following statement:

“The Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons is an atrocity and a war crime, but it is not ‘a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces’ as provided in the War Powers Resolution. No matter how strongly we may feel about the actions of the Syrian government, the president had no legal or constitutional authority to order this attack without the consent of Congress. This action crosses a bright line that separates the fundamental powers of our government and risks a constitutional crisis if continued.”

I could not be more in agreement. Let’s remember what happened almost four years ago.

President Obama had gone on record, however imprudently, suggesting that a “red line” for action would be any future use of chemical weapons by government forces in the Syrian conflict. Then in August of 2013 - a team of UN weapons inspectors confirmed that the nerve gas sarin had been unleashed on the Ghouta agricultural belt, killing more than 1,400 people with thousands more seriously injured.

In reviewing any number of unpleasant options, the president decided that choosing sides in a civil war of infinite complexity would be ill advised. Instead, he welcomed a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin that called on the Syrian government to destroy all remaining chemical weapons under its control. In fact, Putin offered a personal guarantee this would happen. Now look. Oh, Vlad. So sad.

Responding to continuing cries from some that this was a wimpy way to wiggle out of a call to action, President Obama then formally asked Congress to authorize full-fledged air strikes on Syria. “I am prepared to give that order,” said the president. “But – I am also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.”

In response, it was crickets on chloroform. The silence was deafening. No vote was ever proposed or taken in the House or Senate. The issue remains essentially unresolved. Barack Obama was correct at the time. Tom McClintock remains so now.

Many have commented on the blatant hypocrisy arising from President Trump’s expressed horror at having “babies, little babies” die from chemicals, seemingly as long as they perish far from here. Under Trump’s temporarily court blocked Muslim travel ban, those same victims would remain unwelcome on our shores.

But why should we enjoy the slightest measure of clarity and consistency on this issue when the White House has become a Tower of Babel with different voices offering varying positions on a variety of critical topics?

When will we ever learn?

Only Trump Tower is tall enough to reach heaven - with a moral code under random rule. What might be nice? Let’s roll the dice.