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Trump Tramples on the Constitution, Again

The illegal attack on Syria that the Trump administration has been threatening for the last week has started [1]:

President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

The U.S. and its allies have committed a flagrant violation of international law, and Trump has trampled on the Constitution once again. This attack probably won’t succeed on its own terms, and it risks a larger conflagration. It remains to be seen how large and prolonged the latest intervention turns out to be, but whatever happens next it was wholly unnecessary for U.S. security, a breach of the U.N. Charter, and completely illegal according to U.S. law. If Congress does nothing to challenge the president’s illegal attack, they will be accepting own irrelevance in matters of war from now on.

Trump’s statement [2] announcing the attack contained a lot of the usual moralizing rhetoric we have come to expect from presidents when they start unnecessary military interventions. At one point, he even refers to the “righteous power” of the U.S. and its allies without appreciating how ridiculous and pompous this sounds to everyone in the region and most nations around the world. Incredibly, he addressed Syria’s patrons and asked, “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” Trump should know the answer, since he just hosted one of the chief architects of the war on Yemen that the U.S. has backed to the hilt for the last three years. Britain welcomed the Saudi crown prince earlier on, and France just hosted him in the last few days. All three have been arming and supporting the Saudis and their allies in Yemen no matter how many atrocities they commit. There may be governments that have the moral authority to lecture Syria and its allies over their atrocious conduct, but the Trump administration and our British and French allies aren’t among them.

The Saudis and their allies have used the weapons sold to them by the U.S. and other Western governments to slaughter innocent Yemeni civilians by the thousands, including cluster munitions that almost every nation on earth has outlawed. Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate and insidious weapons that threaten civilians long after the conflict has ended. Our military has refueled the jets that they use to blow up crowds of refugees, wedding processions, funerals, and schools. The coalition blockade has created record-setting famine and cholera crises that put millions of lives in jeopardy, and the U.S. continues to support the war anyway. Indeed, U.S. support for their war effort has only increased since Trump took office.

The absurdity of Trump of all people lecturing other states about enabling war crimes is obvious. The U.S. could take a far more meaningful and effective stand against violations of international law by cutting off all support to governments that commit war crimes against civilians in Yemen, but that is the last thing this administration is going to do. Trump says that nations can be judged by “the friends that they keep,” so what does it say about the U.S. that Trump has embraced the governments wrecking and starving Yemen as some of his closest friends?

Trump went to say, “No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.” If he actually believed that, he would halt all military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition tomorrow, but instead he treats the Saudi royals as if they can do no wrong. The problem here is not just that U.S. foreign policy is blatantly hypocritical, but also that the U.S. is enabling egregious violations of international law and backing a coalition blockade that is causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, our government poses as some sort of scourge of despots while it arms some of the world’s worst and most repressive governments to the teeth. Millions of lives in Yemen are threatened by the outrageous, famine-causing policies of U.S.-backed governments and tens of thousands have already perished because of these policies, but as far as the Trump administration and many others in Washington are concerned those millions of people simply don’t count.

Attacking the Syrian government doesn’t make anyone safer, and it is completely detached from any broader strategy for bringing the conflict in Syria to an end. The best-case scenario is that the punitive strikes inflict some damage on the Syrian government without doing too much to prolong the civil war, and the worst case is that it needlessly triggers a major war between the U.S. and Syria’s patrons. There is no outcome that justifies the risks and law-breaking that this attack involves.

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15 Comments To "Trump Tramples on the Constitution, Again"

#1 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 13, 2018 @ 11:02 pm

We have about as much influence as the critics of Japan’s imperial militarists in 1937.

#2 Comment By Donald On April 13, 2018 @ 11:29 pm

“There may be governments that have the moral authority to lecture Syria and its allies over their atrocious conduct, but the Trump administration and our British and French allies aren’t among them.”

Absolutely correct, but unfortunately so is Fran Macadam’s comment about our lack of influence. The US conversation is dominated by warmongers. The best you can hope for is opposition on the grounds that a given intervention might not work out for us. Mainstream liberals are much more interested in Russiagate than, say, Yemen. The lefty media watchdog group FAIR examined how often MSNBC covered our role in Yemen and I think it was mentioned once in 2017.

One might have had the impression centrist liberals cared about US militarism during the Bush era, but that was about 50 percent partisan Bush basing, 49 percent concern over American lives lost, and about 1 percent concern over the Iraqi victims. The liberal antiwar movement died when Obama moved into the WH. Oddly enough, even with Trump in, it hasn’t come back because liberal jingoism against Russia has become a tribal marker.

#3 Comment By mom On April 14, 2018 @ 12:01 am

The United States is a terrorist country, a cancerous tumor eating away at the world. It needs to be dealt with the same way one would deal with a malignant tumor.

#4 Comment By Richard Parker On April 14, 2018 @ 2:51 am

Should have voted for Ron Paul when you had the chance.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 14, 2018 @ 9:00 am

Mr. Larison: All of your criticisms of last night’s Trump administration attacks on Syria are valid. The attacks should never have happened.

But maybe we can breathe a sigh of relief with respect to the following points:

Although the US chose three targets instead of the single air base hit last year and used twice as many weapons, even so last night’s attacks were said to be aimed specifically at Syria’s chemical weapons facilities — rather than a broader set of targets — and were a one-time, one-night. Moreover, Defense Secretary Mattis said last night that no more attacks are planned.

#6 Comment By b. On April 14, 2018 @ 10:59 am

“[China] ordered a military attack against [Saudi-Arabian king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud], joining [Russia] in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what [both] nations said was the deliberate [starving of Yemeni] civilians.”

If there is anything despicable about Russia’s and China’s actions – especially in comparison to Western conduct – it is their decision to *not* stand up to the ever-increasing aggression of those “effigies” of Western civilization, and instead settle for opportunistic exploitation of the suffering we inflict on others.

It has to be said that the phrasing that “President Trump ordered a military attack [..] joining allies Britain and France” would make perfect sense if, just as with Obama Does Libya, it was not just the administration rank and file, but first and foremost those two “allies” formerly known as colonial powers and eager to show themselves as “also exceptional” nations that tipped and toppled Trump over into “action” once again. In those foreign entanglements that result from our greed and hubris, we appear to have less and less control – Israel, Saudi Arabia, now France and the UK. Is DC nothing but the parade ground of hollow men with feet of clay?

#7 Comment By b. On April 14, 2018 @ 11:05 am

Russia and China have good reasons to set precedent in international relations by invoking UN377 “Uniting for Peace”, accepting the costs to their own ability to act with relative impunity.

“By adopting A/RES/377 A, on 3 November 1950, over two-thirds of UN Member states declared that, according to the UN Charter, the permanent members of the UNSC cannot and should not prevent the UNGA from taking any and all action necessary to restore international peace and security, in cases where the UNSC has failed to exercise its ‘primary responsibility’ for maintaining peace. Such an interpretation sees the UNGA as being awarded ‘final responsibility’—rather than ‘secondary responsibility’—for matters of international peace and security, by the UN Charter. Various official and semi-official UN reports make explicit reference to the Uniting for Peace resolution as providing a mechanism for the UNGA to overrule any UNSC vetoes.”
[3]

But just like the US, China and Russia do not consider the lives of civilians in Yemen to be important or “worth it”, and will not risk a change to the international order that could result from the precedent of challenging illegal aggressive acts in the UN General Assembly – or obtaining UN authorization over the veto of permanent UNSC members.

Even in diplomacy and propaganda, Russia and China consider the Syrian government to be more important than the people of Yemen.

Thus the nuclear powers – even the lend-lease pocket power of the UK – that comprise the permanent members of the UNSC are the real obstacle to upholding the UN Charter as the foundation of the international order.

#8 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 14, 2018 @ 11:13 am

The US, British, and French airstrikes were conducted hours before inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were to start their fact-finding mission at the site.

The current status of the OPCW mission — whether the OPCW can still reach the site in question and whether last night’s bombing has altered the site or alleged evidence in any way — are questions without clear answers.

Not surprisingly, citing the timing of the attacks as circumstantial evidence, the Russian Foreign Ministry has now alleged that “there’s every reason to believe that the purpose of the attack on Syria was to obstruct the work of the OPCW inspectors.”

#9 Comment By Youknowho On April 14, 2018 @ 11:51 am

Is it a coincidence that Trump just tweeeted “Mission Accomplished”?

At least he did not dress up as a paratrooper to do it.

#10 Comment By Jon On April 14, 2018 @ 12:38 pm

Attacking one’s own people when victory is close would only signify vengeance and a desire to punish a people for harboring insurgents. While gassing a population of men, women and children is egregious, is it the moral imperative for foreign powers to militarily intervene?

The concern raised by hawks that the rules of engagement would forever change were the retaliatory raids avoided is questionable at best. An internal matter within the political borders of a particular country though conducted in the most inhuman and cruel manner does not reintroduce chemical warfare into the picture where conflict exists not between nation states but inside one single country.

Iraqi gassing of Iranians is one thing: a travesty to be sure and a horrible tactic of war. The Syrian gassing of its own population though horrific is in another category. Where is the threat to reintroduce chemical warfare if not in the former case were it to have been allowed with no intervention or at least protest from other countries and the Security Council of the UN?

Atrocities abound throughout the world especially in areas where states have failed their citizenry and the ground is ablaze in civil warfare between internecine faction seeking absolute hegemony on their own terms rendering all hope for negotiations and for peace an impossibility. What then is the proper role of outsiders to such conflicts? A military intervention in one place might quell for a time such atrocities but then leave other areas vulnerable to their continuation. On what basis does a nation decide where to park its troops or rain its bombs?

These are the questions of the hour. These are the questions that have plagued us since the cessation of WWII. Has that war ever really ceased or has it been transformed first into the Cold War and then into this melange of conflicts?

Since when are conflicts managed and not provide excuses for greater involvement? What war torn area is not a quagmire for intervening nations when foreign powers are seduced by it to intervene militarily?

#11 Comment By jk On April 14, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

I like how the Neocons/Democrats cite “International Law” now.

There are boots on the ground and probably casualties not being reported.

As with the recent dumb Yemen raid, as long as you can get American soldiers killed, you will always have defenders and rah-rah-rah rally around the flag types, because there will always be people who think saying that American soldiers were sent somewhere to die for no good reason is offensive even though it is a factual statement.

#12 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 14, 2018 @ 5:39 pm

Whether or not your interests are served by this, some people’s interests sure are. It has everything to do with Deep State sponsored Full Spectrum Dominance, and the never-abandoned neocon/neoliberal plan to take out the same series of Mideast countries, Syria still among those targeted, culminating penultimately in Iran, ultimately regime change in Russia and installation there of a compliant Yeltsin-style comprador.

Now we know that there are humanitarian fig leaves offered to the public as propaganda to disguise the genuine motives. However, with a person like John Bolton in charge of an inexperienced President under the shadow of regime change himself, there ought to be no illusions, since Bolton himself is an unreconstructed believer in war and violence to achieve all aims. Even if he knows what is right (and he showed some signs of that during the campaign, and occasionally after), the President is not of sufficient character to stand against the Deep State forces which really rule America that will do him in if he does not comply.

#13 Comment By Peninsular Campaign On April 15, 2018 @ 7:22 am

Your title should have been “Trump tramples on the Constitution as US and global elites cheer and close ranks around him”.

But Trump’s “humanitarian fig leaf” isn’t fooling real people. In the afterglow of “mission accomplished”, only 25 percent of Britons approve of the US “and allied” attack on Syria. It’s doubtful 25 percent of Americans even know the strikes took place. Americans really don’t care what happens in the Middle East anymore. Only Trump’s foreign and corporate minders get very worked up about it anymore.

I’m one of the Trump voters everybody’s laughing at now. You can bet your ass I’ll never make that mistake again.

#14 Comment By Fauquier On April 15, 2018 @ 8:31 am

In justifying the strike, Trump said “To Iran and to Russia, I ask: what kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?”

Unbelievable. He asks the question as though he has a right to ask it, as though he himself isn’t right now helping Saudi Arabia murder innocent Yemeni men, women and children.

We really need to kick this guy out in 2020, if not sooner. He’s stinking up the White House even more than the last three occupants did.

#15 Comment By One Guy On April 16, 2018 @ 2:46 pm

On August 30, 2013, Donald Trump tweeted:

“The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!”

The hypocrisy of this man is astounding. So is the loyalty of his followers.