Friday, April 07, 2017

Cruise Missiles For Kids? Or Distraction From Russian Meddling?

5-year-old Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh in 2016 [AP]
Listening to Trump express his contrived personal agony over viewing photos of "beautiful babies" from Syria killed in the heinous chemical weapons attack on Tuesday strained the boundaries of hypocrisy.

As he used his fake moral outrage over Syrian children as justification to order U.S. Navy ships to launch 59 cruise missiles at the Al Sharyat airfield in Syria, the EPA announced plans to cut $17 million from two programs intended to protect American children from the effects of lead poisoning.

Back in August 2016, as the world reacted in horror to the photograph of shellshocked five-year-old Syrian boy Omran Daqneesh sitting in an ambulance covered in blood and dust after an airstrike on the Syrian city of Aleppo, the puffed-up anti-immigrant xenophobia that defined Trump's nationalistic presidential campaign rhetoric, made no mention of the hundreds of Syrian children being injured and killed.

One of Trump's very first bungled initiatives as president was the executive order banning Muslims from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. - a ban that included Syrian refugees fleeing the same horror of war that the erratic POTUS used as an excuse to bomb Syria on Thursday.

So was Trump really motivated by his concern for the welfare of children?

Or was his military order simply an excuse to try and shift public focus from the ongoing Congressional and intelligence probes into he and his top advisor's ties to Russia and Putin's interference in the 2016 elections?
Ethically-compromised GOP Rep. David Nunes
Remember folks, there were two major news stories released hours before the cruise missile attacks that cast even more clouds over the Trump administration's conspiring with Russia.

It was during the day on Thursday that the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Republican Congressman David Nunes, finally announced that he was stepping down from his role in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Over the past two weeks, the Republican Party has taken serious heat over Nunes' role.

It's actually remarkable that it's taken Republican leaders so long to understand that the ethical minefield of a Trump advocate leading a bi-partisan Congressional investigation of Russian meddling has exponentially increased suspicion that the White House is engaged in a massive coverup.  

From a strategic political perspective, the Trump administration has been on the defensive in the wake of the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to even vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The monumental conflict of interest from Nunes having secretly travelled to the White House to brief Trump on intelligence information about the investigation, classified information that he had not shared with Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee investigating the White House, only seemed to magnify the political dysfunction of a Republican Party that controls the Senate, House and White House - but has yet to pass one single significant piece of legislation.

Remarkable? It gets even better.

As reported on Thursday"(Nunes') announcement came moments before the House Ethics Committee announce an investigation into Nunes over potential 'unauthorized disclosures of classified information'."

On the very same day, Jo Becker and Matthew Rosenberg published an article in the New York Times about Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner having committed a felony by lying about meetings he had with foreign leaders on a questionnaire he filled out to grant him top-secret clearance for national security.
Were the cruise missile attacks a cover for
Kushner's lie about meeting with Kislyak?
As the Times reported, those meetings include two meetings in December "with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and one with the head of a Russian state-owned bank, Vnesheconomobank, arranged at Mr. Kislyak's behest."

So after both the Nunes and Kushner stories were preparing to dominate the weekend news cycle, by Thursday evening, at a hastily-arranged press conference at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, Trump announced his decision to order the cruise missile attacks on Al Sharyat airfield just south of the Syrian city of Homs.

Knowing Trump's well-known propensity for showing a willingness to do or say almost anything to deflect negative press coverage, I'd say no.

Shocking atrocities against Syrian children didn't start with Tuesday's chemical attack - and Trump's own policies haven't exactly made concern for children's welfare a priority of his administration.

As Yvette Cabrera reported in an article for on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services conducted a survey in 2011 that showed that up to a third of the approximately 106 million homes in the U.S. are contaminated with lead-based paint.

Contamination that will have an adverse impact on poor children, especially poor children of color.

The EPA voted to lift restrictions on
the pesticide chlorpyrifos last week
As Cabrera noted, the Washington Post first published a copy of an EPA memorandum sent by the agency's acting chief financial officer David A. Bloom outlining a 31% cut in the EPA's budget for fiscal year 2018.

Cuts which include the two programs intended to educate Americans about the dangers of lead poisoning, as well as 54 other programs targeting issues like pesticide safety.

Those cuts also include a 25% cut in staffing at EPA, cuts which will have a direct affect on the health and well being of the "beautiful babies" Trump suddenly seems so concerned about.

The EPA's own research showed the pesticide chlorpyrifos poses a risk to babies, but they lifted restrictions on it last week.

Where is Trump's concern about the babies whose neurological health will be impacted by the presence of chlorpyrifos on the fruit and vegetables they eat?

Most people would agree on a unilateral UN-supported global effort to stop the civil war in Syria, just as most people are outraged and horrified over using chemical weapons on civilians.

But launching 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield isn't going to stop Bashar Al-Assad from killing his own people - with chemical or other weapons.

Nor will a cruise missile attack quell the American people's demand for a thorough Congressional investigation into links between Trump and his top advisers, and Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections.

Syrian refugees arriving in Lesbos, Greece
Frankly if Trump really cares about the "beautiful babies" in Syria or anywhere for that matter, he should stop gutting the budgets of the Department of Education, HHS, EPA and cutting U.S. contributions to the United Nations.

If he hadn't signed executive orders banning Syrian families from coming to the U.S. in the first place, maybe some of those "beautiful babies" killed in chemical attacks in a rebel-controlled province in northern Syria would be alive today.

After all, Assad's decision to use chemicals against civilians in his own country (again) last Tuesday may well have been motivated, in part, by the White House's own decision last week to publicly announce that it had ditched the goal of removing Assad from power as part of its ambiguous "America first" foreign policy.

As White House press secretary Sean Spicer said just last Friday, "With respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept,"

What a sad and tragic difference a week makes.

Oh and by the way, Reuters is reporting that the $90 million worth of cruise missiles that were fired at Al Sharyat airfield did very little damage since Trump informed Putin before the attack and Putin in turn informed Assad - so the Syrians actually moved planes and other equipment before the cruise missiles hit.

As the British-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights reported, Syrian planes took off from the base on Friday and attacked rebel-held areas in the northern Homs province.

$90 million to make a point and the airfield is still operational - par for the Trump presidency and bogey for the American people.

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