FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiSunday, April 9, 2017
ubochit@hotmail.de
Bonn, Germany

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PRESIDENTS BUHARI AND TRUMP IN COMPARISON:
THE "KINGS" HAVE BADGES, BUT NO CLUE (2)

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Continued from Part 1

You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes (John Wooden)

The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution (Senator Rand Paul)

This action was appropriate and just. I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort (Speaker Paul Ryan)

This is an act of war. Congress needs to come back into session & hold a debate. Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility (Rep Barbara Lee)

The top priority for the United States in Syria is to defeat the Islamic State group even before stabilizing the country. Defeating the group and its self-proclaimed caliphate would eliminate not only a threat to the US but to "the whole stability in the region (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson)

he latest: On Tuesday, April 4, it was alleged that President Assad of Syria used a nerve agent against his own people. Then, instead of Trump facing it, he took his usual route of blaming his predecessor. The White House released a statement faulting Obama's inaction in the Middle Eastern country after declaring the use of chemical weapons a "red line." But, Senator Tim Kaine reminded Trump that in 2013, a joint resolution that would have authorized Obama to take military action in Syria was introduced, but it never received a vote, as the Syrian government quickly accepted a deal negotiated by the United States and Russia to turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons. Senator Kaine went further, according to Quartz Media, to tell Trump that as a private citizen, he was sending out tweets demanding that the United States should not get involved in the Syrian war, repeatedly urging Obama to "stay out of Syria"; "do not attack Syria"; and one emphatic assertion that "Syria is NOT our problem." In Kaine's words: "He's president now, he's commander in chief. When something happens and he tries to blame President Obama - give me a breaků He's got to put on his big boy pants and own up to the job."

Presidents Trump and Buhari are inveterate blamers of their respective predecessors for their own mistakes, inaction, wrong actions and whatever. Trump claimed that he inherited mess at home and abroad, but looking at his predecessor, no matter his few shortcomings, he was one of the best presidents of America, as presidential historians has voted him the No. 12th best president of the United States out of 45. Obama left one of the best economies for Trump, and one wonders if Trump has being stripped of his senses to disparage his predecessor. Fact is that the unemployment rate when President Obama took office, in January 2009, was 7.8%. In January 2016, the unemployment rate was 4.8%. The U.S. lost 793,000 jobs during the month Obama was sworn into office; it gained 227,000 positions in January 2017. On the same hand, President Buhari blames his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, for everything. I guess that even when his wife refuses to go to bed with him, he will blame it on Goodluck Jonathan.

Let me suspend the comparison between Trump and Buhari, for now, and look at the missile attack on Syria.

President Trump ordered missile strike on Syria on Thursday, April 6, to punish its president, Bashar Assad, for a chemical attack on his people, that was carried out on Tuesday, April 4, that killed about 86 people, including 27 children, in Idlib province of that country. According to The Guardian, the US launched its surprise attack on a Syrian airforce airfield, an inland airbase near Homs, with 59 of the missiles deployed from two naval destroyers (naval warships) - USS Ross and USS Porter - stationed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, off Syria's western coast. As said earlier, the attack was in retaliation for the suspected chemical attack, on Tuesday, April 4. The AP wrote that about 59 U.S. Tomahawk missiles hit the Shayrat air base, a small installation with two runways, where aircraft often take off to bomb targets in northern and central Syria. The U.S. missiles hit at 3:45 a.m. (0045 GMT) Friday, and targeted the base's airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas.

According to the Washington Post, it was the images - gruesome photos of a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians - that moved Trump, pushing the president, who ran on an "America first" platform of nonintervention, to authorize the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian targets, Thursday night. Trump said the strikes were in the "vital national security interest" of the United States, and called on "all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria. And also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types."

Trump was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and had to be cautious in ordering the strikes, just as the USA Today wrote that the cruise missile strike ordered by President Trump, Thursday night, were aimed as limited retaliation to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad, without escalating the country's long and brutal civil war. By hitting a Syrian airbase from where the chemical attack is believed to have been launched, Trump hoped to prevent Assad from repeating similar assaults.

Many world leaders supported the United States for the missile strike. Only Syria, Russia and Iran condemned the strike. The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin believes the U.S. strike is an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "Washington's move deals a significant blow to the Russia-U.S. relations, which are already in a deplorable shape," and poses a "serious obstacle" for creating an international coalition against terrorism. The Kremlin said just 23 of the 59 missiles reached the air base, destroying six Syrian jets, but leaving the runway intact. But, a U.S. official said all but one of the 59 missiles struck their targets, hitting multiple aircraft and air shelters, and destroying the fuel area. Who's telling the truth?

Russia added that it is suspending a memorandum with Washington - signed after Russia began an air campaign in support of Assad in September 2015 - under which the two exchange information about their sorties over Syria. That agreement made it possible for Russia and the United States to coordinate air operations over Syria to prevent mishaps between their forces. A U.S.-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since 2014, while Russia's air force has been striking both extremist groups and Syrian rebels in order to aid Assad's forces.

The AP wrote that Russia's military intervention in Syria has turned the balance of power in Assad's favor, and Moscow has used its veto power at the Security Council on several occasions to prevent sanctions against Damascus. The U.S. had initially focused on diplomatic efforts, pressing the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution to condemn Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons. But the vote was canceled because of differences among the 15 members.

While Assad's office called the U.S. missile strike "reckless" and "irresponsible"; Syrian officials asserted that the strikes would hamper their ability to fight extremist militant groups; and the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, himself, reacted with outrage, on Friday, to that U.S. cruise missile strikes on that Syrian military air base. In a statement carried by the Syrian state news agency, Assad called the military action "disgraceful" and accused the United States of trying to "dominate the world." Assad added that the missile strike was an "unjust and arrogant aggression" that would only increase his government's determination to "crush" militant groups in Syria, according to the Washington Post that was quoting the state news agency.

The WP reported that at least 13 people were killed in the missile strikes, including five soldiers on the base, and eight civilians in areas surrounding the facility, according to Talal al-Barazi, the governor of Homs province, where the air base is located. The figures could not be independently confirmed. But, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said a general was among those killed in the American attack, which caused extensive damage to more than a dozen hangars and a fuel depot.

We are learning that the U.S. military notified Russian forces of the strike before it was launched, and that the U.S. military used the communications line that Russia has just suspended. The question is what was the need for the notification, as the Russians must have tipped off the Syrians about the attack, making them to move things away, before the airbase was hit? No wonder there were minimal material and collateral damages. According to the Syrian military source, the strike put nine planes out of service, including several that were "totally destroyed". As an addendum, the WP reported that as rumors swirled, Thursday, of an impending American attack, there were unconfirmed reports that members of the Syrian government had spirited their families across the border to the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Also, the AFP posted that a military source said that Syria's armed forces were warned about the threat of American military action, hours before the US strike on the Shayrat airbase on Friday. According to the source, who said they were forewarned "hours" before the strike: "We learned of the American threat and the expected military bombardment on Syrian territory. We took precautions in more than one military point, including in the Shayrat airbase. We moved a number of airplanes towards other areas".

Why shouldn't that happen, when Trump's administration informed Russia about the impending attack? A wasted effort indeed! Each warhead costs about $1.5 million; multiply that figure by 59, then you will know what was wasted in Syria, when there are much to do at home with money.

The USA Today tells us that the strikes were limited in order to reduce the chance of drawing the U.S. into another major war or causing Assad's regime to collapse, creating a power vacuum that could be filled by the Islamic State or other extremists in Syria. The United States must have learned some lessons from the mistakes it made in Iraq and Libya. Removing Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi then emboldened the terrorists in the region, who were hitherto caged by the two strong leaders. So, the United States is avoiding make similar mistake by removing Assad, who has been fighting the ISIS and other extremist groups. We all know that the U.S.-led coalition is conducting strikes in Syria against the Islamic State, which opposes the regime, but until now, the U.S. has been careful to avoid direct attacks on Syrian forces.

The USA Today also added that the limited response highlights the dilemma that Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, have faced as Syria spiraled further into civil war. The Trump administration, like Obama, has called for Assad to leave, but there is no indication the Syrian leader will do so voluntarily. As stated in the first paragraph, Assad launched a chemical attack in 2013, on the outskirts of Damascus, that killed more than 1,000 people. Obama said Assad's use of chemical weapons crossed a "red line," but he refrained from taking military action. Instead, Assad later agreed to a plan to destroy the regime's chemical weapons and stockpiles. The United States government knows that forcing a sudden collapse of Assad's regime would lead to further chaos, and the administration prefers to pursue diplomacy to remove him from power. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said removing Assad would require an international effort. Tillerson, according to USN, reiterated that the U.S. plan is to defeat the Islamic State group, secure cease-fire agreements between government and opposition troops, and stabilize some areas of Syria so that "refugees can begin to go home and begin the rebuilding process" under local governance.

No matter how subdued the missile attack might have been, it also raises a host of risks. Once military power is unleashed, it is difficult to predict what will happen days or weeks later. The USA Today warns that the U.S. military has several hundred troops in the country, who are supporting anti-Assad forces fighting the Islamic State. Although the U.S. forces are not near any Syrian military targets, but this U.S. strike could provoke a Syrian retaliation against them.

I commend Trump for taking this action, because, leaders, everywhere, should be held responsible for their words and deeds. But, Assad denied carrying out the chemical attack on his people, rather blaming it on the insurgents. The AP wrote that Russia has said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal, and that blame should not be apportioned until a full investigation has been completed. Is the United States sure that the Syrian government really carried out the attack? Why I'm asking this question is due to what happened during the Iraqi war, when we were told that Saddam Hussein must go, because, he had weapons of mass destruction, only for us to learn later that it was all hoax, as no weapon of mass destruction was found.

Although many of us have commended Trump for this missile strike, but there's a smell of hypocrisy here. Even though the USN wrote that President Donald Trump has received bipartisan praise for his decision to order a missile strike on a Syrian airfield, Thursday night, after a deadly chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians, but, liberals were quick to accuse him of hypocrisy for seeking to restrict refugee admission from the conflict he condemned after the attack.

Even Hillary Clinton has, a day after calling for the U.S. to destroy Syrian airstrips to prevent President Bashar Assad's forces from dropping chemical weapons on his people, criticized Trump for his executive order limiting the intake of refugees, warning that "we cannot speak in one breath of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close American doors to them." Ms. Clinton said the attack on Syria's air base "needs to be followed by a broader strategy to end Syria's civil war and to eliminate ISIS strongholds on both sides of the border". Hear her: "So I hope this administration will move forward in a way that is both strategic and consistent with our values, and I also hope that they will recognize that we cannot in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close America's doors to them."

The USN added that Clinton's comments were reflected in the words of some other Democrats, including Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine. Hear Rep. Seth Moulton on Twitter:

"So @POTUS cares enough about the Syrian people to launch 50 Tomahawks but not enough to let the victims of Assad find refuge & freedom here. War doesn't get any easier than launching a few Tomahawk missiles. Everything from here is harder and more complicated. We need a strategy".

The remarks by Moulton apparently referred to Trump's address, Thursday night, in which he decried Assad's gas attack as justification for launching about 59 Tomahawk missiles into the al-Shayrat air base near Homs. Trump said: "It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

Probably, Trump wanted to use the missile strike, on faraway Syria, to continue the deflection of attention from his Russia's woes, and to boost his sagging approval ratings at home. Will it work?

To be continued!

TIT BITS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3Tni-rQ4AE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWf-eARnf6U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmXCUmnc-_k

THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!

Continued from Part 1

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