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Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro appear in the 1997 film "Wag the Dog," about a political consultant and a Hollywood director who construct a fake war with Albania to distract the population from a sex scandal days ahead before a presidential election. (Screenshot via Phillip Caruso/www.phillipcaruso.com)

Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro appear in the 1997 film "Wag the Dog," about a political consultant and a Hollywood director who construct a fake war with Albania to distract the population from a sex scandal days ahead before a presidential election. (Screenshot via Phillip Caruso/www.phillipcaruso.com)

Observers Warn That Syria Attack is Trump's "Wag the Dog" Moment

Reports that Russia was warned about strike fuel accusations that military action was taken to distract from mounting domestic problems

Lauren McCauley

With tanking approval ratings, a failed attempt at producing healthcare legislation, and a swirling investigation into possible collusion with Russia, President Donald Trump's first hundred days were looking pretty bleak.

It was against this backdrop that the president late Thursday took unilateral and illegal military action against the Syrian government in alleged retaliation for Tuesday's chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians, though no proof was presented to confirm reports that President Bashar al-Assad had ordered the deadly strike.

Now, as many foreign governments, U.S. lawmakers, and the corporate media are lining up in support of the bombing campaign, observers say it appears like a 'Wag the Dog' moment for Trump, distracting the opposition while conveniently flipping the script about Russia.

In a column on Friday, The Nation's Greg Grandin pointed out that with the one assault, the president successfully splintered the Democratic resistance, won the praise of the media, and changed the story of his friendly relations with the Kremlin.

Similarly, New Republic columnist and Georgia Southern University assistant professor Jared Yates Sexton outlined in a lengthy Twitter thread how the strikes have effectively changed the "entire conversation and narrative," writing: 

War changes entire conversation and narrative. Always has, always will. We've entered new territory and it's important to understand that. Already networks are talking about operations, the weapons. Instead of links of Russian suspicions, we have footage of missiles launching. Russia was warned, and might have been involved in the gassing, they had enough time to move troops. Yet, Trump "stood up" to Putin. If you think for a second this wasn't organized with Putin's blessing and cooperation...but yet it changes the conversation. Little in way of results, but yet missile launchings are on a constant loop now. Trump projects strength, decisiveness. War wipes the slate clean, changes all attention. You can be all things to all people with the aid of war, and we're seeing that now. Next couple of days we're going to see media go into War-Mode, which is just slobbering over our armed forces expertise. There'll be no time to talk about Nunes, the Nuclear Option, Russian investigations. Now it's Trump—Commander-In-Chief.

In his column, Grandin also referenced the New York Times' reporting that "The Pentagon informed Russian military officials, through its established deconfliction channel, of the strike before the launching of the missiles, the official said, with American officials knowing when they did that that Russian authorities may well have alerted the Assad regime."

"In other words," Grandin wrote, "the object of Trump's Tomahawks was not Syria's capacity to deploy gas, but domestic liberal opponents who base their resistance to Trump entirely on the premise that he is anti-American because he is too close to Putin, and that he is a traitor to a bipartisan policy of humanitarian military interventionism. He bombs, drones, and kills, but he doesn't do it, like his predecessors, in the name of humanity. Until yesterday."

Many of Trump's conservative supporters have also come out against the military action for the very reason that it goes against the president's campaign rhetoric that he would avoid unnecessary wars. Indeed, many of Trump's former statements, and tweets, have come back to haunt him in recent days, particularly those criticizing former President Barack Obama for threatening to attack Syria in 2013.

Others, too, picked up on what they say appears to be a "fake fight" now between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, others pointed to the dominance of the military industrial complex and how that dovetails with Trump's fixation on creating more domestic jobs. Not to mention the overall "popularity" of war within dominant political circles.


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