A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

America first, or not: an either/or White House

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., April 10, 11 or 12

In another example of the confusing, “either/or” demands of the administration, the President on the day of the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the “war to end wars” launched more than 50 missiles into Syria Thursday.

So much for an “America first” policy, best expressed by Donald Trump at the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, when he said, “We cannot be the policemen of the world. We cannot protect countries all over the world.”

Sending Tomahawk missiles to strike an airbase that was warned earlier isn’t the same as declaring war on Germany in World War I, but it’s a very dangerous act in the world’s worst conflict, a civil war that’s engulfed the region with many sides in combat and civilians caught in the crosshairs.

The justification was the horrific chemical attack, probably from the air, on the village of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province in Syria. The nerve agent sarin, plus chlorine and other chemicals might have been used to kill some 75 people, including kids, and injure many others. But in the first few days, there’s no evidence definitively assigning blame, and experts can’t say for certain what was used or who was responsible.

Syria’s Bashar Assad is a ruthless dictator, but Russia says that while Syrian aircraft bombed the village, the chemical result stemmed from the explosion of a supposed chemical warehouse controlled by some rebel group. Further, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said that ISIS has used a chemical weapon (mustard gas) in the past.


Welcome to the new administration, masters of distractions, diversions and crackpot conspiracy theories, either/or, dark-or-light proponents of you’re for us or against us and there is no nuance nor consistency. Some refugees were accepted here, then not. Relations were getting uncomfortably cozy with Russia, then not. A border wall will be built and paid for by Mexico, then not. Health care will be improved, then not. A ban on international travelers is order to keep out terrorists, then countries where known terrorist originated aren’t included. President Obama was criticized for taking days off and golfing, but not the current Oval Office Occupant. New York’s Trump Tower is busy (and expensive) with administration officials (and the First Lady), but funds for the environment and Meals on Wheels are cut. A week ago, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “With respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept,” and days later Ambassador Nikki Haley told a United Nations meeting, “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”

The action taken prompted Russia to condemn the attack and withdraw from an air-safety pact with the United States, angered some conservatives and progressives, and it’s certain to affect the first visit by China’s President Xi Jinping. What next? Could Assad order U.S. forces to leave the area in the fight against ISIS? Could the brutal strongman attack the Special Forces and aircraft the United States has there? Will something be contrived to escalate U.S. involvement? Will Capitol Hill assert itself?

“This is a president, a cabinet, a White House with no military or diplomatic experience, with no understanding of the complications of the Middle East conflicts or the consequences of war, and with a personal eagerness to demonstrate power,” said Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Others point to a 2013 chemical-weapon attack that caused Obama to ask Congress to weigh in on a response – a time when Americans said, “No.”

“When Obama turned decision-making over to Congress, hundreds of thousands of people across the United States called and wrote and emailed their representatives, urging them to prevent a new war,” Bennis said. “In some offices calls were running six or seven hundred to one against a new bombing campaign.”

Congress must demand input on an Authorization for Use of Military Force before the incoherent “wag the Dog” campaign spirals even more out of control.

“The U.S. cannot bomb its way to peace, but it does have an essential role to play in the world,” said Ilya Sheyman of, “including welcoming increased numbers of refugees fleeing Syria, fully supporting international relief efforts for those most affected by this brutal civil war, engaging in multilateral diplomacy at the United Nations to isolate Syria, and sanctioning Russia and other nations which enable the Assad regime.”

Bennis added, “We know that a U.S. military escalation against Syria will not help the victims of this heinous chemical attack, it will not bring the devastating war in Syria to a quicker end, it will not bring back the dead children. It will not defeat ISIS or end terrorism, it will create more terrorists.”

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