On Christmas Day in 1998 a movie made its way to the big screen. Starring marquee names such as Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and William H. Macy, the story chronicled a sitting US President who, within weeks of the election, is caught in an underage sex scandal - fondling a Firefly Girl when her troupe visits the White House.
What's a power hungry administration to do?
Deny, divert, distract, of course.
In order to do that, a political spin doctor (DeNiro) is called in whose idea is to create a "war" somewhere far flung, somewhere with minimal name recognition, somewhere they could point fingers, cameras, and public attention. To quote his character, "To change the story, change the lead."
DeNiro enlists the aid of a top Hollywood producer, and the "war" takes off from there. Actors against green screens, a hero soldier, danger, threats, even an innocent kitten (white - chosen specifically for its innocence) all play their parts in swaying the unwashed masses away from their President being a pedophile to him being the savior. Willie Nelson is brought in to create an anthem, The American Dream (We Guard Our American Border), as the news is being fed information about Albanian terrorists sneaking across the Canadian border with suitcase bombs.
As the farce grows and the public takes the bait, Woody Harrelson's character emerges (obtained from a military mental facility - he is expendable) as a hero soldier who had been captive in Abania, and who, in his captivity video and photos, strategically tore his sweater to read "Courage, Mom" in Morse code. Merle Haggard then creates the song Courage Mom and plays it stadium wide to tears. Completing the musical trilogy, they "find" an old song (complete with pops, scratches, and skips) in the National Archives called Good Old Shoe. Harrelson's character? Sgt William Shumann.
Yes, chaos ensues, but the focus is firmly shifted, patriotic frenzy takes hold, Harrelson and Hoffman are conveniently disposed of, and the President successfully wins re-election. What Firefly Girl?
I enjoyed the movie back then, but remember thinking that this kind of thing could never be pulled off. I mean, surely we're not that stupid are we? That easily led? But the internet was still in its infancy, not the 24/7/365 news source/blog/competing narrative website galaxy we have now. Hell, it was only 6 years earlier that Desert Storm was brought to us via shaky night vision feeds on TV and Wolf Blitzer pointing to an actual map on CNN.
Fast forward to our current scandal ridden POTUS who is being heavily investigated, that noose tightening around him and his cronies, and who has an obvious need to change the narrative. Pundits have worried and warned for two months now that he may very well stage something in order to "change the focus," "appear a hero."
Suddenly, innocents are attacked with sarin gas in Syria. The culprit? Assad, who by every account is a heinous, ugly, horrific, bloody "leader" whose human rights violations rival a 24 pack of Charmin in length. Gut wrenching pictures fill our screens, our Twitter accounts, our Facebook feeds. Children piled like logs, hospitals, already compromised by the endless attacks there, strained to the breaking point, a bereft father holding his dead twin toddlers as he weeps over having lost them, his wife, and 20 other family members.
Anyone with a heart has been affected. Anyone with a heart and critical thinking skills immediately tried pointing out that THESE are the refugees being denied entry to this country by Trump & Co.
That the attack took place, I do not dispute. Syria's actions against its own people is legend, and Assad is propped up by Putin, who has doubled down on defending the reprobate even after the sarin gas was verified.
Fast forward to Trump standing at a podium acting sad about the dead children. (Forgive me, but having watched that man's rise through the 80's to now, the only thing he is ever sad about is bad publicity about himself.) “That crosses many, many lines,” Trump said on Wednesday. “Beyond a red line — many, many lines.”
He then indicated that military power was on the table.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see where this was going.
While again at Mar-a-Lago Thursday night, squandering our tax dollars under the guise of meeting with the Chinese President, Trump dined as bombs fell at Al-Sharyat Air Base in Syria on his order. Observers say the air field and planes were "almost completely destroyed." As were 9 civilians, including - oops - 4 children. (Reliable sources say that the "almost completely destroyed" field and planes were being used again to launch attacks less than 24 hours later. Hmmmm, it's inconvenient when optics and facts don't back up your PR campaign.)
Meh. Remember Old Shoe! Look at the kitten!
As we all went to bed last night, the stories about this retaliatory attack began to fill our feeds. I don't know about you, but I did not sleep well. The plot of Wag The Dog kept repeating in my head.
Talk about a diversion. All anyone is focused on today is Trump's strike. Not his potential treason, the FBI investigation, his libelous and slanderous accusations against President Obama, or the way he stomped his feet and his GOP cronies changed the Senate rules to get around not having the votes for his SCOTUS pick.
His easily led followers all grabbing their crotches and shouting "Fuck yeah, Amurica!" Patriotic frenzy ratcheting up. Expect a theme song any day now, something country, something the rubes will download and sing with tears in their eyes about how we're #1! and bullshitbullshitbullshit...
So what can we believe?
Well, believe that 72 people died horrifically in the gas attack in Syria. Believe that Trump told Putin before this bombing took place - that has been verified. Believe that Putin warned Assad it was coming. Believe that if you or your child is in the military, your/their life just got more dangerous. Believe that the person with the most to gain from this "attack and retaliation" is our own POTUS.
As for his motive? There is nothing to believe in the Spicer-Tillman narrative being bandied about. Congress was not consulted, all those GOPers who stood in Obama's way when he talked about airstrikes in Syria? Well, they are now grabbing their dicks and cheering hypocritically. And as DeNiro's character said, "change the story, change the lead."
What Russia? What collusion? What treason? Nunes who?
Just remember, these investigations are ongoing, heating up, and revealing more new information daily - all of it damning to Trump.
Playing at war is no joke. Threatening other leaders is serious. Taunting them, daring them is beyond irresponsible. We have a child in the White House who sees our weaponry through a Call of Duty lens, and everyone as expendable as long as he survives.
We are being wagged. Not just the dog, but the whole damned country. Just don't take your eye off the ball here.
Not even if they introduce a theme song, Willie Nelson, and a kitten.
Sing it, Willie & Company...