US President Donald Trump points to a detail on his flight jacket while on stage at US Air Force Yokota Air Base in Fussa, Japan [Toru Hanai/Reuters]
Apparently, America’s toy soldier president wants to showcase his nation’s killer toys.
Miffed that France’s president gets to play grand marshal on Bastille Day, Donald Trump has reportedly ordered his generals to plan a similar national ego-validating cavalcade so he can show the world who the real commander-in-chief is.
Of course, Trump’s signature, chest-thumping bravado resembles a twirling weathervane. The rich boy who pretended to be a soldier at the New York Military Academy suddenly developed a nagging and incurable case of bone spurs while tens of thousands of other real, mostly poor, soldiers were sent to kill and be killed in yet another disastrous, imperialist war in Vietnam.
Predictably, scores of US journalists and politicians were quick to resurrect Trump’s not-too-distant history of contrived cowardice to mock “Cadet Bone Spurs” and his “phallic demonstration of overcompensation“.
What is equally predictable, however, has been the failure of these smug, self-congratulatory journalists and politicians to acknowledge their near universal, unbridled celebration of America’s habitual and fatal discharge of the orgy of weapons Trump wants to parade through Washington, DC.
Their amnesia is as instructive as it is appalling. Here’s CNN, the US cable news network that, these days, considers itself a noble part of the enlightened fourth estate’s “resistance” to Trump, reverting to institutional form as a giddy, home-team play-by-play announcer during the opening moments of the “shock and awe” 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Embedded CNN correspondent after correspondent turned cheerleader after cheerleader, extolled the “precision” of the “full force of the US military … assets,” including “a new bomb never before used”, being dropped on “the enemy”, as the evening’s master of ceremonies, Wolf Blitzer, put it from the comfortable environs of Kuwait.
CNN had organised its own made-for-TV military parade, as one former general after another was given unfettered license to praise America’s “smart bombs” and unrivalled military hardware as a paid “consultant” or “analyst”.
And when the explosions began in Baghdad, Blitzer and Pentagon-approved company went mute so CNN’s viewers could hear and watch the war’s orgasmic sound and light show unfold in real time in solemn deference to America’s latest expression of power and exceptionalism.
Bedazzled by the deadly fireworks, CNN didn’t devote much time or space to talking about how all those Iraqi children, women and men were fairing, dying and crying, while that thunderous, American-engineered display of “shock and awe” rained down upon them again and again and again.
Instead, Blitzer eventually broke his several-minute long, reverential silence to pay perfunctory lip service to all those “terrified” Iraqis before saying, with all the gee-whiz mirth he could muster, that he had never seen an assault of “this magnitude” in his 30 years as a reporter.
To be sure, Blitzer and CNN were not alone in wallowing in the rhetorical grandeur of America’s military prowess. Much of the US establishment media fell right in line: first, in defending the geopolitical necessity of the illegal war and then, showering their infatuation on the lethal tools America employed to wage it.
The proof can be found in, among many other places, a litany of incriminating editorials penned by the New York Times – that other self-anointed journalistic champion of the Trump “resistance”.
For days after the invasion, The Times wrote repeatedly and with evident pride and, indeed awe, of the “devastating air attacks” and “swift progress” of the “American-led forces” in Iraq. “There is evidence that the attacks are indeed carefully calibrated,” The Times gushed.
The newspaper that regurgitated state-sanctioned lies that set the domestic political raison d’etre for the invasion, was now so confident of America’s overwhelming military victory, that it paused to write editorials bemoaning that more female US soldiers weren’t given the opportunity either to participate in the wholesale destruction of Iraq and its people or to “outperform” the men in what it considered a just, lawful and essential enterprise to refashion the Middle East.
“The United States, with the most advanced military in history, is simply a laggard on the topic of women in combat,” The Times lamented on March 24, 2003. “A fuller integration of women into the American armed forces would of course carry the increased risk that women might desert, make mistakes or get killed. Or, they could outperform their male counterparts.”
Fast forward to February 7, 2018, and the same Times published an editorial decrying Trump’s “silly” parade plans and urged him not to “spike the ball.” The lead to that editorial reads: “The United States has the world’s most capable fighting force.” Hip. Hip. Hooray.
Ah, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
Meanwhile, many Democrats who have taken to CNN and the Times to ridicule Trump’s “garish” parade and five draft deferments – four for college, one for his aching feet – to avoid fighting in Vietnam voted for his budget recently.
That budget envisions, by some estimates, a 54 percent increase in military spending, totalling more than $700bn in 2018 because, as the de rigueur bipartisan rhetoric insists – the US must have a “strong military” to “protect itself and its allies”.
Ah, plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose II.
Most Americans love a parade, even the hypocritical politicians and abruptly “woke” journalists who are loath to admit it publicly.
Trump’s proposed exhibition of America’s force can’t be dismissed as simply a reflection of his petty, insatiable desire to satiate his abiding narcissism. No. It’s decidedly more than that.
Trump’s parade will be America’s parade. It’s a natural, tangible declaration not only of America’s values, but of how it has gone about enforcing those values abroad for generations, despite the catastrophic human costs and consequences.
America first. Might is right. That’s what will be on parade and, make no mistake, lots of Americans will flock to applaud the regimental festivities. Oh, and CNN will happily broadcast it.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.