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Military and media missiles

President Trump's speech on the US-led missile strike on Syria will no doubt resonate enthusiastically with his base in the US, and to judge from letters to the editor, with his supporters in NZ. But there are good reasons for not getting too dewy-eyed over his rhetoric.

Look at his topics this year and in a similar situation April last year: chemical warfare; innocent civilians; US security interests; God; American values. His speech writers have pressed the right emotional buttons to get maximum support, but it rings hollow.

It's almost as though the US hasn't created the kind of horror he deplores. But then that's the point. No President in these circumstances is going to acknowledge past or present US excesses, but unfortunately they abound.

Only a few decades ago, the US saturated Vietnam with agent orange and napalm in an orgy of chemical warfare that continues to blight the country. In the 1990s, the US invaded Iraq, killing thousands of innocent civilians. In the 2000s, it moved into Afghanistan, leading to the deaths of many innocent people.

In conflict after conflict, like Kuwait and Latin America, the US has invoked national security interests. On the nerve agent attacks of the Syrian government, Trump is quite right to be outraged, but just how does he claim US security interests?

Last year, Trump talked of beautiful babies cruelly murdered in a barbaric attack. Exactly so, but then that's just what his friend and ally, Saudi Arabia is doing in Yemen, with US support. Which makes it a bit challenging to say, "The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep."

The President aligns America with "civilised nations," and last year with the values that America stands for – justice, peace and harmony. There are many in the US who long for just such values, but see them constantly denied and eroded at home in health, housing, education, work, race and ethnic relations.

Meanwhile, the President reports that he ordered "precision strikes." In case we'd missed the point, this reminds us that the US is constantly at war. Since WW2, the US has been deeply involved in the Cold War, the Korean War, Vietnam, the War on Drugs, the War on Terrorism. Trump's continuing rhetoric is of enemies and the need to fight them – Muslims, Mexicans, ISIS, foreign economic powers, trade deals, journalists. If peace breaks out, it won't be because of Trump.

It's not just that the speech is full of hypocrisy. It's that the words are part of the consistent charge to create alternative reality. It's a continuation of the unreality that Trump constructed in order to get elected, along with the hearty support of much social media and the willing connivance of powerful mass media. After all, as the CEO of CBS put it, the political advertising of Trump's campaign "may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS." CEO Les Moonves knows a good thing when he sees it: “the more they spend, the better it is for us.”

In this carefully orchestrated military and media move, Trump creates a world split between the civilised and the despicable. America comes out squeaky clean, with all ghosts buried. And many innocent civilians too.

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