Opinion | War, Distraction, and a Dying Administration

My friend Karl blew things up. His most famous explosion was the baby carriage in the park. The off-camera screams still ring in my ears. Film school is a special kind of place. Karl had a daily mantra—the bigger the explosion, the louder the applause. Karl did not become president of the United States, Donald Trump did, and with very little difference between the two of them.

In a televised speech earlier this week, Donald Trump announced that the United States was going to war.

“Waging war is a political strategy that has proven successful time and time again.”

“We are not nation-building again,” Trump said of the American presence in Afghanistan, “We are killing terrorists.” Waging war is a political strategy that has proven successful time and time again. George W. Bush the most recent president to play the war card billed himself as a “wartime” president, and it worked. Trump’s campaign message, “Make America Great Again”, includes “Making America Safe Again,” hence the wall, deportations, and travel bans. Trump, who monitors the polls like a cat below a birdcage, is fully aware of the spike in his popularity when earlier this year he sent 59 Tomahawk missiles careening into Syria in retaliation for a chemical attack on foreign soil. Applause.

Then scarcely a week had passed before he dropped the MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) on an ISIS stronghold. Louder applause. That was the first and only time as president that he seemed to have received a collective pat on the back. He liked it. He wants more.

In July Trump declared victory over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Mosul, having ignored the fact that he simply continued a job that had been started under the Obama administration. Trump is not a student of history or a student of anything else for that matter, and because of this, Afghanistan continues to hang like a shiny birdcage just above his head.

While other leaders may respect the reality of war, the suffering, the inane loss of life, Trump sees only popularity, to shore up of his base while perhaps gaining more followers as if a Twitter account. He yearns to be lauded as a Lincoln or a Truman. Trump wants a statue that won’t be torn down and he doesn’t care how he gets it.

If Trump had researched Afghanistan as he had claimed in his speech, he would have appreciated it took almost 10 years to find Osama bin Laden. Now imagine thousands of Osama bin Laden’s as part of a complex network of cells in a country where the U.S. is a third wheel.

“The War in Afghanistan is a black hole at the farthest reaches of the world… absorbing troops, money, and hope without giving anything of any permanence…”

An apt student would recall Russia’s failure in Afghanistan. Trump needed only to reflect upon the lessons learned from the debacle of the Vietnam War during which Trump was granted five draft deferments. Years later Trump would boast that his promiscuity at the height of STD’s was “his own personal Vietnam”. Does he even recall the war in Iraq that lead to the rise of Isis? Then why support the same war that Trump’s own General John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, had earlier this year described as a “stalemate”.

The War in Afghanistan is a black hole at the farthest reaches of the world, an opaque and complex gravity absorbing troops, money, and hope without giving anything of any permanence or value in return. The U.S. has no good reason to continue, let alone add to the loss of life. Other than the ridding of Osama bin Laden, how can America justify 16 lost years? Thousands of Americans killed. Over 20,000 Americans injured. Over 1 trillion dollars invested in a war that simply refuses to end on American terms.

Trump has now announced that 4,000 additional troops will deploy. Fewer troops will undoubtedly return. As of July 6, the military has implemented a new policy where they now delay information on troop casualties for 24 hours before being publicly released. Call it damage control, Trump has his reasons.

If the war in Afghanistan is such an albatross around the neck of the American people, then why pound the war drum? The answer would seem to be Trump’s 33% approval rating coupled with his unmitigated failure to address the racist incidents of Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump strives to create his own war in part to deflect from the recent racial unrest into which he has thrown the country.

“Trump is now hawking American patriotism in order to keep his administration intact.”

His own war promises to trounce over the dead like Heather Heyer as he tries to sweep into a corner the broken statues and spirits of the nation, all because the president is out of touch, uneducable and ultimately unhinged. Trump is now hawking American patriotism in order to keep his administration intact. Much “fire and fury” signifying nothing. American lives have now become the price of distraction from a slowly diminishing administration, plagued by infighting, accusations of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice.

Trump will have his war, his MOAB’s and his 15 minutes of fame, but I can’t imagine anyone applauding loudly, and if so, not for too long.

k.g. Sambrano is a Canadian writer known for his works of literary fiction and poetry, and is an occasional freelance writer.

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