White House Continually Blunders Over Syria
BY: Julia Jahanpour/Contributing Writer
The White House has been having great difficulty discussing Syria in the past few weeks, making many blunders and causing an uproar. The Trump administration launched 59 missiles at a Syrian military airfield April 7, early in the morning. This was done in retaliation to Assad’s chemical attacks on Syria’s citizens. Trump said that the attacks were in the “vital national security interest” and were necessary as a step towards ending violence.
This is a bit backwards from Former President Obama’s method of toleration and non-military action. Granted, there were bombs dropped during the Obama administration, however, Vice President Pence has stated that Trump is ending the era of “strategic patience”, and will move forward with force if necessary. Many global leaders have spoken out against this plan of action, condemning the use of violence to end other violence as a pointless battle.
In an interview with Fox News Network, President Trump recalls his meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, when he announces that the U.S. had launched missiles at Syria. He goes into great detail about the multi-layer chocolate cake that both men were enjoying, and then he slips up about the name of the country the US attacked. During the interview, he says, “We have just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq.” The reporter corrected him, asking “Heading toward… Syria?” To which Trump replies “Yes… Heading toward Syria.” This mistake has shaken many, as it seems as though the President does not have a good grasp on who it is we are attacking. Was the cake more important to him than the destruction he had just authorized?
In another blunder, A CNN reporter referred to the civilian deaths caused by the missiles as a “hiccup”, to which the civilians are to ignore and continue evacuating. The estimated 14 civilian casualties in this “hiccup” were virtually ignored by White House press. Following the attack, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a few outrageous statements during a controversial conference on Tuesday. While speaking about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Spicer attempted to make a comparison between him and Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. He questioned Russia’s consideration of supporting Assad by saying “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons… [Hitler] was not using the gas on his own people the same way Assad is doing.”
This statement is detrimental, and horrendously incorrect, for a number of reasons. Firstly, Hitler did in fact use chemical weapons on his own people, including Zyklon B, which was developed as a cyanide-based gas for extermination. Spicer then attempts to clarify, saying he was referring to “where [Assad] went into towns and dropped them down on the innocent”. This clarification is equally as consequential, implying that Hitler was not gassing innocent people during the Holocaust. To make that type of statement during Passover, of all occasions, deeply offended many in the Jewish community. In claiming that the Jews during the Holocaust were not “his own people” and “innocent”, Spicer creates an incorrect historical segregation. This is a tactic many Holocaust deniers use as well, who cause a lot of grief for the Jewish community.
In other blunders, Spicer refers to death camps as “Holocaust centers” and butchered Bashar al-Assad’s name on multiple occasions. While not as incredibly offensive, these remarks add to the lessening of the atrocity of the Holocaust. In statements such as “Even in World War II, chemical weapons were not used on battlefields,” made by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis in a separate briefing Tuesday, it appears that the intention is to downplay the corruption and wickedness of Hitler’s actions.
Spicer later stated that he regretted his actions, and that “There is no comparing atrocities”. Assad is not Adolf Hitler. The war in Syria is not the Holocaust. There are different motives, different methods of death and destruction, and much more. This current issue requires full attention, and not a comparison to whether or not it is worse than an equally devastating time in history.
Politicians and spokespeople like Spicer have an enormous influence on the American population. He, and the others, need to assume responsibility for the impact their words can have. This is a time where diplomacy, respect, and sensibility are necessary. Being irresponsible with choice of words is inexcusable, regardless of the intention. The White House needs to start being mindful of the language it uses and pay attention to accuracy regarding Syria and its affairs in the Middle East.