On Thursday evening, the Trump administration authorized the launch of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield. The move was intended as retaliation for a chemical attack using deadly nerve agent sarin, that killed at least 70 people in a Damascus suburb. Just hours earlier, Trump had said of the attack, “I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. [Bashar al-Assad’s] there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen.”
Playing the part of the Commander-in-Chief as much as he knows how, Trump delivered prepared remarks from his private country club Mar-a-Lago, in which he stuck to the script and indulged in none of his signature embellishing. The strike has been lauded as swift and decisive by his colleagues in Congress, and presidential by cable pundits.
“I will tell you,” he said to reporters on Wednesday, “that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.” CNN reports that it was the photos of the injured and killed children that caused Trump ultimately to take action. But to believe that is to set aside Trump’s ability to ignore Assad’s longtime predilection for using deadly weapons against Syrian citizens, as well as Trump’s past statements on Syria—many of which are compiled here—that directly contradict Thursday’s actions. Beyond that, it is to ignore Trump’s history of amorality, and that Trump’s one constant is self-interest.
What is most remarkable in reviewing these past comments isn’t that Trump breezily spoke in rebuttal to himself, nor is it how shamelessly comfortable he feels shooting missiles into a country, rapidly producing refugees he’s banned from his own country. Rather, it’s our own willingness to set these aside, in the pursuit of unbiased commentary, or politics, or some sort of reconciliation of Trump the Narcissist and Trump the Child Defender. His actions on Thursday—actions that are, by many accounts, fairly standard military retaliation, and perhaps, retaliation that a man bent on showing his power might opt for—shouldn’t change the narrative or complicate our view of Trump. He’s still the same man: volatile, vain, and flailing.
On Syrian children on April 6, 2017:
“Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
On Syrian children in February 2016:
“I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come’. I’ll look them in the face... Look, we don’t know where their parents come from. Their parents should always stay with them, that’s very important, but we don’t know where the parents come from, they have no documentation. They may be Isil, they may be Isil-related. It could be a Trojan horse. If two per cent of those people are bad the trouble is unbelievable.”
On Syrian refugees on April 6, 2017:
“Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children... As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”
He also, obviously, attempted to ban them from US entry indefinitely.
On Bashar al-Assad on April 6, 2017:
“On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians... Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.”
On Bashar al-Assad in 2015:
“I’m looking at Assad and saying maybe he’s better than the kind of people we’re supposed to be backing.”
On intervening in Syria on April 6, 2017:
“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.”
On God on April 6, 2017:
“We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed and we hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will in the end prevail.”