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April 21, 2017



“Nuke ’em out”

Situation: The Syrian forces are alleged to have used chemical weapons against people in an Al-Nusra Front-controlled territory of Khan Shaykhun. The pictures and videos of those affected, including children of all ages, have gone viral.


More importantly, a declared red-line of the US government has been once again violated by the Syrian government against which the US is notionally leading an international effort. Isis is also a growing threat as it has expanded territories under its control – now reversing to a degree, yet with significant influence over how the situation in the Middle East might take shape. The latter has attacked the West at different points in Europe and the US and President Trump has vowed to eradicate them.

The red-line on the use of chemical weapons had also been crossed in 2013 when Russia and the US agreed to a negotiated disarming of Syria. Clearly, Syria had not been divested of its entire arsenal. President Trump got his team of defence, security and intelligence together to mull various options and to choose the most suitable response.

Trump: “I saw these pictures of young children gasping for breath affected by this Sarine thing. Those were beautiful faces just like any from among us. It has hurt me deeply”. Team: “They also crossed a red-line that we had declared on chemical weapons. The Russians are double-crossing us on this. They promised that they will help us remove the arsenal, but clearly haven’t done so. That is why Assad could challenge us with a repeat”. Trump: “So what are our options?” Team: “We have a list – from approaching the Russians again to placing our boots there”.

Trump: “I promised the people I will eliminate the nuisance of both Assad and Isis, from the Middle East. I am already weak at home from all these insidious allegations of being hand-in-hand with the Russians. I would rather respond now in the most powerful way to send everyone a message that the US will not be taken lightly and that, despite Russian presence in Syria, I will take the Syrians on. I will use my most powerful weapon to defeat Isis and Assad. In fact, on a few occasions, I declared using nukes, if I have to, to rid Syria and Iraq of this menace that threatens our interests”.

Team: “Mr President, no nukes obviously; we don’t eliminate chemical weapons by nuclear weapons. One convention broken shouldn’t mean another broken too, particularly in global perceptions”. Trump: “If not nuclear, what is the next best thing? I want fantastic levels of destruction. Something that truly depicts the greatness of America”. Team: “We have something called the ‘Mother of All Bombs’. Nothing like this has ever been used before. It has a destruction value equal to the nuke we dropped over Hiroshima – well almost. It has 11 tonnes of TNT. Will eat out everything within a one-mile radius. Will snuff the air out of any living thing in that radius.”

Trump: “Wow; that’s what I like. Let’s do it. Give the Russians, Assad and Isis this message with the loudest bang humanity has known”. Team: “Can’t Mr President. Too close to Russian comfort. They are spread out everywhere in Syria.” Trump: “But I want to use that monster. There isn’t a bigger message to the world of American power. You find me a place where I can use it. Let that message go out to the world; this is a different America and a different president”.

Team: “We will, Mr President. In the meanwhile, let’s make do with some Tomahawks. Those will at least not cause a nuclear global war. And still challenge Russia and Syria, and convey a message to Isis and Kim Jong-Un”. Trump: “Do it and show me the place for that other monster”.

On April 7, 2017 – three days after the alleged Syrian chemical strike – the US launched its response with 59 Tomahawks on a Syrian Air Force base, which also housed Russians on a part of it. What had only been an US-inspired coalition till now sucked in actual American engagement with the war. How slippery it might be was lost in the moment over a military action that would challenge all – Russia, Syria, Iran, and, of course, Isis. It was with this attack behind him that Trump sent his US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow for their first direct interaction under Trump with the Russians.

As Moscow ordered its ships to move closer on Syria to mark an increased presence in the aftermath of the Tomahawk attack, the US moved a Carrier Group into Korean waters. The two competing powers moved in a game of nuclear poker, challenging each other’s influence in two disparate sides of the world. Russia announced to the world its readiness to defend and secure what has been its traditional area of influence. Meanwhile, the US counteracted by challenging such Russian exclusiveness even as they secured their own interests.

The Trump team found him a perfect place to test his ‘near-nuclear’ weapon – the GBU-43/B MOAB – which has an all-up weight of 21,600 pounds and 17,000 pounds of explosive, with a destructive value of 11 tonnes of TNT that is capable of destroying everything standing within a one-mile radius of its impact and has the ability to snuff air out of everything living in that radius.

Its shock-wave went far further, cracking and damaging infrastructure equivalent to a major earthquake. Hiroshima’s ‘Little Boy’ affected generations with radiation that lasted for decades. This one had one redeeming feature – what was destroyed and eliminated was right then and there. The absence of radiation meant that future generations will not be afflicted. That is, if some survived at all within its destructive radius to sire a future generation.

This attack on a desolate part of Afghanistan, on what was termed as Isis headquarters, came on April 13 – a day before 11 nations neighbouring Afghanistan, contiguously or remotely, were invited by Russia to discuss Afghanistan’s future and proffer a solution that leads towards the path to peace. The US was invited but kept out – probably under the stress of whatever else was happening between them and Russia at other places. Instead, they joined the proceedings with the biggest bang of the century.

The Afghans, long helpless under occupation – whether direct or implicit – could only add words of support to the US bombing and of dying at the hands of a magnificent weapon. Elsewhere, the US would have induced fears of escalation into a global war. In Afghanistan, they were safe trying the weapon out for the first time under operational conditions as the Afghans already having been tested with the 15,000-pounder Daisy Cutters, and lived with it.

While the place of impact was on the Pakistani border and not far from Iran, its reverberations were felt far and wide, forcing both Iran and Isis in Syria to rethink what could be.

North Korea, equally vulnerable, attempted to launch its own nuclear test in response and failed. But the US, unlikely to be kept down, tested its own nuclear device the next day. The US will not be cowed. It will only move towards further greatness under President Trump. Time to celebrate the bomb.


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