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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Trump’s “Outrage” Over Syria

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© Andrey Yurlov

April 16, 2018 00:30 EDT

Ever since the start of his campaign in 2015 and even before, Trump has made it clear what kinds of things outrage him.

Reuters obtained from “a source familiar with the internal debate at the White House” the following insight about Donald Trump’s psychology after seeing photographs of Syrian victims of an attack with chemical weapons: “When he sees these sorts of things, they outrage him.”

Here at The Daily Devil’s Dictionary, we’re intrigued by the meaning of “familiar with,” since it could designate an insider or just someone who observes from a distance. But today, we will focus on the verb “to outrage” as it applies to the persona of Donald Trump.

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Outrage, verb:

Provoke a strong negative emotion that can result in terrifying consequences, from sending an insulting tweet to launching a missile attack on another country

Contextual note

Ever since the start of his campaign in 2015 and even before, Trump has made it clear what kinds of things outrage him. Here is a partial list: Mexicans, but only certified rapists and drug dealers); Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell; US presidents with fake birth certificates to hide the fact that they were born in Kenya; shithole nations — aka poor countries with dark-skinned people; American judges with Hispanic names; Muslim refugees from war zones created by the US (necessarily terrorists); most of the people he hires to work with him at the White House; special prosecutors; and pictures of dead Syrians not killed by the US.

Trump’s empathy with dead Syrians is such that he is willing to create the conditions for increasing their numbers by aggravating a situation that has been worse than dire for the past seven years. Having brought two other moral leaders into his aggressive campaign to teach a sanguinary dictator about international laws — while violating his own national laws concerning the authority for military action — Trump has consolidated a new coalition of the willing and achieved the most remarkable result: getting Emmanuel Macron’s France on board. If the US, the UK and France are all sharing the same ammunition and coordinating strikes on the same targets, Trump can claim to have succeeded where George W. Bush failed.

Historical note

The purpose of the attack was to demonstrate to the Syrian regime that, in the words of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the US is “locked and loaded,” evoking the kinds of emotions we might associate with an imminent school massacre. How this 19th century military language, with echoes of frontier justice, translates into Syrian Arabic is unclear, but for Haley’s home audience — especially for members of the National Rifle Association — it sounds impressively heroic. A stirring example of true grit.

Trump is sticking to the well-worn script and a great tradition. Go to war over an unconfirmed incident to gain time and take the enemy by surprise.

Donald Trump and Nikki Haley have recent history very much on their minds. Halley said to the nation, “When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.” She drew the contrast with Trump’s arch nemesis, former President Barack Obama, who once spoke of a red line concerning chemical warfare and never followed up, even after a further incident.

Trump provided more impressions of the recent past when he echoed Bush’s infamous “mission accomplished” after the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Does this mean that Trump sees this as a prelude to at least 15 more years of war in Syria with permanent US involvement?

It’s too early to tell, but Russia has already expressed its own outrage, and there are indications that not everyone opposed to the Syrian regime will be less than thrilled. As Al Jazeera’s Marwan Bishara points out, “the Syrian opposition and many of its allies, including in Syria, and perhaps some of the American Special Forces in the country may pay the price for what is happening today.”

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Andrey Yurlov /

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