Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trump Flirts With Infamy

On Thursday, April 6, 2017, Donald Trump ordered the US Navy to fire 59 cruise missiles from ships in the Mediterranean targeting the al-Shayrat airbase in central Syria (near Homs). This was widely reported as the first time US forces had directly attacked forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. My first reaction to write up another Day of Infamy post, like I did the day after March 17, 2003, when Bush launched his invasion and occupation of Iraq with a similar volley of cruise missiles. But since those missiles blew up on or near their target, the US hasn't followed up with an invasion or any notable escalation of war. It's not even much of a precedent, as the US has been bombing Syrian territory held by ISIS for several years, and has stationed "military advisers" ("special forces") well inside Syria's pre-war borders. And the US and its nominal allies have been running guns and munitions to various anti-Assad groups within Syria almost from the very start of Syria's Civil War. Obama had gone on record as insisting that Assad "must go" early in that war -- an extraordinarily arrogant stance coming from the leader of a nation which used to proclaim its belief that each nation has a right to choose its own leaders and political system ("self-determination").

The US has had a checkered relationship with Syria and the Assad dynasty since it seized power in the mid-1960s, sometimes forming alliances against common enemies (like Iraq and al-Qaeda), but one issue has effectively kept Syria on the US enemies list and that is Israel -- especially since 1967 when Isreal seized and annexed a strip of territory it calls the Golan Heights. That issue pushed Syria into becoming a military client of the Soviet Union (later Russia -- in neither case for ideological reasons, but because its opposition to Israel closed off access to American arms), and that alignment only (plus the similar one with Iran) only added to the peculiar combination of antipathy, indifference, opportunism, and intolerance which has characterized America's increasingly violent and fitful intervention in the Middle East.

The immediate rationale for this particular act of war was the use of poisonous gas, allegedly by Assad's forces, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in "rebel-held territory" in Idlib Province. Obama had arbitrariy proclaimed a "red line" that would be crossed should Syria use poison gas. When Syria appeared to have used poison gas in 2013, the US prepared a "punitive" attack against Syria, but backed down, partly because Congress was wary of authorizing US intervention in Syria, but also because Russia intervened and negotiated a deal between Assad and Kerry committing Syria to destroy its stocks of chemical weapons. Although few Republicans wanted to intervene in Syria, neocons were critical of Obama for failing to punish Syria, and Trump picked up that theme on the campaign trail. Given a similar provocation, it's hardly surprising that Trump would want to show his toughness by bombing first -- especially given that the US had a long history, dating back to Reagan in Libya, of punitive bombing against Middle Eastern targets. (Clinton did the same in Afghanistan and Sudan, and turned the pummeling of Iraq into a kneejerk response every time he wanted to deflect attention from his own scandals. Trump understood this political tactic well enough to tweet (not sure when): "Now that Obama's poll numbers are in tailspin -- watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.")

But while Trump's now-signature attack isn't far removed from "business as usual" for the US in the region, it will take some effort to various threads that came together to make Trump's own decision little more than a kneejerk response. One question has to do with the chemical attack cited as the rationale. It's hard to get politically untainted data from the site, but it makes little if any sense that Assad would use chemical weapons after having given them up. As Jason Diltz reports, one possible explanation, promoted by Russia, is "that no such gas attack took place to begin with, and that a Syrian conventional strike hit a rebel warehouse full of chemicals." Russia, having brokered the deal to rid Assad of chemical weapons, isn't a disinterested observer here, but it is likely that chemical weapons caches fell into "rebel" hands early in the war, and there has been reason to suggest that some of the pre-2013 poison gas incidents had been "false flag" operations by "rebels" to goad the US into taking punitive action against Assad.

More generally, Assad has evidently been gaining ground recently, and several countries had come to the conclusion that Assad would continue to play a role in a negotiated post-conflict Syria -- even the US seemed to be moving toward that conclusion, at least as part of Trump's more amicable stance toward Russia. So why would Assad risk all that by doing something practically guaranteed to trigger a belligerent response from Trump? It makes no sense -- which doesn't prove it's untrue but does raise suspicion. If you look at who benefits from the chemical attack, it isn't Assad or his foreign allies; it's the anti-Assad "rebels" and elements within the US security establishment who have long benefited from sowing discord with Russia and Iran; e.g., the very people who applauded Trump loudest. Diltz also reports that the Pentagon is investigating whether Russian planes took part in the chemical attack, and that Rex Tillerson says Russia bears responsibility for Assad's gas attack. Strategic thinkers in and around the Pentagon have long cherished Russia as an enemy.

The key thing in Trump's attack against the Syrian airfield wasn't what he did so much as how quickly he did it. Speed saved Trump from a lot of possible headaches: he never had to explain what he intended to do, and he didn't give anyone the chance to second-guess him, let alone organize opposition. He didn't consult anyone in Congress. Despite Nikki Haley's recent flurry of tantrums, he didn't engage the UN. What he wanted to do was to show that he could act decisively (unlike Obama, or even Bush, but ironically much more like Clinton). He informed the president of China only after the missiles were launched, and only because they were having dinner together and he was too pleased with himself to keep a secret like that. About the only one he did as much as notify before the fact was the Russians, who were given ample time to clear the air base, minimizing damage and casualties. (Press reports stated that the 59 cruise missiles -- at $1.5 million each he liquidated $90 million in inventory in seconds -- had killed nine Syrians.) You'd think that hardcore Trump-Russia conspiracy devotees would be up in arms over such collusion, but most of them are Clinton dead-enders, and by and large they were so elated by the fireworks they let such details pass.

So even if you've forgotten the movie Wag the Dog, it was pretty obvious that the chief objective in bombing Syria had to do with domestic politics. Trump has been struggling in the polls, and he's especially been dogged by charges of underhanded hanky-panky with Vladimir Putin and the Russians -- whose interference in America's notoriously corrupt political system is popularly regarded as nefarious (as opposed to, say, Israel's completely kosher manipulations). So in one stealth blow, Trump shows his independence from Putin as well as his allegiance to the imperial war state, and gets a moment doing the one thing Americans of most political stripes seem to regard as truly "presidential": blowing shit up. And to think that until he did just that, Trump was widely regarded as a dangerous maniac.

Conspicuous among those applauding Trump were not only perennial Republican war-mongers like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, but virtually all of the so-called opposition leadership, starting with Chuck Shumer ("the right thing to do") and Nancy Pelosi. Even former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton came in from the woods to, just before the fact, demand that Trump step up to the challenge and bomb Syria's airfields. (Anyone who thought that Trump might be less hawkish than Clinton has by now been thoroughly disabused of such fantasies, but thus far Trump still hasn't done anything crazier than Clinton herself promised.) Even John Kerry, who negotiated the chemical weapons deal with Assad and Putin, has turned into one of Trump's loudest cheerleaders.

Still, the speed with which Trump acted belies the likely fact that he actually has no idea how to end the war. When someone like Kerry looks at Trump's escalation, he sees pressure pointed toward a negotiated settlement, and he sees bombing Assad now as a means of bringing his ambitions down a notch or two. He no doubt recalls Bosnia, where a round of American bombing brought the Serbs to an agreement known as the Dayton Accords. But that was a relatively simple and easy conflict, and the US had virtually no history as a nemesis to Serbia (or Yugoslavia) so had a relatively clean track record as an arbiter. Yugoslavia was also a country that could be sliced up into fairly neat regions, so the outlines of a solution were much more obvious. Also there was very little international involvement, so other countries (even the US) had no real stakes in the outcome. Even so, the Dayton Accords were hardly a model of impartial diplomacy: they halted a war, but didn't repair the ruins, and war soon flared up again in Kosovo, which was resolved far less elegantly.

Anyone who gives Syria even a modicum of thought must realize that the only way the war ends there is in an agreement which shares power among all factions. That is especially difficult because there are so many factions, many defined against each other, and many backed by various foreign powers, few (if any) out of any concern for the people who live (or, increasingly, lived) in Syria. The only way to cut through this Gordian Knot is to systematically focus on what would be best for the people, regardless of what it means for the outside parties -- but that is a skill that Americans in particular have great difficulty with. Some aspects of a solution seem fundamental. First, power should be radically decentralized, with each section determined democratically, and much flexibility as to how to organize each section. (This is what should have been done in Aghanistan and Iraq, but wasn't because the US wanted to control local politics through the apparatus of a central state, no matter how alien or unpopular that state became.) This would allow, for instance, some sections to be popularly organized as Islamist statelets, others to be dominated by Sunnis or Alawis or Kurds, and others to favor secular socialism (or even Texas-style crony capitalism, Bush's initial plan for Iraq). Those local sections would need to be demilitarized, and to allow free movement of people to other sections. There would need to be a comprehensive amnesty, and limits on punishment inside sections (some sort of "bill of rights," where mobility was one such right).

Such an agreement could be agreed to or imposed, and indeed a broadly agreed to framework might have to be imposed on recalcitrant factions. If imposed, it should be done by neutral soldiers who have no lasting political interests in Syria, and should involve disarmament. An agreed framework could slowtrack disarmament. The settlement would gradually remove all foreign forces, and provide an international agreement against aggression against Syria (Israel and Turkey are two countries with bad track records here). It would also come with a redevelopment bank that would provide grants and loans for rebuilding and development, and would be subject to policing of corruption.

I don't see how any other solution might work, although I can imagine various half-assed compromises, like leaving Assad in charge of a rump Syrian state that would be prohibited from infringing the basic rights of the Syrian people, with vague promises of future elections, etc. -- you might call this "surrender with dignity." Or if you cannot condone Assad, you might conspire to turn the country over to Al-Qaeda and hope they evolve into Saudi Arabia. Or I suppose the world powers might get Turkey to occupy and annex Syria, although there's no reason to think they'd do a better job than they have in their Kurdish regions. But none of these are remotely good ideas. They're merely better than maintaining Syria as a hot battleground for the cold wars of a dozen regional and international rivals -- i.e., the status quo.

While Kerry might relish the prospect of using the Trump stick to bully Assad and others to a Bosnia-like settlement (or better), it's hard to see Rex Tillerson (let alone Trump) even imagining as much, much less accomplishing it having basically decapitated the State Department (he, of course, in the role of the chicken's disembodied head). Ironically, the only one involved who possesses anything near that sort of imagination is Putin, so wouldn't a plan designed to drive a wedge between Putin and Trump be counterproductive? That's pretty clearly why McCain and Graham, and for that matter Shumer and Pelosi and Clinton and her crew, were so quick to climb on board.

Still, without a plan this will go down in history as just another arbitrary and ultimately pointless American atrocity, like so many before it, and Trump's blip in the polls will dissolve into the hole dug by his nasty incompetence. His day of infamy is likely to quickly be forgotten, until his next one anyway. It's not just that those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it. Those who respond only to the moment's temptation will never have firm ground to stand on.

One last point I want to make: what disturbs me more than Trump's missile attack has been how easily, how uncritically many Democrats and most of the media have lapped up the rationale behind the attack. OK, whatever rationale suited their prejudices best -- some exalted in American power and Trump's "presidential" resolve, some preferred to play up the vileness of the "enemy," some even believed that the killing and destruction served some humanitarian greater good. But all of them bought into the idea that the US (and the US alone) is entitled to play God and deliver justice. Back in 2008 when Barack Obama said he wants to change the way we think about war, nobody expected that what he meant was that the US should simply become more efficient and precise in its ability to project power across the globe, especially through riskless, remotely controlled long distance weapons. Surely a more reasonable reading would have been that the US should back away from its world policing role in favor of developing international organizations that could keep the peace by putting all nations on an equal footing.

Of course, no one expects the Republicans to understand all that, but shouldn't we demand as much from the Democrats. After all, what kind of practical resistance can they offer against Trump and company without making a commitment to peace, justice, and humanity?

Some more links on Trump's little venture into Syria:

  • Michael R Shear/Michael R Gordon: 63 Hours: From Chemical Attack to Trump's Strike in Syria: An hour-by-hour countdown focusing on Trump: what he knew (not much), what options he had (not many), when he decided to blow things up.

  • Peter Baker: For Obama, Syria Chemical Attack Shows Risk of 'Deals With Dictators': Misleading title, and for that matter article. I don't see any current quote from Obama -- just lots of former Obama advisers like Anne-Marie Slaughter who were always hawkish on Syria, who felt like the US missed an opportunity to flex its muscles when Obama agreed to chemical weapons disarmament. The dumbest of these quotes is from Tom Malinowski, arguing that "deterrence is more effective than disarmament." The real problem with the deal was that it didn't end the war, which was the context that made any surviving chemical weapons (including those in "rebel" hands) so dangerous. Still, from a PR angle, it's automatically assumed that any poison gas in Syria is Assad's fault, and this article (like so many in the NY Times) reinforces that propaganda. (Not that I don't mind saying that the war is Assad's fault, although its continuation is not exclusively his fault.)

  • Moustafa Bayoumi: Trump's senseless Syria strikes accomplish nothing; also: Julian Borger/Spencer Ackerman: Trump's response to Syria's chemical attack exposes administration's volatility.

  • Phyllis Bennis: The War in Syria Cannot Be Won. But It Can Be Ended. I heard Bennis interviewed on Democracy Now with two Syrian women who were almost giddy with delight over Trump's rocket attack in Syria, so when she says "the left is profoundly divided over the conflict" that may be in the back of her mind. I'd say that the Syrian women failed to understand that the problem in Syria is not just Assad (although it's hard to overstate how badly he's acted) but war itself, something Trump and Putin and many others are fully guity of. The fact is that nothing good can happen until the war stops.

  • Lauren Carroll: Fact-checking Trump's changing opinion on Syria and the 'red line'

  • Peter Cary: Hillary Clinton called for Donald Trump to 'take out' Assad airfields hours before air strikes: Talk about lending comfort to the enemy. The day after the strikes, Michelle Goldberg posted Hillary Clinton Is Not Going Away and answering "Good." Goldberg's apologia included this paragraph:

    As bittersweet as it was to hear Clinton talk and imagine the sort of president she might have been, the interview offered a stark reminder of why many on the left distrusted her. Speaking hours before Trump launched airstrikes on Syria, she made it clear that she'd also have been a hawkish president. The United States, she said, should take out Bashar al-Assad's airfields, "and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop Sarin gas on them." During the campaign, she said, people asked her if she was afraid that her plan to impose a no-fly zone in Syria would lead to a Russian response. "It's time the Russians were afraid of us!" she said heatedly. "Because we were going to stand up for human rights, the dignity and the future of the Syrian people."

    The Russians should be afraid of us? The whole world should cower before our Shock and Awe? Running guns to Al-Qaeda while bombing ISIS somehow is a stand for "human rights, the dignity and the future of the Syrian people"? Given the alternative, I'm still sorry that she lost, but really, this is batshit insane! And while at least I can ascribe much of the horror that Trump leads on his own peculiar mix of cynicism and laziness, compounded by the general mean-spiritedness of his adopted political party, Clinton comes off as a true believer in her self-aggrandizing fantasy. The rejection of her was the only sane aspect of the 2016 election. It speaks volumes that the American people were so desperate to get rid of her that they were willing to accept the alternative. The more she returns to public life, the more she detracts from the urgent task of resisting Trump.

  • Juan Cole: What Is It With US Presidents and Tomahawk Cruise-Missile Strikes? Cole notes numerous examples, some I've referred to above, others I hadn't -- e.g., Obama's first air assault against ISIS in Syria started in 2014 with 47 Tomahawk missiles. I think the answer to Cole's question is that the Tomahawks have much more range than fighter-bombers or drones and require little preparation, so they're the easiest weapon to choose when presidents want immediate results. Still, the real question is why are such missile attacks so addicting to presidents? What makes them feel entitled to kill so cavalierly? And why can't they come up with more effective ways to resolve such problems? A big part of this is that American politicians have become obsessed with their omnipotence, so they find these massive missile volleys very reassuring. I remember that back in the 1980s when DOD planners were thinking of putting weapons in space, they designed one that was nothing more than a huge tungsten rod that could be dropped anywhere in the world. The tungsten would resist burning up in the atmosphere, and it would gather the speed (and energy) of a meteor before it crashed in a tremendous explosion. They named this terror Rods From God. And more generally, their term for showering a target with overwhelming force was Shock and Awe.

  • Steve Coll: Trump's Confusing Strike on Syria: Another comment which shows that once you get past gut reactions, Trump had no plan or inkling what he was doing:

    If President Trump broadens his aims against Assad, to establish civilian safe havens, for example, or to ground Syria's Air Force, or to bomb Assad to the negotiating table, he will enter the very morass that Candidate Trump warned against. He would have to manage risks -- military confrontation with Russia, an intensified refugee crisis, a loss of momentum against ISIS -- that Obama studied at great length and concluded to be unmanageable, at least at a cost consistent with American interests.

  • Michael Crowley: Democratic Syria hawks love Trump's airstrikes

  • Robert Dreyfuss: Trump's Dangerous Syria Attack; also Janet Reitman: What to Make of Trump's About-Face on Syria.

  • Greg Grandin: The Real Targets of Trump's Strike Were His Domestic Critics: Six "thoughts," each hitting home. For example:

    The bombing reveals that there are no limits to the media's ability to be awed, if not shocked, by manufactured displays of techno-omnipotence. Just as it did in the 1991 Gulf War, the Pentagon passed footage of its nighttime missile launches to the networks. And just as what happened then -- when, CBS's Charles Osgood called the bombing of Iraq "a marvel" and Jim Stewart described it as "two days of almost picture-perfect assaults" -- today MSNBC's Brian Williams called the Tomahawk takeoff "beautiful." In fact, he described it as "beautiful" three times: "'They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield,' he added, then asked his guest, 'What did they hit?'" Why, don't you know, they hit their target: Williams and his colleagues' ability to have a critical thought.

  • Glenn Greenwald: The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise for Bombing Syria

  • Simon Jenkins: His emotions have been stirred -- but Trump's bombs won't help Syria:

    There is nothing in the world more dangerous than an American president watching television. Donald Trump last night followed Ronald Reagan in 1982 and George Bush in 2001 as an isolationist turned interventionist in the Middle East. His past pragmatism towards Syria's Assad regime and its Russian backers underwent a 180-degree turn as 59 American missiles rained down on a Syrian airbase. Welcome back to mission creep.

    None of those three really count as isolationists (a historical stance I have much respect for, although no one who held such views would have ever described themselves as such; the label was coined by their opponents, meant to suggest an ostrich burying its head in the sand, oblivious to real threats all around). But all three share a remarkably shallow sense of the world, as well as a cavalier eagerness to use violence when they see some short-term political advantage. And like any good politician, Trump put his heart on his sleeve:

    Breaking from dinner with the Chinese leader, Trump spoke of his reaction to "slow and brutal deaths," choking bodies and beautiful babies. He three times invoked God. He had been moved to act, he said, because Assad's "attack on children had a big impact on me." As for Russia's role in the attack, Trump's secretary of state said it was "either complicit or incompetent."

    Safe to say that Trump won't react with the same "emotion" to reports of Syrian children mangled by American bombs, because he won't be able to find any political advantage in doing so.

  • Adam Johnson: Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes -- Zero Are Critical: Leave the dissent to The Onion.

  • Fred Kaplan: The Morning After in Syria

  • Alex Lockie: Syrian forces defiantly take off from airfield hit by onslaught of US cruise missiles: Additional fallout: Russia just suspended key military agreements with the US -- raising the risk of war.

  • Carol Morello: Trump officials tell Russia to drop its support for Syria's Assad: Henry Kissinger liked to study Clausewitz. Others preferred to draw strategy lessons from Sun Tzu. This makes it sound like Trump's people have been reading up on stupid pet tricks: Roll over. Play dead.

  • Robert Parry: Trump's 'Wag the Dog' Moment

  • Vijay Prashad: Is Trump Going to Commit the Next Great American Catastrophe in Syria? This focuses on the alleged chemical weapons attack, and covers what (little) is known and how it is known. It doesn't really move into the question of how the US might parlay misunderstanding into full-scale catastrophe, although there is a long record of just that sort of thing.

  • David Smith: Doves and hawks: how opinion was divided about airstrikes in Syria: Features four hawks and four doves, the former deeply ensconced in Trump's White House and War Machine, the doves rather oddly all right-wingers more/less associated with Trump: Steve Bannon (recently booted from the NSC), Mike Cernovich (alt-right blogger), Ann Coulter (all-around bigot), and Rand Paul (part-time libertarian).

    Smith also co-wrote As warplanes return to scene of sarin attack, Trump defends missile launch: Twenty-four hours after Trump's attack, the bombed airbase is open again, and planes from it are attacking "rebel"-held Khan Sheikhun, albeit not with sarin gas this time. Meanwhile, Trump is basking in the adoring glow of "liberal humanitarians" for making the children of Syria so much safer.

  • Joan Walsh: Too Many of Trump's Liberal Critics Are Praising His Strike on Syria: And not just Democrats with long records as neocon hawks (like Hillary Clinton):

    On CNN's New Day Thursday, global analyst Fareed Zakaria declared, "I think Donald Trump became president of the United States" last night. To his credit, Zakaria has previously called Trump a "bullshit artist" and said, "He has gotten the presidency by bullshitting." But Zakaria apparently thinks firing missiles make one presidential.

    Walsh cites many others, including Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, who at least had reservations. She also cited Mark Landler: Acting on Instinct, Trump Upends His Own Foreign Policy, which points out how impulsively Trump reacted (original title: "On Syria attack, Trump's heart came first"): quotes Trump as saying "even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack" -- referring to the Syrian chemical attack, but those words could just as well describe many of Trump's own authorized bombing runs.

    Also see: Owen Jones: Why are liberals now cheerleading a warmongering Trump?

    One of the main objections to Trump was that he was unstable, impulsive, with authoritarian instincts, and would disregard constitutional norms. This has turned out to be true, while being applauded by his erstwhile detractors for doing so, emboldening him to go further. Yet "I'm no fan of Trump, but . . ." will be the battle cry of his erstwhile detractors. Still, the children of Syria will die, just as they will die in Yemen and Iraq and elsewhere. History will ask: how did this man become president? And how did he maintain power when he did? Look no further than the brittle, weak, pathetic liberal "opposition."

  • Whitney Webb: Russia Reports Discovery of Rebel-Held Chemical Weapons at Site of Idlib Gas Attack

  • Matthew Yglesias: Trump brought his economics team to his Syria strike watch party, for some reason: Well, there's also this story: Tom Boggioni: Donald Trump personally profited from missile-maker Raytheon's stock jump after his Syria attack. There was also a spike in oil stock prices, which should warm Rex Tillerson's slimy heart.

  • North Korea says Syria airstrikes prove its nukes justified: And here you were, thinking Trump's best and brightest had figured out all the angles.

  • The Onion: Trump Confident US Military Strike on Syria Wiped Out Russian Scandal: OK, probably satire (as "fake news" used to be called), not least the alleged Trump quote:

    After ordering the first U.S. military attack against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, President Donald Trump held a press conference Friday to express his full confidence that the airstrike had completely wiped out the lingering Russian scandal. "Based on intelligence we have received over the past several hours, the attack on the al-Shayrat air base in Homs has successfully eliminated all discussions and allegations about my administration's ties to the Russian government," said Trump, adding that at approximately 4:40 a.m. local time, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from U.S. naval ships obliterated all traces of the widespread controversy in news outlets across the media. "Ordering this strike was not a decision I took lightly, but given that it was the only way to decisively eradicate any attention being paid to congressional investigations into possible collusion between key members of my staff and high-ranking Kremlin officials, I decided it was a necessary course of action. If we learn that any remnants of this scandal remain after this attack, I will not hesitate to order further strikes." Trump went on to say that he is leaving the option open for a potential ground invasion of Syria if any troubling evidence emerges that the Russian government manipulated the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Tweets I've noticed along the way:

  • Anne-Marie Slaughter: Donald Trump has done the right thing on Syria. Finally!! After years of useless handwringing in the face of hideous atrocities.
  • Lee Fang: Like clock work all cable news has retired generals (many of whom work at defence firms) on air to give the sports-style play-by-play
  • Christopher Hayes: As legions of ex-Obama officials endorse the strike, it's more and more clear the degree to which Obama was resisting his own advisors.
  • Asad Abukhalil: Let me get this straight: so according to DC pundits, Trump was a dangerous maniac . . .until he started bombing?

A couple of unrelated links, just to note them: