President Trump Just Ordered Military Strikes Against Syria in Response to Chemical Attack

More than 50 cruise missiles were fired at a Syrian airbase.

Smoke billows following a reported airstrike by government forces in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on November 20, 2015. Ameer Alhalbi/NurPhoto/AP


The United States fired more than 50 tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian government targets on Thursday night in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week, according to multiple news reports. The target of the US strike appears to be the Syrian regime airbase where the chemical attack is said to have originated.

President Donald Trump made a televised address to the nation Thursday night from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. He said that the strike was in “vital national security interest to the United States” and called on “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

The Trump administration spent much of Wednesday developing potential military responses against Syria, according to multiple reports.

The chemical attack, which took place Tuesday and killed as many as 100 people, including at least 11 children, is thought to be the deadliest use of chemical weapons since August 2013, when more than 1,000 people were killed in a chemical weapon attack carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of Damascus. At the time, President Barack Obama stated he would seek congressional authorization for the use of force against Syria. But then-Secretary of State John Kerry issued an ultimatum: Assad could turn over chemical weapons stockpiles and avoid military strikes. No congressional vote ever took place.

NBC News reported Wednesday that US military personnel saw Syrian aircraft appear on radar at the time of the latest attack, and then saw them drop bombs on civilians in Khan Sheikoun in rebel-held Idlib in northern Syria. Soon after, the US radar system detected flashes from the attack.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line.”

But in previous days, the Trump administration signaled multiple times that removing Assad from power was no longer a long-term priority. On Monday, Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, stated, “Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out. We can’t necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, shows pictures of Syrian victims of chemical attacks at a Security Council meeting on Wednesday. Bebeto Matthews/AP

Late last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Assad’s future “will be decided by the Syrian people,” which, as The Daily Beast puts it, is “a euphemism used by Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran to indicate that he isn’t going anywhere.”

Trump’s previous approach to Assad’s crimes could perhaps best summed up by his campaign statement: “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS, and Iran is killing ISIS.”

ISIS isn’t located in the area where the chemical weapons fell this week.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.