‘Beauty’ of Tomahawks reveals insensitivity to war
Many were the reactions to the US bombing of Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield but one reaction has been denounced as “sickening” and “the sickest” and it came from US news anchor Brian Williams.
On the night of April 6 on MSNBC, Williams repeatedly used the word “beautiful” to describe footage of the air strikes. He said: “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US Navy vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
Then, he quoted Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan”: “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.”
Williams went on to describe the “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments.”
In a 1988 interview, Cohen said “First We Take Manhattan” “is a terrorist song. I think it’s a response to terrorism. There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired.”
Cohen may have admired something about terrorism but, in my case, I admit that there is something about insensitivity that I have always admired. Williams seems to pretend or is possibly unaware of the ills and faults of the Tomahawk missiles. By mistake or maybe intentionally, he surely appears insensitive to the horrors of war.
So, I thought to myself, maybe someone should remind Williams of facts that might help us understand what a “beautiful” Tomahawk is.
The 59 cruise missiles did not bring the United States an inch closer to toppling the murderous Syrian regime. It appears that the strike was just a loud warning shot to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Pentagon has confirmed that Russia was notified.
“US military planners took precautions to minimise risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield,” Pentagon spokesman US Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.
Just after the attack on Syria, Tomahawk-maker Raytheon Corporation emerged as a key gainer. Shares in Raytheon rose nearly 1.5% on April 7.
The price of each missile is not definitively known but it is estimated to be $800,000-$1.4 million. So, the cost of the fired Tomahawks could be $50 million- $80 million.
If repeated, “warning shots” from Trump’s administration can create a perfect environment for weapons-makers to flourish — all at the expense of US taxpayers.
Williams might argue the 59 Tomahawks were a costly warning shot but they are still “beautiful.”
Maybe one thing that Williams does not certainly know is that his tactless eulogy to US weapons resembles, to a certain extent, Islamic State (ISIS) eulogies to armaments.
In some ISIS propaganda songs, the sound of cannons is likened to the music of tambourines and the smoke of bombs to the scent of musk. Swords are compared to preachers of truths and weapons heal the wounds of an oppressed people.
Such songs that commend weapons have grown into key elements of the jihadist propaganda machine and have lured thousands of young people, from the West and the East, into an unprecedented insensitivity to the realities of blood-spilling and conflicts.
Weapons are weapons. The fact that they are “Made in America” does not soften their destructive force and certainly does not make them “beautiful.”
Cruise missiles were first used in 1991 during the Gulf War. At that time, the US Navy claimed that Tomahawks had an accuracy rate of 85%.
The missiles were used again against Iraq in 1998 and in 2003. Eventually, Saddam Hussein was toppled but at what cost? Fourteen years later, Iraq is still caught in a real mess, with terrorism, sectarianism, proxy wars and corruption threatening its stability.
In 1998, the US Navy fired 70 Tomahawks to hit al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, killing 24 people but missing its leader Osama bin Laden.
At the same time, 13 Tomahawks hit Al-Shifa drug plant in Sudan and, witnesses said, the country was left with but a few supplies after the attack.
In 2009, the United States launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on a camp in the village of Al-Majalah in southern Yemen. The attack killed 14 alleged al-Qaeda fighters and 41 civilians, including 14 women and 21 children.
At odds with the poetic allusions of Williams is the reality on the ground: There is no beauty when we talk about Tomahawks or any other weapon.
In Syria, the situation is complex and there is no need for more complexity and “fearsome armaments.” What we need in Syria is surely a plan to end that bloody conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.