The Slatest

Today in Conservative Media: Did Trump Fall Prey to a False Flag in Syria?

Fake news?

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

On Thursday afternoon, many conservative media outlets seemed cautiously opposed to the possibility of armed conflict between the United States and Syria. The opposition grew considerably louder after President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air force base Thursday night.

Not everyone was anti-strike. Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt praised the attack, writing, “If you wondered what American exceptionalism looks like, the 59,000 pounds of U.S. warheads raining down on Syria’s air force is a pretty good snapshot.” Dismissing questions of legality, he declared, “[P]owerful nations have special privileges when confronting moral odium. Right and might together are hard to beat.” In Breitbart, Joel Pollack wrote that Trump had “restored American credibility in the international arena, while retaining the tactical element of surprise. The contrast to President Barack Obama is clear. America is safer for that alone.” The Federalist also offered hesitant approval, citing the strike’s relatively limited immediate effects.

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Others weren’t so sure. The editors of National Review, for example, warned that the strike might do more harm than good, writing, “It may be that the strike is enough to deter Assad from future chemical attacks, but it also could have unwelcome unintended consequences.” And Breitbart’s Pollack noted that some “skeptics of the war” had floated the possibility that Tuesday’s gas attack was a “ ‘false flag’ aimed at provoking an American response.”

The conspiracy site InfoWars went all in on the false flag theory with an article titled “#NoWarInSyria: If You Don’t Want World War III in the Middle East You Need to Let Your Voice Be Heard Now,” writing that it was suspicious that “the ‘White Helmets’ were ready and waiting with their cameras to film the attack when it happened.” Another article on the site claimed, “Islamist rebels are praising the U.S. airstrike,” suggesting that the U.S.’s military action was actually in ISIS’ interest.

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The Daily Caller embraced a similar angle in an opinion post by Moses Apostaticus titled “We Are Now Al-Qaeda’s Air Force.” Arguing that the attack supported the propaganda of “ISIS and the other Al-Qaeda spinoffs,” Apostaticus wrote, “The Sunni extremists who began this conflict with the Syrian government would love to see America commit ground forces to the conflict there.” He also warned that war might further alienate Trump from his base, a group already “disillusioned with the attack”:

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One of the key differences between Trump and Clinton was their approach to Syria and, by extension, Iran and Russia. Hillary promised a no-fly zone which would have brought us close to nuclear war. Trump promised to destroy ISIS and mend fences with Russia. Americans chose the latter. Now many are wondering if there was a choice at all.

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The Daily Caller also ran a post discussing reports that “President Donald Trump did not call Russian President Vladimir Putin before” the missile strike. Though not explicit, that post and others like it seemed designed to support a growing suggestion—also evident in Pollack’s article—that Trump’s willingness to anger Putin challenged allegations about his campaign’s collusion with Russia.

Meanwhile, Fox News was able to find a Susan Rice angle. “Susan Rice and other former Obama administration officials are taking heat for past claims that their 2013 Syria agreement successfully led to the Assad regime purging its entire chemical weapons stockpile,” one Fox post read. Taking a similar approach, Rush Limbaugh placed the blame for Assad’s gas attack on former president Barack Obama’s shoulders:

If Obama had not trusted and colluded with the Russians — and that’s who did, by the way. It was Obama who was colluding with Putin and the Russians. He might have realized the Russians had lied to him about getting rid of all the Syrian WMD.

Meanwhile, posts celebrating the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court dominated on conservative social media:

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