IN ITS LATEST bid to confuse the world community, the Trump administration has accused the Syrian and Russian governments of - you guessed it - trying to confuse the world community.
The latest accusation to come out of the Trump administration is that Russia helped Syria cover up chemical weapons still in the country. That assertion, made by senior administration officials to CNN, could very well be true. It's also possible that Russia, which has denied having advance knowledge of a chemical attack that killed at least 87 people in Syria, knows nothing about it. OK, maybe that's not possible.
But one thing is certain in all this: President Trump's sudden interest in protecting Syrian civilians, along with his administration's new tough-guy stance with the Russians, could not have come at a better time for Trump.
The president's approval ratings were extremely low when a chemical attack - allegedly launched by the Syrian government - killed Syrian civilians in a rebel-held area of the country. Trump, reversing his long-held stance that America should stay out of the Syrian civil war, retaliated against the Syrian government by ordering a missile strike at the airfield from which the chemical attack allegedly was launched.
The 59 Tomahawk missiles cost about $93 million, and while they hit a number of facilities on the air base, they did so little real damage that Syrian planes were taking off from the runways just hours after the strike.
But despite the cost, the policy contradictions and the fact that Syria thumbed its nose at us by flying from the same airfield in the wake of the attack, Trump's approval ratings shot up.
Apparently, America loves its missiles.
We also love distraction. If we didn't, we would've noticed that Trump's decision to attack the Syrians not only raised his approval rating; it also made us stop talking about Trump and the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with the Russians to hijack the 2016 presidential election.
It's amazing that 59 Tomahawk missiles can make us forget that everyone from Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner to campaign operative-turned-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in contact with the Russians while Russian hackers allegedly were working to help Trump win. Missiles also can make us overlook that Kushner conveniently forgot to list his Russian contacts on security clearance forms, while Sessions misled Congress about his own conversations with a Russian ambassador.
But even after all that contact, even after Trump spent months calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a great leader, even after the Russians helped Trump by using its hackers to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Trump's people have now decided to make accusations against the Russians. That could be a risky ploy because I suspect that in Russia, the rules of loyalty are the same as they are here. You dance with the one who brought you.
And if 17 American intelligence agencies are right, and Putin's hackers helped to bring Trump to the White House, Putin might not take kindly to being publicly blamed for helping Syria hide chemical weapons. He might also be offended that senior White House officials are floating the possibility that the Russians knew Syria planned to launch the chemical attack.
Putin ultimately could decide that payback is in order, and we could see some ugly facts about Trump become public, courtesy of Russian sources. That is unless Trump and Putin have already worked this whole thing out behind the scenes, and that's entirely possible.
With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow to talk shop with the same Russian government that loved him so much as Exxon's CEO, no one should be surprised if Trump and Putin are best buds again by the end of the week.
After all, distraction has been Trump's calling card from Day One.
With a foreign policy strategy that often comes off like a street-corner game of three-card monte, the Trump administration has been extremely adept at feinting with the right hand while jabbing the American people with the left.
I, for one, simply can't buy that Trump, who twice banned Syrian refugees from entering our country after as many as 470,000 Syrians have died in a civil war, is suddenly concerned about Syrian babies after watching 87 people die in a chemical attack.
I'm not naïve enough to think Trump cares more about Muslim Syrians than the other Muslims he tried to ban from the country as one of his first official acts.
I don't believe the same congressional Republicans who failed to authorize President Obama to launch airstrikes against Syria in 2013 are now convinced Trump's acting without congressional authorization is the answer.
Maybe if we knew the plan, I'd feel better. Unfortunately, I think this is yet another game of three-card monte.
And I'm tired of trying to find the Trump card.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books. Listen to him mornings from 7 to 10 on WURD (900-AM).