Donald Trump ordered a limited military strike on a Syrian air base after the Syrian military was believed behind a chemical weapons airstrike that killed dozens.

The military strike generally received praise both because it happened and because, at least for now, it was limited and intended to establish the red line that Obama ignored. Whatever other horrific warfare has taken place in Syria, and it has been horrible on a historic scale, the use of chemical weapons would not be tolerated.

The plans for an attack were drawn up by the U.S. military, among many alternatives. The Russians, apparently, were alerted at some level beforehand since the attack was on an airbase also used by the Russians. To have done otherwise would have risked a wider conflict if Russian troops were hit by U.S. launched missiles. So that minimal coordination, which takes place among several militaries operating in the skies over Syria, was a cautious move by the U.S. military and Trump.

The widespread praise for Trump’s action has triggered some really bizarre conspiracy theories.

Of course, people are making the “Wag the Dog” comparison, that Trump did the strike to divert from domestic problems. That metaphor was established during the Clinton administration after the movie Wag the Dog. It’s a stretch in this case, but at least Wag the Dog analogies are somewhat commonplace. So if that was all there were to the conspiracy theory, it wouldn’t be notable.

But anti-Trump hatred is so intense that the conspiracy theory has gone much further. The claim now is that the entire scenario of a chemical attack followed by a retaliatory airstrike was a conspiracy by Trump and Putin to help cover up Trump’s alleged allegiance to the Russian leader. The claim is that Trump and Putin hatched the scheme to have Assad use chemical weapons so that Trump could carry out a militarily insignificant attack that would allow Trump to say that he is not in Putin’s pocket.

While I don’t know if she started it (WaPo says it started here), I first saw the conspiracy theory promoted on Twitter by Louise Mensch, who already has gained infamy for bizarre anti-Trump conspiracy theories. Mensch has a large Twitter following, and regularly claims Trump has committed treason, will be impeached and will go to jail.

Mensch tweeted the conspiracy:

Seth Abramson, who also has gained some infamy for his anti-Trump theories, and who has made a name for himself and Twitter following based on anti-Trump hyperbole, also tweeted that the attack was intended to make Trump look like he’s at odds with Putin:

Mike Luckovich, cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also pushed one aspect of the conspiracy, collusion between Trump and Putin:

There are hundreds of others who have been retweeting and spreading this conspiracy theory.

For this conspiracy to have taken place, of course, would have meant that the U.S. military at the highest levels was in on it. That’s of course the problem with conspiracy theories of this sort, to be plausible requires an inplaussible number of people to be involved, all of whom are staying silent about it. Conspiracy theories like these also cannot be disproven, because there is no proof of the conspiracy itself. It’s worse than trying to prove a negative, it’s chasing a rabbit down the hole.

The Trump-Putin-Assad conspiracy theory really took off, however, when Lawrence O’Donnell started promoting it both on Twitter and on air during his MSNBC show.

O’Donnell issued this tweet, that was spread far and wide:

And O’Donnell offered praise for the Luckovich cartoon:

On air, during prime time on MSNBC on April 7, 2017, , O’Donnell promoted the conspiracy theory (transcript via Newsbusters):

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, MSNBC: Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just completely, totally, absolutely impossible to suspect that Vladimir Putin orchestrated what happened in Syria this week, so that his friend in the White House could have a big night, with missiles and all of the praise he has picked up over the last 24 hours?

Wouldn’t it be so nice if you couldn’t even in your wildest dreams imagine a scenario like that?

I don’t know what it is. Is it a two percent chance? Is is a 50 percent chance? Is it, I don’t know.

But I don’t think it’s a zero percent chance, and it used to be with every other President besides Donald Trump.

O’Donnell tried to play it cute by claiming he was spreading the theory only to prove that it’s a shame that the question even can be asked because of Trump. Yet he spent so much time on it, and none of the three guests pushed back in any serious way against the lunacy.

A DailyKos writer thinks O’Donnell’s theory makes sense:

In other words, because Trump lies to us and deceives us all of the times. One should infer that he is doing it now as well.

Mike Doran, senior director in the National Security Council in the Bush administration and a harsh critic of Obama administration “unmasking,” tweeted that this was the moment the left totally lost its mind:

I think that’s letting the perpetrators, including O’Donnell, off the hook too easy.

Whether or not they’ve lost their minds, this is part of a calculated effort. O’Donnell helped push it out for a reason, and that reason almost certainly is not that he actually believes it.


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