The M1 Abrams tanks arrive. Averaging two miles per gallon, they had to catch rides on rail cars and flatbed trucks to get to Trump’s “Salute to America.”

After all was said and done, ’twas climate change that rained on Donald’s parade.

Karma caught up with the anti-science president. First a blistering heat greeted his Fourth of July self-aggrandizement in Washington, D.C. Then a thunderstorm. And there was Donald J. Trump, standing behind his rain-splattered, bullet-proof glass, frowning over this unmitigated disaster. Describing how, during the American Revolution, one of the first things done by the patriots was seize control of the airports.

Indeed, he said that. This presidency is increasingly sounding like a 21st-century remake of “Dr. Strangelove.”

Hiding behind a plea to patriotism, and our military men and women, Trump’s “Salute to America” was attended by tens of thousands of people, when hundreds of thousands were promised. And no matter what number is used, it still leaves out hundreds of millions of Americans. Building on fear, we had military vehicles parked on the National Mall, guns pointed pointlessly at the Lincoln Memorial, or other architectural marvels that remind us of the country’s founding ideals that have been abandoned.

Despite this fiasco being paid for by American taxpayers – including $2.5 million diverted from the cash-strapped National Park Service, users fees intended for the repair and maintenance of those parks – the divisive strategies that got Trump elected, and continue to fuel his supporters, were evident. Fearful of the negative reaction that the historically unpopular president and his policies might draw, VIP tickets for entry to a fenced-off section of the mall – a public space – were issued to Republican political appointees and donors only through the Republican National Committee and Trump’s reelection campaign. As it became apparent this week that Trump might be standing in front of a vast, nearly empty space, members of the military were issued tickets as well.

Trump, who avoided military service in Vietnam because he claimed he had bone spurs, and because he was “not a fan” of the war, wanted a military presence at his parade. Just like the ones frequently seen in those bastions of democracy, Russia, China and North Korea. He promised us “brand new Sherman tanks.” That should be a treat for the antiques-minded men and women of our armored divisions, as the last Sherman was built in 1957. The cost for just the military aircraft ordered up for the event, roaring over the stage as Trump spoke, including the Boeing 747 designated Air Force One when the president is on board, was an estimated $1 million.  A stealth fighter flew overhead, although I’m not sure anyone saw it.

I doubt we’ll ever see the actual entire cost of this near-sighted spectacle. Did you know it takes 10 gallons of gas just to start an Abrams M1 tank? Political props are costly.

Yeah. About those tanks and extravagantly armed aircraft. In today’s world, they’re useless. That war in Iraq, with our tanks rolling over a museum-quality Iraqi military, was just a show. What was that about, anyway? Something to do with weapons of mass destruction that never turned up? Then we moved on to invasions of Iran and Afghanistan, which supposedly had something to do with 9/11. Again we brought out the tanks to clatter up and down dusty streets, scattering goat herds. And aircraft to strafe wedding parties; that actually happened. Any “bad guys,” as the military likes to call the people we’re fighting – a way to trivialize a complex political situation – simply disappear into the mountains or the general population. When our tanks and aircraft move on, the “bad guys” return.

After more than 25 years of perpetual war in the Middle East, we have nothing to show for it, except casualties and ruined lives. Yes, we build the best tanks and jet fighters. That doesn’t matter anymore. As we’ve already seen, the wars of today, and the foreseeable future, are cyber wars. Russians using the internet to disrupt our democracy, and build on the divisiveness sowed by Trump. The world’s countries are preparing to attack not each other’s military hardware, but each other’s technological and energy infrastructures.

So leave those tanks parked on the National Mall. As reminders as to how fleeting our grasp of reality can be.

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