In a statement that has sent shockwaves across the diplomatic establishment, Donald Trump’s decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles against Syria last month was just “after-dinner entertainment,” which “did not cost the president anything,” US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said, shortly after President Trump called the attack a “tough decision.” Ross delivered the controversial comment while speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, according to Variety.
This is how Ross recalled Trump’s April 6 meeting with Xi at the President’s Mar-A-Lago luxury resort in Palm Beach:
“Just as dessert was being served, the president explained to Mr. Xi he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria,” Ross said. “It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment.”
As the crowd laughed, Ross added: “The thing was, it didn’t cost the president anything to have that entertainment” despite unofficial estimates that the cost of the strike ranged from roughly $60 million to $100 million depending on which Tomahawk missile modification was used.
Ross, a former billionaire hedge fund manager, is new to government service as his remarks suggest. In the Milken lunchtime conversation with David Rubenstein, co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, Ross reflected on his first impressions of public service.
“I’ve been heartened,” he said. “I thought the quality of people in the government was not as high as it has turned out to be. There are actually quite a lot of very good, very serious, very intelligent people wanting to do their best. It’s just they’ve been trapped in a fundamentally dysfunctional system.” Like blowing up people for fun, for example.
Ross’ comments were delivered shortly after President Trump described his decision to attack Syria as a “tough” choice, since the “wrong people” could be killed. Trump made the comments during an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation host John Dickerson.
“But most importantly, you know, the decisions. Like, when I make the decision to go with Syria, the 59 Tomahawk missiles. Unbelievable technology. We have unbelievable talent. But those are tough decisions. Those aren’t, like, decisions that I’m going to buy a building…”
“Tough, why?” Dickerson interrupted.
“Because it’s human lives,” Trump continued. “You’re killing people. And you can kill the wrong people, too,” he added. It was not immediately clear if civilian casualties would double the entertainment value.