Progressive Views: On Betrayal

by Cindy Offutt
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, November 29, 2019

A woman in military fatigues and traditional headscarf overlooks a group of civilians of all ages.
”Kurdish YPG [People’s Protection Units] Fighter” by kurdishstruggle is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

“Last week, Trump all but green-lighted the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds without an ounce of remorse.”

David Brooks, New York Times, “If It’s Trump vs. Warren…” 17 Oct 2019.

Or as Ross Douthat recently put it in his New York Times opinion piece, “Trump’s betrayal of the Syrian Kurds is a moral travesty, but the Kurds have been betrayed by America before.  What distinguishes this fiasco is its utter thoughtlessness, its disconnect from any strategic purpose, the sheer obviousness with which Trump allowed himself to be rolled by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the inability of his advisors to salvage the situation before it led to war.”

Donald Trump has once again kowtowed to the demands of a foreign leader – in this case, Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He did so without consulting either our allies or our military leadership – and despite considerable outrage from both sides of the political aisle.  Even Republicans who have almost always taken the president’s side for even his most obscene pronouncements, actions and behaviors have pushed back against his incoherent “decision” to withdraw from Syria and abandon the Kurds to the brutality of Erdogan’s forces. 

Even though he is unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge it, Donald Trump brought great shame upon this country when he ordered U.S. troops to depart with all possible haste from northern Syria.  In so doing, Trump betrayed the Kurdish militia, our strongest, most steadfast – not to mention most effective – ally in the 5-year war to rout ISIS from Syria and Iraq.

“It’s not our border,” Trump retorted when condemned from all sides for his rash, almost casual, betrayal of the Kurds.

And then there’s this revoltingly fatuous statement: “Sometimes you have to let ‘em fight for a while … Like two kids in a lot, you’ve got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.”

And this absurdity:  The Kurds “didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy.”  

And this:  Kurdish forces, Trump howled, are “probably worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat than ISIS.”  

To be juxtaposed against this incongruous fabrication: The Kurds are now “much safer.”

And most recently, there’s this little gem of a Tweet (24 Oct 2019): “The Oil Fields discussed in my speech on Turkey/Kurds yesterday were held by ISIS until the United States took them over with the help of the Kurds.  We will NEVER let a reconstituted ISIS have those fields!”

Say what?  What’s this about a “reconstituted ISIS?”  I thought Trump had assured us all that ISIS was “100 percent” defeated …

… Which leads directly to the issue of national security.  Apart from the immorality of Trump’s decision to betray the Kurds, there’s also the question of its effects on our ability to hold ISIS at bay.  As retired General Joseph Votel recently wrote regarding his 2015 experience searching for a viable partner in our fight against ISIS:

“We had tried many other options first. The U.S. initially worked to partner with moderate Syrian rebel groups, investing $500 million in a train-and-equip program to build their capabilities to fight against ISIS in Syria. That endeavor failed, save for a small force in southeastern Syria near the American al-Tanf base, which began as a U.S. outpost to fight ISIS and remains today as a deterrent against Iran. So we turned to Turkey to identify alternative groups, but the Pentagon found that the force Turkey had trained was simply inadequate and would require tens of thousands of U.S. troops to bolster it in battle. With no public appetite for a full-scale U.S. ground invasion, we were forced to look elsewhere.”

“I [Joseph Votel] first met General Mazloum Abdi at a base in northern Syria in May 2016. From the start, it was obvious he was not only an impressive and thoughtful man, but a fighter who was clearly thinking about the strategic aspects of the campaign against ISIS and aware of the challenges of fighting a formidable enemy … After a fitful start in Syria, I concluded that we had finally found the right partner who could help us defeat ISIS without getting drawn into the murkier conflict against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”

Votel, Joseph, “The Danger of Abandoning Our Partners,”, Oct 8, 2019

Trump and his sycophants have since tried to “clarify” the president’s decision by claiming he was merely doing what the American people elected him to do – that is, “bring the troops home.” 

Except, of course, that American troops will remain in Syria to secure the oil – not to mention that the president has also recently deployed U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia.

So much for “bringing the troops home” – as well as American honor.

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