Betrayal from Washington

Kurdish Peshmerga Troops in Iraq by Muhamed Sahid. Released to Public Domain by the Photographer

became public in December of 2018. The next day brought a resignation letter from former Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Announcing his departure as Secretary of Defense and, even more importantly, the indispensable office in the Trump White House known as “Adult in the Room,” Mattis wrote:

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.

Mattis was plainly still trying to defend the “free world” while serving a POTUS who started diplomatic fights with Mexico, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, and France while expressing personal admiration for the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Kim Jong-Un, Mohammad bin Salman, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In less than a year, all the adults have been evicted from the White House, and nobody familiar with Kurdish history was available to talk Mr. Trump down after he was once more impressed by the strong leadership of the Turkish autocrat, Mr. Erdoğan.

The announcement went out on Sunday and there were reports early Monday morning that U.S. troops were withdrawing. There are under 1,000 U.S. troops remaining, and their primary function is to discourage attacks on the Kurds with their ability to call in air strikes.

The troops on the ground are — if possible — even more outraged than Pentagon brass. Any veteran who has served in combat understands the feelings that develop for the people with whom you share danger.

Now, feelings be damned, we abandon the Kurds.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, the power centers were Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurds — two based on religion and one on ethnicity. Only the Kurds stood with us both times.

When we ordered and policed no-fly zones, the reason was our charge that Saddam Hussein was “using poison gas on his own people.” Mr. Hussein, if called upon to defend himself, would have said:

Those are not my people. Those are Kurds.

Now we betray the Kurds.

When U.S. troops chased ISIS across the border from Iraq into Syria, Barack Obama was charged with “invading another country” in spite of the fact that the Syrian government had long since lost control of the country and was in no position to police ISIS even if Bashar al-Assad had been so inclined.

The U.S. response to the objections was to train and supply combined forces of Syrian rebels and Kurds. Those forces, with U.S. and European air support, became the tip of the spear that ousted ISIS from the real estate where it had located its terrorist “caliphate.”

Now we betray the Kurds.

Mr. Trump’s foreign policy is ahistorical because he knows no history and will not read a briefing book. Lacking conventional policy anchors, he makes policy by personal relationships with foreign leaders. Among foreign leaders, he gets along better with autocrats than with small d democrats.

Mr. Trump’s personal relationship of admiration for the Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan secured action in a weekend telephone call to actualize the Kurds’ worst nightmare. We are feeding them to the Turkish army after they served us so faithfully against ISIS, taking up a fight our government promised to win.

Our POTUS tweeted out his view of the future, disclaiming any responsibility for the problem that many of the hardest core ISIS fighters are being kept as POWs by our Kurdish allies:

Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to …figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.”

And now we betray the Kurds.

U.S. troops on the ground are outraged, U.S. generals are outraged, and U.S. voters ought to be outraged.

Good job, Kurds. Sorry you took so many dead and wounded for us. We wish you the best when the Turks show up to destroy you.

In what value system is this not evil?

“Betrayal” is a hard word. Do you have a better one?

Enrolled Cherokee, 9th grade dropout, retired judge, associate professor emeritus, and (so far) cancer survivor. Memoir: Lighting the Fire (Miniver Press 2020)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store