On Oct. 7, President Donald Trump betrayed the Kurds. I soon got a phone call from a friend who works in Kurdistan. My friend said he felt “poisoned.” I knew exactly what he meant — I had the same reaction. So have many American servicemen who worked with the Kurds. Trump’s casual betrayal of the Kurds will have repercussions that will last for generations. Sickening.
I spent years in the Middle East. I worked with Turks, Kurds, Iranians and Arabs. Despite their many ethnic, religious and political differences, however, these groups all share a strong common trait: they deeply value strength of character, courage, honesty, loyalty and honor. That means that no matter how much any group dislikes the Kurds, no one, not even our allies, can really respect America anymore. If I still lived there, I’d have trouble looking anyone in the eye. They would have trouble looking at any American as well — because they feel so much shame for us.
To fully understand the depth of the moral cesspool Trump has plunged our country into, you need to remember the chain of events. First, although the Kurds have been America’s most loyal allies in the Middle East, Trump, in a casual phone call, gave Turkey a green light to invade Kurdish territory. He failed to warn the Pentagon that U.S. troops would be withdrawn. Then he said they had already withdrawn and were “safe.” This was patently untrue. The Turks then crossed the border and began ethnic cleansing.
Under intense criticism, Trump threatened to “obliterate Turkey’s economy” if they “went too far.” No one knew what that meant. Trump’s Pentagon then said U.S. troops would not leave “abruptly” but would take a few weeks to “consolidate their bases.” Pence and Pompeo were sent to Turkey. Lacking any credible leverage, they agreed to everything Turkey wanted (occupation of Kurdish land and their replacement with Turkish allies). Pence solemnly called it a “great deal.” He claimed U.S. troops would protect the Kurds (who hadn’t been consulted) as they abandoned their homeland. (Wait, Trump said U.S. troops were already gone!)
The Pentagon had said U.S. troops were busy “consolidating” their bases, so how could they possibly protect the Kurds? The U.S. then started bombing their own abandoned bases (hardly “consolidation”). Trump, Pence and Pompeo were so extravagant in their praise of the “Trump deal” that Turkey’s Erdogan knew he could violate the bogus “ceasefire” as often as he liked — the administration would be bound to excuse any violation. Five days into the 120-hour pause (Turkey never even called it a ceasefire), there had been no pause in the Turkish assault and some 300,000 Kurds were refugees.
Trump said he was keeping a campaign promise to end “endless wars” and “bring the troops home,” but he had just sent 2,000 troops to Saudi Arabia. Then, under pressure, Trump said the troops were going to Iraq “to fight ISIS.” (Wait, that’s not home. Anyway, Trump had earlier said ISIS was already totally defeated.) Next, Trump’s Pentagon said some U.S. troops would remain in Syria to “secure the oilfields.” Then Trump disagreed. Then he agreed…
The killing of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi did nothing to change the basic Trump dynamic of chaos.
There is a weird argument that the proper way to replace Trump is through elections. Elections were created to provide a regular, orderly transfer of political power. Impeachment was created to remove an incapable, unfit or criminal person who had connived their way to power.
Trump is clearly unfit. Republicans say we need to wait for something worse. What would that be? Well, the Turks aren’t any more impressed by Trump’s actions than the Kurds. The Turks hold some 60 U.S. nuclear warheads at their base at Incirlik. All they have to do is walk in and take them. Hey, presto, a new nuclear power in the Middle East. Who could really blame the Turks? Who in their right mind would entrust their country’s security to Donald Trump?
Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport.