I predicted a week ago that he would eventually start mouthing Turkish propaganda rather than admit that he’d made a mistake in bowing to Erdogan’s threat to invade northern Syria. He can’t acknowledge error even in small matters; he surely wasn’t about to cop to a major blunder which even cronies like Lindsey Graham were claiming would lead to the rebirth of ISIS. He’d lunge at any spin available to him that might conceivably justify his decision, even if it came from Turkish fascists.
But I thought he’d limit himself to Turkish claims about how the invasion was going — few Kurdish casualties, no civilians hurt, no ISIS prisoners escaped, and so on. Never did I expect him to adopt Erdogan’s own view of who the real threat in Syria is.
Somehow this is going to end with Trump bombing the Kurds at Turkey’s behest, isn’t it?
What US President Trump says about PKK terror grouppic.twitter.com/FX9jjtq3mj
— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) October 16, 2019
TRT is a Turkish media outlet, which is no coincidence. Only a Turk would make the claim that the PKK is more of a terrorist menace than ISIS is. For an American to make it, particularly a president whose view of foreign policy is “America First,” is the purest insanity, to the point where I’d be surprised if a single person in the United States’s vast intelligence bureaucracy agrees. In no sphere of reality is the PKK a bigger threat *to America* than ISIS is; to an America First-er, that should settle the question of which outfit is “worse.” I’d bet cash money that Trump got this ridiculous talking point directly from Erdogan himself in conversation and chose to stupidly repeat it because, as I say, he’ll grasp at anything to justify his stand-down order in northern Syria retroactively. “The PKK is worse than ISIS. So, by letting Turkey massacre the Kurds, we’re actually fighting terrorism.”
As I’m writing this, news is breaking that the House has voted to condemn Trump’s Syria withdrawal — on a strongly bipartisan vote, 354-60.
The resolution states Congress’ opposition to the troop pullback and says Turkey should cease its military action in Syria. And the measure says the White House should present a plan for an “enduring defeat” of the Islamic State group…
The House debate was extraordinary for the intensity of lawmakers’ opinions.
Republicans called the troop withdrawal “disastrous” and a “catastrophe.” Democrats criticized Trump directly, with Rep. Seth Moulton saying Trump “has taken the side of dictators and butchers.”
Mitch McConnell also went out of his way to express his “gratitude” to the same Kurds who are, allegedly, worse than ISIS. Meanwhile, America’s diplomatic apparatus is busytrying to pressure Erdogan to back off in Syria, raising the question again of who, exactly, they think they work for:
The United States calls on #Turkey to halt its military offensive in Syria. Turkey is undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS, endangering innocent civilians and threatening peace, security and stability. Those responsible for #HumanRights abuses must be held accountable. #UNSC pic.twitter.com/Hc4mAcV7jn
— U.S. Mission to the UN (@USUN) October 16, 2019
Trump couldn’t have been clearer in the Oval Office this afternoon that he doesn’t care who ends up fighting in Syria — Turkey, the Kurds, Assad, Russia, the more the merrier. Per his point about the PKK and ISIS, one can only conclude at this point that he’s *rooting* for Erdogan to wipe out the Kurds. What is he sending Pence and Pompeo to Turkey tonight to negotiate, then? Whether the Turks want U.S. air support as they push further into Kurdish territory?
We’re not quite at that point yet. Instead the WSJ is reporting that the U.S. has started bombing its own anti-ISIS facilities in Syria as a consequence of Trump’s accession to Erdogan:
On Wednesday, the U.S, military carried out airstrikes to destroy the Syrian headquarters of the American campaign to destroy Islamic State after rapidly pulling Americans from the base, current and former U.S. officials said.
The decision to destroy the base, which included warehouses used to train-and-equip the Kurdish-led fighters, came after Turkish-backed forces moved on the facility on Tuesday.
As the Turkish-backed forced closed in, the U.S. used Apache helicopters and F-15 jet fighters to intimidate the fighters and deter them from getting closer to the base where Americans were still stationed, U.S. officials said.
Here’s Lindsey Graham this afternoon sounding unhappy, which doesn’t matter to anyone, least of all Trump. Graham will compartmentalize this just like all of his other Trump foreign-policy disappointments, certainly until he’s reelected next fall.
Sen. @LindseyGrahamSC: "This is the most screwed up decision I've seen since I have been in Congress."
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 16, 2019
Update: Here’s a letter that Trump sent Erdogan and it is, ah, really something. The important thing is the date, though — October 9, one week ago. A week later, Trump is now spouting Turkish propaganda and shrugging at the prospect of a prolonged war between the major players in northern Syria. I guess we know how the phone call he mentions in the letter went.
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) October 16, 2019