This week, a humanitarian crisis erupted in northern Syria, thanks to America’s autocrat Donald Trump and Turkey’s Regip Tayip Erdoğan, a tragedy which opponents to US interventions in sovereign affairs should take notice and register harsh opinions. Trump relinquished US interest in the region and Erdoğan swiftly capitalized on that decision.
Dave Lindorff is a principled progressive voice who has for years taken on the injustice, duplicity, and corruption of America’s duopolistic political system. He’s one of five fire-in-the-belly proprietors of the blog This Can’t Be Happening! that calls itself “a major destabilizing influence.” There he covers economics, politics, healthcare and environment. See his articles here.
His most recent, from October 8th, however, leaves much to be desired.
Headlined Sure Trump is ‘Betraying the Kurds!’ but What’s New about That? and subtitled “The US has a sordid history of betraying minority groups that do its fighting,” it praises Trump for pulling the US military forces from northern Syria, also known as Rojava, and not inserting them into any new wars (hmm, not even Yemen?). The article also appeared in CounterPunch this weekend, and so a lot of people have read it.
It’s true, we came close to the brink of peace with North Korea and haven’t (yet) attacked Venezuela, thanks, perhaps to The Donald, but pulling troops out of Syria has produced a nightmare there overnight, something that many predicted and Lindorff seems blind to.
I kinda—no definitely—think Dave missed the mark with his article. By withdrawing US forces from the northern border (less than 100 personnel, as I understand) he gave Erdogan the green light to release the Turkish Gini. That gini is now granting the Turkish autocrat his three wishes: to decimate PKK/YPG/YPJ forces; to teach the PYD a lesson it will never forget; and to dispel any aspirations that Turkish Kurds may have for an autonomous, secure, and democratic future. Is that what Dave hoped would happen or doesn’t he care? It sure was predictable.
The devastation wrought by Turkey is already apparent (see links at end to get the latest updates). Fighting alongside of Turkish troops are Islamic jihadis, some of them may have been released from or escaped the prisons where Kurds were holding them as captives. Under Turkish protection, they will regroup and storm through Rojava and beyond. They might even take back Raqqa.
Is this what a principled president would have done? Trump’s advisors must have known what would happen. US intelligence was shared with Turkey indicating where not (and who knows, where) to target its forces several days before Trump announced the pullout. You tell me what the US military game plan is; I don’t get it other than to reignite proxy war to ramp up pressure on Assad. But look at the mounting human toll that will continue to accrue, possibly for years to come.
Kurds never had it good for very long in Turkey or the other countries Kurdistan spans, but now Turkey is bombing, strafing, and invading border towns with a vengeance with no immediate provocation. Erdoğan justifies it by saying he’s attacking another country only to target terrorists, i.e. the PKK, most of whom had already regrouped in Northern Iraq. He simply can’t stand seeing Kurds of any stripe possess military weapons, it seems.
This is what can happen when the US betrays a locally despised minority allied with it, which as Lindorff remind us, is normal. But this is no time to crow about Trump’s good behavior. He unleashed a needless human tragedy. And what immediate gain does its withdrawal have for the US? Only thing I can think of is that Erdoğan may have promised Donald to subsidize a Trump golf resort in Turkey if the US would only help him scratch his evil itch to be done with the Kurds.
The situation is much more complicated than Lindorff seems to understand; by precipitously turning non-interventionist by removing a few score of American troops, Trump has become the Turkish sorcerer’s apprentice. I humbly suggest that Dave rethink his position. Practicing non-intervention isn’t the same as dropping the ball that was never ours to carry, but nevertheless carries responsibilities and consequences.
Visit the Syrian Civil War Map site for ongoing updates of events in northern Syria as reported in real time by people on the ground there. Also find blow-by-blow descriptions of resistance from a Kurdish perspective at ANF News, which tonight is reporting 70,000 casualties of the Turkish invasion.
Was this trip necessary?