HOWEY: Why Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds should matter to us

President Donald Trump, left, talks with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they arrive together for a family photo at a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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Brian Howey

NEWPORT, R.I. - When it comes to America's engagement in what is increasingly globalized marketplace and security, a number of Hoosier statesmen set the compass points for many of us over the past generation.

There was the late Sen. Richard Lugar, who in tandem with Democrat Sen. Sam Nunn, established a historic cooperative threat reduction program and helped denuclearize a half dozen nations (including Ukraine), while rounding up and stabilizing a Pandora's box of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons guarded by padlocks and chain link fences as the Soviet Union crumbled.

Congressmen Lee Hamilton and Tim Roemer helped establish the post-Sept. 11 security regime and Hamilton served on the Iraq Study Committee following the first American geopolitical blunder of the 21st Century with the Iraq invasion of 2003. The late Rep. Frank McCloskey literally saved tens of thousands of Bosnians from genocidal Serbs in the first ethnic cleansing of this century. Gov. Robert Orr opened up the Pacific rim to investment in our state in the 1980s, and there are now 200 Japanese companies employing more than 100,000 Hoosiers, and, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb, firms from India, South Korea and China are poised to join their ranks.

These men were engaged in our world. They had strategic wisdom, wide peripheral vision, and as Gov. Holcomb told me last week after he returned from India, "Our partners realize, just like we do, that trade is not one-way. It’s a two-way street, particularly when you’re looking to address mutual needs, but explore mutual opportunities with each other. Rule No. 1, like in life, is show up.”

So it was within this context that I watched in horror what occurred with a simple phone call on Sunday Oct. 6 between President Trump and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Without prior knowledge of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or Vice President Mike Pence, Trump essentially gave the green light for a U.S. pullout of Syria and a Turkish invasion against our ally. It was an epic double cross of the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) made up mostly of Kurds.

There's a reason over the past several years that Hoosier families haven't been burying our young men and women soldiers, and why the Hoosier Patriot Guard hasn't had to activate during funerals. Some 11,000 Kurdish men and women laid down their lives to defeat the Islamic State, or ISIS, doing this vicious work for us. It was the ISIS thugs that killed Peter Edward (Abdul-Rahman) Kassig after he was kidnapped during his humanitarian mission in Syria. These were the terrorists who decapitated their victims as they rolled propaganda video.

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, explained, “Over four years, the SDF freed tens of thousands of square miles and millions of people from the grip of ISIS. Throughout the fight, it sustained nearly 11,000 casualties. By comparison, six U.S. service members, as well as two civilians, have been killed in the anti-ISIS campaign.”

The Jerusalem Post observed: “Never before in history has the U.S. worked with a group and then opened the skies to have another U.S. ally bomb and destroy it. Like thieves in the night, U.S. forces withdrew from their positions without explanation, processes, discussions.”

Here's how President Trump explained things on Wednesday: "It’s not our problem. They’ve got a lot of sand over there ... There’s a lot of sand they can play with.” In a tweet from Monday afternoon, he said : "Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”


But it is our problem. Because the Kurds had been guarding more than 10,000 ISIS terrorists. Now, the Kurds are realigning with the war criminal Assad of Syria. The Russians have moved into the void left by the U.S., and Turkish forces and Arab militias are now committing atrocities against Kurdish forces and families. This is the new ethnic cleansing of this century.

Trump's take on the escaping ISIS terrorists? "Well they are going to be escaping to Europe, that's where they want to go. They want to go back to their homes."

We later learned that Trump sent a sophomoric letter to Erdogan on Oct. 9 - the day the Turkish invasion began - in which Trump said on White House letterhead: “Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will." Erdogan threw this letter in the trash.

Folks, there are so many things wrong with this picture. I know many of you voted for Donald Trump to shake things up. But there's a difference between a power realignment in Washington and smashing the world order for no good reason. Our legacy of Hoosier internationalists understood the vital interconnectiveness of our evolving world.

It is hard not to come to this conclusion: President Trump has neither the strategic vision, wisdom, nor the temperament to be commander-in-chief. For those of you who find it convenient to look the other way or view it through strictly a political context, your day of reckoning will only be delayed.

Brian A. Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.