Joseph Sabino Mistick: Nobody’s fooled by Trump’s ‘hero’ moves
Not unlike the strange phenomenon of a volunteer firefighter who starts fires so he can rush to the scene to put them out — and be seen as a hero — Donald Trump has caused the crisis in Syria, and he is now hoping somehow to show that he saved the day.
But nobody is fooled. Trump ordered American soldiers to abandon our Kurdish allies, leaving the Kurds to face their Turkish enemies unprotected. The president then tried to fight the fire with a trickle of meaningless economic sanctions and some ineffective humanitarian aid. Hotspots are bursting into flames everywhere.
American soldiers feel dishonored after being ordered to abandon their posts and their Kurdish comrades, leaving them to be slaughtered by an enemy that never would have attacked them when Americans and Kurds stood together, shoulder to shoulder.
The American ethic of sticking with your friends runs deep, from tough neighborhoods and high school sports fields to the distant battlefields of all of America’s wars. It may not be official policy, since hard tactical decisions often prevail, but it is something our soldiers feel in their souls.
“It’s a stain on the American conscience. They trusted us and we broke that trust,” one American officer told The New York Times last week. Another said, “I’m ashamed.”
Trump’s congressional supporters have jumped ship on this one. His decision to leave our Kurdish allies at the mercy of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been harshly condemned by Trump stalwarts Sen. Lindsey Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rep. Liz Cheney and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. This was too much for them. And on Wednesday, the House voted 354-60 to condemn the president’s decision to withdraw forces.
Evangelical Christians, Trump’s blindly loyal firewall, have broken with him over his betrayal of the Kurds. In a bitter turn, televangelist Pat Robertson said that he was “appalled” by Trump’s decision, adding, “The president, who allowed (Saudi writer Jamal) Khashoggi to be cut into pieces [by Saudis] without any repercussions whatsoever, is now allowing the Christians and the Kurds to be massacred by the Turks.”
As usual, when he finds himself in a hole, Trump rolled out shifting explanations for his decision. He first claimed that he was keeping a campaign promise to put an end to America’s endless wars.
But endless wars are not avoided by retreating into a shell. Our presence in northeastern Syria, with only 1,000 American troops providing cover for the Kurds, may have been the only way to avoid reigniting an endless war with ISIS that we finally had in check. Now, ISIS is free to run.
Trump then illogically claimed that it was OK to abandon the Kurds because they had not fought with us in World War II or at Normandy. What utter nonsense. Nobody remembers the Saudis on the beaches of Normandy, and he stays in step with them.
Now, long-standing American allies around the globe surely are wondering if they can still trust us to stand with them, because America seems to have changed.
“Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
That lament of Cassio, uttered in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” anticipated what is the greatest harm to America as a result of Trump’s decision.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].