Trump Fine With Kurds Dying Because “They Didn’t Help Us” in WWII
The Turkish offensive Donald Trump essentially greenlit in Syria has already reportedly led to the deaths of more than 100 Kurds, including civilians—but the president appears largely unfazed, suggesting on Wednesday that Kurdish fighters’ efforts to stem ISIS alongside U.S. troops wasn’t enough to earn them much goodwill with the White House. “They didn’t help us in the Second World War. They didn’t help us with Normandy,” Trump said in a news conference Wednesday, the day Turkey invaded Northern Syria. “They’re there to help us with their land, and that’s a different thing.”
The president was attempting to justify his decision, following a Sunday phone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to clear the way for Turkey’s incursion, which left the U.S. allied Kurds vulnerable. He’s been blasted for the move, including by Republicans. “Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration,” Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted Wednesday. Seeking to do some damage control, Trump subsequently called the Turkish attack a “bad idea” but continued to lament the “stupid endless wars” the U.S. has got itself into, how unfair allies have been to America, and the “tremendous” amount of money the government has spent helping the Kurds. “They’re fighting for their land,” he said in the presser, downplaying the role S.D.F. fighters played in defeating ISIS in Syria—an accomplishment for which Trump has taken credit. His argument that the Kurds “didn’t help us in the Second World War”—a point he attributed to a “very, very powerful article” that “somebody” wrote—was met with exasperation. “Kurds have been one of our strongest allies,” veteran and Democratic congressman Ted Lieu tweeted. But Trump appeared satisfied with his own analysis: “A different take!” he tweeted along with a video from the presser.
The remarks came as Turkey shelled Kurds in Northern Syria, targeting U.S. allies Erdogan views as a terrorist threat. Ankara has not made its goals for the operation clear, but a U.S. official told CNN Thursday that the offensive could end up being “wider in scope” than previously thought. Per the official, Turkey may be planning to clear a “whole stretch” of its border with Syria. That would be devastating for the Kurds, more than 100 of whom have reportedly been killed. That number includes at least 16 members of S.D.F., per the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.
Trump suggested Thursday morning that he may sanction Turkey “if they don’t play by the rules,” a follow-up to his earlier Twitter threat to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if its military does anything that he, in his “great an unmatched wisdom,” considers “off limits.” But it is unclear what would move him to action. Turkey has claimed that the president was informed “precisely” of the scope of the military action it planned to take when he endorsed the move Sunday, and Trump has been measured in his criticism of Erdogan’s siege. Graham and Democrat Chris Van Hollen have drafted sanctions against Turkey in response to the invasion, but Trump, even as he suggested hitting Ankara “very hard financially,” has also implied he may “let the Kurds fight their own battles.” He added, “I am watching closely.”