President Donald Trump has been taking a lot of heat over his recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops from an area in Syria in which Turkish forces have been pursuing a military offensive against Kurdish fighters. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the politics of the region, so I can’t comment on the wisdom of such a move as it relates to American interests there. It does, however, represent the abandonment of a steadfast ally, as the Kurds have been instrumental to the defeat of ISIS in Syria, even as Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan considers them terrorists and has targeted them for destruction.
Lindsey Graham, in particular, who has proven to be a staunch Trump supporter as of late, was blunt in his assessment of the President’s decision. “Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration,” he said. “This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS… I urge President Trump to change course while there is still time by going back to the safe zone concept that was working.” Other Republicans have rebuked Trump’s withdraw as well, which is said to have come as a total surprise to the Pentagon.
Republicans may want to exercise a little caution, however—especially ones like Mitt Romney, who never seems to miss a chance grandstanding when it comes to touting his superiority to Donald Trump. That’s because this isn’t the first time an American president has left Kurdish fighters to fend for themselves. During the first Gulf War, George H. W. Bush also rallied the Kurds in northern Iraq to rise up against Saddam Hussein, urging them—along with Shiites in the south—to take up arms and overthrow the brutal dictator who had been oppressing them for decades. Believing that they had the backing of the U.S. military, they did just that—but soon discovered that Bush’s promise of support amounted to little more than words. Saddam quickly regrouped his forces after being expelled from Kuwait, and crushed the uprising while American forces were ordered to stand down.
We eventually established no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, which limited Saddam’s ability to attack the rebels, but by then Iraqi forces had slaughtered thousands of people and razed entire towns. The Marsh Arabs, who had lived in the wetlands around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for hundreds of years, saw their culture decimated when Saddam drained their homelands of water and bombed their villages out of existence.
In spite of this, George H. W. Bush will always be remembered as a great statesman and a giant of Republican Party politics—and as well he should. Few will ever live life as a man in full, as Bush did, and my personal admiration for him will forever remain undiminished. He represented the highest ideals of honor and duty, and he served this nation and his family with love and distinction. But those who would pillory the current President for making his decision regarding Syria might want to temper their criticism—and be a bit more humble, considering that one of their own heroes made the very same move.
Perhaps now, as Bush thought then, Trump believes he’s acting in the best interests of the country.
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