Trump created the bloody disaster in northern Syria. Biographer David Cay Johnston explains how we make sure he owns it

Trump created the bloody disaster in northern Syria. Biographer David Cay Johnston explains how we make sure he owns it
Image via Shutterstock.

Vladimir Putin must be smiling – even laughing out loud — at the bungling Donald Trump’s crazy mess in Syria.


Putin is the clear winner in Trump’s blood-soaked disaster. By tweeting without telling the generals his signal for Turkey to invade Syria, Trump forced American troops to flee half-eaten meals so they could escape alive. His inept (to be kind) actions then required our Air Force to bomb America’s weapons storage base in Northern Syria.

This 100% Trumpian disaster in the Middle East is unfolding so fast it’s easy to get lost in details. So, let’s walk through the significance of Trump’s incompetent actions. They came about for a simple reason. An ignorant, mentally disturbed, play-acting president has no idea what he is doing.

Trump bought this all on his own. We need to make sure Trump owns responsibility, especially when the next American is killed by any of those escaped prisoners.

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, “All roads lead to Putin.”

Among the many reasons that Putin, the modern tsar, is thrilled with Trump’s disaster:

  • Trump gave the Kremlin a major advance in Putin’s long-range goal of destroying NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The military alliance was formed in 1949 after the ashes of World War II. Trump has imposed sanctions on Turkey, which joined in 1952.

Earlier, as a candidate and as president, Trump called NATO obsolete, advancing the Kremlin’s goal. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, “All roads lead to Putin.”

Predictable Disaster

  • Trump abandoned the Kurds in Northern Syria to a Turkish genocide. Massacres of Kurds were  utterly predictable. Trump’s public remarks show little regard for the 11,000 Kurds who died in combat serving American interests. He shows none for the Kurds who will now die.

This was not the first time America has abandoned the Kurds. The first President George Bush called on them to rise up against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1991 and then abandoned them. But at least our 41st president didn’t denigrate the Kurds as Trump did Wednesday.

Trump said the Kurds are “not angels.” He absurdly asserted that the Kurdish military arm was more of a terrorist threat than ISIL. These nonsense remarks show that there is no end to Trump’s ignorance. And never forget that candidate Trump asserted in 2015, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.”

Trump’s actions weakened every American alliance by signaling that Turkey was free to invade Syria and massacre the Kurds. America’s allies now know beyond all doubt that Trump cannot be trusted to honor any commitment. In simple terms, Trump proved my longtime assertion that he is a clear and present danger to America’s national security.

  • Faced with genocide by Turkish troops sent by President Recep Erdogan to Northern Syria, the Kurds had no choice but to team up with Putin’s client in Damascus, the vicious dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The price of this will be paid in blood and treasure for so long as Putin holds onto power and perhaps long after.
  • Thousands of ISIL (aka ISIS) fighters, including women, escaped Kurdish-run prisons. Free to regroup, they will try to reclaim some part of the Levant and then harry European countries, Israel and America. ISIS cannot destroy or even occupy one square inch of any of these democratic countries, but thanks to Trump they carry out targeted attacks and, as 9/11 showed, at very low cost.

Putin Gains in Middle East

  • Putin tightened his hold on Syria, gaining a second warm water military port (the other was obtained by seizing Crimea in 2014). Trump helped the Kremlin become a player in the Middle East, it’s influence magnified by Trump’s incompetence.

Let’s also pay attention to the many American soldiers caught in this Syria mess who told various news organizations that they are ashamed of their country. Even Fox News reported this. Ponder the significance of serving American soldiers in a combat zone taking the extraordinary step of denouncing Trump for abandoning the Kurds, leaving 450,000 of them vulnerable to massacre by Turkish troops.

American soldiers also say they believe Turkish troops intentionally shelled an American base, which could be considered an act of war by a supposed ally. America has dozens of nuclear weapons in Turkey whose security is now reasonably in question.

Imagine the uproar had this happened when Barack Obama was president. But Trump just bobs and weaves, blaming everyone else. This should not be surprising since while Trump claims to be a Christian, Trump says he has never in his entire life done anything that required seeking divine forgiveness. Maybe now would be the time for him to reconsider. Based on 31 years of knowing this deeply disturbed blowhard I know there is no chance he will.

Then there is Trump’s childish letter to Erdogan, who wants to turn secular Turkey into an Islamic State.

“Let’s work out a good deal!” Trump wrote. The juvenile language and silly arguments leave no doubt this was not language drafted by sophisticated diplomatic or military staffers but it was Trump being Trump.

Worse than this immediate disgrace, by far, Trump has diminished and perhaps destroyed America’s moral authority, won with more than 400,000 lives lost in defeating the Nazis and Japanese imperialists and then reinforced, imperfectly for sure, with decades of diplomacy and foreign aid.

Trump has real estate investments in Turkey. Even Trump described that as a conflict of interest. Those investments and his actions show why the emoluments clause the Framers out in our Constitution must be enforced. Only a fool would think Trump signaling Erdogan, the Turkish leaders that he could invade Syria and slaughter the Kurds was a decision reached without a thought to Trump’s uncontrolled money lust.

There is one bit of good news. On Wednesday 129 Republican lawmakers voted against Trump. A nonbinding House resolution condemning Trump’s Syria actions passed with 360 votes. That in turn lead to what Pelosi called a childish “melt down” by Trump. on Wednesday as he made wild and absurd accusations and crudely insulted Pelosi, prompting the Democratic lawmakers to walk out.

Now if Americans can just persuade 20 Republican senators that Trump must go, we can start to recover from this dangerous disaster in the Oval Office.

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