“I’m the one who did the capturing. I’m the one who knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits”, a completely serious Donald Trump told the media on Monday, discussing the ongoing withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the fact that the chaos created by Turkey’s cross-border incursion las led to the escape of at least 500 ISIS sympathizers from local camps and prisons.
To be clear, the “ceasefire” Mike Pence touted on an emergency visit to Ankara last week doesn’t bring back the hundreds of Kurds who were killed in the days after Trump told Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the US would not stand in the way of a Turkish invasion. Nor does it undo the humanitarian crisis that left some 200,000 displaced.
That damage is done. And, as documented here on Sunday, the US is no longer in the driver’s seat when it comes to dictating outcomes to Erdogan. He got what he wanted from Trump. Now, it’s a matter of what Russia allows him to hold onto, consistent with Bashar al-Assad’s newfound inroads into cities and towns that had been under Kurdish control for the last five (or more) years.
“[There’s] very good news coming out of Syria”, Trump went on to claim, during a cabinet meeting Monday. “US soldiers are moving out of Syria very nicely”.
That depends on your definition of “very nicely”. In fact, locals pelted US convoys with rocks and tomatoes as they made their way out of the country and across the border to Iraq. Here’s a video from Reuters:
That’s the reality. Trump tells millions of social media followers that things are going splendidly and that America is “starting to be respected again”. On the ground, civilians who were previously under the protection of US troops and allied Kurdish fighters are throwing rotten produce at convoys retreating from the scene.
“I fought with these guys and watched them die for us”, one retired Army Special Forces soldier told Reuters for a feature piece documenting how US spec ops actually feel about Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. “It’s like a violation of trust”, he added.
“[His] rage was echoed in interviews with a half dozen other current and former US soldiers who have served with Kurdish forces”, Reuters writes.
Trump doesn’t care. “We will work something out so that the Kurds have cash flow”, he went on to say Monday, before suggesting that “maybe a US company will get involved with the oil”.
Got all of that? Here’s a sample:
We’re working with the Kurds. We have a good relationship with the Kurds. But we never agreed to, you know, protect the Kurds. We fought with them for three and a half to four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives. Remember this: When Iraq was fighting the Kurds, everybody thought we were gonna fight with the Kurds, I said ‘Well, it’s a little strange that we’re fighting with the Kurds when we just spent $4 trillion in Iraq’ and now we’re gonna be fighting Iraq. So what I did was I said ‘We’re not gonna take a position. Let them fight themselves.’ I thought the Kurds would do very well. Everyone said ‘Oh the Kurds will do very well.’ Well, Iraq moved in and the Kurds left. They didn’t fight because they didn’t have us to fight with them. Lotta people are good when they fight with us. You know when you have $10 billion in airplanes shooting ten miles in front of your line it’s much easier to fight. But with that they were a good help. But we were a great help to them too.
As for Erdogan, Trump simply reiterated that if Turkey “misbehaves”, the White House will “sanction and tariff them”.
On the “Phase One” US-China trade pact, the president claimed Beijing sent a “statement” saying they want a deal. Who knows if that’s true.
As far as canceling plans to hold the G-7 at his Miami resort, Trump said “It would have been the best G-7 ever”. He went on to compare himself to George Washington on the way to blaming “You people with this phony Emoluments Clause”.
“If you’re rich, it doesn’t matter”, he added.