Updated at 11:06 a.m. ET on October 15, 2019.
President Donald Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds stung deeply. “They trusted us and we broke that trust. It’s a stain on the American conscience.” These, according to The New York Times, are the searing words of an Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.
Kurdish forces played a central role in aiding the United States in fighting the Islamic State. But in a phone call a week ago Sunday, Trump gave the green light to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to invade northern Syria—and, in the process, to engage in what even one of Trump’s most loyal supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham, describes as the “ethnic cleansing” of the Kurds.
According to Jennifer Griffin and Melissa Leon of Fox News, Trump was supposed to tell Erdoğan to stay north of the border, but instead “went off script.” By Wednesday, the Turkish offensive began, with Erdoğan’s aim to push back the Syrian Kurds from the border region. The results have been swift and brutal: the displacement of more than 100,000 people, executions and war crimes, the escape of hundreds of Islamic State prisoners. (If Islamic State fighters escape, they’ll “be escaping to Europe,” Trump said last week—as if Europe’s problems don’t affect the United States.) For the Kurds, the consequences of America’s policy change will only get worse. “I don’t know how many people will die. A lot of people will die,” a senior military source told Fox News. Yesterday the Trump administration tried frantically to make Turkey stand down, but enormous damage has already been done.