In November 2003, US Army Chief-of-Staff Peter Schoomaker approved the finalized version of the Soldier’s Creed, an oath taken and memorized by every soldier in the United States Army during basic training. It is considered so essential to a soldier’s development as a professional and leader that protocol calls for standing at attention when it’s recited. Among other things, it states that a soldier will never leave a fallen comrade — a bedrock principle in the US military that goes back to the Revolutionary War, when our country was little more than a coalition of states seeking to overthrow an abusive tyrant.
This week, Donald Trump, a coward who never served a day in uniform, announced the withdrawal of our military from Syria after what appears to be backdoor negotiations with Turkish President Erdoğan, against the strongly urged guidance of our military and national security experts. This essentially exposes Kurdish rebels, civilians and their families, who are fighting for their own freedom and have long been an ally of the United States, even when others were not. These are the hard-scrapping people who fought back against Isis and have considered Americans their family in the fight against terrorists and religious extremists.
This will lead to a slaughter of innocents who have supported our country through thick and thin.
Eight months prior to General Schoomaker finalizing the Soldier’s Creed, the United States illegally invaded Iraq after lying to the world about the presence of weapons of mass destruction and using the unrelated terrorist attacks on 9/11 as a pretext. So unpopular was the decision to invade Iraq that major world powers — including France, Germany, and Russia — refused to endorse it, let alone participate. Among the list of announced coalition partners — which was much criticized for seeming to emphasize the number of countries versus their relative size and military strength — were Kurdish rebels in the region, whose freedom and right to live essentially were tied to the objectives of the United States. Even if they had privately objected, it didn’t matter. America was the only thing standing between them and continued death and oppression. We promised them a continued and enduring partnership — protection — in exchange for their allyship.
The Kurds, who have been continually oppressed and brutalized, stuck with the United States because we essentially promised them survival. We gave our word as a supposed country of honor based on the principles of our founding: that all people should be free to set the shape of their destinies. And despite American hypocrisy on this and many other things, the Kurds refused to yield in their allyship. Did they really have a choice?
In a short time, the Turkish military will move into the region of Syria where millions of Kurds live and begin the atrocities. The people who have stood by us, even when we weren’t right, will see their homes destroyed, their loved ones murdered, and their futures crushed into oblivion by an abusive tyrant. The humanitarian costs will be incalculable.
There were moments later in the Bush administration when the atrocities our government committed were so apparent that I couldn’t help but think to the days after 9/11 when it seemed that nearly the entire world put aside the past to stand united behind our country. Le Monde printed a front page reflecting the sentiment of the French people, simply saying “We Are All Americans”. In Tehran, thousands of Iranians gathered in a candlelit vigil to pay their respects to the 3,000 Americans lost in the attacks. Countries all over the world, many of whom did not consider us friends, expressed the most profound love and support in the face of darkness and evil.
For a short period of time, our government had the opportunity to use one of the darkest chapters in our history as a way to bring people all around the world together to reject violent hatred with a resounding voice. We had the chance to build a brighter future for all people, not just some, and we will never an opportunity like that again.
The Bush era left the United States with immeasurable ground to make up diplomatically. We had not only lied to so many of our allies in order to condone a military operation that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians but mocked those who attempted to be friends and offer honest guidance. After Bush left office, it was clear that one of the greatest diplomatic challenges would be rebuilding that trust and restoring a sense of decency and stability to our role in the world’s affairs.
In one tweet, Donald Trump has destroyed what little faith remained in our country to do the right thing. We have forsaken a tiny, battered ally to appease a brutal dictator and further the business interests of a family that continues to exchange our country’s values for their own company’s bottom line.
The world will never forgive us. Nor should they.
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