President Trump doubled down on his smear campaign against the Kurdish YPG militia by repeating Turkish government talking points in a press conference with the Italian President.
Hours after he said that the Kurds “weren’t angels,” thus implying that they deserved the slaughter that the Turkish army and their jihadist minions are unleashing upon the civilians of northeastern Syria, Trump claimed that the Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) was a greater threat than ISIS.
President Trump: “PKK (Kurds) are a greater threat than ISIS.” Not a single National Security adviser to the president would agree with that statement. Turkish talking point.
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) October 16, 2019
The idea that the southeast-Turkey based Kurdistan Worker’s Party (the PKK) and the northern Syria-based Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), along with its People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) are one and the same is a Turkish government talking point that coopts language of counter-terrorism to justify the use of oppression, violence, and ethnic cleansing against both groups.
The YPG leads a coalition called the Syrian Democratic Forces and have established an autonomous, multi-ethnic enclave in northern Syria after liberating the territory from ISIS. They’ve built a decentralized and egalitarian feminist democracy out of the ashes of the ISIS caliphate — which is now in grave danger as Turkish forces are set to sweep into the area with Trump’s blessing.
The PKK began waging a separatist war against the Turkish government since the late 70s, when the newly installed military junta revived the “Turkification” campaign against the Kurds, locking people up for speaking the Kurdish language and attempting to destroy their Kurdish identity.
In response to the loss of their rights and the concentrated attack on who they were as a people, the PKK launched an armed rebellion against the Turkish government. From the late 70s to the mid-90s, Turkey waged a gruesome war against the PKK that killed 40,000 people and saw over 3,000 villages entirely destroyed.
While they have committed some distasteful acts of terrorism against Turkish military targets, the Turkish government and the far-right ultranationalist terror group that calls itself the “Gray Wolves” have committed unspeakable mass killings of Kurds and other ethnic minorities on and off since the end of the Armenian genocide.
The United States, which needs Turkish goodwill in order to maintain the strategically crucial airbase at Incirlik, where we house nuclear weapons, has long overlooked the atrocities committed by the Turkish government and has wrongly designated the PKK a terrorist group.
The point being that while the Syrian PYD/YPG naturally does have some ties to the PKK, they are two separate entities. Both President Obama and Trump provided military support to the SDF as they did the heavy lifting in the war against ISIS.
The idea that the PKK is a bigger threat than ISIS is infuriatingly offensive, especially since there is substantial evidence that Turkey has quietly cultivated a friendly relationship with Islamic State fighters over the years.
They looked the other way as tens of thousands of jihadist fighters traveled to Turkey and then crossed the border into Iraq and Syria in order to join the ISIS; in 2015, they are believed to have allowed ISIS fighters to cross the Turkish border to attack the Kurdish canton of Kobane, resulting in mass murders as ISIS fighters went from house to house slaughtering their residents. Turkey is also suspected of having purchased oil from ISIS and thus actively funded the terror group. Most recently, they have deliberately bombarded Kurdish-run ISIS prison camps in order to set the inmates free to cause havoc behind YPG lines.
Last night, Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that Turkey’s actions have made it clear they are no longer a U.S. ally and should not remain in NATO. That marks a long-needed shift in U.S. foreign policy rhetoric that needs to be followed up with the delisting of the PKK as a terrorist organization.
For far too long, the United States has looked the other way as Turkey abuses and murders the ethnic minorities in its ever-expanding territory. No single airbase or military sales partner can be worth the betrayal of our allies and the tolerance of crimes against humanity.
Watch his full remarks here:
Trump admonishes Lindsey Graham to forget about the Kurds & instead focus on issues his constituents really care about, such as "what happened with Comey, McCabe, Lisa [Page], what happened with Peter Strzok, what happened with President Obama." pic.twitter.com/L3zkjF0zEQ
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 16, 2019
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.