Trump’s Worst Crime Must Not be Forgotten

Kurdish troops and U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah, May 2017. Photograph Source: Qasioun News Agency – CC BY 2.0

It was the worst crime of Donald Trump’s years in the White House. In October 2019 he ordered US troops to stand aside, greenlighting Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria that led to the murder, rape and expulsion of its Kurdish inhabitants

Eighteen months earlier, Trump did nothing as the Turkish army occupied the Kurdish enclave of Afrin and replaced the population there with Syrian Arab jihadis.

It is, unfortunately, unlikely that Trump will ever stand trial but, if he does, then his complicity in the ethnic cleansing of the Syrian Kurds should top the charge sheet. This was an act of evil in itself and also the betrayal of an ally since American-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters had led the counter-attack against Isis, closing in on its last strongholds just as Turkey invaded Afrin.

Trump’s treachery provoked too little international outrage at the time but I am certain it was the direct cause of murders, kidnappings, disappearances and the expulsions of hundreds of thousands of people.

Tragedy on this scale blurs in people’s minds because they do not comprehend atrocities beyond their personal experience which devastate the lives of so many individuals. The perpetrators of extreme violence – and their facilitators like Trump – try to muddy the waters with implausible denials until the news agenda moves on and it is only surviving victims who remember the crimes against them.

I wrote much about the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds from their homes in northern Syria by Turkey in two separate invasions in 2018 and 2019, but without any noticeable result. It soon became impossible for independent reporters to visit Afrin or the Turkish-occupied zone around the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain. But I was finally able to make contact last week via the internet with an eyewitness in Afrin who gives a grim but compelling account of her personal experience of ethnic cleansing.

Patrick Cockburn’s past columns can now be found at The I. Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).