There’s nothing special about the Kurds. At least, nothing special about them when it comes to how they’re being treated by Donald Trump. Because betrayal is his trademark.
It is almost comical to watch the same Republicans who are still deeply entrenched in defending Trump over withholding military aid from Ukraine as they weep over his surrendering the Kurds to Turkey. Just almost comical. Because the bombs already falling on civilian areas, the thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands who are certain to die, and the utter certainty that this will spawn another cycle of violence and revenge in the Middle East tend to dull any humor.
Of course, things will be different when, a few years down the line, America faces some fresh threat. Because next time, no nation, region, or people will be so foolish as to put their trust in the United States.
How Trump has handled the situation with the Kurds is easy enough to diagnose. Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has something to offer Trump. The Kurds have nothing. That’s Trump personally, of course. The Kurds have plenty to offer the United States. In fact, they’ve offered it all. Refusing to stand against an attack on Kurdish positions sends every wrong signal about how the United States values alliances. It also throws fresh salt in the wounds of every other group in the region that has suffered under repeated assurances that when the United States went into Iraq, there was some plan for supporting stability and self-governance.
All of this is horrible. But no one should pretend it’s a surprise. Betraying those with whom he supposedly has a deal for even the slightest personal gain has been Trump’s signature move at every level, from the international to the microscopic.
What Trump is doing now is no different than when he encouraged the blockade of a U.S. ally hosting the largest American military base in the Middle East by the authoritarian regime of Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman. Trump was not only willing to turn a blind eye while the Saudis and their satellite states crushed Qatar for the high crime of having an independent media, but he also actively encouraged the action and repeated unfounded propaganda being used to support the action. And if a Washington Post journalist got tortured, dissected, and burned along the way—Trump was okay with that, too.
What’s happening to the Kurds can’t possibly be a surprise to those who have watched Trump repeatedly kick NATO. Or watched him twist the arms of leaders from Europe to Asia over claims that they’re not putting up enough protection money. Betraying people isn’t just what Trump does; it’s what his followers have been cheering for.
When Trump walked away from the Paris agreement on climate change, lied about what was in that agreement, and championed the cause of climate crisis denial—that was betrayal. When Trump broke the Iran nuclear treaty without cause, leaving allies to hold the bag as he illegally walked away from a valid multinational agreement that was protecting against nuclear proliferation—that was betrayal. When Trump ended NAFTA on a pretense, and with no purpose other than creating a new agreement that he could Sharpie with his name—that was betrayal.
When Trump declared a national emergency to steal funds that were supposed to go to homes, schools, and hospitals for military personnel in order to fund his border sham—that was betrayal. When Trump destroyed protections for clean water for no reason other than to benefit those who had pumped cash into his money-bucket inaugural fund—that was betrayal. On a smaller level, when Trump reversed his praise for his first secretary of state and went from calling him “brilliant” to calling him “stupid” after he refused to support an illegal action—that was betrayal.
But it was just one of the many times that Trump turned on his staffers, business partners, or employees if they failed to be useful to him in the moment. His personal attorney, his attorney general … the list is too long to repeat. Trump has never thought of loyalty as a two-way street. People are there to be used, then discarded.
Betrayal is literally what Trump ran on—on breaking agreements, breaking laws, and breaking families. It was in every story he told, right down to how he shorted people who had done his plumbing or sold him curtains. Trump told those stories of how he backed out on signed agreements—and stories of how he cheated on his obligation to pay taxes—as his good point. And his supporters cheered and cheered.
At one point in his business “career,” Trump bankrupted a casino, talked a group of investors into supporting him in setting up a fund to purchase that casino, purposely bankrupted that fund, then bought back the whole thing for pennies on the dollar—and bankrupted it again while walking away with a fat personal profit. It’s something he treats as a win.
That’s who he is. He is fundamentally dishonorable. And proud of it.
He told everyone who he was. He showed everyone who he was. He did it over, and over, and the same people now pretending to be concerned about his latest betrayal applauded him at every turn. Donald Trump can’t be trusted on anything except the fact that he cannot be trusted.