Lindsey Graham displayed shockingly strong independence this morning when he tore into Trump about an evolving decision to abandon our Middle East allies, the Kurds, in their fight against ISIS and Turkish forces.
Trump has ordered our troops in Northern Syria to stand down and allow Turkish troops to pour into the area, with the Kurds fearing they are about to become victims of the next regional genocide.
You will recall that Trump ordered a withdrawal from Syria over a year ago, prompting Defense Sec. Jim Mattis’s resignation, stating that Trump will need to lose to ISIS with someone else as secretary of defense. Trump quickly reversed himself at the time, but not soon enough to keep Mattis. This time, however, the minders are gone, the betrayal seems imminent, and the implications horrific.
According to former U.S. Special Envoy to the Islamic State Brett McGurk:
“This appears to be another decision without any consultation, deliberation or process,” one that “will significantly increase the risk for our personnel who depend on the SDF for sustainment.” An International Crisis Group analyst said, ”For the U.S.’s regional allies, the lesson should be clear: This is a president and an administration that, in the breach, is not interested in fighting their battles for them.”
If you recall the last time that Trump attempted to abandon the Kurds, we heard the same accusations, no one was consulted, no one knew it was coming, there was no plan for implementation. As always when we hear that Trump jumped to a secretive, unpopular decision – and Trump knew this would be controversial and unpopular – we look to alternative Trump motives, things beyond actual U.S. foreign policy. Turkish and/or Russian explanations will be examined in later columns, but for today’s purposes, know only that an appropriately massive pushback is coming Trump’s way.
But Trump might not have anticipated the blowback coming from his most needed domestic allies. Lindsey Graham is heated enough to call out Trump’s rational, “ISIS is not defeated. This is the biggest lie being told by this administration.” Yes, Graham just referenced the administration as telling its “biggest lie,” and we’ll revisit the importance below.
Graham wasn’t done:
Lindsey Graham calls in to Fox & Friends & calls Trump's decision to abandon the Kurds "impulsive."
"I hope I'm making myself clear how shortsighted & irresponsible this decision is in my view," he says. "This to me is just unnerving to its core." pic.twitter.com/URH0DVA1bo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 7, 2019
And on his own:
* Ensures ISIS comeback.
* Forces Kurds to align with Assad and Iran.
* Destroys Turkey’s relationship with U.S. Congress.
* Will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019
Graham’s response might be the only glimmer of hope if you are a Kurd right now. As we noted, Trump has reversed himself on this decision once before, and Trump simply cannot go forward as president without Graham solidly behind him in every way. There can be no dividing line between “foreign policy” and “impeachment” over which the two determine the scope of their alliance. Even if it were politically possible (dubious), it certainly isn’t possible with Trump, one is either “loyal,” or not.
Graham’s characterization of the ISIS assurance as one of the “biggest lies” leaves only one logical conclusion, that Graham is acknowledging that the administration lies, and Graham, certainly upset by this “lie,” is going to be forced to answer questions about how he can trust Trump’s answers with respect to the impeachment process, when he knows that the president lies.
I am stunned that Graham has shown this level of independence, having previously assumed that Trump had “something” over Graham. I still find it to be the most likely explanation, though perhaps even Graham has his limits, or perhaps the agreement is such that Graham has freedom to disagree on foreign policy decisions. We cannot know.
What we do know is that only a united Republican front can withstand the blistering impeachment assault, with news out just today of the second whistleblower coming formally forward. It will be infinitely more difficult for Trump to survive an impeachment inquiry when the media and Congress can point out that even Lindsey Graham acknowledges that the administration lies.
That is good news for the Kurds right now, it might be the only thing that ends up saving them. Because no matter what “principle” drove Trump’s decision, it will ultimately bend if it causes Trump political troubles in the impeachment process and in this case, we are thankful for that. God help them, they deserve it, and will need it.