In an unscripted moment last week, Donald Trump defended his one-sided “deal” with Turkey in such a way as to seemingly endorse ethnic cleansing. The American president told reporters of the Turks’ efforts to rid northern Syria of the Kurds, “[T]hey had to have it cleaned out.”
Yesterday, however, one of Trump’s congressional allies was more explicit on this point. The Dallas Morning News reported:
Texas Sen. John Cornyn defended the president’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, arguing Wednesday that with Turkey intent on ethnic cleansing of the Kurds – longtime U.S. allies in the fight against the radical Islamic State – the move had merit.
“If Turkey was planning on coming into northern Syria and trying to ethnically cleanse the Kurds, and U.S. troops were caught in the middle, I am not completely convinced that it was a bad idea to get them out of harm’s way,” Cornyn said.
If the quote is accurate, I’m a little surprised the Senate Republican would make a comment like this on the record. The Texan’s position, in effect, is that our allies were facing a campaign of ethnic cleansing, so the smart move was to get out of the way so as to avoid being caught up in the slaughter.
In fairness, Cornyn didn’t endorse this position with great enthusiasm, but he did tell reporters that he’s “not completely convinced” that standing aside in the face of an ethnic cleansing campaign was “a bad idea.”
Cornyn’s position does not appear to enjoy broad support in the Republican Party. The senator’s fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz (R), denounced Trump’s policy in northern Syria, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed last week, characterizing the president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops as a grave mistake.
In the House, a bipartisan resolution opposing the president’s policy easily passed last week, 354 to 60, with even House Republicans voting for it by a two-to-one margin. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tried to force a vote on it earlier this week, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked it.