On Thursday night at his rally in Texas, Donald Trump finally admitted why he greenlit the Turkish military to cross the border into northern Syria to attack the Kurds: He wanted these two groups of Muslims to slaughter each other. As Trump declared to his adoring fans, without even a hint of humanity about the suffering this would cause to civilians, “Sometimes you have to let them fight like two kids. Then you pull them apart.”
This follows Trump’s comments on Wednesday, when he did his best to callously dispel humanitarian concerns many have voiced for the Kurds. First, Trump dismissively stated that the Kurds were “no angels.” He then did his best to dehumanize both sides in the battle, declaring that the Kurds and Turks have been fighting for “hundreds of years,” which he explained in essence is just who these people are. I’m not exaggerating, Trump stated that “warring” and killing is “unnatural for us, but its sorta natural for them.”
Many were stunned by Trump’s comments, but not me. The why behind Trump’s comments is simple. He was simply updating the old concept of “Kill them all, let God sort it out” to “let the Muslims slaughter each other and let Allah sort it out.
What do I mean let the Muslims kill each other? Well, Turkey’s population is 99 percent Muslim. While the Kurds, who number overall between 25 and 30 million, are overwhelmingly Muslim. In fact, I’m named after one of the most famous Kurds ever, Saladin, who led the Muslim forces during the Crusades. (I’m not Kurdish, but I am Muslim.)
This is far from the first time a conservative has suggested that the U.S. should stay out of Syria and simply let the Muslims there slaughter each other. In 2013, Sarah Palin—who at the time was still relevant in GOP circles—articulated that very concept as she slammed President Obama for contemplating committing U.S. troops to end the civil war in Syria. Palin commented that in a situation with “both sides shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ at each other,” we should just “let Allah sort it out.”
Palin, who publicly defended Trump’s despicable Muslim ban in 2015, was obviously playing on the idea of “Kill them all and let God sort it out,” but instead used the word “Allah,” conceivably so it would play better with the rabidly anti-Muslim GOP base. (“Allah” simply means God in Arabic.)
Legend has it that this expression, ironically, comes from the Crusades, when in the 13th century a Catholic monk named Arnaud Amalric was asked by the military commander how to differentiate between heretics and Christians shortly before they laid siege to the French city of Beziers. Amalric reportedly responded, “Kill them all, God will know his own.” The result was these Christian soldiers slaughtered 20,000 people, including women and children.
The view that America should stay out of Syria and simply reap the benefits of Muslims killing each other was more recently expressed in a more “intellectual” way by right-wing “scholar” Daniel Pipes, a man with a long history of spewing anti-Muslim bigotry as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2017, Pipes penned an article for National Review criticizing Trump’s military strike against the ruling Assad regime in Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians that killed more than 80. Pipes wrote, “I see this military action as an error. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires that American forces fight in every war around the world,” adding, “this one should be sat out, letting enemies of the United States fight each other to exhaustion.”
Pipes’ words, “letting enemies of the United States fight each other to exhaustion,” are nothing more than let the Muslims kill each other. And that’s exactly what Trump has done by greenlighting Turkey’s military operation.
The only reason Trump pushed for the Thursday ceasefire was the vocal GOP criticism that resulted in 129 House Republicans voting for the resolution condemning his abandonment of the Kurds.
Trump’s defense of his decision to abandon the Kurds revealed his total lack of compassion for the Kurds and even more broadly, Muslims, as human beings.
This is not surprising given Trump’s 2016 campaign call for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims from our country. And since then, Trump has drastically reduced the number of Muslim refugees admitted to our country, down from nearly 40,000 accepted in 2016 to 4,900 in fiscal year 2019.
Trump, as he promised in the first week of his presidency, has also prioritized Christian lives over Muslim in terms of the percentage of refugees accepted. In 2016, the split between Muslim and Christian refuges was almost equal, with 46 percent being Muslim. In 2019, now the scale tilts heavily to favoring Christians, with 80 percent of all refugees being Christian. In raw numbers that amounts to 23,800 Christian refugees to 4,900 Muslim admitted.
This helps us understand why Trump smeared the Kurds with lies from they are “no angels” to telling the press the Kurds “didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy."
In reality, the Kurds didn’t have their own nation then (and they still don’t today), so as an entity they couldn’t help anyone. Trump’s comment was clearly designed to convince some Americans to not care if the Kurdish civilians were killed by Turkish forces.
Another Trump tweet Monday summed up perfectly how he doesn’t see the Kurds as humans worthy of compassion: “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!” That’s the president of the United States talking.
With media reports that over 160,000 people have been displaced already because of the fighting and numerous Kurdish civilians being killed including a female Kurdish politician who was taken from her car and executed along with either other civilians by Turkish backed militias, Trump hoping “Napoleon Bonaparte” might help the Kurds was the height of dismissive depravity.
And while Trump notes we are “7,000 miles away” as a justification for not caring about a growing humanitarian crisis that he bears moral responsibly for allowing, he had no problem recently sending nearly 2,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, which is further away than Syria. If only the Kurds had oil or could help Trump make money, maybe then he would show them compassion.
To Trump—and, sadly, others on the right—watching Muslims kill each other and let God sort it out is appealing. Tragically, Trump has turned that medieval view into modern day U.S. policy.