April 23, 2020

Why Trump’s Rojava Betrayal Makes Him Unelectable

Amongst Trump's many other failures, his treatment of Rojava, and his betrayal of its people, should make him unelectable to anyone.

Why Trump’s Rojava Betrayal Makes Him Unelectable

In the wake of Bernie Sanders dropping out of the Democratic party, there have been a small but significant number of his supporters that have decided that they will vote for Donald Trump out of spite for the Democratic establishment. I do empathise with their frustrations, but there is still no reason that any progressive or leftist should vote for Trump.

The obvious reason for this is that many of Trump’s ideals and the ideals of the left opposed. Trump has cut taxes for the wealthy, attempted to defund Medicare and Medicaid, and engaged in a slew of authoritarian practices, from firing James Comey to obstructing justice to firing Inspector Generals. And yet, these are not his most egregious offences and are minor compared to amount of innocent human life that he has oppressed or flat-out destroyed through his war on immigration and escalation of the drone program.

Everything that I have outlined above is awful enough, but they were not the breaking point for me. No, the line in the sand for me occurred October 9th, 2019, the day when I knew that I could never vote for Trump, no matter what he does through the election cycle. That was the day that he announced that he had given the Turkish prime minister the green light to invade Kurdish Rojava and pulled the American troops out of the region.

Rojava is an autonomous region located in Northeastern Syria that became self-governing in 2012 when the Syrian civil war forced Assad to withdraw his troops from the area. Although it was never officially recognised, the Syrian government entered into a shaky non-aggression pact with the region, and America has used the region as a base to fight ISIS. In one of the few acts of America positively impacting the Middle East, the region would not have survived as long as it has without the American military presence in the region. The inhabitants of the region have paid the US back as well, sacrificing around eleven thousand of its own people in the fight against ISIS and quickly becoming an extremely dependable ally in an increasingly volatile area.

In many ways, Rojava is a bastion of freedom and leftism in not just the Middle East, but in the world as a whole. Rojava is primarily inhabited by the Kurdish people, a large ethnic group that has been left without its own country for a century. It is a democratic society that is decentralised: the region is broken down into small communes, which are led by men and women (gender equality is very important in Rojava: women serve in their military and are even favoured in some areas of combat), along with committees when necessary. Representatives from each commune are sent to meet with those from other nearby communes in their area to meet at the locality. Depending on the area, there a few more levels of government that follow the same process, culminating in the General Council for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. In every way, the government is structured to serve the people.

Likewise, the Rojavan economy is set up to serve the people as a whole. Because the government is so decentralised, the people in each community have a great deal of control over the day to aspects of their lives. Many of the communities share resources and land, and the traditions of mutual aid are based on ancient traditions as they are on more modern ideas. Rojava also has potential for great economic growth, as the area is full of rich oil fields. If the area ever got more recognition and respect in the international community, it could very well become a model for the Middle East and indeed the world.

Rojava has had to fight hard to get where it is today. For one thing, it technically lies within the borders of Syria. For another, it lies along the Turkish border, and has been under continuous assault from ISIS. Because of the US military presence in the region, Turkey did not launch an invasion into the area. Until that is, Trump decided to move the troops in Rojava to different areas in the Middle East and greenlit a Turkish advance into the area during a phone call with Turkish prime minister Erdogan. Turkish forces immediately pressed into the territory, killing a number of fighters and civilians. President Trump justified his decision during a campaign rally, where he described the conflict between one of the largest militaries in the world and a group of ragtag freedom fighters who put their asses on the line to protect American interests as “two kids in a lot”. He also rationalised the decision by saying that the Kurds “didn’t help us in the second world war”.(It should be mentioned that the Kurds formed ten units that supported British forces in the fight against the Nazis in Iraq.) Trump later sent Vice President Pence to negotiate a cease-fire between the people of Rojava and Turkey, a ceasefire that Turkey promptly broke the next day. In order to protect themselves, the people of Rojava formed an alliance with Russia.

I am disgusted by many of Trump’s policies, and my stance on Rojava doesn’t really matter as long as he continues to say and do the things that he does. However, even if he were to endorse Medicare for All and decriminalise crossing the border, I would still not vote for him. Donald Trump would have to completely reverse his actions in Rojava for me to even consider voting for him, no matter what overtures he makes to the left in the meantime. Make no mistake, I’m not saying that Bernie supporters have to vote for Biden. In fact, I’m not even saying that they should support him: I fully intend to support the Green Party and down-ballot progressives, at least until Biden makes any real effort to reach out to leftists and adopt some of Bernie’s platform. I think that there are very good reasons to not support Biden, but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of voting for Trump because he’s not Biden, especially when Trump is the antithesis of everything that Bernie’s and his platform stood for.


Photo by Leonhard Lenz

Original published on Medium.

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