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Why not throw the Kurds to the wolves? They are so used to it by now. The Kurds almost prove the old maxim that it's dangerous to be America's enemy in this world, but it can be fatal to be her friend.

When was the last American president not to abandon the Kurds to the gentle mercies of their would-be rulers in the Middle East?

And who's taking aim at them now? The Iraqis? The Persians? The Mongols? Alexander the Great? No, this time it's the Turks (again). The Kurds often say they have no friends but the mountains. Then they should know better than to expect help.

Besides, before the United States came along, the Brits and French were betraying the Kurds. It's almost tradition in the West. Maybe once the slaughter commences in earnest, the American administration can call for a no-fly zone again and tap the brakes on the killing, just as American administrations did after the first Gulf War. Besides, this Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a piker. That Saddam Hussein, now, he knew how to kill.

The current occupant of the White House almost followed tradition again this week. We say "almost" because this guy changes his mind on a dime. Or a gold coin. We're tempted to start every paragraph from here on out with, "as of this writing."

As of this writing, the United States' view on the Kurdish Question is all confusion. Over the weekend, the president made an announcement on Twitter that surprised the world, his Cabinet, and the Pentagon, and not necessarily in that order: He said that U.S. forces would stand aside if Turkey invades Syria, an invitation that the Turks have been waiting on since, oh, the end of World War I.

Even the president's allies in Congress are on TV, questioning the decision/announcement/double-cross. Donald Trump supporters like Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley are calling it a big mistake, and asking good questions, such as: Who will want to be America's ally in any fight again if we are "successful" at abandoning the Kurds once and for all?

The Kurds, again, say they've been betrayed. This time they hope people actually listen to them. But the papers say it's not even clear how much America's policy has changed--because the president's people are whispering to the press that he doesn't really mean it.

Administration officials sought out the press early in the week, speaking on condition of anonymity of course, to walk back the president's tweets. According to dispatches, the U.S. is still urging Turkey not to invade Syria, or if that's already happened, not to do too much damage. (Only kill a little bit?) Those anonymous sources are telling the papers that only a few dozen American troops have withdrawn from the Turkish/Syrian border, and even the president "adjusted the message," telling reporters that Turkey would be responsible for any terrorists that fill the vacuum left in Syria. It reminds us of how the Nixon White House used to present policy to the press: "This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative."

So what does it mean, this whipsaw of decisions and rethinking and tweeting and walking back and "adjusting" the message?

The Turkish military says all preparation for the battle has been finished, and a few reports out Wednesday say skirmishing has already begun. There were reports of artillery being moved into place, and maybe actually used. Again, all is confusion--except among Kurdish civilians. They know exactly what to do: flee in panic.

The papers are now full of blustering on the Turkish side, with officials sounding off against Donald Trump. And the president has tweeted more statements that aren't quite leaning toward Ankara's viewpoint: "If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey." The Turks considered that poor form, and said as much.

And then there were more reports of battle. It's hard to tell who to believe until the pictures come in. And once that happens, all too often the West is confronted with pictures of dead Kurds, mostly civilians. This show is a re-run. Without a laugh track.

Here's hoping the latest tough talk by the American authorities is enough to calm the coming storm, before it goes too far. And the Kurds can stay in their homes, safe, albeit in a tough neighborhood. And they remain our valuable friends.

As of this writing.

Editorial on 10/10/2019

Print Headline: Walk (back) this way

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