Donald…Donald….Donald—It’s not about you. It’s about your country, the one you are elected to lead.
It is good to see that you can change your mind. That’s a new trick and it was a surprise. You’re never been one to let the facts get in the way of your opinions, but you saw the same video we all saw and it affected you the same way.
You see those children struggling to breathe, you understand it was done on purpose, and you want somebody to pay a price. Nobody wants to live in a world where small children can be murdered with impunity, especially in such a painful way.
I get it. Everybody who saw that video gets it.
But if attacking Syria was a bad idea for the United States, it didn’t become a good idea when you got grossed out.
Of course, you’ve already been quietly putting troops into Northern Syria to support our Kurdish allies, who are moving to encircle Raqqa, the capital of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. Those would be the people who saw the heads off prisoners or burn them alive or throw them off tall buildings.
Russia and Turkey are jointly pressing an air war against ISIS and that complicates the project. Turkey would as soon fight the Kurds as fight ISIS and the Turks have struck some Kurdish positions. They claim the Kurds were hit by accident, but that claim is about as credible as a degree from Trump University.
Turkey has the second largest Army in NATO, second only to our own. NATO was formed to keep the Warsaw Pact nations contained, and those nations were led by the Soviet Union, of which Russia was the leader. But I’m guessing that does not matter to you, because you said when running for your current job that NATO is obsolete.
Even if we ignored the Kurds, the Russians, and the Turks, the Syrian rebels are split into factions that include Al Qaeda. The Obama administration claimed authority to fight the Islamic State under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Congress passed after the events of September 11, 2001. That AUMF authorizes war against Al Qaeda, but ISIS is also at war with Al Qaeda.
How can permission to fight Al Qaeda be broad enough to grant permission to fight Al Qaeda’s mortal enemy?
This is how President Obama came to ignore his own “red line,” the use of chemical weapons, just like we saw this week. Obama went to Congress and asked for a new AUMF against ISIS. Congress was not interested in authorizing military force against ISIS because that would take away a criticism of Obama.
When Congress refused to act, Russia rode to the rescue, agreeing to take custody of all of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons.
Now Assad has used chemical weapons again, so we know that either Assad put one over on the Russians or the Russians put one over on the world. Neither is a cheerful thought, but it’s preferable that Russia got snookered. If Russia snookered us, it casts doubt on Russia as a nation with which we can negotiate.
During your run for president, you assured us a new day was coming for our relations with Russia. While you were giving that assurance, Russia was doing what it could do to get you elected. Was that a coincidence?
Then you appointed Rex Tillerson Secretary of State, a man who has worked for Exxon all his adult life, and so his retirement account would hold a bunch of Exxon stock. Exxon, in partnership with the Russian state oil company, Rosneft, owns leases on 63.7 million acres of Russia, holding oil and gas said to be worth $500 billion.
Those leases are worthless as long as the sanctions slapped on Russia by President Obama for invading Ukraine are in place. All of this is surely coincidence as well, because the sanctions are still in place.
It’s good to see that a video of children suffocating by poison gas can cut through all these complications and cause you to throw Tomahawks. In a way, throwing Tomahawks and attacking with Apache helicopters reflects a reality that American Indians always volunteer to fight this country’s wars.
Every Indian I have spoken to, veteran or not, was sickened by watching those Syrian children die as much as you were, Mr. Trump. So, I expect many of us will be there for the U.S. again.
Those Tomahawks have the advantage that using them puts no U.S. airmen at risk, but they cost $1.59 million each according to the Department of Defense FY2015 Budget. Last night, you threw about $94 million worth of Tomahawks.
Which brings me back to why in terms of U.S. policy. This is a fair and important question. If you respect the Constitution, you will do exactly what President Obama did and ask Congress for an AUMF.
If Congress will not authorize attacking Syria, you need to quit throwing Tomahawks because that’s the way the U.S. government works. It’s not about you.
Before I let you get back to throwing Tomahawks, Mr. Trump, I have one more question. You said the sight of those children suffering and dying changed your mind about going to war with Syria. I get that. Did it change your mind about admitting Syrian refuges to the United States?
If you have not changed your mind, I will find it hard to explain to my grandchildren why you would get emotional about dying children enough to give them revenge but not enough to give them shelter.
Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.