ali abaday
Oct 13 2019

Trump was expecting superheroism from Kurds

After Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” into Northern Syria, the day’s news changed completely. I’d actually decided to write about the Joker, but when U.S. President Donald Trump stated, “The Kurds didn’t help us at Normandy!” I changed my mind.

When I heard these words, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen came to mind. More specifically, it was film director Zach Snyder’s scene from one of the book adaptations, where Doctor Manhattan destroys the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, because if you happen to have a powerful superhero at your side, it doesn’t take years to win a war—you can do it within weeks or even days. But the Second World War lasted a long time after the landings at Normandy.

Normally, no one wants to see superheroes at the frontlines who can change the balance of a war. That’s why Superman had no role in World War II. It’s only because heroes like Captain America aren’t very powerful that we find them battling the Nazis. Unless the story takes places in an alternate universe, you aren’t likely to see a superhero in a war.

Returning to President Trump’s statement, and putting aside the many problems with it, the first question for me was, “I wonder if Trump thinks the Kurds are superheroes who can win any war they get into, or does he see them like the colonial soldiers who fought the ANZAC at Gallipoli?”

Who knows, maybe Trump thought the Kurds have a superhero like “Captain Kurdistan,” one who brought victory in the war against ISIS though he’d never fought for the United States before. Just like Doctor Manhattan annihilated the Nazis in a moment, maybe Captain Kurdistan could do it too…

In his actual statement, Trump said something even more interesting—“The Kurds were fighting for their land.” At this point I gave up on my idea of Captain Kurdistan and started wondering if the Kurds are the world’s third greatest superpower because aside from America, you won’t find many nations policing the world by fighting in other countries.

In World War II, European countries were struggling against the Nazis in their own lands, and they also entered the fray to take back their colonies, but they weren’t fighting the Japanese in France. France wasn’t seen fighting in the Pacific much, except in their colonial regions. But the United States was everywhere as one of the world’s two superpowers. At that time, America could even be considered the only superpower.

But one thing President Trump needs to remember is that that the Kurds have never had their own state. They’ve always lived as minorities in the Middle East. They may not have fought alongside Allied soldiers at Normandy or anywhere else, but countries like Turkey has always had Kurdish soldiers in their ranks.

Who knows—there could have even been Kurdish soldiers sent to the Korean War along with the Turkish forces. Of course in this case, it could be said that Kurds fought for the United States in Korea, but that’s another topic.

Although the Kurds didn’t join the battles at Normandy, they did fight the ISIS jihadis, who are at least as dangerous as Nazis. Kurds even helped stop ISIS suicide attacks in Europe. They did all of this through their own courage and with the help of the United States. Nevertheless, it was clear even then that promises from the US would not be kept.

Abandoning the Kurds after pulling out of the nuclear agreement with Iran is going to affect the United States’ international agreements and partnerships for a long time. The United States may want to clean up its broken image after Trump’s term as President, but the idea known by everyone in Turkey as “the continuity of the state is essential” isn’t really applicable in the United States. They can make whatever promises they want, but everything can be forgotten with a new administration.

In Superman III, directed by Richard Lester and starring Christopher Reeves and Richard Pryor, the Man of Steel undergoes a big change after being exposed to synthetic, nicotine-based kryptonite. He was no longer the Superman who rescued people and fought for the good of humanity. He quits saving others and becomes a rather hopeless individual.

Personally, it seems to me that the America of the Trump era is undergoing a change similar to Superman’s in that film. That country knows best how to repair its image after Trump, but it will be difficult because everyone else knows the United States can suddenly abandon its allies.

It’s also known that the Kurds have stopped their struggle against ISIS and directed all of their energy towards Northern Syria. After this, ISIS will begin to regroup and gain power, and preventing them from carrying out more terrorist attacks in Europe will be even more difficult. If such a thing were to happen, it’s not really known who will be targeted as the scapegoat.

However, despite these threats and the current state of affairs, it looks as though Turkey will continue its assault on Syria and that ISIS will become powerful again and re-start its attacks on Europe. Of course, no one knows what will happen if a nuclearized European country considers Turkey sending 3.5 million refugees to Europe as an act of war and threatens to use nuclear bombs to bring the assault to an end! However, it looks as though no European leader can talk about this.

Also, no one knows how the United States and Europe would react if, parallel to Turkey holding the Syrian refugee card up its sleeve, the Syrian Democratic Forces were to say they will release the ISIS fighters they’re holding. Millions of Syrians who have lost their homes are far preferable to a few thousand fanatic ISIS jihadis.

In short, the Kurds, who “deserve to be abandoned” because they never fought at Normandy and are just fighting to protect their own land, are in the middle of a difficult struggle. It’s difficult to predict at this point how the region will reshape itself after the months-long conflict comes to an end.

While all of this is going on, here is something that’s impossible to stop thinking about: if the leaders of powerful countries can so easily change the fate of smaller countries, should we leave presidential elections just to the citizens of the powerful countries, or should the entire world be able to vote? Because one word from America’s lips can completely destroy the Middle East…

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.