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She’s wearing a bright pink coat in the video. The way the little girl is laying down, she could be sleeping. But she’s not. Blood pools around her tiny, lifeless body. She couldn’t be more than four or five years old.
New footage has renewed and intensified criticisms of President Donald Trump’s decision last weekend to order the U.S. military to withdraw from Northern Syria, effectively abandoning America’s Kurdish allies there. Two days ago, Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whom it deems terrorists, with the Trump administration’s tacit permission.
Turkey has named the offensive “Operation Peace Spring,” possibly a twist on the Arab Spring that sparked the Syrian civil war. Turkey claims that it is securing the border region so it can return an estimated 2-3 million Syrian refugees to their homeland, and help end the nation’s civil war.
Turkey and PKK have been in conflict off and on for decades. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames them for a failed 2016 coup attempt against him.
#OperationPeaceSpring will neutralize terror threats against Turkey and lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 9, 2019
We will preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists.
PKK, a leftist group with roots in Marxism that seeks to establish a Kurdish state, helped the United States beat the ISIS Caliphate. Trump has criticized the Obama administration for allying with them, even as he takes credit for beating ISIS, which wouldn’t have been possible without them.
Chaos, panic, and carnage have ensued as Turkish forces poured across the border. Unknown numbers of civilians have fled the region.
VIDEO: Residents of the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain flee the city in trucks loaded with their belongings, as Turkey continues its assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria pic.twitter.com/kgZSDtJh8u— AFP news agency (@AFP) October 10, 2019
Some who remained have perished in Turkey’s 181 airstrikes since the offensive began.
The little girl is one of them.
In the video, she is surrounded by rubble and people, many of them injured or deceased. A woman sits facing her, dazed by explosions, grief-stricken, or both. A woman, possibly her, can be heard shrieking throughout. The man with the camera yells a word that sounds like a name over and over, his anguish rising as he focuses the lens on her prostrate form.
Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds has been met with widespread condemnation, including from prominent members of his own party, like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Televangelist Pat Robertson warned that abandoning the Kurds risks Trump’s “mandate from heaven.”
At request of this administration the Kurds served as the primary ground fighters against ISIS in Syria so U.S. troops wouldn’t have to.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 9, 2019
Then cut deal with Erdogan allowing him to wipe them out.
Damage to our reputation & national interest will be extraordinary & long lasting.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, former State Department director of policy planning under the Obama administration, tweeted, “I cannot hold my head up as an American in the world today. We encouraged Syrians to rise and then did far too little as they were gassed and massacred. And today we betray the Kurds who have fought and died beside us against ISIS and others.”
Many have specifically called on evangelicals to abandon their support of Trump in light of the presumed slaughter of the Kurds by the Turkish.
You always know if Trump accuses anyone of anything, then he's already done it, is doing it, or intends to do it. Many Kurds are Christians. So on cue, Trump helps Russia & Turkey wage war on Christians, and all right-wing evangelicals will have to say is "but tax cut & judges."— Facts Do Matter (@WilDonnelly) October 9, 2019
Our soldier’s presence kept Turkey from going to war & slaughtering Kurds. It’s not about how many men were evacuated, it’s abt cost of said evacuation. It will cost mass murder. Elections have consequences. Many evangelicals voted for a pro-life candidate who doesn’t value life.— Kyle J. Howard (@KyleJamesHoward) October 9, 2019
There are two Trump towers in Turkey. He really is the devil. Erogan is going to exterminate the Kurds. The very people that helped our troops. He’s willing to cause genocide to save himself. Fuck You evangelicals giving this evil man cover.— Grandma Gretchen (@wechoosewisdom) October 7, 2019
Prominent exvangelical Chrissy Stroop told the Daily Dot via Twitter message that evangelicals are not likely to change their support for Trump.
Describing them as primarily “hawkish” about the Middle East, Stroop said that evangelicals seem less concerned about the Kurds and more concerned with how this conflict will affect Israel’s security. She added that they are “even less likely to lose sleep over collateral damage” because the majority of Kurds are Muslim. (A minority are Christian.)
“At the end of the day, Trump is still pursuing more of their agenda more vigorously than any previous president, and so while they may grumble a bit about his decision on Syria, they’ll stick by him,” she said.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.