DALLAS — President Donald Trump celebrated the temporary cease-fire in Syria that his envoys negotiated Thursday and argued that it had been wise for him to allow Turkish forces to invade and attack Kurds because “sometimes you have to let them fight a little while.”
Addressing supporters at a campaign rally here in Texas, Trump likened the warring in Syria to a schoolyard squabble. The carnage erupted after Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, exposing the Kurds — U.S. allies — to the Turkish attack, but the president boasted that “not one drop of American blood” was shed.
“Like two kids in a lot, you’ve got to let them fight and then you pull them apart,” Trump said. He marveled at the fighting, saying “it was pretty vicious,” and adding, “It was nasty … It’s not fun having bullets going all over the place.”
Trump defended his handling of the situation because, as he saw it, he had given the Turks and Kurds a lesson in “tough love.”
“Without a little tough love — you know what tough love is, right? — they would’ve never made this deal,” Trump said. He thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for being “a gentleman” in agreeing to a five-day cease-fire during negotiations Thursday in Ankara with a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump’s withdrawal of troops in Syria drew sharp and sustained criticism from across the political spectrum, including from some of his staunchest Republican allies in Congress. But he claimed Thursday, “now they’re all happy, and I’m happy with them.”
Trump made his comments from center stage at the American Airlines Center, where an estimated 20,000 people packed the arena for his often meandering, one-hour-and-27-minute speech. He received some of his loudest applause when he vowed to stop “endless wars” and vowed to “bring our soldiers back home.”
Outside the arena in downtown Dallas, hundreds of protesters — many of them Kurdish American — gathered with Kurdistan flags and signs denouncing Turkey’s invasion of Syria. There was a massive red sign that read: “Kurds lost 11,000 lives. Trump rewarded them a ‘great betrayal.’ ” And there were chants of: “We want Turkey out of NATO,” and “Trump betrayed the Kurds!”
“Trump flips on his ideals so fast and it’s so sad that one … night he just decided, ‘I’m going to change how I feel’ and the rest of the government is just letting him do it,” said Fran Guzman, 32, a teacher who lives in Dallas. “He doesn’t care.”
Bilal Omar, 37, came to protest outside the rally with his two young children. In 1988, Omar’s family fled their home in Iraq after a chemical weapon attack and spent several years in refugee camps before eventually resettling in upstate New York in 1994. Omar moved to Arlington, Texas, six years ago and works as a real estate agent and tax preparer.
“For the past many years, the U.S. has been fighting and many Kurds have been killed trying to liberate that area — and in a matter of hours, Trump gave it to Russia, Iran and Syria, as if nothing has happened,” he said. “The Kurds stand up for [American troops], they took bullets for them, they never thought in a million years that the U.S. would just turn its back.”
Omar accused Trump of making this decision to distract from the impeachment proceedings. He looked across the street at Trump supporters walking into the rally and said: “They don’t even understand what’s happening.”
Farther down the street, a group of friends who are in a motorcycle club together said they agree with the president’s actions.
“Why do we need to have our soldiers over there for decades? When is a good time to pull out? If not now, when? Why do we have to have our soldiers dying for people that don’t care about us?” said Aaron Ferguson, 30, a diesel mechanic who lives south of Dallas in Glenn Heights.
“It’s not our war,” said Heather Sumrall, 40, a medical assistant instructor from Alvarado, Texas. “Why are we over there fighting their civil war? It’s their civil war. That would be like a husband and a wife fighting and then the neighbor comes over. That’s none of your business.”
Inside at the rally, Trump continued his weekslong assault on congressional Democrats who are leading the impeachment inquiry into his conduct in office, which Democratic leaders say is an unconstitutional abuse of power.
The president repeatedly criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as “crazy,” and he claimed a “great betrayal” by House Democrats and the media to “overthrow” the results of the 2016 election.
“I really don’t believe anymore that they love our country,” Trump said. “I don’t believe it.”
Trump added, “They continue the outrageous impeachment witch hunt with nothing — with nothing. They come after me, but what they’re really doing is they’re coming after the Republican Party, and what they’re really, really doing is they’re coming after and fighting you. And we never lose.”