By an overwhelming 354 to 60 bipartisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Oct. 16 delivered a condemnation of President Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria. The resolution, introduced by New York Congressman Eliot Engel, said Trump's "disastrous policy" has thrown the region into bloody chaos and unraveled Middle East diplomacy.
"What kind of message does this send to the world. . . when we betray one of our close partners -- just throw them out like an old shoe,?' Engel asked during his speech on the House floor. "Congress must speak out against this disgrace."
Republicans joined Democrats in passing Engel's resolution condemning Trump’s acquiescence to the Turkish assault against the Kurds, who have been vital American allies in the fight against ISIS terrorists. The measure passed shortly before a bipartisan group of congressional leaders was set to meet with Trump to discuss the incursion, and hours before Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would arrive in Ankara, Turkey to call for a ceasefire in a battle Trump appears to have endorsed.
“At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low, and American foreign policy has become nothing more than a tool to advance his own interests,” said Engel, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Today we make clear that the Congress is a coequal branch of government and we want nothing to do with this disastrous policy.”
Engel represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County.
Trump, meanwhile, downplayed the escalating tensions in the Middle East.
"It's not our border," Trump said speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, referring to Kurdish forces that, until recently, fought side-by-side with the United States forces as "no angels."
"If Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that's really up to them," Trump said. "We shouldn't be losing lives over it."
"We're watching and we're negotiating and we're trying to get Turkey to do the right thing," the president added, describing the U.S.'s decision to leave the area as "strategically brilliant."
Here is Engel's entire speech on the House floor before Wednesday's vote in support of House Joint Resolution 77, his bipartisan joint measure denouncing President Trump’s policy in Northern Syria:
“Since the beginning of this Congress, when I became chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve tried to work across the aisle to advance a bipartisan vision of what American foreign policy should be—what it can be, when we’re at our best. And that’s a foreign policy rooted in our values—values like support for human rights and human dignity, a foreign policy that projects American leadership as a force for good in the world, a foreign policy that thrives on the power of partnerships and alliances.
“I’ve worked with my friend from Texas, the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. McCaul, to make sure that this vision is enshrined in the committee’s work and that we do all we can to push the Administration toward this approach.
“So Mr. Speaker, for me the last week has been just devastating.
“A week ago, President Trump had a phone call with Turkey’s thuggish leader, President Erdogan. Against the advice of national security experts and military advisors, the President gave Erdogan the green light to charge into Northern Syria—unleashing what has become a brutal campaign of violence against the Syrian Kurds, our partners the Syrian Kurds, who courageously stood alongside us for many, many months and years, in the fight against ISIS.
“Mr. Speaker, that reckless and impulsive decision was a betrayal of our partners. It was a gift to Russia, a gift to Iran, a gift to ISIS, and a gift to Assad. And it was a blow to our national security.
“Now, a week later, the same Kurdish soldiers who fought with American Special Forces to combat ISIS are now fighting tooth and nail to survive Turkey’s slaughter. Russian and Syrian regime forces have quickly filled the vacuum left by the United States. President Trump’s decision has allowed ISIS fighters in northern Syria to escape from prison, paving the way for a resurgence of the terrorist group. It’s a get out of jail free card, if you remember Monopoly from the old days.
“And the humanitarian crisis is staggering. Already, tens of thousands have been displaced—families, women, and children. There are stories of gruesome beheadings, torture, and abuse. All set into motion unfortunately by the President of the United States.
“What kind of message does this send to the world? How can America be trusted to keep its word when we betray one of our close partners? Loyal and faithful partners that we’ve tossed aside like an old shoe. How can America be trusted when we make impulsive decisions that have such an immediate, catastrophic impact on so many thousands?
“Congress must speak out against this disgrace. The measure we’re considering today will send an unambiguous, bipartisan, hopefully bicameral rejection of Trump’s policy in Syria.
“This measure calls on the White House to develop a strong, clear strategy on how to defeat ISIS now that President Trump has sparked its resurgence. It expresses strong support for Syrian Kurdish forces, recognizing their commitment and sacrifices in the fight against ISIS. And it calls on Turkey to immediately stop its military action in Syria.
“At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low and American foreign policy has become nothing more than a tool to advance his own interests.
“Today we make clear that the Congress is a coequal branch of government, and we want nothing to do with this disastrous policy.
“So Mr. Speaker, I say to our colleagues—it is on us. It is on us to uphold our country’s values, to strengthen our national security, to defend America’s standing in the world. I call on all members on both sides of the aisle to support this resolution and make it clear where we stand.”