A Ceasefire Is a Good Thing

The US negotiated a five-day ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds in Syria last week which has, for the most part, held up through four days. This is very positive and encouraging news for the people of that region, and for those of us who feel partially responsible for the disaster in Syria. But since both Turkey and the Kurdish resistance consist of multiple factions and interests, its unclear how this will ultimately play out on Monday. Regardless, the situation in Northern Syria today is more promising than it was at the onset of Turkeys invasion, so unlike the many critics of the ceasefire, I am cautiously optimistic that it will hold and be extended.

Turkey’s illegal invasion was largely designed to create a buffer between Syrian Kurds and Turkey – a “safe zone” – which would be about 300 miles long by 20 miles deep. Terms of the ceasefire allow for this buffer zone to be created: "The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation…The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of the YPG [militant People’s Protection Units] from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal."

Pro-war critics of the ceasefire argue that the deal is unfair to Kurdish Syrians, even though the Kurds themselves welcomed the ceasefire: “We will do whatever we can for the success of the ceasefire agreement,” the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said.

But leading democrats, republicans, war profiteers, US Empire builders and liberal media personalities have the hubris and indecency to be angry that a ceasefire has been negotiated, and instead have turned the ceasefire into a way to bash Trump.

Being skeptical that the ceasefire will ultimately work is a fair sentiment – but bashing a ceasefire that could stop bloodshed is self-serving.

And of course, much of the western media agrees with the Trump hating, anti-Russia establishment who are bashing the Turkey/Kurds ceasefire:

  • “In final betrayal, US brokered Syria ceasefire is effectively a Kurdish surrender,” said MSNBC.
  • “Donald Trump Has Handed Putin the Middle East on a Plate,” according to Britain’s Telegraph.
  • “Putin Seizes on Trump’s Syria Retreat to Cement Middle East Role,” said the Financial Times.

It’s as though these people are subconsciously hoping that the ceasefire doesn’t work, because if it does, Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Northern Syria would be a ‘victory’ for him. (And Trump, like any other politician, would use this as a feather in his cap, and democrats, like republicans, can’t stand a political ‘loss’.)

What’s particularly disturbing is how partisan individuals use the misery of people overseas to further their self-interests.

But I don’t care about politics, so I am hoping the ceasefire is successful, regardless of who is responsible or takes credit.

A day before the ceasefire announcement, US House democrats unanimously voted (225 to 0) to condemn Trump’s US troop withdrawal from Syria. About two-thirds of republicans voted with the democrats.

When it comes to issues of foreign policy today, the likes of the HuffPost, NPR, PBS, Democracy Now, etc. are saying many of the same things as the neocons, liberal war hawks and ruling class republicans.

Their blatant, incessant misuse of the words “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” in describing Turkey’s invasion is truly disgusting. The Syrian Observatory reported on Thursday that 224 Kurdish militants and 72 civilians were killed in the first eight days of Turkey’s offensive. I want zero people killed or injured, so I’m not downplaying those killed or injured during Turkey’s incursion, but to call it "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide" cheapens the meanings of those words.

Trump’s decision to choose between US-allied Kurds in Syria and US-allied and fellow NATO member Turkey is a political hot potato that would be difficult to handle – even for an informed, rational politician.

Trump also followed-up on Sunday, announcing that all 700 US troops would be leaving Syria for western Iraq. Ideally, returning the troops to the US would have made a stronger statement for non-interventionism, but in the context of what’s happening in Northern Syria, it is a very good sign. It is difficult to know if Trumps willingness to stay out of the fight between Turkey and Syrian Kurds will help decrease the tensions in the region. But the hope is that the ceasefire holds and will be extended, in spite of those who would prefer to bash Trump rather than having peace along the Turkey and Syrian border.

Chris Ernesto is the webmaster and co-founder of St. Pete for Peace, a non-partisan antiwar organization providing peace oriented education events and services to the Tampa Bay, FL community since 2003.