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Political Calculation

Rutherford refuses to stand up for wartime allies


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to visit U.S. President Donald Trump this week. Erdoğan, of course, is the man who convinced Trump to abandon our allies, the Kurds, so that Turkey could invade parts of Northern Syria where the Kurds have taken refuge. The Kurds fought a five-year war against ISIS. They were supported by U.S. forces, but it was the Kurds who took most of the casualties. They lost 11,000 fighters, while the U.S. only lost six. Yet despite the great sacrifice the Kurds made, Trump was more than willing to allow the Turks to invade Syria and annihilate them.

Trump’s action was not popular in Congress. In fact, a resolution to condemn the precipitous pullout was introduced in the U.S. House of Representative. It passed by a vote of 354 to 60. However, Republican Rep. John Rutherford (FL-04) was not among the majority. Rutherford’s no vote is quite shocking. He is a former sheriff and presumably knows the importance of protecting confidential informants and public citizens who are willing to testify against criminals. He knows that you have to stand by the people who stood by you.

Perhaps omerta prompted him to vote no. It’s no secret that Rutherford is a Trump supporter. Still, many of the president’s supporters are willing to admit that Trump was wrong to acquiesce to Erdoğan and leave the Kurds to their fate. Two-thirds of the Republicans in the House voted in favor of the resolution. Both of Florida’s Republican Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, have publicly criticized Trump’s betrayal of erstwhile U.S. allies.

Why doesn’t Rutherford do the same? Does he believe that Trump voters in his district want a yes-man for a representative? Does he believe that they support everything that Trump does?

Rutherford has yet to explain his no vote. Admittedly, it is a hard one to defend. After the Kurds bore the brunt of ISIS savagery and prevailed, they agreed to withdraw their forces nine miles from the Turkish border and to allow the U.S. to supervise the destruction of their own military posts along a 60-mile border zone—all in an effort to help their U.S. allies please America’s NATO ally, Turkey. No good deed goes unpunished. In return for these conciliatory actions, Trump turned his back on the Kurds and gave Erdoğan permission to attack. Now 30,000 Kurds have had to abandon their homes; more than 121 Kurdish fighters have been killed; and at least 60 civilians have been killed. One of them was a nine-month-old baby. Turkish forces have also been videotaped dragging Kurds from their cars and executing them on the side of the road. One of them was Hevrin Khalaf, secretary-general of the Future Syria Party, which ironically was created on the advice of the American advisers to improve the relationship between the Kurds and the Turks.

There is also the fear now that 11,000 Kurdish-held ISIS prisoners will likely escape as the Kurds turn their attention to defending themselves from the Turks. Trump has declared that none of these ISIS escapees will be a danger to the U.S. because they will carry out their attacks in Europe. Besides showing a callous indifference to the lives of our European allies, Trump forgets that ISIS terrorists have beheaded Americans in the Middle East and that Americans were among the dead in the ISIS attacks in Paris and Nice.

Finally, Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds has forced them to make a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his geopolitical patrons, Russia and Iran.

It is not surprising that Rutherford has not publicly given a reason for his no vote. Rutherford never publicly gives any reason for anything that he does. Unlike most members of Congress, Rutherford does not hold town halls where his constituents can ask him questions. He rarely gives interviews or appears on television. His appearances are generally limited to business groups. He also has a war chest of $443,376 that mainly comes from corporate political action committees. Simply put, he has lost his touch with the common man.

Maybe that is why former newscaster Donna Deegan is considering a run for Rutherford’s seat. Deegan is a Jacksonville native who suffered three bouts of breast cancer while broadcasting for First Coast News. As a result, she has become a well-known activist in the fight against breast cancer and the organizer of the charity marathon, 26.2 with Donna. What’s more, she can relate to people. She is exactly the kind of Democratic politician who has been winning traditional Republican districts lately. And I bet that she would never betray a wartime ally.

Bork is a Jacksonville-based attorney with more than 20 years’ experience.

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This author (and the Folio Weekly) might want to do a bit of research before posting stories. John Rutherford did respond directly to his constituents in his newsletter, the Rutherford Roundup, that you can sign up for here:

In case you're not interested, here's the full response below:

Earlier this week, I voted against H.J. Res. 77, a resolution of disapproval regarding President Trump’s decisions in Syria. I would like to share with you my reasons for doing so.

As you know, President Trump recently made the decision to remove around 50 U.S. military personnel from Northern Syria and apply further diplomatic and economic pressure on Turkey’s President Erdogan. I believe President Trump’s course of action to expand the use of our diplomatic and economic force will keep American troops safer and advance American interests in the region.

As we have seen in the past few months, our operations in Syria are extremely sensitive and rapidly evolving. This week members of Congress were asked to take a vote on American national security policy in that region without first receiving a classified briefing from military and intelligence leaders. I believe this was misguided and merely a politically-motivated attempt to create discord with our Commander-in-Chief. The resolution that came to the floor holds no weight of law to make policy changes, force actions, or resolve conflicts.

I have been and will continue to be an unwavering supporter of the Kurdish people. For many years, including this fiscal year, Congress has provided substantial funding to train, arm, and equip the Kurds. However, to truly help our allies, we must continue to focus on President Erdogan of Turkey, who remains the violent aggressor targeting the Kurdish people. For this reason, I cosponsored H.R. 4692, legislation to impose harsh sanctions on Turkey for their actions. Additionally, I have spoken with senior leaders of Special Operations Command who said the U.S. remains in constant communication with our Kurdish allies.

For far too long, we have relied on our military forces to carry the fight, putting them in harm’s way, when we have other tools at our disposal. As we move forward, I will continue to support our servicemembers, our military leaders, our allies, and American interests across the globe. Friday, November 15, 2019|Report this