In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in hopes of appeasing Hitler, signed the Munich Agreement ceding a region of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis.
Hitler evidenced how appeased he was by invading Norway.
Of Chamberlain’s miserably faithless and foolish covenant with a monster, Winston Churchill condemned: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.”
When Trump entered into a similar agreement with the elected Hitlerian dictator of Turkey, the deal points were more mysterious, but the outcome as swift: Trump’s betrayal of our allies the Kurds resulted in attacks more immediate even than the Storm Troopers jack booting into Czechoslovakia.
And, once again, not the homeland of the betrayer is immediately at risk, but that of the betrayed: the Kurds, a people as ancient as the Bible and whose existence is now as threatened by the betrayal of Trump as Chamberlain’s cowardice threatened the survival of Jews in Czechoslovakia.
A quarter of a million Kurds have been turned into refugees by Trump’s betrayal, while Erdogan has responded to Trump’s permission by forging an alliance with one of our president’s best friends, Vladimir Putin.
But betrayal is not new to our president. He has betrayed many of our allies and alliances. He has allegiance to brothers in arms. He has betrayed independent Republicanism in favor of petty nationalism, and the ideal of public service with relentless self-interest, self-dealing and mockery of heroes such as a courageous whistleblower and two indomitable ambassadors, Marie L. Yovanovitch and William B. Taylor Jr.
In Puerto Rico he betrayed more than 3 million American citizens and, at the U.S. border with Mexico, he betrayed our traditional commitment to families, children and refugees of every kind seeking the light and honor of our once shining City on a Hill.
Trump’s affinity is not for courageous freedom fighters like the Kurds but for thugs and bullies not constrained by the rule of law. And the deal he struck with Turkey is so mysterious that even Republican legislators rebelled.
Sen. Mitch McConnell called it “a grave mistake” (which is like calling Pearl Harbor “an unfortunate incident”). But Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was more inclined to put honor above party, saying, "The decision to abandon the Kurds … strikes at American honor.”
When Chamberlain chose dishonor, he was replaced as prime minister by Winston Churchill.
But that was a different time with different sensitivities and a different sense of honor. Our senses have been dulled by 10,000 lies and behavior so grotesque as to be an unbelievable narrative, had we not lived it.
The embarrassment and shame and dishonor continue, not only because Trump is such an ignorant power monger, but because he is klutz unworthy of power, as his recent letter to Erdogan betrays: “Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal. ... Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.”
Churchill said, “Men will forgive a man anything except bad prose.”
Add to that dishonor. For our president, honor is not moral but transactional: as good as the deal. And the honor of our country has been supplanted by Trump’s “Art of the Deal.”
And because of that — and everything else! — the evidence is mounting. And it’s unlikely Trump’s betrayal of the Kurds and his simpering pleading with Erdogan will be the capstone of his foolishness and lies. And even though many Republicans continue forgive Trump of unforgivable incompetence and disloyalty and vain foolishness, there is always hope for a Churchill to save us from our churlish Chamberlain.
Clifton Jolley, Ph.D., is president of Advent Communications, Ogden.