Americans Voted To End War In Syria, But This Unelected Bureaucrat Lied To Overrule Them
Reported by Willis L. Krumholz | 18, 2020
Defense One, a subsidiary of The Atlantic, came out with a story last week about a man named Jim Jeffrey. If you haven’t heard of him, don’t feel bad, but he’s pretty important in Washington, D.C. Under his fancy title, he’s been appointed to oversee the U.S. fight against ISIS and what are supposed to be the limited operations of the American troops who still remain in Syria.
Jeffrey is now also a hero in D.C., because in the interview with Defense One he bragged about how he misled President Donald Trump and other top White House officials about the real number of U.S. troops in Syria. “We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey told the Defense One reporter.
The Establishment Wants War in Syria
To say that the D.C. foreign policy establishment wants a U.S. ground presence in Syria is an understatement. During the Obama administration, partisan former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan spent $1 billion from taxpayers per year trying to arm “moderate” rebels in Syria. What Brennan got was loads of American weapons in the hands of jihadists, including ISIS affiliates. In one example, a particular program trained 15,000 rebels in Jordan and returned them to Syria. Only “four or five” recruits out of the 15,000 turned up to fight. The rest either joined jihadist forces, including ISIS, or sold their American weapons to these forces.
The futility of regime change efforts didn’t deter official Washington, however. Western media raved about “the white helmets.” They also glossed over the fact that there were few moderate rebels and that many of America’s preferred rebels to take on the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad were guilty of unspeakable brutalities.
Meanwhile, a civil war pitting Muslim Sunnis against Shias — which was partly fueled by American money and weapons and certainly fueled by weapons and money from Gulf Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia — caused a humanitarian crisis. Millions of refugees flooded Europe. Into this chaos and power vacuum stepped ISIS, which at its pinnacle had amassed a huge amount of territory in Iraq and Syria.
On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump repeatedly promised to destroy ISIS and then get U.S. troops out of Syria. This was a large difference between Trump and his Republican primary opponents and then later Hillary Clinton, who argued that U.S. involvement in Syria should not be limited to destroying the Islamic State and that the United States should topple Assad.
Trump’s view was that if Assad was toppled, the power vacuum would be greater, and the jihadist problem would worsen. He also argued that such a move was not in America’s interest, had no clear exit strategy, and would cause an even greater humanitarian disaster, including thousands of dead American troops.
As president, Trump routinely called Syria a place of “sand and death.” Multiple times he attempted to pull the United States out of Syria, only to be met with Assad allegedly striking civilians and official Washington clamoring for a response. Finally, in December 2018, Trump gave a withdrawal order. This led to the resignation (or firing) of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, along with Brett McGurk, the former special envoy for Syria. Trump repeated that order in October 2019.
Jeffrey called Trump’s decision to fulfill his campaign promise and remove U.S. troops from Syria “the most controversial thing in my fifty years in government.” Each time Trump gave the withdrawal order, according to Jeffrey, Trump was “convinced to leave a residual force in Syria and the fight continued.” In reality, officials kept troops behind far above the “residual force,” unbeknownst to the president.
“What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal,” Jeffrey bragged. “When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.”
Officially, America has 200 to 400 troops on the ground in northeast Syria, ostensibly to guard the oil fields in that area held by U.S. Kurdish allies. Anonymous officials say the number is more like 900 today, however, and Jeffrey told Defense One that the number of troops in Syria is “a lot more than” the roughly 200 troops that Trump agreed to leave behind there in October 2019.
Defense One concluded its story by noting that Jeffrey didn’t support Trump but agrees with Trump’s “realpolitik” Middle East foreign policy and efforts to make North Atlantic Treaty Organization members pay more for defense. Jeffrey also said he views Joe Biden favorably. In fact, after signing a letter in 2016 that said Trump was unfit for the presidency, it appears as if Jeffrey still opposes Trump: “I know what I did in 2016, I do not disagree with that,” Jeffrey said.
While Defense One quoted colleagues who said Jeffrey is a “consummate apolitical public servant,” many others were upset by Jeffrey’s admissions. Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is furious and called for Jeffrey to be “punished.”
Who Has the Power in America?
People in Middle America should be enraged by Jeffrey’s interview. Washington, D.C., should be terrified that the American people might realize people like Jeffrey are only the tip of the iceberg. Jeffrey might be completely right about his view of the world and probably thinks he was doing the right thing, but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make Jeffrey’s behavior any less abhorrent.
People didn’t elect Jeffrey to anything. They elected Trump in 2016, and one factor in a bunch of working-class Americans opting for Trump was his promise not to start a new war in the Middle East. A large majority of Americans don’t want U.S. ground troops in Syria. Even a large chunk of Democrats who abhor Trump technically agree with his Syria policy. Labeling Jeffrey a “public servant” is a sick joke. Jeffrey is serving himself, or at least serving his ideology — and he does have an ideology.
Yes, it was Trump’s fault he hired people like John Bolton, a neoconservative ideologue who thought it was his job to stop Trump from following through with his campaign promises. Yet Trump isn’t ideological, and he often filled positions based on the recommendations of those around him, many of whom were card-carrying members of the Republican establishment.
Either way, Trump took a lot of heat for his order to pull troops out of Syria. Mattis resigned, and Democrats, media outlets, and Republicans such as Liz Cheney attacked Trump. Detractors hurled constant accusations that Trump wanting to get U.S. troops out of Syria was yet further proof he was a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s differences on foreign policy compared to the D.C. establishment, including over Syria policy, was even a significant factor in the FBI’s decision to legitimize baseless conspiracy theories that Trump was an agent of Russia.
Let’s step back for a second. Millions of working-class Americans, who also voted for Barack Obama, voted for Trump in 2016 because they wanted a change to policy. Now assume Trump is gone, and, truthfully, not much has changed on a fundamental level for many of these working-class citizens. What will happen when a large chunk of the American people realize their votes don’t affect policy?
Trump was considered norm-breaking and obnoxious to these D.C. insiders. Have these insiders not considered that the same people who sent Trump to the White House to shake things up might eventually opt for someone even more norm-breaking than Trump?
Willis L. Krumholz holds a JD and MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas. The views expressed are those of the author only. You can follow Willis on Twitter @WillKrumholz.
The Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, a progressive liberal advocacy organization “dedicated to ensuring human rights protections” for immigrants and asylum seekers—including apparently terrorists—filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.
The lawsuit claimed that DHS was refusing to release the identity of Tier III terrorist organizations, unlike the identities of what are defined as Tier I and Tier II terrorist groups that are publicly identified.
Tier III terrorist organizations “tend to be groups about which the U.S. government does not have good intelligence, making it essential that [DHS] be able to obtain information about them during screening interviews that are as focused and complete as possible.”
The government argued that Tier III terrorist organizations are exempt from disclosure under FOIA because it would disclose “techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations.”
Individuals in Tier III groups are more likely than other asylum seekers “to commit violent or otherwise unlawful acts.” The court accepted the government’s assertion that if immigrants become aware of the identity of these Tier III organizations, which the Heartland Alliance made clear it intended to publicize, then members of the groups would “have a very strong incentive to falsify or misrepresent ” their “encounters, activities, or associations” with the terrorist groups.
If the immigrants don’t know a terrorist organization they have been associated with has been identified by the government, they are “likely to be less guarded in answering questions about [their] activities or associations with the organization.”
All three members of the panel agreed that the FOIA exemption applied, particularly because the Heartland Alliance could not “explain what the government would gain by pretending that harmless organizations are actually terrorist groups.”
The Heartland Alliance also made it clear that “its goal in the litigation” was to “discredit” the government’s classification of terrorist organizations, according to the court. Both “the tone and content” of its briefs “signals its disbelief that the government has secrets worth keeping from asylum seekers and their helpers.”
However, in a spirited concurrence written by Judge Daniel Manion, the judge expressed his “concern about the apparent lack of Syrian Christians as a part of immigrants from that country.”
According to Manion, it is “well-documented” that the refugees are not representative of that “war-torn area of the world.” Ten percent of the Syrian population is Christian and “yet less than one-half of 1 percent of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States this year are Christian.”
President Barack Obama set a goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S., and by August that goal had already been exceeded. But of the “nearly 11,000 refugees admitted by mid-September, only 56 were Christian.”
Yet Christian Syrians have been one of the primary targets of the Islamic jihadists infesting Syria and butchering, murdering, and killing civilians. The Islamic State has made it clear that it is going after Christians because it intends to “conquer Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.”
Muslim Christian Persecution / Image added by whatdidyousay.org
Thus, one would expect that Christian Syrians would represent a significant portion of the Syrians being accepted into the U.S. as refugees. But that hasn’t been the case, and, according to Manion, the Obama administration has no “good explanation for this perplexing discrepancy.” Thus, we “remain in the dark as a humanitarian catastrophe continues.”
Image added by WhatDidYouSay.org
This is also relevant to the complaints of various states about the Obama administration settling Syrian refugees in them without providing any information about the people arriving. As Manion points out, “the good people of this country routinely welcome immigrants from all over the world. But in a democracy, good data is critical to public debate about national immigration policy.”
The courts and the Obama administration “demand high evidentiary burdens for states seeking to keep their citizens safe, and then prevent the states from obtaining that evidence” on these refugees. That creates a catch-22 for state governments.
So while the administration brings Syrian refugees into the country by the thousands, it is concealing basic information about those refugees behind a wall of government secrecy. This, despite the fact that the Syrian refugee crisis has been the catalyst for the infiltration of terrorists into Western Europe.
Yet the administration refuses to tell the American public or the states how it is making its decisions on who it is accepting for resettlement in the U.S., or even what steps it is taking to ensure we don’t have the same infiltration here.
Or why, in a religious civil war where Christians are one of the main targets of the Islamic terrorists engaging in indiscriminate slaughter, it is bringing in almost none of those victims of one of the worst human rights atrocities of the new century.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hans von Spakovsky/ @HvonSpakovsky