Politics & Policy

Romney Demands Answers from White House on Syria Decision: ‘American Honor Has Already Been Tarnished’

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to the media after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump in Bedminster, N.J., November 19, 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

A day after he called President Trump’s handling of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria “unacceptable,” Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) gave a speech on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon demanding answers from the administration, and proposing that public hearings be held by the Senate to look into what he called “a blood stain in the annals of American history.”

Romney’s speech came several hours after Vice President Mike Pence announced that a ceasefire agreement had been reached with Turkey to end the nine-day conflict.

“The ceasefire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally,” Romney said. “Adding insult to dishonor, the administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly, even as our ally has suffered death and casualty. Their homes have been burned, and their families have been torn apart. . . . This is a matter of American honor and promise. So too, is the principle that we stand by our allies, that we do not abandon our friends. The decision to abandon the Kurds violates one of our most sacred duties. It strikes at American honor.”

Romney went on to voice concerns over how Trump’s initial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria has negatively impacted America’s influence in the region.

“Iranian and Russian interests in the Middle East have been advanced by our decision. At a time when we are applying maximum pressure on Iran, by giving them a stronger hand in Syria, we’ve actually weakened that pressure. Russia’s objective to play a greater role in the Middle East has also been greatly enhanced. The Kurds, out of desperation, have now aligned with Assad. So America is diminished, Russia, Iran, and Assad are strengthened,” he said.

The Utah senator also reiterated his displeasure with being left out of the decision-making process, despite serving on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, and despite hosting a hearing with his subcommittee on the Syria situation only a few weeks ago.

The speech closed with Romney’s dismissing arguments that the U.S. was right to have pulled out troops, and shouldn’t have been in Syria in the first place.

“Once you jump in the ocean to save a drowning soul, you don’t turn around with the excuse that you didn’t have to jump in in the first place. It is a matter of commitment,” Romney said.

“Are we incapable of understanding and shaping complex situations? Russia seems to have figured it out. Are we less adept than they? And are our principles to be jettisoned when we find things get messy? . . . Assuming for the sake of understanding that ‘getting out of endless wars’ was the logic for the decision, why would we take action so precipitously? Why would we not warn our ally the Kurds of what we were about to do? Why would we not give them time to also withdraw, or give them time to dig in to defend themselves? Clearly the Turks had a heads up, because they were able to start bombing within mere hours. I simply don’t understand why the administration did not explain in advance to Erdogan that it is unacceptable for Turkey to attack an American ally.”

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