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Posts published in “Jones”

Counting on the Census


A federal district court judge ruled on March 6 that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross broke the law by adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. A January 15 ruling by a different federal judge reached the same conclusion. The issue is scheduled to be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 23.

The judge in the March decision said Ross knew the question would result in an undercount of all people in the U.S. and was done for political purposes. The U.S. Constitution requires a count of all “persons” in the country, not just citizens. An accurate count is important because the number of persons determines how much is paid to each state for certain federal programs and, more importantly, the number of seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and Electoral College.

Ross was advised by census experts that asking the citizenship question would cause immigrants, particularly those without papers, to avoid the census. Nevertheless, he insisted on asking the question and lied about the reason for doing so.

It is not clear what the Supreme Court will do, but the outcome of the case is vitally important to Idaho and other fast-growing states. The next census will cause some states to lose Congressmen, while others will gain. This is not a partisan fight, but a competition between states that are gaining residents and those that are losing population. One projection indicates that Idaho may miss getting an additional member of the House by just 50,000 people, while another says the gap is fewer than 19,000. If we are that close, it is vitally important that every person within our borders be counted.

Idaho has a way to go to get a third seat, but it is the fastest growing state. It will grow an estimated 2.1% this year. Ada County alone grew by 3.6% last year. We have over 100,000 immigrants, many of them undocumented, and we simply can’t afford for them to be fearful of participating in the census. Too much is at stake if we have an opportunity to increase our power in the U.S. House by 50% and get another vote in the Electoral College.

There are a number of things we can do to make sure that all of our people are counted. Rather than waiting for the Supreme Court ruling, we should urge our Congressional delegation to support legislation prohibiting a citizenship question on the census. It violates the Constitution and serves no legitimate purpose. The 2020 Census IDEA Act, H.R. 732, will do just that. Our Senators and Congressmen should support this bill.

Each city and county should reach out to immigrants, refugees, homeless folks and college students to urge that they participate in the census. It would be a great way for communities to come together and realize how much we have in common. Maybe, by asking these folks to participate in this sort of joint venture, we could get to know them better and learn of their needs and talents. They might feel more a part of the Idaho community. We can and should let them know that we care and that they need not be fearful of taking part in this traditional decennial count of the population and otherwise taking part in community affairs.

Madison County and Rexburg have launched a joint effort to ensure an accurate census count. The Rexburg Mayor estimates that the city will miss out on $3,500-$4,000 in state and federal funds each year for every person not counted in the upcoming census. The city is letting college students at BYU-Idaho know that they can be counted in Idaho, even if they come from out of state. They just need to live in Idaho most of the year. The city has claimed it lost upwards of $20 million as a result of a 5,000 undercount of students in the 2010 census.

The 2020 head count in Idaho is important to the future of our State and we should all work toward making it a fair, honest and accurate process. The census is a constitutional responsibility and no place for political chicanery.

A stake through the heart


The people of Idaho decided in 1911 to put a process in place to enact or repeal legislation at the ballot box when they disagreed with the Idaho Legislature. It was part of a reform effort that was sweeping the country because of recalcitrant legislators. Idaho voters have used the initiative from time to time when the Legislature has refused to honor the popular will.

After the people tired of the Legislature’s refusal to expand Idaho’s Medicaid program, the voters acted to get the job done through an initiative. That initiative passed last year by a substantial majority.

Some legislators are offended when the people take the law into their own hands. Some think the voters are not smart enough to be able to pass legislation on their own--to second guess the elected representatives. There are often legislative efforts to repeal or redo when the people have spoken through passage of initiatives or referenda. We have seen that with the Medicaid initiative.

Now, legislation has been proposed that would kneecap the initiative and referendum process. With passage of that legislation, there would be no more people-initiated laws like Medicaid expansion and no more repeals by referendum like the Luna laws in 2012. The legislation, Senate Bill 1159, would effectively put a stop to this nonsense of the people being involved in the legislative process.

The bill would require a herculean signature-gathering effort to put an initiative or referendum measure on the general election ballot. Instead of having to gather signatures from more than 6% of voters in each of 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, proponents would have to get the signatures of at least 10% of voters in each of 32 legislative districts. The statewide total of voter signatures would be increased from 6% to 10%. And, the signatures would have to be gathered in 180 days, rather than the current 18 months.

It is not as if the people of Idaho misuse the initiative/referendum process. Even though the process was put into the Constitution in 1911, it was not even used until 1938 when the voters established the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. It has been sparingly used since then.

The Legislature has tried to make it difficult to get a measure on the ballot in the past. In 1997, the Legislature put in a requirement that a ballot measure had to have signatures from at least 6% of the voters in each of 22 counties. However, on November 30, 2001, the federal court in Idaho found this requirement unconstitutional. For inquiring minds, the case is Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrusa (234 F.Supp.2d 1159). The dreaded Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in 2003.

The Legislature, assuming that the provision was unconstitutional, formally repealed it in 2007. However, the Legislature resurrected the scheme in 2013 with the current signature requirement 6% of voters in each of 18 legislative districts. That has not been tested in court yet, but it certainly appears to be on infirm ground in light of the bear coalition decision. SB 1159 would be even more vulnerable to challenge.

Article I, section 2 of the Idaho Constitution declares: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary.” The people approved the Idaho Constitution, delegating the legislative power to the Legislature, but then decided to take back some of that power through the initiative/referendum process. It is odd that some in the Legislature now wish to drive a stake into the heart of that people-driven legislative process.

The Garden of Eden on Idaho Day


March 4 is Idaho Day, the day Idahoans commemorate the establishment of Idaho Territory by President Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1863. Former State Representative Linden Bateman, a dedicated history enthusiast from Idaho Falls, convinced the Legislature to designate the 4th of March each year as the day to celebrate the birth of our great State. What a great idea!

The theme of Idaho Day this year is “My Town Idaho.” When Linden suggested I write an Idaho Day column, I wondered what could be said about Eden, my hometown in the Magic Valley. After all, it only had 456 people when I was growing up - according to the sign as you entered town. And, I was never sure how it got its name. Was there really a garden involved?

On the other hand, Eden served as the springboard for Terrel Bell, who served as U.S. Secretary of Education for President Reagan from 1981 to 1984. He began his teaching career at Eden High School in 1946. I started grade school across the street in 1948. Bell is credited with convincing President Reagan not to do away with the U.S. Department of Education.

My father, Henry Jones, put Eden on the map for a number of years--operating the largest cattle-feeding operation in the area at that time. He was well known as a man of his word in all of his dealings, often paying above market price for cattle feed. He was a great example.

But Eden played a role in the larger world. In 1942, the federal government shamefully set up a camp that imprisoned about 9,000 people of Japanese ancestry for the duration of World War II. It was known locally as the Hunt Camp and located about 6 miles northwest of Eden, as the crow flies.

Over 60% of the people incarcerated in what was officially called the Minidoka War Relocation Center were U.S. citizens, but that did not make any difference. President Roosevelt was advised that these folks did not pose a security threat, but that did not make any difference, either.

War hysteria, much of it whipped up by demagogues and pandering politicians, overcame common sense and decency. It goes to show the power of fear-driven policy, especially where an easily identifiable group of people is the target.

These loyal Americans were housed in drafty tar-paper barracks. It is interesting that this and other such concentration camps produced a crop of patriotic young soldiers who fought and died for the country that was incarcerating their families at home. William Nakamura, who enlisted from the Hunt Camp in 1943, died fighting for the United States near Castellina, Italy, on the Fourth of July, 1944. The Congressional Medal of Honor, recognizing his extraordinary heroism, was awarded to his family on June 21, 2000-- 56 years later.

Idaho citizens have come to recognized the injustice visited on these good people. Governor Brad Little issued a proclamation on February 18 to remember those who were incarcerated at what is now known as the Minidoka National Historic Site.

There is little left at the site nowadays. In the late 40s and early 50s, there were still quite a few of the decrepit tar-paper buildings located there. Most were moved off-site to serve as houses or outbuildings for veterans who homesteaded the Hunt Project. I think some of them were used at the Eden schools as auxiliary buildings.

On April 17, 1952, CBS Radio (for younger readers, there was no TV to speak of and almost everyone listened to the radio stations for their news) was at the Hunt Camp to conduct a national broadcast of Farm-In-A-Day. A farmstead was built pretty much in one day by 1,500 volunteers, who constructed a house, corrals, and outbuildings for a military veteran and his family. There were reportedly 11,000 spectators, including me and the Schutte boys, Jim and Burton. It was a big deal.

So, in light of all that, maybe Eden was not such small potatoes in the eyes of the Potato State. Actually, it was a great place to grow up--a nice little town and wonderful people. Happy birthday to our dear State and its remarkable people, especially the good people of and from Eden.

We don’t need this Hadian rhetoric


Here we go again. Shahram Hadian, a tireless anti-Muslim crusader, is coming back to Idaho to spew harmful conspiracy theories about the Islamic faith. On a previous visit, he almost caused serious damage to Idaho’s child support collection system with his false claims.

During the 2015 legislative session, Hadian made the preposterous claim that passage of legislation to comply with federal child support collection rules would lead to the adoption of Islamic law by Idaho courts. Sharia law cannot be imposed and there is absolutely no effort by anyone to impose it. Nor is there any chance that our courts would adopt it.

His absurd claim caused the legislation to fail. As a result, Idaho almost lost $16 million in federal funds and the ability to collect about $28.8 million in child support from out-of-state parents. Governor Otter had to call a special legislative session to repair the damage to our child support system.

Hadian travels around the country denouncing Islam as a false religion, vilifying refugees, and criticizing Pope Francis and other prominent religious leaders for their ecumenical efforts. He also peddles DVDs, books and other paraphernalia to raise funds along the way.

His main theme is that Islam is the enemy of the United States and intent on subverting it from the inside. He ignores the fact that Islam is the second-largest world religion with about 1.8 billion adherents and that many Muslim-majority nations have been our close allies, contributing to our national security.

Our troops have fought side-by-side with Muslim soldiers in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, combatting terrorists who profess a perverted view of Islam. Many of those Muslim soldiers put themselves at risk by helping American forces, but Hadian demands that we keep them and all other Muslims from seeking refuge here from wars that we have waged.

Our state has Muslim refugees from a number of countries, including Bosnia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria--people who fled for their very lives from oppressive governments and religious zealots. They have worked hard, started businesses, become good citizens and enriched our communities. We really don’t need a religious zealot to foment suspicion about, or hatred against, these good people.

When Hadian rails against Pope Francis, who he claims is promoting “Chrislam,” a melding of the Christian and Islamic faiths, we might remind him of the anti-Catholic campaign against presidential candidate Al Smith in I928. Claims of demagogues that Smith would essentially give the Pope control over our government contributed to his defeat. Such claims were also raised, but disregarded, in the 1960 presidential race.

Hadian might also be informed of the prejudice and religious hatred drummed up against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over the years. When Idaho’s Constitution was drafted in 1889, a number of provisions were adopted to prevent Mormons from taking over, or even participating in, the Idaho government. Even now, there are some who continue to claim that it is not a legitimate religion.

We should also reflect on the hate and libels directed against our Jewish community through the many years. Jews have always been a favorite target of hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In 2010, a furniture maker in Kamiah confided to me that Jewish international bankers were taking over the world, and in August 2017 torch-wielding white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, were ominously chanting that “Jews will not replace us.” These torch carriers were not “good people” as some politicians claimed. The good people were their targets.

This country was founded by people seeking religious freedom. It was enshrined in our Constitution. It is one reason why we have a separation of church and state--so that a single state religion cannot be imposed on the people. There is a place here for all religions and there should be tolerance for them all, as well as their followers.

Mr. Hadian has the right to spout his false and divisive claims, but we don’t have buy his hateful message. Idaho is better than that.

It ain’t broke


After much partisan wrangling in the Legislature and lengthy fighting through the courts, Idahoans voted to fix Idaho’s legislative redistricting system by removing it from raw politics. In 1994, the people approved an amendment to the Idaho Constitution empowering an independent panel to divide the State into legislative districts. The two major parties were each to appoint three members to the six-person panel.

The system has performed its work in two reapportionments--following the 2000 census and after the 2010 census. It has not been perfect, but it has reduced the partisan rancor and endless litigation that caused the voters to approve it. Plus, it has reduced the possibility of pernicious gerrymandering that can dilute the votes of city-dwellers in Idaho’s more-populous counties.

What brought the people to demand that partisanship be kept out of redistricting? It was an ugly situation and I had a front-row seat as Idaho Attorney General. In 1981, the Republican-dominated Legislature passed a reapportionment bill which Governor Evans vetoed. The next year, the Legislature passed a bill that was signed by the Governor. It was challenged in court and found unconstitutional by a district judge in Sandpoint.

The Idaho Supreme Court upheld the judge’s ruling in June of 1983 and sent the case back so he could adopt a new apportionment plan. That court approved a plan devised by a North Idaho College professor. The plan called for 21 additional legislators and established seven large, overlying districts called floterial districts, as well as six multi-member districts.

In January of 1983, as I was stepping into the AG office, the Supreme Court ruled that the plan would go into effect, unless the Legislature adopted a constitutional alternative. The Legislature approved a plan that the Governor signed, but the Court found it inadequate.

I asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene but it declined. The Republican legislative leadership sought help in federal court but was rebuffed. They then drafted a revised plan, but the Governor refused to call a special session to consider it. So, the odd plan drafted by the professor went into effect.

The lawyer representing those who challenged the Legislature’s plans throughout the lengthy litigation collected $145,000 from the State for his work. It would have been north of a million dollars at today’s rates.

These things can produce unexpected results. The Democrats thought the professor’s plan would benefit them, while my fellow Republicans were scared to death of it. It turned out they were both wrong because the plan slightly favored Republicans--the law of unintended consequences. And, the majority party does not always remain in the majority—what comes around can often go around, as they say.

Now, there is a move afoot to re-inject partisan gerrymandering into the redistricting process. It is proposed that the majority party in Idaho have an extra vote on the panel and that decisions be made by a simple majority vote rather than the currently-required two-thirds vote. That would return us to the pre-reform system where raw politics would give an unfair advantage to the party then in the majority. The proposal, House Joint Resolution No. 2 (HJR 2), would be an invitation to more litigation, with the risk of court-imposed reapportionment plans.

There is one other fact to consider. The U.S. Supreme Court will likely issue a major ruling this year on the permissibility of partisan gerrymandering. It has two cases currently before it--one from Maryland where the Democrats gerrymandered and one from North Carolina where Republicans benefitted. Why not wait to squabble over the issue until there is guidance from that court?

As we commemorate George Washington’s birthday on Presidents Day, let’s remember and heed his prescient warnings against political partisanship. I suspect that Abraham Lincoln would also disapprove of partisan gerrymandering. Historian Allen Guelzo has observed that Lincoln may have lost his 1858 Senate race because of gerrymandering. At that time, Senators were selected by state legislatures. The majority Democrats in the Illinois legislature selected Lincoln’s rival for the Senate seat, even though Republican candidates had received more votes in the legislative election.

Guidance from Honest Abe


As we observe the 210th anniversary of the birth of America’s greatest president on February 12, we should reflect on Abraham Lincoln’s reputation for truthfulness. After all, we fondly recall him as “Honest Abe.” He first gained that nickname as a young store clerk in New Salem, Illinois, and carried it through his entire life.

Lincoln famously said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” He was absolutely right - the solution of any crisis depends upon knowing the true facts. It is the sacred duty of our leaders to tell us the truth.

This great country has developed a reliable infrastructure for gathering intelligence from around the world in order to advise our leadership of threats to our national security. The U.S. intelligence community is not perfect or foolproof. It has been wrong in the past but I would submit that most of the instances where it appears to have erred were the result of presidential pressure or obfuscation.

When intel reports were privately warning him of trouble ahead in Vietnam, President Johnson ignored the cautionary advice and substantially increased our troop commitment. The public was not provided with the true facts about what was happening in Vietnam and was not able to critically evaluate his policy. President Nixon also had trouble telling us the truth about Vietnam.

President George W. Bush jumped into a disastrous war in Iraq based on cooked up intelligence. The CIA tried on several occasions to convince the administration that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States, but was ignored. After unrelenting pressure brought to bear on the agency by Vice President Cheney, the CIA gave in and said Iraq probably possessed weapons of mass destruction. So, we went to war on faulty intel.

The present obfuscation by President Trump is every bit as troubling and dangerous to America’s national security. The President has rejected the intelligence community’s assessment of the serious threats posed to the U.S. by Russia, North Korea and the Islamic State. Instead, he has ridiculed the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the CIA and FBI for speaking truthfully to him.

It is no secret that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons and the intel chiefs made that clear to Trump. His rejection of their assessment puts Kim Jong-un in the driver’s seat. Knowing he has the President’s trust, Kim can continue to lead Trump down the primrose path to more concessions.

The intel community knows that the Islamic State will be a serious danger to the U.S., even after the terrorists have been dislodged from their remaining enclaves in Syria. The intelligence experts had little success in disavowing Trump of the misconception that ISIS has been defeated. Ignoring the truth in Syria will come back to haunt us.

Of course, the President continues to disregard the intelligence community’s warnings about Russia’s malevolent actions. Rather than treating Russia like the enemy it is, Trump continues to do favors for Vladimir Putin. The U.S. has just disavowed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that was negotiated by President Ronald Reagan—something that has been near the top of Putin’s wish list.

Vladimir must also be tickled pink that Trump blasted the veracity and competence of our intelligence establishment for all of the world to hear. Rather than discrediting our intelligence professionals for speaking the truth, he should be praising them. We have the right to expect our President to follow in the footsteps of Honest Abe and speak the truth to the American people on important national security issues.

A scatter gun


With the start of the 2019 legislative session in Idaho and the continual turmoil in Washington, there is an overload of fodder for political commentary. Here are some brief comments on several of the issues swirling around the political sphere.

Governor Brad Little, has declared public education his “number one priority.” Among other things, he wants about $60 million in additional funding for teachers’ salaries. That is a good step in the right direction, but it did not take long for critics to come forward.

NNU professor Peter Crabb wrote an opinion piece asserting that the Governor’s plan to increase school spending might not pay off. The professor opined that instead of increasing teacher pay, the Governor would get better results by freeing up teachers to employ innovative teaching methods.

The problem is that teachers are leaving Idaho in droves to teach in surrounding states where the pay is better - 15% leave after one year of teaching and 30% of teachers certified in Idaho do not teach here. Teachers can’t innovate in Idaho if they have flown the coop to where they are more valued. We should not only pay them more, but show them in other ways that they are valued and respected for the important service they provide.

Our new Governor has acknowledged climate change and appears to be open to extending protection against discrimination to the gay community. He seems to have an independent streak and an open mind.

Speaking of elected officials with integrity, Congressman Mike Simpson was one of ten Republican House members to vote on January 23 to reopen the government. That vote helped to break the deadlock that was convulsing our country. The rest of our delegation just sat on their hands like tame little minions. Our Senators voiced support for legislation to avoid future shutdowns but did not bother to deal with the one causing immediate havoc.

After the government agencies reopened on January 28, the President expressed regret for the great hardships that the 800,000 government employees had suffered for the sake of his dream of a border wall. Then, he indicated he might do a shutdown replay if he did not get wall money in the next three weeks. It apparently worked so well the first time that a sequel is in the offing.

Mike Simpson also deserves plaudits for opposing the lifting of sanctions against companies controlled by Oleg Deripaska, one of Vladimir Putin’s kleptocratic Russian pals. Deripaska is certainly no friend of the U.S. The House voted overwhelmingly (362-53, including 136 Republicans) against the President’s plan to lift the sanctions. The rest of our delegation voted in favor of Deripaska, resulting in a multi-million-dollar windfall for the oligarch. News reports issued after Deripaska’s victory indicate the Senate was flimflammed into thinking the kleptocrat would not benefit from the lifting of sanctions against his companies.

On January 22, Simpson voted to support our continued relationship with our NATO allies. That relationship has been the cornerstone of our national security for the last 70 years, but the President has been toying with the idea of bailing out. The 357-22 House vote was designed to inform Trump that America stands with NATO. Unfortunately, Russ Fulcher voted the other way. I hope someone clues him in on the importance of our NATO partnership.

Mike is not perfect, but who among us is? Some of his votes have caused my hair to stand on end, but he is the most thoughtful, reasonable and courageous member of the delegation. When it comes to Idaho issues, like protecting the White Clouds, he has been a steady leader. I don’t regret endorsing him when he first ran for the State Legislature in 1984.

Faith healing and right to life


In the 1944 decision of Prince v. Massachusetts, which can be found at 321 U.S. 158, the United States Supreme Court upheld the ability of a state to protect a child against a parent’s harmful religious practices. The Court said “the right to practice religion freely does not include the right to expose” a child “to ill health or death.”

The Prince decision recognized that people of faith have the constitutional right to believe as they wish. However, a state government may step in where a parent’s spiritual beliefs cause harm to his or her children. “Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow that they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.”

Even before statehood, Idaho Territory required all parents to “furnish necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention” to their children. This requirement is currently contained in Idaho Code section 18-401. This statute, together with one prohibiting any person from endangering the health of a child (Idaho Code section 18-1501), protected the health of Idaho kids for many years. But, in 1972, the Legislature inserted faith-healing provisions into both of them. Since then, persons who practice faith healing may refuse to provide food and medical care to their children, without penalty, even if the children die or suffer grievous bodily harm.

The main beneficiary of the faith-healing exemption is the Followers of Christ group in Canyon County. Church graveyards contain the remains of many children who could have been saved by readily available medical care.

The statutory faith-healing exemptions certainly appear to violate the Guaranty of Religious Liberty provision (Article 1, Section 4) of the Idaho Constitution. The framers of the Constitution wanted to protect religious freedom, but were also intent on preventing religious preferences. The framers adopted a stricter separation of church and state for Idaho than that in the U.S. Constitution.

Our Constitution prohibits “any preference being given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.” Faith healing looks very much like a prohibited preference for a particular mode of worship, in addition to being a horrible fate for innocent children. While the great majority of Idaho citizens would be held to answer on serious criminal charges for starving a child or refusing to provide the child with necessary medical care, faith healers can do so without legal consequence.

The faith-healing exemption has not been tested in court yet, but that is a possible option for removing the preference. However, the Legislature caused the problem and should take responsibility for correcting it.

Each year, the Legislature passes legislation intended to protect fetuses from being aborted. This is largely based on the religious belief that a soul is created at inception, that it has the right to live, and that government must act to protect its right to life until it is carried to term.

The contention is that the government has a strong role in protecting the right to life of every fetus. Wouldn’t it follow that the government should protect the life and health of every child born in the state? Why should the law give faith healers a preference to deny their children life-saving medical care, as well as necessary food, clothing and shelter?

Let’s ask our legislators to remove the religious preference of faith healers so that they, like all of the rest of us, must provide reasonable care for their kids. There is no good reason why those kids should be denied the right to life. And, it should be stressed to legislators that the intent of removing the preference is not to punish people, but to establish the limits of acceptable conduct toward vulnerable children.

Pasting together feathers


After American forces defeated Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) did not have the foggiest idea of how to form a new government to run the country. Just about everything the CPA did was wrong. One participant characterized the CPA effort as “pasting together feathers, hoping for a duck.” That is also an accurate description of the Trump administration’s Syria policy.

The President announced on December 19 that all U.S. forces would be withdrawn from Syria in 30 days. The decision was apparently precipitated by a phone call between Trump and the Turkish president five days earlier. The call was intended to warn Erdogan against attacking our Kurdish allies in Syria, but Trump blurted out, “You know what? It’s yours. I’m leaving.” Just like that, we washed our hands of Syria.

The withdrawal decision was gleefully received by our enemies--ISIS, Russia, Syria and Iran. They have all wanted us out of the way in Syria. On the other hand, the President blindsided our Defense and State Departments, who correctly believed we were pursuing a winning strategy in Syria--eliminating the threat of ISIS terrorists and countering the threat posed to our Israeli and Arab allies by Iran.

The precipitous decision caused the Secretary of Defense to resign in protest. Many knowledgeable people of both parties have shown that ISIS is still a threat and will be able to regenerate in the vacuum left when we bug out. National security adviser, John Bolton, tried to do damage control in Israel but was undercut by the President. Now, neither our allies, nor our enemies, know what U.S. policy is.

The President said his withdrawal would bring home the 2,000 troops working with the Kurds, implying it was a big favor to the troops. While I can’t speak for those troops, I imagine the decision has caused many of them a great deal of heartache. They were working with dedicated Kurdish warriors who were knocking the daylights out of the Islamic State cutthroats. What greater job could American patriots have? Their work has been cut short and I’m betting they are sick at heart about it.

The Syrian Kurds have been faithful allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS for the last four years. They have suffered thousands of casualties in our joint fight against the terrorists. At the same time, they have set up a large enclave in northeast Syria, which is governed under the most enlightened principles in the region.

We promised the Syrian Kurds we would support them against their many regional enemies when the work was done. The increasingly autocratic Erdogan wrongly brands them as terrorists for his own political ends. Every despot has to invent an enemy to rally the population against--usually foreigners, ethnic groups or the like. Erdogan has pledged to exterminate our Syrian friends. I doubt that our service personnel who have formed bonds with the Kurdish forces are too keen about that prospect, or about abandoning them in the first place.

I know what that situation is like. Fifty years ago, I lived and worked with South Vietnamese soldiers, many of whom were Catholic refugees from North Vietnam. In 1954, their entire village in the north picked up and fled south to escape Communist persecution. They were wonderful people. When the U.S. left Vietnam, we gave the South Vietnamese ironclad assurances that we would keep them supplied and give them strong air support in the event of a Communist attack. We flat failed to honor our promises and many of my friends suffered death or imprisonment as a result. We simply can’t repeat that kind of tragic betrayal.

It would be a stain on the honor of the United States to abandon our Kurdish allies who have sacrificed much to serve American aims in the region. The job has not been finished and we have made promises that an honorable nation would work hard to keep.