A new story from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

To KCRW I'm Larry Parral next time on All Things Considered some Democrats say they're feeling optimistic about their party's candidate for Virginia state legislature will have a look into a race that's shaping up to be at least in part about gun control as the impeachment inquiry moves forward can other legislative business happen in a gridlock Congress able Louisiana's democratic governor survive the election to save his seat plus local news weather and traffic it's All Things Considered from NPR and Casey are W. a Friday edition starts at three this is pressed play on Barbara bill gave Turkey's invasion into northern Syria escalated yesterday dozens of Kurdish fighters were killed tens of thousands have fled the region this just days after president trump ordered American troops out of the area no decision has been widely condemned both at home and abroad viewed as abandoning along loyal ally to the US to help combat Islamic state militants in the region especially for many veterans of both the war in Iraq and the fight against ISIS president trump's move seems like nothing less than a betrayal Porter Goodman is one such veteran he's a Redlands high school graduate who served in the army in Iraq in two thousand and six and two thousand seven in twenty sixteen as a civilian he returned to the Middle East to support the Kurdish militia in northern Syria and he's with us now welcome to the show Porter thank you so when you heard president trump's announcement this week what was your reaction well it was initially I saw the initial statement came out before anyone had time to react to it and I almost didn't believe it when I woke up the next morning Monday morning I was I was furious and elaborate on that because I'm I'm thinking it must mean something different to someone like you who served in the Miller military and to your fellow veterans to betray an ally like that given the military culture right so I've been following what's going on nonstop for years and years especially since I've returned from Syria I mean this is only two or three weeks following you know the United States civil to persuade the Kurds in Syria to dismantle all their defensive fortifications along the border and so then and the Kurds were willing to do that because they do not want this war they're willing to do whatever it takes to prevent this war from happening and I may we had they had guarantees from the United States and so for the United States to for trump to set it to turn around two weeks later and say Hey we're actually gonna step away from the border I turkeys gonna come in and they're going to take over the area I I mean it it's it's crazy it is it's a betrayal have you been in contact with your Kurdish friends this week I yeah some of them yes there there distraught they they feel betrayed a lot of people actually have been telling the Kurds that this would happen you know like Kate United States a you know like why are you working with then why are you and the Kurds really hopes that it would be different this time the courts have been what time for they been abandoned many times throughout history and they hope this would be different and right now it's not looking that way we'll tell me more about your story in twenty sixteen you had already been back from the Middle East for almost a decade from your service so what inspired you to go back to Syria to help a Kurdish fighters in their battle against ISIS right so I always maintained an interest in the reason and the region following my my deployment to Iraq I knew the Kurds were when ISIS sprang up I was really following it closely in the media and I also proud of the Kurds were the people who were who were actually standing their ground fighting for their their homes and villages and towns and they were actually stopping ISIS from continuing to take over more territory and that's almost always not closely nor I called it the more I learn Alex Kurds and their democratic project you know they've implemented this new form of democracy that concentrates power community level they're very protective of ethnic and religious minorities and and they're really really pushing hard gender equality and women's rights which is huge in the region and and they they're making such incredible progress that I was just I was amazed I what they've been able to accomplish in the midst of a brutal civil war where they are surrounded on one side by ISIS and then on the other side by the hospital Turkish state and they were asking for help from abroad and they asked me to come in I have to go when you say you reached out how did you reach out how to how does one even go about doing this so I wasn't the first volunteer to travel to to Syria to help the Kurds many volunteers gonna help and so I I sort of just followed what I saw other volunteers that I've done you know and there were a lot of news articles where are these volunteers were interviewed and and ask the same question and so I just looked at their answers are found that there was a website at the time called dark lines of Rosado which was kind of not exactly recruitment page but it was a way to reach out to them and anyway so they had a kind of a process where you know reach out you you send essentially a resume you answer kind of a questionnaire to trying to kind of weed out and sat falling tears because they don't want to bring over a lot of nut cases after I reach out to them a week later they contacted me and and so they would like you to come tell me about your time over there what what were you doing initially I was actually doing a lot of our kind of civilian work I was teaching English I was helping at English translations of Curtis nervous documents I was teaching kids how to use computers lights help I was kind of consulting a radio station on what they would need to do and what equipment they would need to stream their radio station on the internet things like that but eventually I I joined a team of combat medics is composed of of other international volunteers like myself and there were times when we you know how to return fire but we weren't like a frontline unit you know kicking down doors and things like that we were really just trying to stay close to the front lines that we treat casualties what kind of close calls for example where we were staying like would change from day to day we're constantly from one is moving for each so a lot of times we would look for an abandoned house so like stay in for the night so one day I met Eric family told us so we can there is an abandoned house I know we can go we can stay in the house then they called isis and said Hey there's a bunch of white people in this house I spices sent but we we went to check out this house and decided it was not really defensible location and we left to stay somewhere nearby and then moments later and ISIS suicide truck came barreling through this village ran right up to this house and detonated so that was that was something this is probably exactly what your parents were afraid of right so in your time serving did your impressions of Kurdish fighters and Kurdish culture a change at all or did it just add to the impressions that had brought you back to the area in the first place yeah actually it's all there's a lot of the the research that I did there was a lot of misinformation and I was pretty I felt pretty validated when I arrived in in Syria and was working alongside the Kurds I did it I mean they were they were until I I so so many days your wife just felt welcomed by the fighters and by civilians I you know I was invited over for dinner when I was to instill in work I stayed people's homes for the night I and and and then when I was working with Melissa as you know that I would sit in circles with them sing songs laughs you know try to get through the language barrier I I will these people and and it was the you know one of my favorite things is actually working with the women's protection units and that's kind of the female like structure within the YPG you know these these girls a lot of our our teenagers and and that they're always smiling and if you talk to me asking what why why they're smiling whether happy they'll tell you they expected that they would live a life of servitude no servants their parents until are given in marriage not servants their husbands wrestler last and when the Syrian Kurds took control of marquee Syria and they started to implement this democratic project of theirs they pushed so hard for institutions that would guarantee women's rights I I mean they they are really just taking a giant leap to like modern standards of gender equality and women's rights and it's credible what do you say to people about your time there is there a moral to it that we could apply to other conflicts I can't assume for example in this instance I try and help Americans understand that our US involvement in Syria is nothing like US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan you know those wars combined cost us forty five hundred lives and and cost us trillions and trillions of dollars and the outcome I mean it's like barely passable and whereas you know northern northeast here it's not a never ending war we were invited in by the Kurds who had already taken control of territory there and I had already created their own democracy we we don't need to democracy builder we're not trying to push democracy on people who don't want it they already did it for themselves it's a self build democracy in the Middle East like this is incredible we're not police in a hostile civilian populace we are not dumping money into their infrastructure this not nation building the people there want us there they're terrified that if we leave Turkey will invade as they are doing right now this is this is an incredible opportunity at a tiny fraction a tiny tiny fraction of the cost of other middle eastern conflict only required you know hundreds of soldiers on the ground as a deterrent to Syria and Turkey trying to you know conquer this democracy in northeast yeah I mean it was this is a golden opportunity and.

Coming up next