WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday over sharp criticism of his decision to pull back U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, insisting he is focused on the “BIG PICTURE” that doesn’t include American involvement in “stupid endless wars” in the Middle East.
“Fighting between various groups that has been going on for hundreds of years. USA should never have been in Middle East,” Trump said in a series of morning tweets. “The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!”
Turkey launched its offensive Wednesday against Kurdish fighters in Syria, who have helped the U.S. against the Islamic State. Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists, and Trump’s decision to pull back U.S. troops leaves them vulnerable to the military onslaught.
Trump’s words are at odds with longstanding U.S. policy of keeping thousands of American troops in the strategically important region, and his decision is being condemned by some of his staunchest Republican allies.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close Trump ally, stepped up his criticism of the president Wednesday, telling “Fox & Friends” that if Trump “follows through with this, it would be the biggest mistake of his presidency.”
In tweets, Graham urged prayers for “our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration,” adding, “This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS.” He also said he would lead an effort in Congress to “make Erdogan pay a heavy price,” referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who announced the offensive into northern Syria.
Another Trump ally, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the GOP leadership, said she was sickened by the prospect of a Turkish incursion. “Impossible to understand,” she tweeted, why Trump “is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”
Trump argued on Twitter that “GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!” He said the U.S. went to war under a “false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. There were NONE!”
Trump said he is “slowly & carefully” bringing home “our great soldiers & military,” in line with his campaign promise to do so.
He added: “Our focus is on the BIG PICTURE! THE USA IS GREATER THAN EVER BEFORE!”
Trump’s call for ending U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and bringing the troops home was a feature of his presidential campaign, but it flies in the face of many decades of bipartisan American policy, even as the Trump administration and its immediate predecessor have tried to give additional attention to what they see as long-term security threats elsewhere, including from China and Russia.
The U.S. has more than 10,000 troops based across the Middle East, including about 5,200 in Iraq, 1,000 in Syria and several thousand others at bases in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Also, the U.S. Navy’s Mideast headquarters is at Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.
Just a couple of months ago the Pentagon reestablished a troop presence in Saudi Arabia after a lengthy absence, and in May it added air and naval forces in the region in response to what it views as worrying threats from Iran.
As a further sign that the military does not share Trump’s view that the fight against the extremists is over, a press release Wednesday by the U.S.-led military coalition combating IS highlighted recent battlefield gains. It concluded by saying that “removing” IS fighters, weapons and bomb materials “remains a top priority” as the group “continues to plot attacks against innocent civilians and our partners throughout Iraq and northeast Syria.”
Trump has long criticized President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, but the subsequent rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State has convinced many national security officials, and lawmakers such as Graham, that a precipitous U.S. troop withdrawal from the region would leave the U.S. and its allies even more vulnerable to extremism.
Trump also claimed the U.S. has spent $8 trillion “fighting and policing” in the Middle East, up from the $7 trillion figure he has cited numerous times.
Trump is using an inflated estimate on the cost of wars and referring in part to predicted costs going decades into the future, not money actually spent. Some of the spending also reflects his policy decisions he made since taking office nearly three years ago.
Graham said Congress “will push back” against Turkey. He had said earlier this week that he was working on a bipartisan bill to sanction Turkey if they invade Syria, but he did not mention the proposal during Wednesday’s interview.
“We’re not giving Turkey a green light in Congress and we’re not going to abandon the Kurds,” he said. “If the President does so, we won’t.”
Trump announced Tuesday that he and Erdogan will meet at the White House on Nov. 13.
Overall reported crime fell last year at Kansas State University’s Manhattan campus, according to the 2019 Campus Security and Fire Safety report.
Officials released the report last week in compliance with federal law. The report deals with crimes handled by K-State Police in 2018.
This is on trend with a recent Kansas Bureau of Investigation report that showed overall crime in Riley County was down in 2018 from 2017.
In general, reported crime such as burglary, rape and dating violence were lower than in 2017.
The university received nine on-campus burglary reports, down from 12 in 2017. There were two reports of on-campus vehicle thefts, one more than in 2017.
There was one reported race-related hate crime in 2018.
The report says sex- and relationship-related crimes also were down. Police responded to two reported rapes on campus and another five on noncampus property. There were four reported rapes on campus and eight on noncampus property in 2017. There were two reports of fondling, one less than 2017.
Noncampus refers to any building or property owned or controlled by a student organization officially recognized by the institution, which includes greek houses.
Officers recorded three domestic violence incidents versus eight in 2017, four dating violence incidents versus 12 in 2017 and two stalking incidents versus seven in 2017.
Meanwhile, arrests and referrals for liquor law and drug abuse violations were higher than the previous year.
Referrals are citations such as minor in possession of alcohol or consumption or possession of marijuana.
Campus police arrested 54 people on campus for violating liquor laws, 18 more than 2017, and 22 people for drug abuse, 11 more than 2017.
Officers gave 314 people referrals for liquor law violations, 53 more than 2017.
Drug abuse referrals were slightly down, from 56 in 2017 to 36 in 2018.
The majority of Manhattan City Commission wants ban vaping in public parks, but commissioners are divided on whether to allow vaping in current and future e-cigarette shops.
Commissioners provided feedback Tuesday on signage, fines and their overall thoughts about vaping and smoking to Jared Wasinger, assistant to the city manager, as administrators seek to combine the e-cigarette and cigarette ordinances.
Voters passed the cigarette ordinance in 2008 with a 10-year ban on a repeal or amendment of the law.
Prior to the 10-year mark, the commission passed an e-cigarette ordinance.
There are four vaping establishments in Manhattan, Wasinger said.
Commissioners Usha Reddi and Jerred McKee, who said he used to vape but no longer does, suggested allowing vaping in the current stores but stopping it at future stores, but city attorney Katie Jackson said this could create an issue of not treating all businesses fairly.
Commissioner Wynn Butler said consistency with this issue is important.
“I do not like the idea of putting a monopoly on existing vape shops because that’s what we’re doing,” Butler said.
Butler said it wouldn’t be fair if the commission only allowed established vape shops to have in-store vaping while prohibiting it in any future business. He said he did not want the ordinance to be so extreme that it drives people to violate the law.
He provided an example of when Ascension Via Christi Hospital enacted a smoke-free campus, which drove people to smoke across the street in a Kansas State University parking lot — where smoking is not allowed either.
Mayor Mike Dodson also agreed with Butler while commissioner Linda Morse wanted to ban smoking at all businesses.
Wasinger said the proposed language will reflect the desires of the Flint Hills Wellness Coalition, which also favored grandfathering existing shops. The coalition, a group of Manhattan and Riley County organizations advocating for healthy living, prompted the idea of combining the two ordinances into one as well as defining the language in the ordinance.
Administrators said the ordinance would more clearly define that smoking and vaping is prohibited in any city park, city-owned parking garages and other public spaces such as in restaurants and work establishments.
Fines would not exceed $100 for a first-time offense, according to the draft ordinance. A second violation would not exceed $200 for a fine while a third violation would not go over $500 within one year after the first violation, Wasinger said.
Dodson said he does not want signs everywhere, especially in city parks, but Wasinger said the intent of the ordinance is to not put signs up everywhere, just in spots where people can see the notice.
Dodson also said the ordinance language proposing people can smoke 20 feet away from the entrance of an establishment could be problematic since it would be driving people into the street. He suggested making the change to 10 feet.
Commissioners Reddi and Morse expressed interest in learning more about raising the age to purchase cigarettes and other products to 21 as well as banning fruity flavors. The city currently follows state law, which sets the minimum age for purchase at 18.
Jackson and Wasinger said that discussion would require a separate ordinance from the one discussed Tuesday.
The commission also listened to the public discuss the topic.
Smoking cigarettes for 45 years almost ended Manhattan resident Barb Wilson’s life, but vaping was what saved her, she said.
She said it is “cruel” to compare cigarette smokers to those who vape as she thinks vaping does not impact the general public like cigarette smoke does.
“Cigarettes are awful, awful, but vaping is not,” Wilson said.
Travis Kirby, owner of Juicy’s Vapor Lounge in Manhattan, said he has helped thousands of people quit smoking, and says THC cartridges from the black market are to blame for deaths in Kansas and across the state. He said his son founded Juicy’s in Oklahoma. It now has nine locations in Kansas, including two in Manhattan, and seven in Oklahoma.
“I am more passionate about this because my son started the company, it means a lot to me,” he said.
Debbie Nuss, chair of the Flint Hills Wellness Coalition, spoke about how the coalition helped give information to the city about the ordinance. The coalition supports the current ordinance as it stands, she said.
The commission will vote on the proposed ordinance later this fall.
In addition to discussing the ordinance, the commission also heard an update from the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Director Karen Hibbard said she is concerned as people are visiting the Visit Manhattan website less than they have in years’ past, with the average visitor spending 1 minute 45 seconds on it now as opposed to 2 minutes and 43 seconds and 2 minutes and 4 seconds in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
She also recapped the Johnny Kaw dedication event in September and thanked Butler for his help.
K-State announced on Wednesday it has hired Jennie Brown Leonard as its first vice provost for student success.
Brown Leonard will be responsible for various matters related to student success at K-State, including boosting student retention and academic foundations for first-year and continuing students.
“As vice provost for student success, Dr. Brown Leonard will identify, develop and guide innovative initiatives to improve the retention, persistence, progression and graduation of students,” Provost Charles Taber said in a statement. “Her leadership will be vital in coordinating the work of university units and programs that focus on retention and student success.”
Brown Leonard will also oversee programs such as K-State First, the university’s first-year experience program, the Academic Achievement Center, Office of First-Generation Students, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry, the University Honors Program, Student Success Collaborative, Educational Supportive Services, McNair Scholars Program and Office Nationally Competitive Scholarships.
“I am looking forward to collaborating with senior leaders, students, faculty and staff to support K-State’s deep commitment to diversity, inclusion and student success,” Brown Leonard said in a statement. “By building on existing strengths in academic affairs and student affairs and leveraging insights from data, I am confident we can improve the student experience and help the K-State achieve its strategic goals. I am excited to join the vibrant K-State community.”
Brown Leonard starts Jan. 6 and will earn a salary of $200,000.
She has served as dean of student academic affairs, advising, retention and transitions at George Mason University in Virginia since 2008. She also served as a principal investigator for the Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in which she used focus group data to improve the university’s transfer student experience.
Brown Leonard also served as assistant dean, assistant to the dean and academic adviser positions at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Mount Holyoke College, a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont and a doctorate in college student personnel from the University of Maryland.
This is the third hire K-State has made this month for newly formed administrative positions.
On Oct. 2, K-State hired Bin Ning as associate provost for institutional research. He will start Monday.
On Tuesday, K-State hired Karen Goos as vice provost for enrollment management. She will start Nov. 18.