The Military Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Turkey—At Least on Twitter

The Defense secretary said US-Turkey relations have “been damaged.” The Army’s Twitter account said something else.

American soldiers patrol northeastern Syria with Turkish forces in October, days before Turkey launched an invasion of the region.Andrew Goedl/US Army/Getty

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In Washington, DC, right now, few American allies are viewed with more hostility than Turkey, which has received widespread condemnation for its invasion of northern Syria last week. Defense Secretary Mark Esper lambasted the incursion as “unnecessary and impulsive,” adding that the “relationship between our two countries has…been damaged.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Turkey was not “acting as a good NATO ally.” President Donald Trump—who is facing a fierce backlash from congressional Republicans after originally green-lighting the invasion—slapped sanctions on Turkish leaders Monday.

But the folks running the US Army’s official Twitter account must not have gotten the message.

On Monday night, the Army tweeted out a news story from September that described a NATO training operation in Germany involving the United States and more than a dozen partner countries, including Turkey. The tweet specifically singled out “Turkish commandos,” who, it noted, had “joined American and Italian paratroopers during…an airborne assault that was a part of the training exercise. The tweet included the hashtag “#Partnership” but offered no context related to the escalating violence in Syria that threw a wrench in that alliance last week. The Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the tweet.

The Army’s apparent praise for Turkey did not go unnoticed among reporters and military experts online.

A lot can change in three weeks,” wrote Erik Slavin, Europe and Middle East bureau chief for Stars and Stripes. “Timeliness, Army.”

“Related content is not always a good idea you guys,” wrote Abbie Bennett, national reporter for Connecting Vets.

“US policy in the Middle East is nothing if not incoherent,” wrote Mother Jones’ Shane Bauer, who has reported extensively on the Syrian civil war.

Joe Kassabian, an Army veteran and author, had perhaps the most succinct reaction: “Fucking yikes.” 

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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