Ab? Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, was killed over the weekend, and Donald Trump, as he always does, scrambled the announcement into a nonsense synopsis of events. John Oliver, as he always does, leapt on the opportunity to get some laughs out of the headlines. Trump did most of the work just by talking, at one point even implying that the word “dog” was used exclusively by himself, in a rant that really only makes sense if you see it.
While the killing of al-Baghdadi can be considered a positive in the fight against ISIS, there’s a larger con related to the same conflict that Oliver brings up as his central topic for the episode. Trump recently made the decision to pull U.S. troops from Turkey’s border with Syria, where they had been working with, until this action, Kurdish allies. This decision leaves the forces of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan free to invade the area. This blunder was introduced by an unlikely source: Fox News, in a clip in which one of the anchors called the action “a disastrous series of events—I hope the president will rethink this.”
The condemnation is widespread from network to network, and from the left and right of the political spectrum. Even Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham have criticized the decision, with the latter going so far as to say, “To abandon these people is a real shitshow.” Oliver does a fantastic Southern impression to follow this up.
Jokes aside, this Last Week Tonight episode covers an enormous dilemma that many Americans are unfortunately uninformed about. Oliver—who can deftly tackle serious issues we should know about but maybe don’t, such as compounding pharmacies or prison labor, and have us disheartened, laughing and wised up all at once by the end of the segment—fully admits that this is an extremely complex situation for anyone to handle. “What is much less forgivable is pretending to understand it when you clearly don’t.”
Cut to Trump, of course saying it’s only “a semi-complicated problem.” Trump’s trivializing of the matter is downright disrespectful to the people involved, particularly the allies the U.S. left behind: the Kurds, who are now being killed by Turkish forces. Since the U.S. troops’ removal from the area, over a hundred civilians have been killed and 200,000 displaced.
Trump announced that the U.S. is now sending troops to help Saudi Arabia for some reason, which he says “has agreed to pay us.” It’s strange to suggest that the most powerful military in the world needs to be paid in exchange for protection, which, of course, has not happened. If Trump’s radical Syria decision was motivated by money, he fails to recognize the cost is the little stability in the region and now, human lives. Vladimir Putin is now in the mix in Syria, as well, and Kurdish forces have had to side with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. What was previously at least a slightly stable situation now has more unwanted players who unsettle the board. The sad part is the people who will suffer the most, per usual, are civilians.
Oliver leaves us with a clip of Kurdish people heckling and throwing things at the impenetrable trucks transporting American soldiers out of the area, knowing that as the American troops leave with their defenses, the Kurdish people become that much more vulnerable. It’s a sad sight, making this Last Week Tonight more bitter than usual, especially as last week’s events, as Oliver says, will have severe “long-term ramifications” in the years to come.
Watch the video below.