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Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Standing for Peace Puts a Target on Tulsi

Donna Smith

Our memories can be so fleeting—especially as the intense emotions and horror felt about seeing images from war-torn Syria drive blind acceptance of the most recent chemical attacks and subsequent U.S. retaliatory bombings.  We certainly believe that nearly every person reading this essay abhors war and values peace.  The United States has been drawn into military operations and conflicts multiple times based on faulty information.  Hundreds of thousands of casualties—including beautiful babies—have died at our hands as bombs rained down from our drones and our airplanes as ordered by our leaders.  We like to think that in every case we have represented the best interests of humanity or furthered democratic rule or saved people from the wretched actions of war criminals, but that has not always been the case.  Do we remember General Colin Powell and how he so convincingly made the case for those weapons of mass destruction?  We often have our own power and control agenda.  I so wish we lived in a world where no war was ever waged and no military action was ever necessary, but I know that is not possible.  Further, I know and deeply respect many active duty and retired military officers and soldiers who would lay down their lives for me (and for you) in defense of this nation, and I honor them.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is taking intense and emotionally charged criticism because some believe that she was somehow showing deference to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad by suggesting that Congressional oversight, including appropriate production of evidence, is required in the aftermath of the U.S. bombing and the role Assad played in the chemical attacks on the Syrian village that took place a week ago.  We strongly support Tulsi's courage and determination to end regime change wars and to grow support for her legislation call on the U.S. to Stop Arming Terrorists, HR608 in the House and SR532 in the Senate, including those ISIS rebels in Syria.  

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is the Senate sponsor of companion legislation to HR608, and when he introduced the bill in the senate, Sen. Paul said, "One of the unintended consequences of nation-building and open-ended intervention is American funds and weapons benefiting those who hate us.  This legislation will strengthen our foreign policy, enhance our national security, and safeguard our resources.”   In one of the few areas since November 8th, 2016, to see any bi-partisan cooperation, Rep. Gabbard and Sen. Paul found some common ground.  We are pleased with that, and we are surprised that some Democrats have criticized Tulsi as they have.  

I was dumbfounded like many were that Tulsi went to Trump Tower and met with the president-elect in November of 2016.  My dander was up about that but I know without a doubt that Tulsi is committed to finding a path to peace in Syria and moving the U.S. away from regime change wars.  Honestly, I was so disgusted with the election result that I could not imagine a strong, confident Tulsi having to sit with the sexist, bullying Trump.  I knew Trump would like that as he would want to brag about scoring a Tulsi visit.  (Double-edged meaning for the word "scoring" intended here.)  And I cannot really offer an opinion about whether Tulsi ought to have taken the trip that she did to Syria with former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich in January 2017.  Perhaps knowing what we know now, we might have advised her to stay clear of Assad at all costs.  But that ought not to be reason for dismissing the need to require the Trump regime to stop taking military action without Congressional oversight. That feels an awful lot like we want to convince the world that U.S. war activities are always based on a sense of justice and national security, and clearly that is not the case here.   We join all civilized people in our outrage about the children, babies. women and men of Syria who were brutally attacked with sarin gas on April 4, 2017, and we join Tulsi in her strong and principled call for Assad to face war crime charges if indeed he is found to have ordered that chemical attack in violation of international conventions.  That is precisely why we have international agreement and treaties to move this world toward less violence and less war.  

We believe that if defeating ISIS is the number one foreign policy priority for the Trump regime, it seems fundamentally hypocritical to provide arms and weapons to ISIS anywhere around the globe and most certainly in Syria.  We do not gain ourselves any level of moral authority or civilized, just leadership role among the powerful nations on earth by waging regime change wars using our own red, white and blue bombs that also kill innocent people when we unilaterally decide it is in our own political or national interests.  We must not allow the terrible images of little children suffering and dying in Syria cloud our judgment so that we cannot ask questions—if we believe in peace, we must honor those tiniest, most vulnerable of war casualties by doing our level best to bring about a more peaceful world where those who violate international law are brought to justice according to that international law.  

Finally, we do not ever forget that Major Tulsi Gabbard of the Hawaii Army National Guard has served a tour of duty in Iraq in defense of our nation took the following oath when she enlisted and pledged to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.  She has done so much to demonstrate her courage and willingness to uphold that oath, and that includes standing up in some very difficult situations.  Many others might shrink from that duty, and even when Tulsi stepped down from her DNC role in order to be a surrogate for Bernie Sanders during the primary, she showed remarkable independence and the courage of her convictions.  She has said that if it is proven that Assad did indeed use chemical weapons on his own people, Tulsi commits that she will stand confidently to call for Assad prosecution as a war criminal.  We take her at her word.   

Thank you, Tulsi, for standing in the gap for us all for peace.  We know very few people have stood with you this week.  For peace and in thanks for your service to this nation, I proudly rise.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the former executive director of Progressive Democrats of America and currently a Medicare for All campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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