From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:
Tulsi Gabbard Disappoints
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was quickly turning into one of my favorite Democrats.
An Iraq war veteran, Gabbard was one of the few Democrats who grumbled about Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” She called the Obama administrations preference for the generic term “violent extremism” and suggestion that poverty motivates terrorism amounted to “a diversion.” She argued that the Obama national security team “misidentified the enemy and their motivation.” In 2015, she was way more wary about Iran than the Obama administration was.
“We have the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, omitting Iran and Hezbollah from the list of threats to our country for the first time in a long time,” she said, noting that the Islamic theocracy is meanwhile building an empire in the region. “There seems to really be a lack of a coherent strategy with regards to how we, as the United States, are dealing with Iran, as we look at this threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.”
More recently, Gabbard famously clashed with Debbie Wasserman Shultz at the Democratic National Committee, arguing that the DNC’s decision-making helped Hillary Clinton, hurt Bernie Sanders, and amounted to favoritism.
“It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them,” she added. “When I signed up to be vice chair of the D.N.C., no one told me I would be relinquishing my freedom of speech and checking it at the door.”
All if this is why it’s so dispiriting to see Gabbard head to Syria, meet with ruthless dictator Bashar Assad, and come back with an assessment that undoubtedly pleases the Assad regime. From Gabbard’s interview with Jake Tapper:
My reason for going to visit Syria was really because of the suffering of the Syrian people that has been weighing heavily on my heart. I wanted to see if there was, in some small way, a way that I could express the love and the aloha and the care that the American people have for the people of Syria and to see firsthand what was happening there, to see that situation there.
TAPPER: What did Assad have to say?
GABBARD: Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him. When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.
TAPPER: Now, Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people. You said it’s going to be up to the Syrian people. But there really aren’t free and fair elections in Syria.
GABBARD: I’ll tell you what I heard from the Syrian people that I met with, Jake, walking down the streets in Aleppo, in Damascus, hearing from them. They expressed happiness and joy at seeing an American walking through their streets. But they expressed a question. They said, why is it that the United States, its allies, and other countries, are providing support, are providing arms to terrorist groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS, who are on the ground there, raping, kidnapping, torturing, and killing the Syrian people? Children, men, women, people of all ages.
They asked me, why is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria when it was al-Qaeda who attacked the United States on 9/11, not Syria? I didn’t have an answer for them.
Look, if you want to say the line between the “good” Syrian rebels and the vicious Islamists is too murky to have any faith in U.S. efforts to arm the opposition to Assad, that’s a reasonable position to have. Compelling, even. But what worries me is that in the entire interview, Gabbard never makes a criticism of Assad.
You can read about Assad’s war crimes and horrific widespread human rights abuses here, here, and here as well as plenty of other places. You can read about the regime’s repeated use of chlorine, nerve agents, sarin,. Despite the highly-publicized deal to eliminate the regime’s chemical weapons, evidence indicates the regime continues to produce Sarin and VX. There’s a particular kind of fool in denial who insists that the dozens of attacks on opposition-held neighborhoods are all elaborate “false flag” operations designed to frame the Assad regime. Never mind the testimony of Syrian military officials who defected.
(ISIS is producing its own chemical weapons as well, particularly mustard agents.)
No doubt the intent behind Gabbard’s trip was indeed sympathy for the people. But she came back expressing a perspective that’s all too close to sympathy for the devil.