US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is fast becoming one of the the most interesting Members of Congress. A Captain in the US Army National Guard, she deployed twice overseas to the Middle East, including to Iraq in 2004.
In her first term as a Member of Congress, Rep. Gabbard sits on the influential Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. House Democratic leadership may have thought seating a female combat veteran on these committees would add a politically-useful militaristic voice to their stable. If that is the case, they miscalculated in a major way.
Rep. Gabbard first raised eyebrows several weeks ago when she began to openly question President Obama’s Middle East policies, and particularly his “Assad must go” policy in Syria. It is unusual for a first-term Member of Congress to take such a public position in opposition to a sitting president in her own party — particularly if she has any interest in continuing her political career. Threats — subtle and some not-so-subtle — can silence mavericks in the House. Running for office can be very expensive, more so if the party decides not to help. Offers of leadership positions can be made if a Member is willing to follow, head down, the dictates of the party.
Gabbard is apparently having none of that. In fact if anything she is turning up the volume in her criticism of President Obama’s confrontational policy toward Russia and insistence that Assad must depart in Syria. This week on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Gabard focused her criticism like a laser.
Asked by Blitzer whether the president sending more troops to Iraq and Syria was a good idea, Rep. Gabbard replied:
The United States should not be in a nation-building mission. … A large contingent of 10,000 or 100,000 regular US ground troops or an occupying force in Iraq…would be counterproductive to us achieving our mission of defeating ISIS. It would play directly into their rhetoric of saying this is a war between Islam and the west.
Blitzer asked, based on her experience as a combat veteran in Iraq, whether Rep. Gabbard thinks the US has learned anything from their mistakes, and she replied:
No…and the reason for this is that after Iraq, the United States went ahead and did the very same thing in Libya, overthrowing Gaddafi. Now, ISIS is growing in strength, has a stronghold in Libya today with plans to continue to expand. And what’s even crazier is that now the United States policy is looking to do the very same thing once again in Syria with this focus and determination on overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad which will only serve to make ISIS stronger in Syria…
Why is it a mistake to focus on overthrowing Assad, asks Blitzer. Gabbard responds:
When we saw the United States overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq what was the result and the outcome? The outcome was groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda growing stronger, taking over more territory. The very same thing occurred in Libya when the United States went in and overthrew Gaddafi. Now we have ISIS with a headquarters there in Libya and continuing to look to expand. The very same thing will happen in Syria if the United States is successful in its objective of overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad. ISIS will walk in the front door, take over all of Syria, and pose that greater threat to the region and increase the humanitarian crisis there ten-fold.
On the issue of the continuing US confrontational position toward Russia, Rep. Gabbard added:
Why are we trying to go to war with Russia over this disagreement on overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad? It’s crazy.
Watch the whole interview here: