Politics

Tulsi Gabbard: ‘Reckless’ Syrian Strike Strengthens al-Qaida

Maverick progressive lawmaker warns Trump may be succumbing to 'war hawks'

Iraq veteran Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said she is “skeptical” the Syrian government dropped chemical weapons on its people and said the Trump administration is risking a nuclear war with Russia by retaliating with a missile strike.

“It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime-change war to overthrow the Syrian government,” the progressive lawmaker said in the statement, issued Thursday. “This escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaida and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia — which could lead to nuclear war.”

“If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court.”

On Friday, Gabbard appeared on CNN, telling Wolf Blitzer that she’s “skeptical” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemical weapons attack in the province of Idlib in an area of northern Syria that is controlled by al-Qaida-linked rebels.

“Wolf,” she said, “I remind you about what happened before we launched an invasion and occupation of Iraq. Then, Colin Powell and many others within the administration came to Congress and came to the U.N. claiming they had the evidence proving that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We launched a completely destructive, counter-productive war based on that intelligence, which, now, years later, has proven to be wrong … So, yes, I’m skeptical, because we have to take at a premium the cost of these wars, not only on the Syrian people and the people of the Middle East, but the cost of these wars here, in the United States.”

Gabbard is among the most prominent critics in the U.S. House of American intervention in Syria. On Nov. 19, 2015, she introduced a bill along with Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) calling for “an immediate end to the illegal, counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.”

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In February 2015, she quit her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to publicly back democratic-socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the primary. At the same time, Gabbard began to attract notice and admiration from many conservatives and libertarians opposed to further U.S. military adventurism in the Middle East.

After the election, she went to New York to meet with Donald Trump — a meeting that was reportedly arranged by Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News and now White House chief strategist. The focus of the meeting was reportedly Syria.

During the campaign, Trump shocked the Washington establishment with his non-interventionist stance on Syria, in particular when he said in the Nov. 10, 2015, Republican primary debate in Milwaukee, emphatically: “If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it, a hundred percent, and I can’t understand how anybody would be against it.”

He also said repeatedly in interviews and on Twitter that the United States should “stay out of Syria,” and said he thought that between Assad and the often radical rebels Assad is fighting, Assad seems like the better of the two.

But this week, everything changed with the U.S. media reporting that the Syrian government had dropped “chemical bombs” near a town in Idlib province early Tuesday morning, killing more than 80 people. On Thursday evening, President Trump, saying there was “no doubt” that the attack was ordered by Assad, announced a missile strike on an air base in Syria in retaliation.

In her written statement on Thursday, Gabbard said the president had acted “recklessly” by not waiting for evidence to be collected on the scene.

“If President Assad is indeed guilty of this horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians, I will be the first to call for his prosecution and execution by the International Criminal Court,” she said in the statement. “However, because of our attack on Syria, this investigation may now not even be possible. And without such evidence, a successful prosecution will be much harder.”

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