We Stand With Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Standing for Peace
By Mike Hersh, Communications Coordinator and Donna Smith, Executive Director – Progressive Democrats of America
Our memories can be so fleeting, and emotions can run so hot. We wrote these words several days ago, freshly feeling intense horror from the images of war-torn Syria — both the most recent chemical attacks and the subsequent U.S. missile strikes. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) calls for peace and understanding so that rage and frustration don’t drive blind acceptance of further violence. We applaud our friend Hawai’i Representative Tulsi Gabbard’s courageous call for a full investigation before further escalation.
We believe that nearly every person reading this essay abhors war and values peace. History teaches us that the United States has launched military operations and entered into conflicts multiple times based on faulty information. Tragically, hundreds of thousands of innocents–including beautiful babies–have died at our hands as bombs rained down from our drones and our planes under orders from our leaders. We speak out today in urgent hopes we can avoid similar bloodshed.
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 we sadly know that has not always been true. Who doesn’t remember how the George W. Bush administration featuring then – Secretary of State, General Colin Powell convincingly made the case for the Iraq War based on weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there?
At our founding in 2004, PDA responded to the false case for the war that was raging full-blown as we established Ending War and Occupations as one of our primary missions. Later, about a decade ago, we launched our Healthcare Not Warfare Campaign, both to focus our advocacy for peace, and to emphasize the intolerably high domestic costs of violent foreign policy. We knew then, as we see now, that at times the USA wrongfully pursues an agenda of aggrandizing power and imposing control on other people. We speak out today in recognition of this dark tendency.
We dearly wish we lived in a world where no war was ever waged, and no military force was ever invoked, but we know that is not yet possible. We know and deeply respect many active duty and retired military officers and enlisted personnel who would lay down their lives for us (and for you) in defense of this nation. We honor them and thank them for their service.
One such military veteran, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, is taking intense emotionally charged criticism. This because some mistakenly believe that by suggesting that Congressional oversight including appropriate production of evidence is required, she was showing deference to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. We know her, and we disagree.
In the aftermath of the U.S. missile attack and the several years of Assad’s regime and various rebel forces attacking Syrian civilians, we strongly support Rep. Gabbard’s public statements calling on the U.S. to halt military action in pursuit of regime change and and her legislation to Stop Arming Terrorists, (HR608)–including ISIS rebels in Syria.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is the sponsor of the companion legislation in the Senate (SR532). We agree with the statement he made when he introduced the bill, “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 of bi-partisan cooperation since November 8th, 2016, Rep. Gabbard and Sen. Paul found common ground. We are pleased with that, and we are surprised that some Democrats have so harshly criticized Tulsi Gabbard. Some have even called for her ouster from Congress.
Some background. We, like many, were dumbfounded when Rep. Gabbard met with the president-elect in November of 2016 at Trump Tower. Our dander was up about that, but I know without a doubt that she remains committed to finding a path to peace in Syria, and moving the U.S. away from regime change wars.
Honestly, we were so disgusted with the election result that we could not imagine a strong, confident Tulsi Gabbard choosing to sit with the sexist, bullying Donald Trump. We knew Trump would like that as he would want to brag about “scoring” a visit with her. (Double-edged meaning for the word “scoring” fully intended here.)
We cannot really offer an opinion about whether our friend Tulsi Gabbard ought to have taken the trip to Syria with our dear friend former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich in January 2017. Perhaps knowing what we know now, we might have advised her to steer clear of Assad at all costs. But that doesn’t justify dismissing the constitutional duty to demand that the Trump regime stop unleashing military attacks without Congressional oversight. This criticism of Rep. Gabbard feels an awful lot like an effort to convince the world that U.S. war activities always seek justice and national security. Clearly that is not the case here.
While we all join in righteous outrage about the children, babies. women and men of Syria who were killed by sarin gas on April 4, 2017, we also join with Tulsi Gabbard in her strong and principled call for Assad to face war crime charges if indeed he is found, by the evidence, to have ordered that chemical attack. We have international agreements and treaties to move this world toward less violence and less war. Unilateral military actions undermine peace.
We believe that it is fundamentally hypocritical to provide arms and weapons to ISIS anywhere, and most certainly in Syria, if defeating ISIS is the Trump regime’s objective. We do not gain any moral authority or leadership among the powerful nations on Earth by waging regime change wars or military operations. Our American red, white and blue bombs also kill innocent people, and we violate international law whenever we unilaterally unleash military force.
We are heartbroken, but we must not let the terrible images of suffering and dying children in Syria cloud our judgment. We must not sacrifice our right and duty to ask questions. Because we believe in peace, we must honor those tiniest, most vulnerable of war casualties by doing all we can to bring about a more peaceful world, one in which those who violate international law are brought to justice according to–not in violation of–international law.
When Rep. Gabbard stepped down from her DNC role in order to be a surrogate for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary, she showed her remarkable independence and the courage of her convictions. She has said that if it is proven that Assad indeed ordered chemical weapons attacks on his own people, then she will call for Assad’s prosecution as a war criminal. We take her at her word.
Finally, we do not forget that Major Tulsi Gabbard of the Hawai’i Army National Guard has served a tour of duty in Iraq, and swore a solemn oath when she enlisted, pledging to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. She has done so much to demonstrate her courage and dedication to upholding that oath. That includes standing up to adversity in very difficult situations. Many others might shrink from that duty. She doesn’t. Thank you, Tulsi Gabbard, for standing up for us all, and speaking out for peace. We know very few people have stood with you these past weeks. For peace and in thanks for your service to this nation, PDA activists proudly rise.