Tulsi Gabbard: “antiwar” Democrat getting decorated
I had never come across the name Tulsi Gabbard until October 30, 2015 when Mike Whitney, the go-to guy for Baathist talking points, advised CounterPunch readers that “Everything You Needed to Know About Syria in 8 Minutes” could be found in a video interview with the House member from Hawaii for which he furnished a transcript, bless his crooked heart.
It originated in a CNN interview with her conducted by the atrocious Wolf Blitzer of CNN. This exchange is obviously what got our boy’s juices flowing:
Blitzer: So what you are saying is that the Russian military involvement in the air and on the ground Iranian involvement in Syria right now, the Hezbollah involvement, they are actually doing the US a favor?
Gabbard: They are working towards defeating our common enemy. When you look at the groups that are on the ground there, the most effective fighting groups who are fighting to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, they are predominantly ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and these other Islamist extremist groups. They make up the vast majority of these so-called “Syrian rebels.” They are the most effective force, who has gained the most territory. So the people they (Russia and their allies) are attacking, and the Russians are dropping bombs on are these al Qaeda people who are our enemies who attacked us on 9-11.
Interesting to see a leftist like Whitney getting so enthusiastic over a politician whose rhetoric barely differs from Blitzer’s, a warhawk who cheered on George W. Bush’s war in Iraq as a necessary step to protect us from another 911 attack. This is also the mindset incorporated in Barack Obama’s far-flung drone war on wedding parties and the like—a necessary preemptive strike to make sure the bad guys don’t attack the Homeland.
The big news this week, of course, is that Gabbard has resigned from the DNC and joined the Bernie Sanders campaign as Ben Norton reported for Salon.com, a reliable source of Baathist propaganda:
Gabbard, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has condemned U.S. policy in Syria. In late 2015, she introduced a bipartisan bill that called for “an immediate end to the illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow” Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
“The war to overthrow Assad is illegal because Congress never authorized it,” she said, calling the U.S. policy of arming and training rebels “counter-productive because it actually helps ISIS and other Islamic extremists achieve their goal of overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad and taking control of all of Syria — which will simply increase human suffering in the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis, and pose a greater threat to the world.”
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has continuously called for a more aggressive U.S. policy in Syria. She pushed for the Obama administration to bomb Syria in 2013, and has persistently called for a no-fly zone, which critics warn could lead to a new international war.
Before Norton got on the Salon payroll, he probably would have been a bit more critical of Gabbard’s spiel, especially in light of a blog article he wrote on December 10, 2014 that called attention to how “The ‘Anti-Imperialist’ Nations of Iran, Syria, and Libya Participated in the CIA Torture Program”. Referring to a map that depicted countries that tortured on behalf of the CIA, Norton commented:
Take a look at the map of the nations involved and you’ll see that, in spite of the insistence of the fervent authoritarian, RT- and Press TV-watching pseudo-“leftist” (or, in actual leftist parlance, “tankie”) to the contrary, the supposedly “anti-imperialist” nations of Iran, Syria, and Libya indeed participated in the CIA torture program.
He is singing a different tune now, sounding much more like the execrable Patrick L. Smith at Salon who is about as bad as Mike Whitney. When I see such a transformation, I am glad that I was a programmer rather than a professional left journalist who must be mindful of his publisher’s agenda or else be out of a job.
As I have said on numerous occasions, support for Assad from people like Gabbard and Whitney is fueled by the same kind of “al-Qaeda is gonna get your mama” hysteria that was pervasive during the war on Iraq, particularly from Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman and Michael Ignatieff except in this instance it is the Kremlin rather than the White House that symbolizes Enlightenment values, diversity, tolerance and decency. Did the massive casualties in Iraq ever cause Christopher Hitchens a sleepless night? No more so, one would assume, than barrel bombing and sarin gas discomfit the likes of Tulsi Gabbard and Mike Whitney.
Alternet’s Zaid Jilani summed up her worldview succinctly: “To Gabbard, the fact that Syria and Iraq have been through years of brutal civil war, wrecked economies and massive displacement is irrelevant; the only reason they have an extremism problem is because of Islamic theology.”
And here is Gabbard having a grand old time with arch-Islamophobe Bill Maher. Just go to 5:00 and hear her nodding her head in agreement with Maher about Islam being the problem:
To show that she is open to engagement with people clearly not in line with the Sanders campaign, here she is hobnobbing with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto, where she lashes out at the White House for even talking to American Muslims.
Although my view of Salon.com is obviously disdainful, I give credit to one of their reporters for recognizing where Gabbard is coming from. Written just one day after Whitney’s valentine to Gabbard, Sarah Burris titled her article “Bill Maher’s nasty new Islamophobia recruit: ‘Real Time’ turns ugly on ‘barbaric’ Muslim beliefs”. She writes:
Bill Maher hates religion, but he really hates Islam. On Friday evening’s “Real Time,” the host spoke to Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii about their shared quest against Muslims.
Gabbard told Maher she believes it is “crazy” that Secretary of State John Kerry says that extremism comes from poverty — and that President Obama won’t say “Islamic extremism” instead using the words “violent extremism.” She thinks it’s important to “identify our enemy so that we can defeat them.” Secretary Kerry’s comments are particularly absurd to her because she thinks that giving someone a house to live in and a skateboard isn’t going to solve the problems of violence abroad.
I don’t know about houses and skateboards but you can bet your ass that not using drones on wedding parties would help. Speaking of drones, Gabbard supports them. This is something that deeply troubled the Maui Time, a newspaper that regarded her statement okaying their use overseas as reflecting her solidly “pro-military” views. You can bet that Gabbard’s support for drone warfare did not disqualify her in Bernie Sander’s eyes since he too believes they are necessary to protect the Homeland.
In doing some searches for “Gabbard” on CounterPunch, where I suspected there would be other effusive takes on her “antiwar” stance, I found that David Lindorff was cheered over her enlistment in the Sanders campaign since “She had the courage to introduce a bill in a Congress filled with war-besotted ‘chicken-hawks’ to require the US to end its illegal intervention aimed at ‘regime change’ in Syria.”. For his part, Binoy Kampmark was delighted that she introduced legislation that would terminate an “illegal war” to overthrow the Assad regime. As I continued my search, I found an article by Stephen Zunes, a name I usually don’t associate with the Baathist left. The name “Gabbard” came up in the article, however, in a rather different context. Zunes reported:
On July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives, with more than 100 co-sponsors from both parties, passed a resolution by unanimous consent insisting that the Israeli attacks were exclusively “focused on terrorist targets” and that Israel “goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors.” Co-sponsors included such prominent Democrats as Alan Grayson (FL), Jared Polis (CO), Eric Swalwell (CA), Richard Neal (MA), Joseph Kennedy (MA), Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Brad Sherman (CA), Elliot Engel (NY), and Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (FL).
Now that’s some cast of characters Gabbard is lining up with: Alan Grayson, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Elliot Engel—three of the more hard-core Israel lobby old reliables you can find in what Alexander Cockburn once called Washington Babylon. Were Whitney, Lindorff or Kampark aware of this? Probably not. When you are in the cherry-picking business, things tend to slip past you.
And to show you how steeped in Likudnik filth Gabbard is, just go to the Christians United for Israel website linked in this picture and take a look at the featured speakers. Guess what. Gabbard is one of them.
Let me conclude with a passage from Ziad Jilani’s Alternet article on Gabbard, which is the best I have seen. In addition to nailing her Islamophobic beliefs, he investigates her ties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, an outfit that is widely regarded—accurately—as fascist. While of American Samoan descent, Gabbard is a convert to Hinduism and likely has absorbed its fundamentalist wing’s hatred of Muslims.
Laments about Congress’ polarization are common, and it’s rare that large numbers of Republicans and Democrats can agree, especially on progressive legislation. But in November 2013, a group of 26 House Democrats and 25 House Republicans introduced HR 417, which called on India to improve the human rights situation of its religious minorities, especially citing the case of Gujarat.
The text of the bill is fairly unoffensive; it does not single out Hindus as perpetrators of religious violence, but rather calls for all groups in India to be treated fairly and given full human rights. However, Gabbard made it her personal mission to crusade against the bill.
The following December, Congressmember Tom Lantos’ Human Rights Commission held a hearing on religious freedom in India. Rather than review the litany of abuses that have occurred in the country, Gabbard mused she did “not believe that the timing of this hearing is a coincidence….I am concerned that the goal of this hearing is to influence the outcome of India’s national elections.” She went on to state that even holding a hearing on the issue was “an attempt to foment fear and loathing purely for political purposes.”
In other words, her concern was that Modi’s electoral chances would be hurt by an honest look at religious persecution in India.
HR 417 was never voted on, and Modi won his election.
Why did Gabbard work so hard to shield BJP abuses from congressional review? The answer lies in her base of supporters. The BJP draws on support from the large Indian expatriate community through an organization called the Overseas Friends of BJP. In August of last year, the group convened a large number of Indian American BJP supporters in Atlanta as part of an eight-city tour designed to prepare for Modi’s first visit to the United States the following month.
Gabbard attended the meeting, posing with a sash adorned with the BJP’s party logo. Here she is with BJP activist Vijay Jolly:
Ironically, she spent much of her Atlanta speech condemning religious persecution—of Hindus and Iraqi Christians, not Muslims in India.
“There was a resolution supported by a few congressmen, it was basically anti-Modi, as well as anti-India resolution. And at that time, the congresswoman got up and said, ‘That, no this is wrong. We are interfering in the internal affairs of India. And that’s why this resolution should not be passed.’ So you can see that’s what she’s been doing for us,” said one BJP speaker introducing Gabbard at the event. “It is necessary that we support [a] person like Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Whatever the donations you make, it is not enough, because she needs to win this 2014 election, that’s important for us.”
That’s Tulsi Gabbard for you, a real piece of work.