By Mike Whitney
Here’s a short video with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who explains exactly what the United States is doing in Syria. Gabbard is an Iraq combat veteran who understands the dangers the current policy and who thinks we are creating “even more human misery” while “strengthening our enemy”. Please, take a few minutes and watch this short segment that summarizes our role in Syria.
NOTE: My friend, Pedro Gatos, host of Bringing Light into Darkness at 91.7 KOOP Radio Austin, Texas, transcribed the entire interview for those who prefer to read while they listen.
Wolf Blitzer, Host of CNN, The Situation Room (10/21/15): Let’s talk about this deal, this agreement worked out between US and Russia to avoid some accidental head on collision with fighter jets over Syria. The secrecy of this deal, without making it public, does that concern you?
Congresswoman and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii, Armed Services Committee: It doesn’t. I think that the Pentagon knows how important it is to make sure that our troops are not put into harm’s way and are not put into a position where you have this accidental military conflict with Russia in the air. So I think that making this deal with Russia to de-conflict that is an important thing. But there is a bigger issue here that I am concerned with and that is the fact that the US and the CIA are working to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad while Russia a longtime ally of decades now is working to defend or uphold this government of Assad. And this puts us in a position of possible direct head to head conflict with Russia as long as the US and Russia continue down this path.
Blitzer: Well how does the US and Russia avoid that head on conflict because, you are absolutely right, the US wants to get rid of Bashar Assad and Russia wants to boost them and to protect them together with the Iranians, their allies, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, they are trying to prop him (Assad) up. So how do you avoid that potential collision?
Gabbard: Very Simple. The US and the CIA should stop this illegal and counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad and should stay focused on fighting against who are enemy is, the Islamic extremist groups. Because right now we are seeing why this is counterproductive, by working towards that end, by working towards the overthrowing of the Syrian government of Assad, we are not only strengthening our enemy, these Islamic extremists who will walk in and take over all of Syria. Right now, they have about half of the country under their control. But it also puts us in that position of a potential head to head conflict with Russia, which brings us to the brink of a larger conflict, a WWIII type of situation.
Blitzer: Why do you say that the US effort to get rid of Bashar al-Assad regime is counterproductive and illegal?
Gabbard: First of all there has not been a vote in Congress to authorize the use of force to authorize a war to overthrow a sovereign government … For as long as I have been there that has not happened. It didn’t happen before I got there. So the American people have not had a choice to speak their voice to approve or disapprove such a war. Therefore, its illegal.
Secondly it is counterproductive because right now US arms are getting into the hands of our enemies, al Qaeda, al-Nusra, these other groups, these Islamist extremist groups who are our sworn enemies. These are the groups who attacked us on 9-11 and are those we are supposedly trying to defeat, yet at the same time we are supporting them with these arms to overthrow the Syrian government.
Blitzer: So you do not even want the US to supply arms to these anti Bashar al-Assad rebels.
Gabbard: I do not want US government to provide weapons to al-Queda, to Islamist extremists, who are our enemy. I think it’s a very simple concept in my mind. You cannot defeat your enemy if you are arming them and helping them at the same time. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.
Blitzer: Have you told this to officials at the White House?
Gabbard: We have had conversations both in hearings and in otherwise. I think it is important for American people to stand up and say, “Look, we don’t want to go and do what happened in Iraq with Saddam Hussein and do what happened in Libya with Gaddafi, because these are countries that have fallen into chaos and have been taken over by these terrorists because of the actions that the United States and others took.
Blitzer: You tweeted recently that any candidate that supports a safe no fly zone in Syria must admit that US coalition ground air troops will be needed to enforce it. That is a statement directed at Hillary Clinton who now supports a no-fly zone. The president opposes a no-fly zone, at least for now.
Gabbard: It was a statement directed at all our presidential candidates because as they are asked these questions and are taking positions on them, I think it is important for the American people to understand exactly what those positions mean. People are calling them different things, no-fly zone or safe zones, but for those that are pushing for this they got to be held accountable for the decision they are making, that this will require US air assets to enforce it. It will require US air assets to take out anti-aircraft missile defense systems, for example, that the Syrian government has, and again, that puts us into a direct head to head conflict with a sovereign government, the government of Syria and with Russia and their allies and will also require a large very amount of ground troops on the ground to enforce this. There is a slew of other issues with this and that is why I think a no-fly zone would be a terrible mistake.
Blitzer: I know you are obviously concerned with what happened in Libya, getting rid of Gadaffi. The current situation there..it’s a disaster….
Gabbard: The same thing will happen all over again (in Syria)
Blitzer: Does it not concern you that Syria and Bashar Al Assad ‘s regime has been brutal, killing at least 200,000 maybe 300,000 of his own people, these barrel bombs and all these reports of these hundreds of thousands of people left homeless; millions in fact that are refugees. And the US is obviously and so many other international powers are so upset with that and want to get rid of him because of what he is doing to his own people over the last four years.
Gabbard: Well, yeah, it concerns me deeply to see this tremendous and tragic human suffering. I think it is important for leaders of the world, leaders here in the United States, to look at this issue though, and say “OK if you do in Syria, what happened in Libya, what happened in Iraq; because the same things that are being said about Assad right now are the same things that were said about Gadaffi, they are the same things that were said about Saddam Hussein by those that were advocating for the US to go in and intervene, to overthrow those regimes and dictators.
The fact is, if that happens here in Syria, as US leaders and others are advocating for, we will end up with a situation that is far worse than we are seeing today. We will end up in a situation with far greater human suffering, with far greater persecution of religious minorities and Christians in Syria, and our enemy will be far stronger. They will take over the whole country of Syria, they will have greater weapons and capabilities, and present a greater threat not only to the people in the region, but to the world.
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.
Blitzer: So you are basically saying you do not want your fellow soldiers, (and you’re a member of the Hawaii National Guard and were just promoted from Captain to Major, you served in Iraq) You do not want the men and women in the US military on the ground in any of those areas. Is that what I am hearing?
Gabbard: There is no reason for them to go and to be deployed into these situations. I think it is important for us first and foremost to recognize, (a) who our enemy is, and (b) what our mission is. Our mission is to defeat our enemy. Not to take action that is counterproductive to that mission and help get our enemy stronger. It is a very simple premise. And I think it is important for us to focus on that.
Blitzer asks about Gabbard’s surf board accident (which is kind of weird???). End of interview.