In Defense of Tulsi Gabbard.
The election of 2020 is approaching us fast, and the primary season will be here before we know it. Already, the 2020 democratic field has a few challengers. The darling of the establishment, Elizabeth Warren, has announced. From the insurgency ranks, outside of the establishment, is Hawaii congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard.
Tulsi Gabbard, on nearly all sensible and progressive policies gets a perfect score. She supports the reinstitution of the Glass Steagall act. She supports raising the minimum wage. She also has vocally opposed and taken part in protests against the monstrosity called the Keystone Pipeline. She has continuously called for Climate change to be taken seriously and for America to embark on a pragmatic shift away from fossil fuels to efficient alternative energy. She has supported civil rights for all individual Americans, including our Latino, LGBT, African-American, disabled and Muslim citizens. So therefore, it appears she should be an ideal candidate for all left-leaning individuals, mainly those who supported Sanders in the 2016 primary. She also was one of the few Democrat Party officials to endorse Bernie Sanders during his presidential race in 2016, with considerable risk to her political career. She freely resigned from her high ranking post as vice chair of the DNC in order to follow her conscience and endorse Sanders, much to the chagrin of the DNC’s operators.
Most importantly, and speaking from the personal perspective as a PHD candidate in the field of Middle Eastern Studies, she has a spotless foreign policy. Hers is the kind needed for a successful and functional American relationship with not only the Middle East, but the rest of the world as well. She has rightly condemned the illegal war of aggression against Syria. At great risk to her person, and her own political career, she undertook a fact-finding mission in the war-torn nation of Syria. She has since taken it upon herself, much to the ire of the Democratic Party establishment, to tell Americans the truth about where their tax-dollars are going. They are being funneled at the behest of the Military Industry Complex, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to aid the wrong side of a conflict that is of no interest to the United States. Mainly, the American government is actively using American money to assist those who have killed Americans in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. She also repeatedly called for the suspension of aid and weapon sales to the atrocious and genocidal regime in Saudi Arabia, which has been in the process of starving the Yemeni population to death. She also condemned Obama’s illegal war of aggression against Libya, which our former commander in chief admitted was a tragic mistake.
Also, just like many new congresspersons, she has courageously opposed actions of the Israeli government, much to the chagrin of the Israeli lobby in the United States. Far-right media Zionists call her an “enemy to Israel” for condemning Israel’s butchering of 58 Palestinians in the May of 2018. In our present day and age, with the embedded tyranny of the Israeli lobby, by far the most powerful lobby in the United States government, one who would threaten to break their power and influence should be considered an ideal candidate.
As with the case of Bernie Sanders in the election of 2016, she has attracted her fair share of criticism from both the radical far left, with pieces of respected left-leaning organizations such as Rolling Stone, Jacobin Magazine, and the Socialist Workerdenouncing her. She has also predictably received her fair share of criticism from the right and from the establishment democrats. The criticisms far outshine anything which was leveled against Sanders during the 2016 election campaign. Among these allegations, is that she is a Hindu Nationalist, Islamophobe a homophobe, and a Bashar al-Assad apologist. Well, if we can examine the claims against her, one can see they are all as fictitious as the claims that Obama was born in Kenya, or that Jill Stein opposes vaccinations.
So what are the major criticisms of Mrs. Gabbard? One of the most pervasive ones is that she is an alleged “Hindu nationalist” and has ties to the controversial right-wing Indian party, the BJP, or as it is translated into English, the “Indian Peoples Party.” The BJP is often considered to be the equivalent of the religious right in Indian politics. They are often described as a Hindu supremacist and anti-Muslim organization. In particular, she has attracted considerable criticism for her advocacy of a visa for the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Well, what are the facts behind this allegation? She has the support of a large section of the Indian-American community, many of whom are BJP supporters because they come from middle-upper class Indian backgrounds. Does this honestly surprise anyone? As the first Hindu in congressperson in the United States, it should come as no surprise that Hindu Americans would flock to her as someone who would represent their interests, or that she would lobby on the behalf of her religious community. Keith Ellison, when he was in congress, was largely seen as the spokesperson for the Muslim American community, and spoke at organizations like the Islamic Society of North America and the Council of American-Islamic Relations. Nobody of any serious consideration gives Jewish elected officials a hard time for representing the interests of the Jewish community in the United States, or Israel for that matter. A lot of folks are giving her trouble for being an alleged "apologist" for the controversial Indian Prime Minister Modi. All she has been doing, and rightly so, is trying to improve India-U S relations by criticizing the hypocritical visa denial of Narendra Modi. If Benjamin Netanyahu is allowed to come and go as he pleases; so should any other world leader. She also voted against a House bill, https://www.congress.gov/…/113th-congr…/house-resolution/417which, at the end of the day, was essentially nothing more than an attempt to drive a wedge between India and the United States.
It should be self-evident that the last thing the United States needs is to enter a cold war with India, a nuclear armed country with one of the largest armies in the world, and also a vital trading partner with the United States. So Gabbard should be applauded and not condemned for working towards a more ideal and peaceful world.
In a recent interview Gabbard clarifies she supports working with the Indian government as a whole, and does not favor the BJP over their opponents, the Indian Congress Party. She clearly states, that as a member of congress, she wishes to cultivate closer ties between the United States and India as a whole. She will not give preference to any particular Indian party, just as she is willing to reach across party lines within the United States and work with Republicans and Democrats alike to achieve better outcomes.
Also, it is worth mentioning, that the reason those on the left are raising the alarm about Prime Minister Modi is because of his alleged involvement in some tragic massacres in 2002 in the Indian province of Gujarat. However, Modi has never been convicted in a court of law for any complicity in the Gujarat riots. The Supreme Court of India has upheld Modi’s innocence. Modi has yet to be convicted, within India, or anywhere in the international community, such as the United Nations or the International Court of Justice for complicity in the crime. How can Gabbard be criticized for seeking to maintain positive relations with a legitimate head of state? Especially when so many friends of the United States have so much verifiable blood on their hands?
Another popular and monotonous canard against the congressperson is allegations that she is a “homophobe.” The evidence for this is that during her time as Hawaii state representative, at the young age of 22, she opposed the legalization of gay marriage. She also defended her father who is a staunch opponent of LGBT rights.
However, her time in the military, coupled with the natural progress of age and wisdom has led to her evolving on the issue. She has staunchly repudiated and apologized for her early opposition to LGBT rights. One can clearly see from her voting record that she has voted in favor of every pro-LGBT piece of legislation, one of which prohibited federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as a bill that prohibits federal funding to law enforcement agencies that engage in demographic profiling in violation of the DOJ guidance. She voted against a bill that would have had the VAWA remove protections for LGBT individuals. She also signed a letter to president Trump, asking him to reverse the ban of transgendered individuals serving the military.
Will such apologies satisfy her critics? Apparently not, as they haven’t stopped talking about it, some having commented that the fact she had even once in her life held views such as those, should permanently disqualify her. Is this a fair assessment? As the great Heraclitus said, one cannot step in the same river twice. We are the sum of our experiences, and know only the information that we are exposed to, our upbringing and society shaping the way in which our plastic brains perceive the world in front of us. The famous Malcolm X for many years pronounced his opposition to the civil rights movement, and integration. However, after his pilgrimage to Mecca, he had a change of views and later broke ranks with his former organization, the Nation of Islam, which resulted in his ultimate demise. George Wallace, Alabama governor and presidential candidate in the election of 1968 who famously said “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” later recanted his segregationist views. In his later years, Wallace made it a point to apologize to the leaders of Civil Rights movement.
Another popular claim that is making rounds is that Mrs. Gabbard is bigoted against Muslims. Indeed, the Socialist Worker newsletter named their hit-piece “an Islamaphobic Progressive.” What is the evidence for this claim? It’s simply that she uses that term “Islamic terrorism” and criticized Obama for not considering the theological and spiritual motivations for organizations such as ISIS.
Speaking personally, as both a Muslim, and a PHD student in the field of Islamic studies, I can safely say that claims that criticism of Islamic extremism and fundamentalism account for Islamophobia is as bankrupt as the claim that criticism of Israel equates with antisemitism. Extremist Islam, while not representing the real heart of Islam, or the belief of most Muslims worldwide, is a very real thing. While economic reasons, such as destabilization brought on by regime change, the kind which Gabbard opposes whereas her colleagues in the democrat party support, is the major cause for recruitment, it is not the only thing.
To call her an Islamophobe is to call countless Muslims who have condemned Islamic extremism also Islamophobic. For example, distinguished journalist and Muslim himself, Stephen Sulayman Schwartz, who runs the Center for Islamic Pluralism, has written multiple books and articles about the unique danger posed by the Wahabi sect of Islam, which for years has been funded and promoted by Saudi Arabia at the behest of the United States. With the power of Saudi Lobby in the United States, it will only take someone like Tulsi Gabbard to stand up to the power of the Saudi Arabian lobby. Donald Trump spoke against Hillary Clinton and her cozy relationship with the Saudi Arabian lobby, only to betray our nation like his predecessors by authorizing a generous arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Gabbard has explicitly praised distinguished Muslims who have been killed by the followers of Salafism, such as the prominent Pakistani Sufi Muslim Amjad Sabri, who was killed by fundamentalists in Pakistan in 2016. For this, she has been lauded by the Muslim-American group “Interfaith Unity for Tolerance.” The group was founded by Pakistani-American Muslims specifically to raise awareness and combat the spread of extremist interpretations of Islam in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly those from the fundamentalist Salafi and Deobandi sects.
If one watches the media interviews in question, the ones which the progressives have lambasted her for, and for which she allegedly was made a hero to the American right, she rightly so criticized president Obama for selling weapons to the same nations who are arming ISIS, al-Queda, and other Salafi terrorist organizations. Specifically, she singles out the nations of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. She also acknowledges that the terrorist threat extends well beyond ISIS. A number of other groups, including those affiliated with the so-called “moderate opposition” in Syria, that is to say, the Free Syrian army are equally as heinous as ISIS. Radical Muslims succeeded in establishing parts of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya as a base to serve broader ambitions which have deadly consequences, for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The bases of operation arose as a direct consequence of American and European interventions, interventions which Gabbard has rightfully opposed.
Furthermore, what refutes the notion that she is Islamophobic is the simple fact that she has proven herself an ally to the Muslim community on multiple occasions. Namely, she endorsed Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in congress, for chair of the DNC. She also spoke out against Trump’s travel ban from Muslim majority countries. She has spoken to several Muslim-American communities, including Muslims United for Peace, where she reaffirmed her commitment to civil liberty for all Americans, including Muslims. She also made it clear that she does not, in anyway shape or form, believe that most Muslims are terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers. She makes it clear that there is a night and day difference between the small minority of Islamic extremists, and the religion of over a billion people on the face of this planet. Also interestingly enough, she sees the Prophet Muhammad as a recipient of divine revelation, as a member of her branch of Hinduism which takes a universalist approach to religion. Specifically, she says, “Let me be clear, the political ideology of Islamism is not the same as Islam, the religion. The vast majority of Muslims who embrace Islam do not adhere to the political ideology of Islamism.”
Then of course, there is her trip to Syria, where she met with President Assad. Howard Dean and many others who run the upper ranks and inner political machine of the Democrat Party denounced her vigorously. She won the label of an “Assad apologist” for meeting with the president of Syria. Some outlets have gone so far as to call her a traitor, for meeting with America’s so-called “enemy.”
To make one thing clear is that yes, Assad is a Tyrant who lots of blood on his hands; this is something which Gabbard has freely acknowledged. However, it has yet to be established if he has been guilty of the crimes associated with him. Namely, allegations of both the Trump and the Obama administration that Assad used chemical weapons have yet to be verified. More importantly, Assad is welcomed and supported by Syria’s religious minorities, namely the Christians, Shiites, and Druze population. Despite the fact that the media loves to tell us of the Syrian civil war being an alleged “sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites” a large percentage of Syrian Sunnis support Bashar al Assad. Despite the fact that pro-government Shiite forces, as well as the primarily Shiite group Hezbollah has been accused of sectarian killings, there is no credible evidence of any authorized genocide of the Sunni population. Quite the contrary, Syrian Rebels have been committing systematic ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities. This includes the YPG, the main Syrian Kurdish group based in Northeastern Syria, who have been accused by Amnesty International of war crimes against the Arab and Turkmen populations.
How can Assad be considered an “enemy” of the United States, when congress has yet to declare war against the Syrian state, something which Gabbard pointed out on more than one occasion? During the Vietnam war plenty of American journalists travelled to North Vietnam to meet with the leaders of the NVA in order to properly study the situation. Former congresspersons Cynthia Mckinney and Walter Fauntroy undertook a fact-finding tour in the nation of Libya during US’s unconstitutional intervention. Mckinney and Fauntroy both came back to the states and provided detailed accounts of what they witnessed, as well as exposing the lies and media distortions which were perpetuated by the media giants.
Furthermore, the idea that Syria can even be qualified, at this point, as a “Civil War” is dubious at best, for a large percentage of Syria’s revolutionary forces are in fact foreign volunteers who are seeking to turn Syria into a base of operations. Many of these foreign volunteers are veterans with American blood on their hands from extremist insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, as well as terrorist who are under United Nations sanction for terrorist against Russia and China. Also many of the Syrian members of the FSA have already defected back to the forces of the government. This includes former top ranking FSA general, Munqez Al-Dali.
By all accounts, The Syrian government has won the war. There is only one stronghold of resistance to Assad left. The Kurdish population of Syria has already entered into an alliance with Assad and Moscow, to protect themselves from any actions which the Turkish army may take. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, representing the Arab league, visited Syria and met with Bashar al Assad only a few weeks ago. Arab League countries Kuwait and Bahrain have reopened their embassies with the Syrian government. Any attempt to remove Bashar al Assad would result in the genocide of Syria’s minorities, and a long, drawn out, unnecessary US occupation which would have disastrous consequences with the same effects which the world has already seen in the like of Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. War begets war; interventions never result in their desired outcomes.
Of course, this is not the only criticism of Congresswoman Gabbard. There is the claim that she “unelectable” because of her alleged radicalism, her Hindu faith, and her gender. However, many in the media didn’t believe that Barack Hussein Obama would become president. The consensus in 2016 seemed to be the guaranteed election of Mrs. Clinton. The only thing for certain, is that the perceived “inelectability” of a candidate is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, with these considerations, do not hesitate to support Tulsi Gabbard for president.