Hawaiian congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has been called the GOP’s favorite Democrat. She was one of just a select few who met with Donald Trump after his election, a reunion that she did not apologize for even while accusations that he only managed to take the office due to fake news and Russian intervention ran rampant.
Now, Tulsi is breaking with the majority of her party on another key issue: U.S. foreign policy on the Syrian Civil War. As the conflict enters its fifth year, media representation of what is taking place there has shifted significantly, particularly within the last several months. Gabbard, who has advocated for a withdrawal of American and NATO intervention in the region in the past, decided to take a trip to see the realities of the civil war for herself.
Tulsi Gabbard’s final thoughts on her trip side largely with the views shared by alternative media — often given their biggest voice by Russian state news channel RT — which has claimed that there are no moderate rebels left in the country, contrary to what they call the narrative of fake news. On-site reporters Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley, both of whom have amassed large followings on social media, openly side with Bashar al-Assad, a democratically elected leader who they say has been framed as a dictator by the West.
With little on-the-ground reporting available, these journalists claim that many outlets have placed too much emphasis on Twitter feeds that are difficult to verify, sometimes using sources who also appear to be friendly with Islamic extremist groups.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 25, 2017
In a post on Medium, Tulsi detailed the experiences she had uncovered on her trip, speaking with people of all classes, genders, and geographic locations within Syria — even with Assad himself. Gabbard said that time and time again she was confronted with stories that led her to believe that, indeed, fake news is being pushed in the Syrian Civil War that values the ouster of Assad above human life.
“Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between ‘moderate’ rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same. This is a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. They cry out for the U.S. and other countries to stop supporting those who are destroying Syria and her people.”
When Tulsi’s surprise trip was publicized last week, some media, such as Politico, questioned where her funding for the expedition was coming from — the same charge that has been levied against alternative media who have argued a similar interpretation. As of the publication of her article, Gabbard still has not revealed this information.
Upon leaving Syria, Tulsi stated that she was even more resolved to pass the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, which proposes the end of the funneling of weapons to terrorist groups in the Middle East — be it directly or through allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. According to Gabbard, this outcome is the most desirable to all groups in Syria, including the opposition.
“Although this political opposition continues to seek reforms, they are adamant that as long as foreign governments wage a proxy regime change war against Syria using jihadist terrorist groups, they will stand with the Syrian state as they work peacefully toward a stronger Syria for all Syrians.”
It’s also worth noting that Tulsi has been against military intervention in Syria since long before her visit. In 2016, Gabbard voted against condemning the Syrian government’s action as “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
I know the cost of war. I feel it is my duty to take every opportunity possible to advocate for peace.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 24, 2017
Tulsi holds a unique position among the left. She’s a staunchly progressive Democrat who endorsed Bernie Sanders but nearly refused to do so for Hillary Clinton, largely because of a hesitancy to get on board with the unsuccessful Democratic nominee’s hawkish foreign policy. Unlike some non-interventionists attacked by neo-conservatives, her distaste for American boots on the ground comes from experience. Gabbard served two tours in Iraq with the National Guard — eventually becoming a major.
Is Tulsi Gabbard exposing a fake news narrative on the Syrian Civil War, or is she being played as Bashar al-Assad’s pawn?
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]