Q&A w/ Tuesday Group
Each Tuesday, members from Indivisible Hawaii, Resist Trump, and other local advocacy groups visit Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's office to discuss news of the day, issues of concern, and ask questions about legislation and policies. She appreciates their active engagement in our democracy. Here are the congresswoman's responses to some of their questions:
Question: Tulsi has signed on to HR 305, which is the weakest of the bills that would force Trump to disclose his tax returns. Did Tulsi sign on to HR 371 and HR 540? If not, why not?
Answer: I cosponsored HR 305 and signed a Discharge Petition that would force House Republicans to bring HR 305 to the floor for a vote. This bill would require the president to disclose federal income tax returns for the three most recent taxable years and establishes civil and criminal penalties for failing to file or falsifying these income tax returns. I signed onto this particular bill because it is bipartisan and has the most support and therefore has the greatest likelihood of moving through Congress to become law.
I have since reviewed HR 371 and HR 540 and will be cosponsoring them when Congress goes back into session the week of May 15th.
Question: Will Tulsi add her name to HR 711 and HR 1711?
Answer: I'm reviewing your request to cosponsor HR 711 and HR 1711.
Question: What’s your position on demanding Trump’s tax returns as a “precondition” of starting to work with Republicans on tax reform? If you don’t support it, why not?
Answer: Every president has a duty to put the interests of the American people first and foremost, and the American people deserve to know whether allegiance to special interests or undue foreign influence might be interfering with that duty. While I have cosponsored legislation that would mandate the release of the president’s tax returns and called publicly for Trump to release them, I will not make any deal ever that supports Trump’s disastrous tax reform proposal in exchange for the release of those returns. I oppose Trump’s tax reform blueprint which will increase tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires on the backs of middle class and low income families.
Question: Too many controversial people seem to take an interest in Tulsi Gabbard over other Democrats. Bannon has publicly supported her. Why are these people supporting Tulsi?
Answer: Many people from a wide variety of backgrounds support me. If someone wants to know why any particular individual supports me, that question needs to be asked of that individual. And as I’ve said many times, I do not, nor will I ever, subscribe to the kind of hateful rhetoric espoused by some people.
I look at each issue on its own merits and take a position on that issue based on the facts and what I think is in the best interests of the people of Hawaii and our country.
My position on any particular issue will not be a reaction to some other person’s position on that issue. I’m not going to determine my position on issues based on who else does or doesn’t hold those same views or positions. Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Steve Bannon, and David Duke were all against TPP. So does that mean I am supposed to be against TPP or for TPP? The idea that we should be against whatever Trump and the Republicans are for, and that we should be for whatever they are against is ridiculous. That’s not how I make my decisions.
Question: Why didn’t you sign the letter denouncing Bannon?
Answer: When I worked for Senator Akaka in the U.S. Senate, I saw how he always treated everyone with aloha, even if they were bitter political opponents. He inspired me to do the same.
I reject the politics of personal destruction that have become the norm in our society. I refuse to treat others with contempt. I focus not on personalities, but on issues and policies.
When I agree with Trump administration policies, I will find a way to work with the administration on those policies. And when I disagree with an administration policy, I will work against it. For example, I signed a letter saying that political appointees, such as Steve Bannon, should not hold seats on the National Security Council because I feel that policy is best for the security of our state and our nation.
With every decision I’m faced with, whether it’s who to meet with, how to vote on an issue, or whether or not to sign onto a letter or legislation, I ask myself these questions: Will this help the people of Hawaii? Will this help the people of our country? Will this help the people of the world and our environment? And what possible negative effect could it have?
Kailua Town Hall Moderator
The moderator at the Kailua Town Hall was a community volunteer and did his best—however, no one is perfect. We received a lot of positive feedback about the Town Halls, including from people who attend Resist Trump Tuesdays.
Question: How can Congresswoman Gabbard not say the Assad regime is culpable for the chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun?
Answer: I have not taken a position as to whether the Assad regime is or is not culpable for the chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun. I oppose President Trump’s military strike against Syria because:
1. The United Nations had not completed a thorough independent investigation (they were drafting a resolution for conducting an investigation the day before the attack).
2. Congress and the American people were not shown evidence demonstrating the Assad regime was responsible, and a case had not been made to Congress for authorization for the use of military force.
3. We can’t have a trigger-happy president taking unilateral military action without a thorough and impartial investigation and approval from Congress. This is the reasonable, constitutional position to take.
Thousands of my brothers and sisters-in-arms and I participated in a war in Iraq that was based on false intelligence and lies from our leaders—our president and military and political leaders. We should have been skeptical then, and we weren’t. The cost of our lack of skepticism was thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars down the drain. What to speak of millions of Iraqi lives. So I believe it is my duty, especially as a veteran and member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, to make sure this never happens again. We need to learn from Iraq and Libya—wars that were propagated as necessary to relieve human suffering, but actually increased human suffering many times over.
There is a reason our Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war: we should be shown the evidence and given the opportunity to debate the strategy and sacrifice expected. No leader—of either party, for or against military intervention—should let our President take us down the path to another regime change war without that debate and approval from Congress.
As I have stated in local and national television interviews:
“I’m just looking for the evidence. Maybe President Assad was behind it. If he was, this is a horrific war crime and he should be prosecuted before the international criminal court for that. Again, we’ve got to look at the evidence to see exactly what occurred, who is behind it. Moving forward, how do we bring about peace? How do we truly help the Syrian people achieve peace? And I can tell you first and foremost, it is not by escalating this regime change war. It is not by dropping more bombs—again, which Congress has not authorized.” (on Hawaii News Now)
“We only have to look back to the Iraq war. This regime change war that was so costly in terms of American lives and resources, what to speak of the devastation caused for the Iraqi people. We heard members of the Bush administration then coming to Congress and going to the UN and saying, ‘Here is our evidence of weapons of mass destruction.’ All of that evidence proved to be false and so that war was launched on a false premise.” (on Hawaii News Now)
“Whether the President or the Pentagon or the Secretary of State says that they have the evidence, the fact remains that they have not brought that evidence before Congress, they have not brought that evidence before the American people, and they have not sought authorization from congress to launch this military attack on another country.” (on CNN)
“We, the American people should be concerned when any President of the United States launches an illegal and unconstitutional military strike against a foreign Government. This is something that Congress has not authorized and it’s an escalation of a counterproductive regime change war in Syria that our country has been waging for years—first, for many years through the CIA covertly, and now overtly, through President Trump’s reckless military strike last night.” (on Tucker Carlson)
“I’ve never made decisions based on fear of what might people think or what might be politically advantageous for me. As a veteran, I have seen the cost of these wars, experienced them firsthand, seen the human cost in friends of mine who did not come home from the war in Iraq. I went to congress promising my constituents, my fellow veterans and brother and sisters in uniform that I would do all I could to prevent our country from making these kinds of disastrous and destructive mistakes again in the future.” (on CNN)
In my view, Assad is a brutal dictator, but ultimately, I should not be the one determining whether or not he should be in power in Syria. That should be left up to the Syrian people. The United States should not be going around the world deciding who should be the leader of countries other than our own. We don't want other countries to be choosing who our leaders are. So we should understand that people of other countries don't appreciate our trying to be the ones deciding who their leaders are going to be. We need to end all these regime change wars and regime change policies.
I don’t believe American presidents should be launching military attacks against foreign governments without coming to Congress to justify such military action and obtaining congressional approval on behalf of the American people based on proof and held up by facts.
We must stop engaging in illegal, unconstitutional regime change wars overthrowing foreign governments that we don’t like.
Question: You draw parallels to the war in Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction, but the war in Iraq and the Syrian situation are not the same thing.
Answer: The central issue of the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, relative to the U.S. government, is our government's involvement in instigating regime change. Here’s further information on the war in Syria:
There are two wars being waged in Syria right now. The first is the war against our enemy: ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups who have declared war on America. That is a war the U.S. must fight and win.
The second is the illegal, counterproductive war the U.S. and our allies are waging to overthrow the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. This ongoing regime change war has only increased suffering, loss of life, and refugees, while strengthening terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Since at least 2012, the U.S. has been quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, and other terrorist groups with money, weapons, and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government.
The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. This support has allowed al-Qaeda and their fellow terrorist organizations to establish strongholds throughout Syria.
A recent New York Times article confirmed that “rebel groups” supported by the U.S. “have entered into battlefield alliances with the affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, formerly known as Al Nusra.” This alliance has rendered the phrase “moderate rebels” meaningless.
Reports confirm that “every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by [al-Qaeda’s] Nusra militants.”
A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that many rebel groups are “doubling down on their alliance” with al Nusrah. Some rebel groups are renewing their alliance, while others, like Nour al-Din al-Zinki, a former CIA-backed group and one of the largest factions in Aleppo are joining for the first time.
“The Syria Conquest Front—formerly known as the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front—is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields.”
As reported in The Daily Beast, members of one of the so-called moderate rebel groups that our taxpayer dollars are paying to fight to overthrow the Syrian government (Nour al-Din al-Zinki Movement) cut off the head of a 12 year old boy.
The CIA has long been supporting a group called Fursan al Haqq, providing them with salaries, weapons, and support, including surface to air missiles. This group is cooperating with and fighting alongside an al-Qaeda affiliated group trying to overthrow the Syrian government.
The Levant Front is another so-called moderate umbrella group of Syrian opposition fighters. Over the past year, the United States has been working with Turkey to give this group intelligence support and other forms of military assistance. This group has joined forces with al-Qaeda’s offshoot group in Syria.
Trump temporarily froze the funding of “rebel groups” working with al-Qaeda, but recent reports indicate the funding and support has resumed.
Question: What was the purpose of your meeting with Assad?
Answer: I met with President Assad to further the cause of understanding and peace. We can’t further the cause of peace and understanding without meeting with people we don’t agree with. We can’t just meet with our friends.
Regardless of what we think of Assad—he is the president of Syria. We have two choices: continue to work toward regime change—which simply strengthens terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS who want to take over Syria, or stop directly and indirectly helping terrorist organizations fighting to overthrow Assad.
In my view, we should immediately end all indirect and direct efforts to overthrow the Syrian government, and instead focus our military efforts one-pointedly on ISIS and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations). This is one of the reasons why I introduced the Stop Arming Terrorist Act.
Question: Aren’t you concerned that when a legitimate leader like yourself meets with Assad it emboldens him and makes him feel stronger?
Answer: By that logic, no U.S. government official would ever meet with any adversary or potential adversary. You could say that every time a U.S. President or government official meets with President Putin of Russia, China’s President Xi, or any other world leader, that it may “embolden him and make him feel stronger,” etc.
Peace and other national security interests of the United States cannot be met if we are afraid to meet with other world leaders, including adversaries or potential adversaries.
Question: In Tulsi’s Town Hall meeting she said her going to Syria and meeting with Assad was to try to help bring peace and that you have to talk to people you may not agree with in order to broker peace. But when she talks about North Korea, it sounds like she wants to go full tomahawk, talking about missile defense. So I don't understand what makes the two people different when these are both war nations?
Answer: I don’t know what you mean by saying that “These are both war nations.” The fact is, Syria is at war because the United States and our allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc. are trying to overthrow the Syrian government. On the other hand, North Korea is threatening to start a war against the United States, i.e., threatening to attack the United States with nuclear weapons.
In other words, the situation with Syria and North Korea are very different. North Korea has nuclear weapons and has numerous times threatened to use those nuclear weapons against Hawaii and the United States. Furthermore, their nuclear arsenal is now within striking distance of Hawaii. The situation in Syria is completely different. Syria has never threatened to attack the United States, they don’t possess nuclear weapons, and they are thousands of miles farther away from Hawaii and the United States than North Korea is. Therefore, they are not even close to being an imminent threat to Hawaii like North Korea is.
Second, my position regarding having talks with the Assad government and the North Korean government are in fact the same. I believe that if we are going to bring peace to either Syria or North Korea, we need to be ready to talk with their leaders.
Finally, to say that advocating for a missile defense system is somehow pro-war is simply absurd.
Question: Did Tulsi go to Syria as a civilian or Member of Congress?
Answer: Tulsi's travel to Syria was connected to her role as a Member of Congress and in line with her duties as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees.
Question: Who paid for Tulsi's trip to Syria? Where did the money come from? Did she pay it back?
American taxpayer dollars did not pay for Tulsi's trip. She was invited on the trip by former Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the trip was originally paid for by AACCESS-Ohio, long-time friends of Kucinich.
Ultimately, however, Tulsi reimbursed AACCESS-Ohio in full because those who are advocates for the regime change war in Syria were trying to divert people's attention away from the fact that American taxpayer dollars have been and are being used to support militant groups who are working hand-in-hand with al-Qaeda, etc. to overthrow the Syrian government.
Tulsi has said:
"The so-called moderate groups that the U.S. and our allies (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) are arming, financing, and in other ways supporting to fight in the illegal, counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government are working hand-in-hand with the terrorist group that killed over 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
"The fact that our government is using our tax dollars directly and indirectly to support al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations is an outrage and passage of my Stop Arming Terrorists Act would put a stop to it."
Stop Arming Terrorists Act
It’s commonly known that under U.S. law it is illegal for any American to provide money or assistance to al Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups.
However, there is a double standard for our government, which has for years been quietly supporting allies and partners of Al Qaeda, ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al Sham and other terrorist groups with money, weapons, and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government.
Many people are shocked when they hear this, how can it be? Evidence has been reported publicly, showing time and again, that we are arming and funding militant groups who are allied with terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and sometimes even controlled by them.
The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. This support has allowed al-Qaeda and their fellow terrorist organizations to establish strongholds throughout Syria, including in Aleppo.
This has been going on since 2011 but only recently has Western media begun to acknowledge the facts.
My bill, the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, would end this madness by prohibiting any federal agency from using taxpayer dollars to provide weapons, cash, intelligence, or any support to al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups, and as well as prohibiting the government from funneling money and weapons through other countries who are directly or indirectly supporting terrorists.
This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about joining together as Americans to end the destructive policy of strengthening those who attacked us on 9/11, who we should be focused on defeating.
We have both Democrat and Republican co-sponsors, as well as endorsements from organizations like the Progressive Democrats of America, Veterans for Peace, and the US Peace Council.”
U.S. Weaponry Is Turning Syria Into Proxy War With Russia
Syria Rebels Draw Closer to al Qaeda-Linked Group
The CIA’s Syria Program and the Perils of Proxies
Washington’s New Lock-Step March of Folly
Syrian “Moderate Rebels” to Form a New Alliance
The Levant Front: Can Aleppo’s Rebels Unite?
Syria Situation Report: November 19-December 2, 2016