Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has a message for the liberals attacking her criticism of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria, warning that a rush to aggression risks repeating the same mistakes that led the United States into the Iraq War.
“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,” she said in an email to The Hill.
Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard who served two tours in Iraq, has been highly critical of Trump’s decision last Thursday to launch 59 missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a deadly chemical attack that killed scores of civilians, including children, in a western Syrian town days before.
The Trump administration says the chemical attacks were carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad — a charge Damascus denies — and congressional leaders from both parties have endorsed the president’s response.
Gabbard’s position — particularly her skepticism that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attacks — has led to an outcry from some establishment Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who want her out of Congress.
A meeting between Gabbard and Assad in January has only heightened the critics’ belief that she’s acting as an apologist for a tyrannical leader known to employ brutal tactics, even against his own people, to keep a grip on power in the country's yearslong civil war.
But Gabbard, who sits on both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, maintains those critics are ignoring the lessons of recent history that have left the United States mired in costly Middle Eastern conflicts for more than a decade.
"I and thousands of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms went to war in Iraq based on false intelligence and lies from our leaders — our president, military and political leaders. We should have been skeptical then, and we weren’t,” she said. “The cost was thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars down the drain. What to speak of millions of non-American lives.”
Echoing the position of other liberal Democrats, Gabbard says the administration is conducting an unconstitutional war because Trump didn’t come to Congress before launching the strike. Going a step further, she’s also questioning the veracity of Trump’s claim that Assad is responsible for the chemical attacks.
"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,” she said.
“No leader — of either party, pro or against military intervention — should let our President take us down the path to another regime change war without that debate."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who praised the U.S. strike, is urging GOP leaders to cut short Congress’s two-week April recess to bring the House back into session to stage such a debate.
Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) has rebuffed that request, though the Republican leader is also calling on Trump to confer with Congress about a future course in Syria.
“It is now appropriate for the administration to consult with Congress as it considers next steps to resolve the long-running crisis in Syria,” Ryan's office said Friday.