Tulsi Gabbard dares to challenge Washington’s war machine
The former presidential candidate has shown that opposing regime-change policies is the one taboo that the ruling class won’t tolerate
Tulsi Gabbard’s rapid transformation from rising Democratic star to demonized outcast – culminating this week with her decision to leave the party – has exposed the one thing on which every powerful person in Washington can agree: war is good.
It’s the one thing, in fact, that everyone must agree on, if they expect to attain any power and have a long and prosperous career in American politics. Those who don’t will be kept on the fringes, at best. If they speak out too effectively, they’ll be branded a traitor. As former congressman Ron Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, have proved, they’ll never be taken seriously as a presidential candidate and won’t be allowed to contest, regardless of how many debates they win.
Gabbard has illustrated this reality better than anyone. Consider how much she brought to the table when she entered Congress in 2013, how touted she was as the next big thing, then look at how seemingly little it took for her to be essentially excommunicated. Her fall from grace was astonishingly quick, and illuminating.
Then just 31, she came from one of the most reliably blue states, Hawaii, as the youngest lawmaker to ever represent her district. She’s non-white. In fact, she checked a couple of those identitarian boxes that the Democrats love so much, becoming the first Hindu member and the first Samoan-American voting member of Congress. She’s a war veteran. She’s articulate and comes across as a person who passionately believes in what she’s saying.
In short, she was like a far better version of Kamala Harris. Try to imagine the current vice president being younger, smarter, likable and principled. Sprinkle in some extra credit points for military service and an ability to seem human, without the uncontrollable laughing in the most inappropriate moments. That would be Tulsi Gabbard.
It wasn’t hard for Democratic Party leaders to see Gabbard’s potential when she won her first primary in 2012. President Barack Obama endorsed her, and Nancy Pelosi, then House minority leader, invited her to speak at the Democratic National Convention. Immediately upon arriving in Congress in 2013, she was named vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Right on cue, CNN and other legacy media outlets began fawning over Gabbard as the “next superstar” and “the one to watch.” MSNBC suggested that Hollywood might want to make a movie about her, and CNN commentator Ana Navarro quipped, “I don’t know, but in a battle, I want her in my trench.”
But then almost as suddenly, none of the talking heads wanted Gabbard in their trench. After Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the 2016 presidential election, she had the audacity to meet with the president-elect. The problem wasn’t really that she had a conversation with Bad Orange Man. What was unforgivable was what she wanted to talk about: the US regime-change campaign in Syria.
“I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the president-elect now, before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government,” Gabbard said at the time. Weeks later, she traveled to Syria to see the horrific conditions on the ground, and she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
For all intents and purposes, Gabbard’s stint as a Democratic Party darling was over. Actually, it was worse than being removed from the A-list. She was deemed a traitor to her nation in the eyes of the power brokers. Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, went so far as to suggest that Gabbard was being groomed as a Russian pawn, saying: “She’s the favorite of the Russians.”
When Gabbard ran for president in the 2020 race, she brought her anti-war message to the primary debates and humiliated Harris as a hypocrite on criminal justice. After her first debate performance, she became the most searched candidate online, but Google suspended her advertising account, meaning she couldn’t capitalize on the surge in voter interest. She accused the DNC of keeping her out of some of the key later debates, in one case changing its rules to do so, and Gabbard quit the race shortly thereafter.
With the media portraying her as an anti-LGBTQ bigot and a “Russian assert,” Gabbard’s career in Congress was also soon to end. She chose not to seek re-election and was the only Democrat who didn’t join with other party members in the House to vote for Trump’s impeachment.
However, Gabbard continued to speak out against warmongering, especially after Russia began its military offensive against Ukraine in February, triggering rebukes from Democrats and Republicans alike. She became even more of a political pariah when she warned that Biden’s policy of fighting a proxy war against Russia was pushing Americans closer to nuclear disaster. After she raised concern about claims of US-funded biolabs in Ukraine, Senator Mitt Romney accused her of spouting “treasonous lies.”
When Gabbard announced her exit from the Democratic Party on Tuesday, she spoke of “cowardly wokeness,” racial divisiveness, hostility toward people of faith and weaponization of law enforcement against political opponents. But the one real deal killer, the one truly irreconcilable difference, was war. “I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party that is now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers,” she said.
Sadly, she could have said the same thing about the Republican Party. As economist and policy analyst Jeffrey Sachs pointed out in an interview on Monday, “This country is a war machine at the top.” He added, “We are a security state. We have a secret state which runs most of our foreign and military policy.”
All the gamesmanship about race, gender and other trumped-up social issues is just political theater. What really matters in Washington is war, and Gabbard’s effectiveness as a communicator makes her dangerous to the war machine. She makes clear that US policies have nothing to do with the real security and economic interests of the American people.
“We have too many people in Washington who are warmongers, subservient to the military industrial complex, and continuing to put their own selfish interests and the interests of their donors first, with no mind for the cost and consequence that their decisions have on the American people,” she said in a Fox News interview on Tuesday.
“That’s exactly what we’re seeing right now with President Biden and leaders in Congress, whose decisions are actively pushing us to the brink of a nuclear holocaust, of which they may have their bunkers where they’ll be safe, but we the American people will have no shelter, no place to go, no place to hide, and face the consequences that could destroy all of humanity and the world as we know it.”