Is Tulsi Gabbard Qualified?

I want Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic Presidential debates because she speaks out against wars. She raises the topic unasked. She wants various wars ended or not launched. She wants impeachment made automatic for presidents who launch wars. What’s not to love?

I also want Mike Gravel included for the same reason. If anything, he’s even better than Gabbard. But Gravel openly says he doesn’t want to be elected; he just wants to improve the debates. I wish Gabbard would say the same thing. Here’s why.

February 15, 2003, saw the biggest public demonstration in world history. It was against the obvious lies being used to launch a war against Iraq. Whistleblower Katharine Gun risked her freedom to expose the war in March 2003. The United Nations refused to support the war, and its Secretary General joined many world governments in denouncing the war as a fraud and a crime.

By the spring of 2004, over a year later, the lies had been exposed to the satisfaction of most of those who had either believed them or pretended to. The New York Times had publicly apologized. Senators and Congress Members had been compelled to apologize or squirm like weasels. Polls had found a slim majority of the public now saying the war should never have been started. Camilo Mejia had chosen prison over a second tour.

But in April 2003, Tulsi Gabbard had joined the Hawaii Army National Guard, and in July 2004 — JULY FRICKIN TWO THOUSAND AND FOUR, she VOLUNTEERED to take part in the war on Iraq, which she did until 2005. She has, as far as I know, never expressed regret or apologized; it is certainly not part of her standard stump speech — quite the opposite. She has never left the military, and she has never stopped bragging about having performed the “service” of helping to destroy Iraq — even when opposing any similar wars in the same breath.

Now, that combination is a clear cut above your typical warmongering politician, your . . . well, to put it briefly, your Joe Biden-type. Having someone who learns and improves and takes better positions is a benefit to the debates. I’m glad Gabbard has apologized and improved her views on gay rights. I believe her and applaud her. But has she said she’s learned anything about war? Has she, in fact, learned anything about war? Has she apologized? Has she stopped promoting the military? Has she stopped posing in uniform? She’s only removed photos of herself in uniform from her website when the military has complained to her. When repeatedly asked in the first round of primary debates whether she’d ever support a war on Iran, she eventually caved and said yes, if Americans were attacked. Well, what does anyone imagine the Trump gang is putting so many Americans so close to Iran for?

Gabbard seems unable to mention war without both bragging about having participated and believing it to be insanely destructive. The public response to this seems to be schizophrenic. Those who love militarism support that part of what she says. Those who oppose it support that part. The wonderful, principled, and courageous Dennis Kucinich tweeted this during the debate: “Thank you for your strength challenging wars, @TulsiGabbard. Your record of service to America in the military and Congress is commendable.” How is participating in criminal mass-murder both a commendable service and something it’s strong to challenge?

Gabbard’s website includes among her qualifications:

  • Served two tours of duty in the Middle East (Iraq / Kuwait)

  • Currently serves as Major in Army National Guard

We can also look to her voting record. She has voted against cutting the military budget. But she has voted to keep the AUMF in place. When the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed numerous amendments to create accountability for foreign bases, repeal the AUMF, prevent a war on Iran, finally end the war on Korea, and dozens of other things we don’t usually dare dream of, producing the least awful National Defense Authorization Act in many years, Gabbard didn’t vote.

Gabbard says she wants to end the war on Afghanistan. At the same time, in the same breath in the debate, she suggests that only a member of the military should be president. Is that the kind of nation YOU want to live in?

Here’s where I think we’ve gone wrong. Some of our best peace activists are veterans. It helps that they are veterans both because they know war and because of the widespread and misplaced respect for veterans. Pro-troop propaganda has made us recognize that those making decisions for war from air-conditioned offices are more to blame than direct participants in war. But we’ve gone too far. We’ve come to imagine that participating in an evil war is actually a good thing, even while rates of suicide and depression among veterans suggest that they know better than we do.

This distortion of morality around the propaganda of troopism is compounded by our cartoonish notion of responsibility as developed in a culture of adversarial and retributive justice. We imagine that if someone is responsible for something (such as a president for a war) everyone else is absolved of all responsibility for it. After all, if you prosecuted and convicted a president, nobody could claim you hadn’t achieved vengeance. It would be time for the final credits to roll. But this is equally true: if soldiers didn’t fight, wars would not exist. If something would not exist or not be as strong without your participation, then you are responsible for it, you deserve some bit of the infinite and never-depleted substance of responsibility, as do many, many others.

Is there a value in knowing war up-close? Of course, there is. And there are aid workers and peace activists and war victims who know war up-close. Did it help to elect Eisenhower president because he said he knew war? Perhaps it helped in Egypt. Perhaps it hurt in Iran. The examples of veteran presidents are too few and too much like all the non-veteran presidents to draw any conclusions.

But what about the value of having known enough to oppose war? Why did Barack Obama claim to have opposed the war on Iraq, even while having voted to fund it as soon as he got a chance? Why does Donald Trump pretend both to have opposed the war on Iraq and to be really smart? Because it’s generally not a good idea to give unprecedented reckless imperial power to somebody who’s slow on the uptake. But Donald Trump didn’t just promise to end wars and stop launching them, he also promised a bigger military that would more boldly slaughter whole families. Tulsi Gabbard wants to avoid at least certain wars and end some of the same ones Trump promised to end and then escalated. But does she want to reduce military spending? Does she want to close any bases? Does she want to make the United States party to international law? Does she want to convert to a peaceful economy?

If not Tulsi Gabbard, then who? Well, within the Democratic field of candidates, the vast majority of them are far worse than she is on war and peace. Bernie Sanders isn’t. He’s a million miles from perfect. He also lacks the sadly crucial characteristics needed for the infantile exercise in tokenism that elections have become. But he opposes wars and military spending without feeling compelled every time he does so to also brag about having participated in what he is opposing. How is that not a leading platform for everyone who cares about peace?

UPDATE: Someone pointed out to me that Gabbard by being in the National Guard is actually in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution: “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.”

UPDATE: Someone else pointed out to me Gabbard’s support for shipping weapons to Ukraine.

UPDATE: She fought in Iraq to protect her first amendment rights? WTF? How does killing Iraqis give you more first amendment rights? I don’t get it. And we must have the right to protest the U.S. government but be told not to protest the Israeli government! WTF?

 

48 Replies to “Is Tulsi Gabbard Qualified?”

  1. I do not vote in US elections because I don’t live there .If I was a US citizen , Tulsi Gabbard would be my choice and if I was a US citizen I would volunteer to work for her .
    She is the best qualified and knowledgeable person bar none in both the republicans and democrats .

    1. my concern is all the millions of people who assert that without backing it up. so re-asserting it under an article making lots of points to the contrary, but not actually addressing any points made, is just kind of silly

      1. My concern is the bias of your disingenuous article which makes no actual points, instead drawing conclusions rightly or wrongly regarding votes from aggregate collection sites that do nothing more than display a cursory yay or nay without ever delving into the rationale behind a vote. Using that logic, Bernie Sanders is a racist because he voted for the Clinton Crime Bill. We both know that is not the case, and yet this lie of omission would indicate it is so.

        There is information readily available that would either augment or weaken your suppositions, right from the candidate herself. For example: https://gabbard.house.gov/news/press-releases/rep-tulsi-gabbard-votes-support-troops-strengthen-missile-defense-national

        Or: https://gabbard.house.gov/news/press-releases/reps-tulsi-gabbard-colleen-hanabusa-vote-keep-government-open-strengthen-missile

        And yet you choose not to do the research, which begs the question, why not? If you are going to take the time to write an essay on why Tulsi is not qualified to be POTUS, don’t you think your readers might want an accurate representation of what motivates her? Do you really think that she is some bizarre mutant Manchurean candidate warmonger posing as a dove?

        You COMPLETELY ignore the fact that she was once a rising star in the DNC, who voted as ordered to maintain the illusion that democrats actually give a rat’s ass about their constituents, as well as ascribing sinister motivations to the fact that she joined the military because she didn’t share your enlightenment when she was 22. Do you pay taxes, Dude? Guess what. You’re “participating in criminal mass murder.” Don’t kid yourself. We’re all complicit.

        One value of a veteran president is the capacity not to be cowed by the Joint Chiefs or similar resplendently-uniformed representatives of military power who expect to get their way at all times. JFK initially found it problematic. Do you think that Bernie will be able to do that, when he didn’t even stand up to Hillary?

        Speaking of which, Bernie had his chance…and he blew it. He watched the primary being stolen right before his eyes and capitulated to the system that stole it. Perhaps if he was younger, he might have done the right thing and taken his chances as a third-party candidate with a good chance of winning. At the very least, he would have done his part to blow up a Democratic Party that is virtually indistinguishable from its Republican counterpart. He didn’t do any of that. I don’t know why you think he’d do it now.

        Your concerned that Tulsi “brags” about her military service? Do you spend any time in the United States? That military service is an impenetrable shield against all those who would claim that war is necessary for the well-being of of the country, our “allies”, and the planet. You know that “war is good” claim is bullshit. I know that claim is bullshit. And she knows that claim is bullshit. The difference is that she can fight back against the military by donning the armor of being a veteran who put her life at risk. For nothing. Which she points out in public.

        You may think that’s a small thing, but the simple fact is that the majority of voters of every political stripe are against these friggin’ wars…and yet they continue. Like it or not, it is imperative for someone to counterattack the fortified wall of opposition that continues to have its way regardless of the consequences to the planet and humanity. In fact, it may not even be possible for any POTUS to restrain those unaccountable agents of war; but at least Gabbard will try.

        1. So, to sum up, I failed to link to a warmongering pro-militarism press release in making a misleading case that Gabbard is pro-militarist, and you feel strongly that she should knowingly promote bullshit.

      2. “JULY FRICKIN TWO THOUSAND AND FOUR, she VOLUNTEERED to take part in the war on Iraq”
        I like most of your post but I don’t understand your indifference toward Tulsi. I don’t consider someone enlisting in a medical unit to aid the wounded to be a gun-ho war-hawk.

        1. I’m well aware that you don’t and millions don’t. But that’s not a position held by a peace advocate. Over 95% of the wounded were Iraqi. Anyone volunteering to participate in supporting that mass-murder was someone not working to end it. If it was abuse of non-human animals, or if it was mass-rape, volunteering to patch up those wounded in the commission of the crime would seem wrong, but as long as it’s mass killing of people …

    2. You have a brain and know how to think. David may have a brain but he doesn’t know how to think.

  2. There are clearly no perfect candidates running for president. I’m still a huge Sanders supporter for the reason you mention, plus additional others. I have now become a contributor to both Tulsi Gabbard and Mike Gravel, and I hope other folks in the peace movement will become their supporter. One dollar is all that it takes for them to count you as a supporter. We need all the people we can get on the debate stage willing to speak out about the terrible costs of endless wars. Tulsi is intelligent, articulate, and as a member of the military, lends a certain credibility when she talks about the horrors of wars. I was not aware of some of her pro-war votes that you mention, and I’m sorry about those. At the same time, I’d like to give her credit for her willingness to meet with Assad, clearly an unpopular position. She is definitely sincere in valuing diplomacy over endless wars. Let’s at least help her get her message out to the American people in the upcoming debates.

  3. “But has she said she’s learned anything about war? Has she, in fact, learned anything about war? Has she apologized? Has she stopped promoting the military?”

    Your blog post here is ridfled with questions that are easily answered with a simple web search. I’m a Sanders supporter, but have great respect for Gabbard.

    She has spoken frequently and at length about what she learned during her tours and in service. There is no viable candidate running who urges military restraint more emphatically than Gabbard.

    No one.

    Do some research.

  4. David starts a good discussion about Tulsi Gabbard’s anti-war yet pro-military ideals. However he misrepresents her if not down right misquotes her. He claims: “she suggests that ONLY a member of the military should be president.”
    (those quotation marks indicate what David said, not what Tulsi said.)

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the ONLY thing I can find remotely close to that in the transcript of the debate was:

    “…it is so important to have a president — commander in chief who knows the cost of war and is ready to do the job on day one. I am ready to do that job when I walk into the Oval Office.”

    Pretty different thoughts IMO.

    Another point in the article is that she says there might be a time when the military is necessary therefore we need to be ready GABBARD: “obviously if there was an attack against the American—our troops, then there would have to be a response.”
    I, personally, tend to agree with her. There’s obviously a difference between attacking and defending.

    When one of her opponents said “we need to remain ‘engaged'”, (in Afghanistan) she answered: GABBARD: “Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged? As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable!”

    I appreciate his perspective and like reading what people’s problems with her are.

    I personally don’t agree.

    1. GABBARD:

      Is that what you will tell — is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged? **As a soldier,** I will tell you, that answer is unacceptable.

      We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. We are in a place in Afghanistan where we have lost so many lives. We’ve spent so much money. Money that’s coming out of every one of our pockets, money that should be going into communities here at home, meeting the needs of the people here at home.

      We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began. **This is why it’s so important to have a president and commander-in-chief who knows the cost of war** and who’s ready to do the job on day one. I am ready to do that job when I walk into the Oval Office.

  5. i hold usa army lt. ehren watada up to gabbard supporters as example of what real war hero, international law support courage is. he refused iraq deployment as illegal war crime, was prosecuted for courts martial, and won, on war crimes grounds, though got only general not honorable usa army discharge. then went to law school. gabbard, by any objective war crimes legal standard, is a war criminal, not a hero. further, her 2008 vol kuwait ‘deployment’ included unspecified ‘security missions’ which i am told included iraq actions. if so, she volunteered twice for a war crime. she has no background in deep state pol economy, shows no interest in dissolving the FED, canceling all usa debts to it, and creating a usa bank accountable to congress and ‘the people’ as even radical REPs ron paul and dr. pc roberts (undersec of usa treasury in reagan admin) have for years. at best she is a sheepdog DEM being used as bernie was in ’16 to drag ‘liberal’ voters to the DEM agenda. she has no shot at the DEM nom, where corp DEMs will not gift her their $1 bil prez campaign budget reserved for deep state candidates like biden (prez) and/or warren or harris (vp).

    1. War criminal? No.

      https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_rul_rule156

      Sheepdog? Perhaps, but that is certainly not the best case scenario; as you claim. Hard to make any kind of judgment concerning the rest of your comment; given that any candidate speaking openly about those subjects would be left with blank stares from the electorate followed by immediate dismissal as a presidential hopeful with a chance to win. Not that her odds are great now, given the vitriol coming at her from all sides.

  6. I fully support her anti-war positions. I find that she is forceful, articulate and has shown grace during nasty interviews. I believe that she would make a great president. I donate to her campaign and campaign for her. This is coming from a vet who has never voted for a Democrat in his very long life.

    1. In case anything was unclear, I was 100% aware of the existence of large numbers of people who could say just what you’ve said. I was pointing out some facts that seem to be widely ignored. They are also ignored in this comment.

  7. Tulsi Gabbard does not “brag” about her military service any more than anyone in a job interview “brags” about their qualifications. Bragging is what Donald Chump does: example “I’m the best at everything” nonsense that he is always spouting. Gabbard was in a medical unit, so she wasn’t shooting people, but she was in a position to see plenty of our service people shot or hurt with mines, etc. Therefore, she DOES know the cost of war, and evidently she’s the only one among those running for president. Since ending the enormously expensive and EVIL wars of choice IS the most important issue in this presidential campaign, Gabbard is the only choice that makes sense. And there is no doubt whatsoever that she will clobber Chump if allowed to win the nomination.

    1. this is the schizophrenia that concerns me: it’s good she assisted in a war; it would be bad if she had taken the role of shooting the gun she posed with; but the people who did use guns performed a “service,” and only by participating in a crime can one know enough to oppose it — even though Mike Gravel opposes it more seriously without having participated in it

      1. So, I’m schizophrenic because I’m able to hold two somewhat different ideas in my head at once, and to balance them….interesting. Nevertheless, do you, or do you not agree that: “Therefore, she DOES know the cost of war, and evidently she’s the only one among those running for president. Since ending the enormously expensive and EVIL wars of choice IS the most important issue in this presidential campaign, Gabbard is the only choice that makes sense. And there is no doubt whatsoever that she will clobber Chump if allowed to win the nomination.” (?)

        1. I knew enough to try to prevent and end that war beginning in 2002. She knew little enough to join in in 2004. She could have asked B Sanders to fill her in.

      2. You are making an unquantifiable, subjective assumption about the seriousness of Mike Gravel’s war opposition as opposed to Tulsi’s.

  8. Mr. Swanson,
    Gabbard is far from perfect. I strongly disagree with her domestic agenda. I believe that she is the only candidate who can beat Trump in the general election because she has enough support among Independents, Republicans and Ron Paul Libertarians.
    I was in the Army in 1969. I was against our war in Vietnam, but I had a duty to serve our government. What would I do? A weighty decision. I decided that I would, if ordered, go to Vietnam. It turned out that the Army ordered me to Germany where I completed my service.

    1. “had a duty”? a lot of people apparently didn’t “have a duty.” apparently it was a choice — not that there were any great choices available, but there were moral ones.

      1. Mr. Swanson,
        I made a choice. What was your choice? You seem to believe that my choice was immoral. If so, I would be pleased to debate the issue.

  9. Instead of those coming out in defense of Gabbard, how about urging Gabbard
    to simply address each concern David Swanson raises and if she has the fortitude to do so, then debate her positions on those.

    1. If David Swanson had listened to enough of Tulsi Gabbard’s interviews etc. beginning in 2016 when she was promoting Bernie Sanders in his run for president right up until her most recent public statement he’d find that she has indeed addressed ALL his concerns.

      1. It would appear that you take umbrage at answering a simple question. So I will ask you again. What was her, or her campaign’s, response to your inquiry?

  10. You blame Tulsi for a decision to join the military that she made 15 years ago. I’ll remind you that after 9/11 thousands of military age men and women joined the military out of a sense of duty. Was it Tulsi’s fault that her government consistently lied to her about the reasons for invading Iraq for YEARS. Do you think when the NYT “apologized” there was suddenly perfect and complete information and everyone knew the President’s administration were liars? Wasn’t Bush the president until 2008!!! Why wasn’t he impeached? Why wasn’t there a Special Counsel appointed? Don’t blame Tulsi for joining the fucking National Guard. Blame the corrupt sociopaths in power in DC.

    1. The point of pointing out the idiocy of “Don’t blame x, blame y” was the head off all the “Don’t blame x, blame y” responses. Of course I fucking blame millions of people for supporting every war anyone has ever supported, and certainly including this one, and we are talking about a period long after the gung ho surge of misguided volunteering. We’re talking about a time well into regret and resentment and resistance in the ranks. We had conscientious objectors, deserters, and whistleblowers by this point. And then we had 15 years more of Gabbard never claiming she’d been suckered, never apologizing for being suckered, never demanding that anyone apologize to her for it.

  11. Lots of misrepresentation of Tulsi Gabbard here. If any of you are Bernie supporters, you will need Tulsi Gabbard in the race. They will share their won delegates with each other to get over 50% in first round at the convention. If not 50%, the 2nd round will have the superdelegates choose our nominee–and it won’t be Bernie or Tulsi. So it’s shooting yourselves in the foot. Tulsi resigned as Vice Chair of DNC in 2016 to support Bernie. She campaigned tirelessly for Bernie in 2016. They keep close contact. Tulsi pulls in many different independents, libertarians and even Trump supporters that Bernie doesn’t get. that want to stop regim change wars. Bernie and Tulsi are on the same team, so support them both!

    1. “Lot of misrepresentation” is, as usual, followed by a lot more sentences, none of which documents a single misrepresentation.

  12. Hi David,
    The bottom line of your criticism of Tulsi is that you feel Bernie is better. To support this, you cite Sandy and Medea’s article on candidates’ voting records. They list pros and cons, and end by asking which version of each candidate will show up, if elected. Unfortunately, we already have some indication of Bernie’s behavior under peer pressure. He pulled his punches in his campaign against Hillary, and since the Democrats are now easily as bellicose as Republicans, his authority for peace seems tenuous. Currently, Bernie shows cowardly group-think acceptance of Russiagate. OTOH, Tulsi has been courageously independent. (Neither you nor Sandy and Medea even mention Russiagate and the [domestic] politics motivated ginning up of dangerous hostilities.)

    I’d much prefer that Tulsi never voted to arm Ukraine, but that was in 2014. Five years ago, and more than 2 years before she first introduced her Stop Arming Terorists Bill. (We’re still arming “moderate rebels” in Syria.) If she’d arm Ukraine again now, I’d be very disappointed, but I’d still support her over the alternatives. She’s young, and a work in progress, and she’s come a very long way. Part of that journey was her military service – which you disparage. You didn’t start your journey in a super-conservative family on a remote island. You credit your travels abroad with enriching your world view. Tulsi barely got off that island until she went to Iraq. I think it’s safe to say, she’d never have become who she is if she hadn’t gone. You said about your parents’ example, “…try to make sense of the most important matters, pack up ideologically and try again as needed….” And yet you are surprisingly parsimonious, towards Tulsi as she evolves. We all started somewhere.

    You even misrepresent Tulsi. For example, she said that US soldiers killed in the Gulf would require a response. She did NOT say that the response would be “war on Iran.” You say that she’s never apologized for participating in the war on Iraq. Good grief, her whole campaign is an apology for a warring foreign policy. I don’t think she’s “promoting the military.” Have you heard her recruiting anyone? Do you think there’s any chance we’re about to disband the military? You mentioned Katharine Gun. She took exception to one legal/ethical breach, but she was perfectly content with the work of GCHQ.

    Let’s stay in the realm of reality. There will be a Democrat nominated. There will be a president elected. None of the candidates are perfect, by anyone’s definition (that I know of). None of them will be governing alone. The choice of advisors is where DJT has failed those who had a glimmer of hope that he’d be a peace president. Maybe Dennis Kucinich can get you onto the team … but wait, you’re already on Bernie’s team. C’est la vie.

  13. Gabbard has suddenly become anti-war though she benefited personally from joining the military. Her smiling pictures wearing her uniform attest to her being all in. If given the chance she would just revert back to her robotic chain of command thinking. What people like Gabbard and the rest of the military establishment don’t understand is that she broke the law the minute she crossed the border into Iraq. Wars of aggression are the ultimate crimes against humanity. That these criminals felt they had a RIGHT to be there shows they have no respect for domestic or international law. As a result of the endless war on terror I could make a very strong argument that the rule of law has been so completely shattered that it no longer exists in the USA. Our foreign policy? Get out of our way or we will kill you. Gabbard had her chance to be anti-war and she failed miserably. Wouldn’t vote for her for dogcatcher. Her sudden change of heart will not bring back the lives, businesses, homes and culture she helped destroy.

    1. Chris, thanks for that link.
      What concerns me much more than Tulsi’s “soldier’s heart” is her political mind. Does her “yes” vote on the anti-BDS resolution mean that she really believes a 2-state solution is still viable, etc., or was that a defensive political move?

      She could have not voted, but with all the hate directed at her because of Syria, she may not feel able to stray from the herd on Israel. Here is a video where she answers direct questions on Palestine.
      Tulsi Gabbard on Occupation of Palestine, BDS, Accountability

  14. The current hypocrisy exhibited by America’s war on immigrants at the southern border can be placed in the context of our current and recent wars. They complain about undocumented people crossing the border yet the military has shown no constraint in invading Vietnam, the Middle East, and other parts of the world in not only violating national borders but then killing the inhabitants. Do you think that these countries got to look at passports or visas and make a decision about entry? No we just barged our way in and started killing people on land and from the skies. Why is this not a crime but people attempting to get asylum here are demonized and criminalized? Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said the war in Vietnam had placed the United States on the edge of a moral abyss. And then we fell into it and remain there with our murderous wars and belligerent foreign policy. George Carlin was right in pointing out “This country is finished” and the sooner we realize that the sooner we can begin building a new country and rejoin the community of nations. Tulsi will never understand the double standard so is not qualified. Big step in right direction is to defund all military excursions and outlaw war. To the people who say that it isn’t possible lack imagination and are basically saying it is impossible to undue this human activity. Anything man made can be undone like nuclear disarmament. Infinite Peace Live Green

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