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The Candidate of the Military-Industrial Complex

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This is an excellent summary of why Tusli Gabbard is not merely much worse than the serious Democratic candidates on domestic policy, she’s also much worse on foreign policy:

Gabbard has situated herself as a peace advocate who isn’t afraid to stand up to the voices calling for “endless war” — but a look at her own record reveals that she has personally benefited from those who stand to gain the most from war.

As Akbar Ahmed recently reported for HuffPost, Gabbard has accepted hefty donations from arms dealers like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, both of which ranked among the congresswoman’s top donors in the 2016 cycle. The defense industry was her third-largest source of funding during the same cycle, accounting for nearly 14 percent of total contributions to her campaign.

In May 2017, Gabbard announced on her website that she had recently stopped accepting money from several industries, including the defense sector — but by that point, she had already pocketed over $115,000 from arms dealers in just her first four years in Congress.

“Regular contributions from companies including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and BAE Systems poured in between 2012 (the year she was first elected) and 2016,” HuffPost reported.

The relationship isn’t unidirectional, either. In one of her first acts as a congresswoman, Gabbard broke with the Democratic Party to support a GOP funding bill because, as she explained at the time, “it provides important funds for our men and women serving overseas [and] our military-related jobs in Hawaii.”

She has stated on numerous occasions that she supports expanding the use of drone strikes against military opponents, and, in 2014, refused to rule out the idea of using torture on suspected terrorists. Gabbard also spoke out vehemently against the Iran nuclear deal when it was first proposed by President Obama.

Her hawkish foreign policy stance has earned praise from Republicans and placed her in the company of neoconservative figures like Dick Cheney and and Bill Kristol. The associations aren’t by happenstance—she’s been invited to events held by right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and frequently appears on right-wing news networks like Fox News.

In a 2016 interview, Gabbard told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that “when it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk.”

This is how she justifies her support for military operations like Russia’s years-long bombing campaign in Syria. Unlike the U.S., Russia has aligned itself with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose violent crackdown on civilian protesters in the spring of 2011 led to the war that is still raging today.

In addition to direct military involvement, the Kremlin has also backed the Assad regime by selling and delivering arms, withholding humanitarian aid from civilians, blocking international efforts to sanction Assad for crimes against humanity, and — perhaps most influentially — carrying out a propaganda blitz aimed at changing the way the world sees the conflict in Syria.

When Russia launched its brutal bombing campaign on September 30, 2015, Gabbard tweeted her support for the bloody offensive, writing: “Bad enough U.S. has not been bombing al-Qaeda/al-Nusra in Syria. But it’s mind-boggling that we protest Russia’s bombing of these terrorists.”

She followed up the next day with a tweet condemning President Obama and praising Putin: “Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11 and must be defeated. Obama won’t bomb them in Syria. Putin did.”

But Putin wasn’t just bombing terrorists. In fact, Russian forces were actively engaged in war crimes in Syria when Gabbard praised the bombing campaign. Furthermore, most of Russia’s airstrikes targeted opposition groups, including many U.S.-backed fighters. This provided a convenient way for Putin to prop up the Assad regime under the guise of fighting terrorism.

And despite what Gabbard asserted, U.S. forces had conducted countless airstrikes against al-Qaeda/al-Nusra targets at that point — just not as indiscriminately as Russia.

Russia’s involvement severely worsened the already-devastating situation in Syria. Since the first Russian combat operation began in September 2015, Putin has overseen continuing assaults that have deliberately targeted civilian populations and facilities including hospitals, schools, and markets — a violation of international law that ultimately resulted in Russia losing its seat at the UN Human Rights Council in October 2016. Russia’s airstrikes are also responsible for a 34 percent increase in civilian casualties, according to an October 2018 Airwaves report.

As Russian and Syrian forces continued their bombing campaign in opposition-held regions of the country in November 2015, Gabbard voted with Republicans in favor of legislation to make it nearly impossible for Syrian refugees to come to the United States. The next day, she introduced a bill to prohibit the United States from providing assistance to opposition groups in Syria.

I don’t think she’s going to find Democratic primary voters very attracted to a combination of Steny Hoyer’s voting record and Donald Trump’s foreign policy vision. The good news is that there are multiple vastly superior options to choose from.

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