Tulsi Gabbard

Speech at the People's Summit - June 24, 2016

Tulsi Gabbard
June 24, 2016
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Aloha. What a beautiful crowd. I'm incredibly inspired and so thrilled to be here to join you today, to join Commissioner Garcia, Senator Turner, Donna Smith, Roseanne Domoro, Whiney, all of you who have worked so hard to make today possible and who are working even harder to lay out the path for how we can make sure we continue progress on all of these important issues. There's so much at stake as we look at the next five months before us, but also how we engage beyond that. We've got to make sure that our voices are heard, whether it's on environmental protection, health care, education, criminal justice reform, Social Security, jobs, veterans, campaign finance reform, and so much more.

There's one issue that impacts all the rest. If we continue to spend trillions of dollars on these costly interventionist regime-change wars, overthrowing dictators and countries that we don't like, the fact is we will not be able to afford to make any real progress on the change that we need right here at home. Now the very reason why we're gathered here as progressives because we care about the well-being of others, we care about our future, we're soft-hearted people who have Aloha, respect, and compassion for others and we never want to be in a position to see anyone suffering. As a result, for some it may be easy to believe that well maybe we should support a regime change war if we believe that war will relieve human suffering. Proponents of the interventionist wars in Libya and in Iraq argued that these actions were justified because of humanitarian concerns. It was pointed out over and over again that these countries were in the grips of these evil dictators who had to be removed.

This is precisely the same argument that is being used today to justify our war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. Hoping to garner the support of the American people, proponents of these regime change wars routinely cite humanitarian concerns to justify this military intervention in foreign countries, but here's the reality, as a direct result of our intervention in Iraq, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, human suffering there is increased dramatically. Terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaeda took advantage of the Maliki Shia-led government that persecuted and oppressed the Sunni people. ISIS therefore gained a stronghold in Iraq, kidnapping terrorizing raping and killing thousands and thousands of innocent people.

In Libya, when the US led the bombing campaign to overthrow Gaddafi, which began with a no-fly zone, the result was incredible loss of life, total chaos, with Libya resulting in a failed state and a haven now for ISIS and other terrorist organizations. There is no denying that the interventionist wars in Iraq and that were propagated as necessary to relieve human suffering have in fact increased human suffering in those countries many times over.

There's an old saying that's very relevant to what's facing us here today, that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions. There's not one but two wars that are being waged in Syria. First is a war to defeat ISIS, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. This is a war against terrorists who've declared war on America and it's a war that we must win. The second is the counterproductive war to overthrow the government of Assad, an illegal war that Congress has not authorized, and which must end. This war to overthrow the Syrian government has strengthened rather than weakened our enemies like ISIS. Working with countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, we are fueling a brutal civil war that's caused the deaths of over 400,000 Syrians and millions more refugees fleeing their homes.

The fact is, if this war is successful and the Assad government is overthrown, the strongest force that exists in Syria that will take over in Syria is ISIS and al Qaeda. This will result in a far worse humanitarian disaster, refugee crisis, and a genocide against religious minorities, secularists, atheists, LGBT, and anyone who does not prescribe to this specific extreme ideology. What to speak of the fact that this will present an even greater security threat to the region and to the world.

Just the other day we heard news of 51 State Department diplomats calling on President Obama to bomb the Syrian government. Unfortunately this is not surprising. These kinds of bombings and escalation are what will occur if Secretary Clinton does what she says she will do as president and establish a so-called no-fly zone in Syria, an action that would cost billions of dollars, tens if not hundreds of thousands of ground troops as well as a massive US air presence. This action will escalate this war to overthrow the Syrian government causing more death, more destruction, more chaos, more refugees, all the while strengthening groups like ISIS and al Qaeda.

The very first action that must be taken when implementing a no-fly zone in Syria would be to bomb Russian and Syrian anti-aircraft defense systems. This would lead our country into a direct confrontation with the world's other nuclear power, Russia. Too many people have not learned from the past. They've learned nothing from Iraq and that overthrow of Saddam Hussein they've learned nothing from overthrowing Gaddafi in Libya and the chaos that has ensued as a result where the- where ISIS has now been declared as having their strongest and most dangerous foothold. The only way to prevent this escalation, the only way to prevent this disaster from increasing is for the American people, us, to come out strongly now before another administration comes into power and say that this war to overthrow the Syrian government must end now.

This can only happen if Congress and the administration hears your voices. Just on Thursday, a couple days ago I offered an amendment on the House floor to the Department of Defense appropriations bill that would have begun this process of ending this interventionist war in Syria. 135 bipartisan members of Congress voted for this amendment. It failed, however, because too many of our Democratic members many of whom consider themselves to be progressive voted against it. Many who are well-intentioned, but who need to understand that this war just like the one in Iraq just like the one in Libya will not help the Syrian people. It will simply compound the devastation suffering and chaos making their lives worse than ever before.

As Donna mentioned, I've introduced a bill, HR 4 1:08, that would end any and all funding for this regime change war in Syria and I urge each and every one of you to call your member of Congress to support this bill so that we can end this war now. This is an issue that we'll have to continue to fight on but it's an issue that confronts us right now because we know there are people in this administration in the State Department who are trying to pressure and convince President Obama to escalate this war. We have to let him know that the solution is not an escalation of this war but rather what's needed is an end to this regime change war in Syria.

President Obama showed tremendous courage back in 2013, it was my first year in Congress, when he chose not to carry out airstrikes against the Assad government to begin yet another war. He needs to hear from us to exercise that same courage once again we, whether it's through a petition, sending letters, social media, letting your member of Congress know, we need to send a strong message that this war must end. Many of you stood up bravely and courageously and protested the war in Vietnam. Many of you stood up and bravely and courageously protested the war in Iraq. Many of you did the same protesting the war to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya, and so now I'm asking you to stand up and do the same. Stand with me and demand an end to this war to overthrow the government of Assad. Demand an end to all interventionist regime change wars.

We need to let leaders in Washington know that we will not stand idly by and allow this nation to escalate an already deadly devastating war. We need to let leaders in Washington know that we do not support overthrowing any dictator we want, acting is the world's police, acting as if it's America's responsibility to use our military to attempt to remake the world in the image that we choose. We need to let leaders in Washington know that we must stop wasting our valuable, precious, limited resources on these regime change wars and instead focus those resources on investing and rebuilding and strengthening our communities right here at home. We can't afford to do both.

The power that's in this room by each of you gathered from all parts of our country, representing the conversations and debates and engagement that's occurring in each of our communities on important issues like this, engaging in our democratic process, many people for the first time, feeling empowered, recognizing that the true power in our country lies in your hands, in our hands, in the hands of the people, and it is through our work and our voices and our action that we can truly affect this kind of change that our country so desperately needs. Thank you very much for all that you're doing, we've got to work together to continue this path going forward. Aloha. Thank you.