Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who as a presidential contender has drawn criticism for refusing to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, again was called on to clarify her stance on him at a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas.
Once again, she did not appear to back down from her tolerant views toward the dictator and accused war criminal.
At the forum sponsored by the public-sector labor union AFSCME and co-moderated by HuffPost and The Nevada Independent, Gabbard was asked whether she believed Assad and his allies have behaved “appropriately” in combatting a civil war against his regime that erupted in 2011 and has claimed an estimated 400,000 lives.
“I do not,” she responded.
The congresswoman did not, however, directly answer a question about whether she believes U.S. soldiers aiding opposition forces to Assad are “terrorists.”
She said that as someone who has seen the high human cost of combat, she wants to stop politicians from “fighting in these wasteful regime-change wars.”
Gabbard, a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, served a year-long stint in Iraq that began in 2004.
She shocked Democratic congressional leaders in 2017 when she revealed she had met that January with Assad without informing them and began referring to Assad’s opponents as “terrorists.” The U.S. and other nations have labeled Assad a war criminal for using chemical weapons against his own people.
She has said she does not regret the trip. As recently as February, Gabbard appeared to defend Assad, telling MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough the Syrian leader is “not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”
At the forum she said, “Here’s the bottom line: The only alternative to diplomacy is war. The only alternative to diplomacy is war. And we have had enough.”
She continued: “So this is why it is so important to have a leader who has the courage to have those meetings ... in the pursuit of safety, security and peace.”
“We have to stop being the world’s police,” Gabbard said.