Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"Regime Change"

This is a great question, and it's not rhetorical:
It could be because Representative Tulsi Gabbard is not considered a serious threat to attain the nomination, an explanation suggested by the fire aimed at Senator Warren, who has steadily been gaining momentum and is considered by betting markets to be the most likely nominee. Or there could be an additional, or different, reason. 

Nevertheless, while unfortunately no candidate in Tuesday's Democratic debate dared bring up Gabbard's association with Assad, Anderson Cooper's failure to ask an obvious question of the Hawaiian was, in a different way, at least as egregious. Cooper asked

Congresswoman Gabbard, last week you said that American troops should get out of Syria now. You don't agree with how the president handled the withdrawal. What would you have done differently? How would you have pulled out troops without the bloodshed we're seeing now?

Gabbard responded

Well, first of all, we've got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we've been waging in Syria.

Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war.

Not only that, but the New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime change war. Just two days ago, the New York Times put out an article saying that I'm a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I'm an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.

As president, I will end these regime change wars by doing two things -- ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen, that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaida in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.

After Elizabeth Warren took a shot at the question, Pete Buttigieg (figuratively and literally) confronted Gabbard, and it was on, with

Well, respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It's a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.

Look, I didn't think we should have gone to Iraq in the first place. I think we need to get out of Afghanistan. But it's also the case that a small number of specialized, special operations forces and intelligence capabilities were the only thing that stood between that part of Syria and what we're seeing now, which is the beginning of a genocide and the resurgence of ISIS.

Meanwhile, soldiers in the field are reporting that for the first time they feel ashamed -- ashamed -- of what their country has done. We saw the spectacle, the horrifying sight of a woman with the lifeless body of her child in her arms asking, what the hell happened to American leadership?

And when I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it and our enemies knew it....You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America. It makes our troops and the world a much more dangerous place.

Responding, Gabbard contended

Yeah, absolutely. So, really, what you're saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaida, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That's really what you're saying?

It continued with

COOPER: Mayor Pete -- Mayor Buttigieg?

BUTTIGIEG: No, you can embrace -- or you can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump's policy, as you're doing.

GABBARD: Will you end the regime change war, is the question.

BUTTIGIEG: What we are doing...

GABBARD: What is an endless war if it's not a regime change war?

COOPER: Allow him to respond. Please allow him to respond.

BUTTIGIEG: What we are doing -- or what we were doing in Syria was keeping our word. Part of what makes it possible for the United States to get people to put their lives on the line to back us up is the idea that we will back them up, too.

When I was deployed, not just the Afghan National Army forces, but the janitors put their lives on the line just by working with U.S. forces. I would have a hard time today looking an Afghan civilian or soldier in the eye after what just happened over there. And it is undermining the honor of our soldiers. You take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next.

This president has betrayed American values. Our credibility has been tattered.

Nonetheless, Buttigieg acquitted himself well in the manner of optics. Understanding that an empty attempt to appeal to patriotism can be the last refuge of scoundrels, he claimed Gabbard chose to "take away the honor of our soldiers, you might as well go after their body armor next." No one ever lost a vote by wrapping himself in the flag of "the troops."

Substantively, on seven (7) occasions, Tulsi Gabbard mentioned "regime change war" and once "regime change wars." Once she charged "Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties," The mayor might have criticized her for the moral equivalence of equating American politicians with Bashir al-Assad, but with bothsiderism a crucial part of the centrist creed, that was not tempting for Buttigieg.

Yet, Cooper was not quite up to the challenge, failing to ask Gabbard what she meant by "regime change" or "regime change wars."  Fact-checker Daniel Daleassessed the accuracy of the congresswoman's claim here, summarized as

The story of American involvement in the Syrian civil war is complicated and difficult to assess. The US military intervention in Syria has been debated since it began -- but Gabbard's claim that American forces were engaged in a "regime-change war" cuts against what US officials have said about American policy in Syria. Some US-backed militias have fought the Syrian government, but US troops were there to help defeat ISIS.

A candidate for President whom some people have attacked as being cozy with Assad maintains that the USA has conducted a war which "has caused so many refugees to flee Syria" while a fact-checker writes "there is no evidence to suggest that American forces were engaged in an effort to overthrow Assad." There should have been a further examination of Gabbard's view, which contrasts radically with that of the American military and political establishment and would prompt a dramatic restructuring of Mideast policy.

Admittedly, that would have taken a few minutes away from the discussion, closing the debate, of how everyone should be given a hug, maybe hold hands, and be nice to each other:

 Next up: how Warren and Sanders are failing.

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