The latest rising star on the liberals’ horizon is Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii. A military vet and a prominent participant in the Bernie Sanders campaign, she has all the right credentials. But is she really our hope? Who, in fact, is she?
She is one of the few members of congress who has spoken out in favor of the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Her voting record on environmental issues and other liberal touchstones is good. Among other things, she supports the right to same sex marriage. But it’s exactly here that a different Gabbard appears. In 2004, Gabbard argued against a Hawaii state bill in favor of civil unions, which she denounced as being the product of “a small number of homosexual extremists.” This is similar to the switch that Hillary Clinton pulled on this issue. And while she now poses as a champion of homeless veterans, when she was a Honolulu city council member, she introduced a bill which would have had the effect of confiscating the personal possessions of the homeless.
Her main issue, over which she’s been getting a lot of attention lately, is a bill she’s sponsoring (HR6504) that would supposedly mandate that the US stop funding Islamic terrorist groups or individuals. This is music to the ears of those on the left who support Assad and Putin in Syria. They see the matter as being purely a war against these terrorist groups, with the US allegedly backing those groups. But what, in fact, does the bill say and who else is behind it?
A tip off is that one of the co-sponsors of the bill is US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R, CA). Rohrabacher is on the far right of the Republican party, an outspoken Islamophobe and anti-immigrant bigot.
HR6504 reads, “no funds made available to any Federal department or agency may be used to provide covered assistance to Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and ISIL, and any individual or group that is affiliated with, associated with, cooperating with, or adherents to such groups.”
We are not lawyers, but this is a very broad prohibition that would apply not only to “Defense” and similar agencies, but as it says “any Federal department or agency”. Combine that with what it says – any group or individual that is even “associated with” such groups. In other words, this could mean any Muslim in the US who goes to a mosque or participates in some sort of Muslim social group where there are people who have some sort of relationship with some group or individual who is involved – either knowingly or not – with one of the named groups. Such people could, for example, be barred from getting federal housing assistance, etc.
Given that Gabbard and the other sponsors provide not a shred of evidence that the US government actually is funding the Islamic State or similar groups, this bill should be seen in the context of the anti-Muslim propaganda that is so prevalent today. As well, it is a nod towards the far right wing Vladimir Putin.
HR 6504 should also be seen in the context of Gabbard’s own history. A Hindu, Gabbard is a supporter of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This party, and Modi himself, were complicit in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, riots that killed close to 800 Muslims. (The Wall St. Journal has supported Modi because of his promise to push through neoliberal economics measures as prime minister.)
In 2014, BJP supporters in the US convened a meeting in Atlanta. According to a report, “Gabbard attended the meeting, posing with a sash adorned with the BJP’s party logo…. Federal election commission documents show Gabbard received over $6,000 from BJP supporters in the Atlanta area that day alone…. her backers are all ideological backers of the BJP, which represents the right-wing, Hindu nationalist wing of Indian politics.”
The following year (2015), Gabbard visited India, where the Indian newspaper “The Telegraph” called her “the Sangh’s mascot.” This refers to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a far, far right Hindu sectarian and nationalist group that supported the
Nazis during WW II. Among other things, during that visit, Gabbard attended a conference hosted by the Sangh. While in India, she also made comments on Hinduism that are no different from comments a Christian fundamentalist would make about the Bible and Christianity.
Her anti-Muslim politics coincides with her support for Israel. As does Modi, Gabbard strongly supports that state, and she is close to one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the US, the right wing Sheldon Adelson. In July of 2015, Gabbard was a featured speaker at the conference of “Christians United for Israel” (see picture), where she campaigned against the US treaty with Iran.
Trump and Conservative Establishment
Gabbard has studiously avoided openly criticizing Trump, and shortly after he was elected
president she had a private audience with him, where she reportedly discussed the war in Syria. On this issue, she apparently has a lot in common with Trump in that both support Assad and, apparently, Putin’s role also.
Gabbard is also close to the conservative establishment, most particularly the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “I like her thinking a lot,” says Arthur Brooks, president of the AEI. As the conservative National Review reports, “Since taking office in January 2013, Gabbard has cultivated relationships with conservative national-security and defense experts, particularly those from AEI, an institution known for churning out research advocating a muscular foreign policy. She was one of just three Democrats to land an invitation to AEI’s exclusive annual retreat in Sea Island, Ga., earlier this month… and she’s befriended and impressed AEI’s foreign-policy wonks.”
It says a lot that Bernie Sanders made Tulsi Gabbard a central figure in his presidential campaign. On several foreign policy issues, such as drone warfare and support for Israel, the two are on the same page.
For US politics, most of the 20th century was dominated by the “Cold War”, the rivalry between US capitalism and the Soviet Union. During that era, there arose a liberal establishment in the US that totally pushed US capitalist domination overseas (such as the Vietnam War) while supporting some liberal reforms at home. First and foremost among these was Hubert Humphry, former US senator and vice president under Lyndon Johnson. These were known as the Cold War liberals. Sanders and Gabbard are the 21st century equivalent of these politicians. In a world where events around the world increasingly affect events at home, these 21st century Cold War liberals offer no way forward.
Update: Since this article was written, Tulsi Gabbard made a trip to Syria as a guest of the fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party. There, she and another liberal icon – Dennis Kucinich – met with Assad. Click here for this story.