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Gabbard met with Syria’s Assad during trip

  • COURTESY ABRAHAM WILLIAMS

    Rep. Tulsi Gabbard meets with Syrian religious leaders in Aleppo, led by Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of the Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, and joined by Archbishop Joseph Tabji of Maronite Church of Aleppo, Rev. Ibrahim Nseir of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, and others. Each called for peace, and an end to foreign support of terrorists who are trying to rid Syria of its secular, pluralistic, free society.

  • COURTESY ABRAHAM WILLIAMS

    Rep. Tulsi Gabbard visits with Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other humanitarian workers at the Jibreen shelter, housing nearly 1,400 families who fled mostly the eastern part of Aleppo City.

WASHINGTON >> A congressional Democrat just back from a weeklong trip to Syria defended her meeting with the war-torn country’s president, saying Wednesday there’s no possibility of a viable peace agreement unless Bashar Assad is part of the conversation.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said she originally had no intention of sitting down with Assad, according to a statement issued by her office detailing her travels. But she changed her mind when the opportunity arose.

“I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering,” Gabbard said.

Lawmakers have accused the Assad government of war crimes and even genocide as the number of people killed during the violence in Syria continues to mount. The war, now in its sixth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people, contributed to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II and given the Islamic State group room to grow into a global terror threat.

Rebel groups in Syria are bitter over a string of territorial losses, including last month’s defeat in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Russia, with its massive air power, and Iran, with thousands of Shiite militiamen in Syria, turned the war unequivocally in Assad’s favor.

Gabbard said her trip included stops in Aleppo and Damascus, Syria’s capital. She also visited Beirut during the trip, which began in mid-January. Gabbard said she also met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders, widows and family members of Syrians fighting alongside groups like al-Qaeda, and Syrians aligned with the Assad regime.

Gabbard said that the U.S. has “waged wars of regime change” in Iraq, Libya and Syria. Yet each has resulted “in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda” and the Islamic State group, she said.

“My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear,” Gabbard said. “Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.”

Gabbard said the House Ethics Committee approved her trip, as required by House rules, and taxpayers didn’t foot the bill.

Other members of the delegation that traveled with her included former Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich and Gabbard’s husband, Abraham Williams.

Gabbard, a major in the Army National Guard, met last November with Donald Trump shortly after the presidential election. She backed Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent.

She said at the time that she took the meeting with Trump over concern that a wing of the Republican Party known as the neocons would grow in influence once Trump took office. She feared that could push the U.S. more deeply into Syria, which could lead to a direct conflict with Russia.

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  • Here’s an excerpt of email I just got from her on the subject

    I traveled throughout Damascus and Aleppo, listening to Syrians from different parts of the country. I met with displaced families from the eastern part of Aleppo, Raqqah, Zabadani, Latakia, and the outskirts of Damascus. I met Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and children of men fighting for the government and widows of those fighting against the government. I met Lebanon’s newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Syrian President Assad, Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, humanitarian workers, academics, college students, small business owners, and more.
    Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between “moderate” rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same. This is a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. They cry out for the U.S. and other countries to stop supporting those who are destroying Syria and her people …
    The U.S. must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The U.S. and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war.

      • The U.S. has allied with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funding, training and arming terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, who want to take over Syria and establish an Islamic caliphate. The only groups that benefit from this counter-productive, regime-change war are the powerful C.I.A., which would probably be reduced in size by about 80% if they didn’t have the power to covertly start wars around the world, and the military industrial complex, which has netted trillions of dollars from this insane neo-con policy of destroying countries in the Middle East, only to leave the weapons for terrorists to come in and take over.

        • I find it telling that you all are taking the word of people who support Assad, who has no qualms about annihilating his nation’s citizens, including innocent children, with the use of chemical weapon. You must all be ignorant or have forgotten that Assad basically inherited rule of the country in 2000 from his father, who appointed himself ruler of Syria in 1971 with the help of a military overthrow and kept power because he chose to side with the Soviet Union against the USA and Israel. It’s interesting that you take the words of a few religious propagandists who suck at the teat of a 4-decade long dictatorship–or at least, you take their words, as relayed by an opportunist politician who has dances back and forth between her Republican roots and populist branches.

        • I agree with Samantha J. I strongly support what Tulsi is doing – she has the guts and integrity to go straight to the heart of the problem and figure out what is going on. We’ve been fed propaganda and lies about the situation in Syria for far too long. It’s only beginning to get out in mainstream media, like the NYT, that the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria are actually indistinguishable from the terrorist groups. It’s insane that we need a law like the one Tulsi is sponsoring. Stop Arming Terrorists, to stop our government from allying with extremists who want to destroy everyone who doesn’t accept their vicious rule.

        • @ ellinaskyrt So where you get your information from? Face-to-face first hand information gleaned from discussions with the people themselves who have been living in that situation is best information one can get. Do you suppose those people are ignorant and don’t know what’s going on in their country/neighborhood after all of these years? I suggest you take you elitist attitude and find out the facts for yourself as Tulsi has done.

      • How about we should care because they are human beings like us who share the same world. I assume you mean what is in it for the US in a material way. I guess if there is nothing in it for us around the world we should not care?

    • Thanks for posting the info. Somehow SA could only muster the ability to put a titillating headline yet couldn’t manage to read the press release or give any info of substance. I guess they expect us to look it up ourselves. Isn’t that what our paid subscription is supposed to be for? Reporting?

      • She is certainly right that with Russian support Assad seems to be in place indefinitely. He is a tyrant among many tyrants in the world and it will be necessary to deal with him as the only recognized ruler in the civil war. She is right that the failed neo-cons who drew us into the disastrous Iraq War are still out there and will try to take advantage of the immature and inexperienced Trump. She correctly states that the Iraq War made things much worse for everybody including the uSA.

      • I believe TheDonald is a deal maker and wants the WAR to end in Russia one way or another to stop ISIS. I believe TheDonald could/would work with War Criminal Assad/Russia to significantly crush them. I believe TheDonald understands that it’s better to end the war with Assad in power to stop the JV team! It’s another reason why TheDonald wants to try to work with Putin as having ISIS live and grow is not in the best interests of everyone. Like a business man, you give and take to make the deal as it’s not one sided. If your wanting to be one sided you’d have to annihilate your opposition to it’s knees and WE all know that can’t be done realistically with Russia.

        Tink people, a deal is better than letting ISIS live and flourish.

    • Tulsi is criticized for her lack of education, sophistication, experience and genuineness. But she has every right to go on fact-finding tour to better understand foreign policy issues. What she learned was already well known of course and she never attempted to interfere with ongoing efforts to end the civil war there. I say give her the benefit of the doubt. She is restless as just one of hundreds of members of Congress, most of whom have little real power.

      • What has she accomplished? Better yet what of the many great problems of this state (choke neck traffic, homelessness, sub-par education, housing crisis, Veterans administration etc.) has she fixed? IMO, just an eye-catching, maverick, grabbing headlines in an attempt to be relevant.

      • She’s grandstanding, and what possibly can she accomplish? Except more face time on CNN and MSNBC. The people that elected her would be better served by her cracking the whip on the homeless issue and backing a federal investigation into the rail fiasco. Syria? Please.

    • Xenophob? Unfortunately as the greatest country in the world, the USA can’t or shouldn’t shuck responsibility to it allies and the oppress. Perhaps we can build a wall stretching from Mexico to Maine, the best, most beautiful wall and we’ll make the Saudis pay for it.
      Yes I agree that Tulsi has her own personal agenda, all politicians do, be it the Trumps and Clintons of the world.

        • He has done more in three days than Obama did in eight years. A little wear and tear is to be expected. He may have a job for Tulsi in the future.

  • Tulsi Gabbard is an opportunist making little but noticeable noise (oxy-moron). Remember, she is a Republican in Democrat clothing. aka…Sly Mongoose. Wouldn’t be surprised if she runs for Brian Schatz seat in the U.S Senate.

    • Bull! Syria was a stable relatively prosperous country before some rabid and Islamist rebels raised hell. They would have been long smashed by their government if not the US had supported them . Now the rebels are mainly Islamists and have our taxpayer paid arms! Assad was never our enemy. Tulsi is right to go there. We should support Assad.

      • Assad tortured and murdered his own people, including children. A good portion of the population turned on him and were justified in doing so, but the uprising was hijacked by extremists, which was inevitable. Unfortunately there appears to be no way out of this now that doesn’t involve leaving Assad in power. Whatever the political outcome, hopefully people can return to their homes.

        • The only way the people of Syria will ever be able to return to their homes and begin to rebuild their war torn country is if the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. stop funding the terrorists who are trying to depose Assad and take over the country. As long as the funding continues for the terrorists, the fighting will never end.

        • Fullbird, “Assad tortured and murdered his own people”! so right, just like his father.

      • Governor? I think her campaign for Vice President of the United States just started. We’ve never had a woman President. Well, we have also never had a woman Vice President. Imagine the first African American President and first woman Vice Oresident in US history, both with roots in Hawaii.

    • If Rep. Gabbard can do her part to prevent all out War in the Middle East, with heavy US involvementt, then she would have done her part to represent Hawaii families who may have otherwise have had to send their Sons and Daughters into combat. Pray for Peace.

  • Assad is another dictator in the same vein as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Only difference Saddam was more open when it came to brutalizing and killing his people. Hindsight being 20-20, it was a mistake for the U.S. to overthrow Saddam.

    Getting involved in Syria’s civil war by arming the Syrian rebels was a mistake and continuing to support the rebels will be futile now that Russia has assisted Assad in taking Alepo.

    The U.S. has been invited to participate in the talks and we should participate. However, continuing to support the Syrian rebel is taking a side and we should no longer be doing this. Regime change in Syria has nothing to do with protecting our national security and Israel can ably handle themselves if Assad tries something foolish.

  • Isn’t the House of Rep basic purpose to deal with domestic affairs? The Senate to deal with both domestic and foreign affairs? What was her basic purpose and goal? I find it most unusual.

  • There’s only bad people/org involved in this; Assad, CIA, ISIS, Russia, and America. And the really sad thing is innocent civilians in Syria including children become mere casualties of war. And there’s no good ending to this either. Either terrorists groups take over or Assad maintains control and wreaks havoc over his own people.

  • She needs to work for the people who voted for her instead. She could help Hawaii by begging for transit money from President Trump because the rest of our delegation will only cry if we get nothing because we put all of our cards with Hillary and only got an pair of old maids with Mazie and Colleen, a joker with Brian.

    • Tulsi has her eye on mazie’s senate seat, which will give her (as well as Hawaii) more national exposure. From that senate seat and given her youth and incumbent re-election status, she along with Schatz can help hawaii with their future seniority. Mazie and Colleen both are too old to earn relevant committee posts that are based on seniority. I respect Tulsi’s position to look forward for what is best for hawaii.

  • It would be great if the world were as simple and as straightforward that a personal fact finding visit could aid in restoring, order, balance, and peace. Thousands of years of human conflict have proved otherwise. We must therefore assume that Ms. Gabbard traveled with the blessings of the Trump team, that she was given a portfolio or agenda of some kind to deliver a message to Mr. Assad on behalf of the Trump administration. Why else would Mr. Assad deign to meet with someone supposedly there as a “tourist”, regardless of their position with the congress of the United States. What is being missed here is the increasing amount of dependency and power we are giving to people who have served or are serving in the military, a soon to be increase in municipal police powers, and a very possible rise in federal intervention at the municipal level to quell “problems” as seen and defined by a single administration. If you don’t think all of this is related, please take into account the rise of the Imperial legion’s influence in keeping order and power in the hands of the ruling classes, and we all know how that turned out in the end.

  • Give me a break, Tulsi is just anther D ONKEY who is only out for HERSELF. What about your state and your people ?

    Who cares about the middle east ?????????

    • wives husbands, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters care about the Middle East. The families of those who have lost a loved one in combat care about the Middle East. As a Vietnam Veteran and a Grandparent, I care about the Middle East because I hope my grandchildren will never have to face the prospect of having to go to battle in a war. Pray for Peace.

  • Tulsi will do anything to promote herself. She’s an opportunist looking for headlines. She can’t sleep because she’s thinking about the poor and suffering in Syria, what a crock!
    She should start thinkIng about the poor and suffering among her constituents here in Hawaii.

  • Is this lady grandstanding? What is she doing there or protesting the oil pipeline? We are hawaii residents suffering the monopoly of airline and freight with such a high cost of living. What did we put her in office for ? Solve world problems and and not address hawaii needs?

  • What a bunch of political grandstanding shibai by Gabbard. Assad is a mass murderer of thousands of men, women and children. Gabbard’s trip only serves to legitimize his actions. She willing to trade one evil for another. In doing so she not only endears herself to Trump but advances her career. She shames Hawaii and herself. Auwe.

  • Neoconservatives/reckless foreign interventionists of both major parties must be stopped. Obama has probably ordered more targeting killings by drones than any other Nobel Peace Prize winner in history. Interestingly, it seems that most of those who desire reckless foreign military intervention, except for people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have never served a day in the military.

    Hopefully Trump will heed to Tulsi’s advice and not listen to those encouraging him to torture and recklessly intervene in foreign conflicts. Many libertarian Republicans such as Rand Paul and Syrian-American Justin Amash are also working hard to stop the madness in Syria of the US funding “moderate” (sic) rebels. Good job Tulsi!

  • Meanwhile a mentally unstable bozo has a nuclear warhead aimed at us – think she visited the wrong dictator is she really cared about her constituents . . ;

  • I’m not sure whether she should be there unless either Trump or the legislature of the US approved and gave her a mission.

    That being said , I truly would love to be listening to the meeting she is bound to have with Trump. And I know he will get every detail from her that he can. Both “Go For Broke” and smart kinda people. Should be interesting and I hope it gives the downtrodden in Syria some actual relief. God knows they are as close to hell as a living human being can get.

    • “Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between “moderate” rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same. This is a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government.” This I do truly believe. Assad is not someone I would vote for but like Saddam he managed to keep a lid on his part of the powder keg the ME has been for decades.

      America does not have clean hands in Libya .

  • “The coming divide in the Democratic Party won’t be ideological so much as it will be between those who resist and oppose and those who accommodate and appease,” Democratic strategist David Brock. By first meeting with Trump, and now the mass murderer Assad she is clearly the latter.

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