Tulsi Gabbard Was So Brave She Came Out Against the Iraq War After It Was Over
Democratic Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has gotten quite a bit of political mileage out of her tours of duty in Iraq as part of the Hawaii National Guard. It was even the centerpiece of an entire Bernie Sanders ad during his 2016 presidential campaign.
But Gabbard’s views concerning the Iraq war have never been seriously scrutinized.
On April 20, 2003 shortly after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, Gabbard took the Hawaii National Guard oath of enlistment in the state legislature to which she was elected in 2002. Colonel Lon Paresa administered the oath flanked by her parents, Mike and Carrol Gabbard, who at that time were leaders of the state’s movement to stop gay marriage (Tulsi used her position as a legislator to try to stop civil unions not long after taking the oath).
In August 2004, the Pentagon activated Gabbard’s unit during her re-election campaign. She wanted to keep her seat while deployed and even claimed she could continue legislating from overseas: “Fortunately, in this age of modern warfare, the communications capability in Iraq are very good. As far as the quality of service to my constituents, it will not drop in any way. I am confident they will be well served.” Reality set in about two weeks after her unit was activated and she announced at a press conference that she would not campaign for re-election, although the Honolulu Advertiser noted “she has made plans in the event she is elected”:
“‘My fellow legislators have assured me that they will cover for me, that they will be involved in my district and make certain that the people of my district are well taken care of while I’m on active military duty and in Iraq,’ she wrote.”
Trying to have it both ways just in case is classic Gabbard.
In not one news article published during the 2003–2011 time period about Gabbard’s time in Iraq was there there even a vague suggestion that she was against the war.
In an interview with Truthout, Gabbard starkly declared, “I was against the war in Iraq. We never should have gone there in the first place.” In a subsequent interview with Politico in December 2012, she said, “In 2003, I felt the need to do more with my life and to do more in the way of service … I remember sitting in my office watching the Saddam Hussein statue topple [in Baghdad]. That was shortly before I enlisted. I shipped off to basic training at the end of May 2003 to Fort Jackson, S.C.”
Actually this is false — Gabbard was sworn into the Hawaii National Guard on the day of the invasion which means she enlisted prior— but nonetheless it raises a question: if she was against the war, why did she run off to fight in it after seeing the war on T.V.? The logical thing for an anti-war person to do is what Sanders did during the Viet Nam war — avoid combat. Gabbard volunteered to go back to Iraq for a second tour to fight in a war she supposedly did not support.
Tulsi Gabbard was so brave she came out against the Iraq war after it was over. She was so courageous kept her anti-war views hidden from the public even as millions of people in America and around the world mobilized in the streets to prevent what Sanders has correctly called the “the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.”
While other combat veterans were speaking out against the war and forming organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gabbard kept quiet for almost a decade except to write cheeky feel-good stories like “Aloha Invades Iraq Compound” for the local newspaper. When fellow Hawaiian Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada became the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment orders because he viewed the war as illegal, Gabbard said and did nothing to support him.
On the Iraq war, a profile in courage Gabbard is not.