Commenting on U.S. military action in the Middle East, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), an Iraq war veteran and Democratic presidential contender, said that Syria's Bashar al-Assad is "not the enemy of the United States" and there is no longer any need to have U.S. troops stationed in Syria.
Gabbard's remarks about Syria and her strong defense of Congress' need to declare war before sending troops into battle clearly unsettled the reporters on MSNBC's Morning Joe, who wanted Gabbard to somehow condemn Assad.
During the Feb. 6 edition of the show, panelist Kasie Hunt of NBC News asked the congresswoman, "Do you think Assad is our enemy?"
Rep. Gabbard said, "Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”
Hunt then asked, “What do you say to Democratic voters who watched you go over there, and what do you say to military members who have been deployed repeatedly in Syria, pushing back against Assad?"
“People who have been deployed to Syria have been there focused on their mission, which has been to defeat ISIS," said Gabbard. "Our troops have not gone to Syria to wage yet another costly, destructive regime change war."
"And many troops I hear from express frustration at the fact that our country continues to wage senseless, costly regime change wars," she said, "followed by nation-building missions leading to situations like we see in Afghanistan."
“So many examples of our troops being deployed, their lives put on the line, without understanding what the clear mission or objective is and how that mission actually serves the security of the American people in the United States," said the congresswoman.
When pressed to label Syria as an "adversary" of the United States, Gabbard demurred. "My point is that whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours."
MSNBC co-anchor Willie Geist asked Gabbard, "So, do you think, congresswoman, there should be any United States troops stationed in Syria?"
She answered, "I don't believe there should be."
"But ... again, this goes back to, how are we making these decisions?" said Gabbard. "The many leaders in Congress, and even leaders in the administration, are saying we should keep troops in Syria to counter Iran."
"There has been no war declared by Congress against Iran," said the congresswoman. "There is no authorization legally for the United States to maintain troops in Syria."
"So whether it is in Syria or in other parts of the world, we have to determine, are these missions worthy of our service members' sacrifice and do those missions serve the interest of the American people?" she said.
When asked whether she believed that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people, Gabbard said, "I certainly think it's possible. The -- the evidence that -- my skepticism in the past has been solely on saying, show us the evidence before you deploy U.S. troops into military action because I served in Iraq and I understood what that cost came [with] when the American people were lied to and presented false evidence where we started off a new war."
American troops have been in Afghanistan for nearly 18 years, in Iraq for nearly 16 years, and in Syria for four-plus years. As of early November 2018, 4,550 U.S. soldiers had died in Iraq; 2,401 had died in Afghanistan -- total of 6,951 U.S. military deaths.
In addition, there were 7,820 U.S. contractor deaths and 1,464 Allied troop deaths.
For comparison, the United States officialy entered World War II in December 1941 and ended it less than four years later, Aug. 15, 1945.