(CNSNews.com) - The New York Times and CNN smeared Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) for calling for an end to regime change war, the congresswoman said Tuesday during the CNN/NYT Democratic presidential debate in Ohio.
“Congresswoman Gabbard, last week you said 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?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked.
“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,” the congresswoman said.
“Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands, 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,” she said.
“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,” Gabbard said.
The congresswoman called it “completely despicable.”
She pledged to end regime change wars if she is president, “by doing two things.” She plans to end “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 Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure we stop supporting terrorists like al Qaeda who have been the groundforce in this ongoing regime change war.”
“I'd like to ask Senator Warren if she would join me in calling for an end to this regime change war in Syria finally,” Gabbard asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
WARREN: So, look, I think we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don't think we should have troops in the Middle East, but we have to do it the right way, the smart way. What this president has done is that he has sucked up to dictators. He has made impulsive decisions that often his own team doesn't understand.
He has cut and run on our allies and he enriched himself at the expense of the United States of America. In Syria he has created a bigger-than-ever humanitarian crisis. He has helped ISIS get another foothold, a new lease on life.
I sit on the Armed Services Committee. I talked with our military leaders about this. I was in Iraq and went through the neighborhoods that ISIS destroyed. We need to get out, but we need to do this through a negotiated solution. There is no military solution in this region.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he thinks Gabbard is “dead wrong.”
“Mayor Buttigieg, you've been calling for an end to endless wars. What's your response on Syria?” Cooper asked.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, respectfully, congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it 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. 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 that kept its word, and our allies knew it and our enemies. You take that away, you are taking away what makes America and America and makes the troops and our world a much more dangerous response.
GABBARD: So really what you're saying, mayor Pete, you would continue to have 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 Qaeda, HTS, Al nusra and others, because they have been the ground force in this regime change war. That's what you're saying?
BUTTIGIEG: You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump's policy, as you're doing.
GABBARD: What is an endless war if it not yet another regime change war?
BUTTIGIEG: 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. I will restore U.S. credibility before it is finally too late.
Cooper asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) whether Turkey is still an ally and whether they should remain in NATO.
SANDERS: Turkey is not a U.S. ally when they invade another country and engage in mass slaughter. The crisis here, as I think Joe said and Pete said, is when you begin to betray people in terms of the Kurds, 11,000 of them died fighting ISIS, 20,000 were wounded, and the United States said we're with you, we're standing with you, and then suddenly one day after a phone call with erdogan announced by tweet, Trump reverses that policy.
Now you tell me what country in the world will trust the word of the president of the United State?. In other words, what he has done is wreck our ability to do foreign policy, to do military policy because nobody in the world will believe this pathological liar.
BUTTIEG: This is really important because what this president has done shows that American leadership shapes the behavior of our allies or sometimes allies, too. The problem is not just with our competitors. In, for example, in a place like China, the people of Hong Kong rise up for democracy and don't get a peep of support from the president, it’s not just the behavior of our one-time allies like Russia, but our one-time allies like Saudi Arabia, which the CIA just concluded was responsible, as we all knew, for murdering and dismembering an American resident and journalist and Turkey, which was an American ally.
That's the point. We have leverage but when we abandon the international stage, when we think our only choices are between endless war or total isolation, the consequence is the disappearance of U.S. Leadership from the world stage, and that makes this entire world a more dangerous place.