As the title of my blog clearly states, my subject of interest is European Politics & Economics. Nevertheless, it would be very foolish of me not to keep at least half an eye on what happens in the United States of America. Whether we like it or not, the USA is, in most respects, the No.1 nation in the world today.
There is, however, at least one area in which the USA is falling a bit short these days and it concerns politics – how a country is run and how it relates to other countries in the world. I do not believe that I am being harsh when I say that US politicians in general have not shown themselves to be very competent over the past few years. Therefore, it came as a bit of a surprise, recently, to discover that not all American politicians are clueless simpletons. While following the events concerning the recent presidential elections in the USA a few months ago, I came upon a story about a US politician who seemed to be very different to the rest.
Her name is Tulsi Gabbard. She is a member of the Democratic Party and she has been the US Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District since 2012. In the 2016 elections, she was returned to Congress with an 81% vote. She co-featured in an article of mine last year, “Step aside Gentlemen, Ladies first” about some very talented women who are making their mark in world politics. We will come back to Ms. Gabbard, in a moment.
I follow a blog titled “Semi-Partisan Politics” written by Samuel Hooper. ‘A semi-biased commentary on British and American politics, culture and current affairs‘ is how Sam describes his blog. Sam’s most recent article is truly superb. Although it deals with the political climate in America, much of what he describes applies generally, at least in principle, to the situation here in Europe as well.
In his article titled “Andrew Sullivan On The Importance Of Rediscovering Healthy Patriotism“, Sam presents an extract from an article written by Andrew Sullivan to set the scene. Please go and read the whole of Sullivan’s article – Sam skips the first half, which is a shame – it’s brilliant and so depressingly true.
This is Sullivan’s conclusion on the subject of modern day politics and economics:
“…..People are grieving for a lost way of life. This is not racist or retrograde or even backward. It is, rather, deeply human. For it is in these places that a deeper identity forms, that Americanness, Britishness, la France profonde, endures. And what we’re seeing right now, across the developed world, is a bid to retain the meaning of a culture and a way of life in the headwinds of faceless, placeless economics.
Nationalism is one response. The answer to it is not globalism, which is as cold as it is remote, but patriotism, that love of country that does not require the loathing of other places or the scapegoating of minorities or a phobia of change, that confident identity that doesn’t seek to run away from the wider world but to engage it, while somehow staying recognizable across the generations. If the Democrats hope to come back, that patriotism is going to have to define them once again. But can they get past their racial and sexual and gender obsessions and reach for it?”
Sam then goes on to discuss the substance and meaning behind the principle of patriotism in a modern and political sense:
“To move beyond Trumpism, Democrats (and forward-thinking conservatives) must look to embrace a healthy and inclusive patriotism, and end their love affair with a cold form of globalism which undermines nation states, communities and livelihoods.”
…..This is the distilled question of our times.
The answer is not globalism – Sullivan is quite right. This does not mean a rejection of capitalism, globalisation and international free trade, on which our prosperity depends, but it does mean acknowledging that there are negative externalities to all of this aggregate economic progress. We accept that this is the case with the environment, and take measures to restrict environmental damage caused by economic activity, but until now governments have scarcely acknowledged the impact of globalisation on local communities, national identity and cohesiveness, let alone formulated meaningful ways to protect what we are unwilling to lose while still unleashing the best that globalisation has to offer……
Sullivan is quite right that patriotism – “that love of country that does not require the loathing of other places” – must be embraced again by all sides, not weaponised as a unique virtue by the Right or demonised as evidence of inherent racism by the Left. But right now we are moving away from that goal.
For as long as so many Republicans remain seemingly in lockstep with the Trump agenda, despite the president’s frequent deviations from conservative principle (let alone the normal standards of presidential decorum and basic decency), they effectively lend their tacit support to the administration’s more uncomfortably nationalist behaviour and rhetoric. And for so long as the Democrats and others on the Left choose to double down on their repellent formula of Maximal Globalism + Identity Politics, putting forward candidates like Hillary Clinton who are utterly incapable of speaking authentically to Middle America and the suffering working classes, their actions will continue to signal that they view rural and small town America as expendable so long as wealth and opportunity continue accruing to the urban, coastal elites.
For better or worse, the Republican Party seem to have made their choice. Though they may grumble about the ObamaCare repeal and replacement (or RyanCare, as some Trump loyalists insist on calling it) and some of the administration’s other ideas, it is hopeless to look to the GOP for an alternative to Trumpism so long as their man occupies the White House and they hold both houses of Congress.
That leaves it to the Democrats. The ideologically bankrupt, morally compromised Democrats, whose first response to a stunning repudiation by voters at the ballot box was to swiftly reconfirm all of the main architects of that defeat back into their gilded leadership positions, and who are too busy worshipping at the altar of identity politics to pay attention to the fears and aspirations of Trump’s America.
In short, embracing a healthy new sense of patriotism seems like a grand idea, and a necessary one – but Lord knows who in the American political and media class possesses the wisdom, foresight and bravery to promote it.”
Sam’s last sentence is a statement, but to me, it sounded like a question, a challenge perhaps, given that the list of likely candidates in American politics is shamefully short.
Without a moment’s hesitation, one name immediately flashed before my eyes:
This prompted me to have a look at what Ms. Gabbard has been up to in the past few weeks since President Trump took office in the White House.
And Wow! What a surprise!
This lady is really on a roll. She seems to be so focused and so in tune with reality and with the people that she represents, and the country that she loves.
How shameful of Republicans and some Democrats alike, to brand her a traitor after she made a fact-finding trip to Syria during which she met with President Bashar al-Assad.
As a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, Gabbard was invited by former Congressman and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich to travel to Lebanon and Syria on a fact-finding trip organized by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS)–Ohio. The 7-day trip was approved by the House Ethics Committee, as required by House rules, and was not taxpayer funded. The trip included visits to Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut from January 14-22, 2017. Other members of the delegation included Dennis Kucinich’s wife, longtime peace advocates Elie and Bassam Khawam, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s husband, Abraham Williams.
She heard stories of suffering, pain, courage and hope from people all across the country. She met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders who led protests in 2011, widows and family members of Syrians fighting alongside groups like al-Qaeda, as well as those fighting on the side of the government. Gabbard also met with 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, humanitarian workers, students, small business owners, and more.
Above: 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. [Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams]
Above: 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. [Photo courtesy of Abraham Williams]
“My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear: Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.
“As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, ‘Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.’ I had no answer.
“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.
“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Thanks to RealClearPolitics.com for the following article:
“Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the former Democratic National Committee member who resigned as a result of the feud between party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bernie Sanders supporters during last year’s election, just returned from Syria, where she surreptitiously met with that country’s president Bashar al-Assad. She spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper to reveal what happened on her trip.”
Here is a full transcript of the interview:
JAKE TAPPER: So you were in Syria for four days — did you meet with President Bashar al-Assad?
REP. TULSI GABBARD: I did.
My reason for going to visit Syria was really because of the suffering of the Syrian people, which has been weighing heavily on my heart.
I wanted to see if there was some small way that I could express the love, the aloha and the care that the American people have for the people of Syria, and to see first hand what was happening there, to see the situation there.
TAPPER: What did Assad have to say?
GABBARD: Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him. When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, we have to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.
TAPPER: Now, I know the maxim that people say in the military, that you don’t make peace with your friend, you make peace with your enemies. But obviously Bashar al-Assad is responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of people being displaced during this five-year long civil war. Did you have any compunctions about meeting with somebody like that, giving him any sort of enhanced credibility because a member of the United States Congress would meet with someone like that?
GABBARD: Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any peace agreement, in order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him. The Syrian people will determine his outcome and what happens with their government and their future.
But our focus, my focus, my commitment, is on ending this war that has caused so much suffering to these Syrian people, to these children, these families, many of whom I met on this trip. It’s important for us to stay focused on doing what is in their best interest, and what is in our best interest. And doing what is necessary to make that happen.
TAPPER: So, congressman Adam Kinzinger, a friend of yours, also a military veteran, a Republican, he said on Twitter when he heard about your visit, quote: “Fact finding mission, 50,000 dead children in Syria, Tulsi Gabbard, I hope you didn’t meet with their butcher Assad.”
He has used chemical weapons on his own people. You said it is going to be up to the Syrian people. There really aren’t free and fair elections in Syria?
GABBARD: I’ll tell you what I heard from the Syrian people, walking down the streets in Aleppo, in Damascus, hearing from them, they expressed happiness and joy at seeing an American walking through their streets. But they expressed a question. They said: “Why is it that the United States, its allies and other countries, are providing support, are providing arms, to terrorist groups, like al-Nusra, al-Qeeda, ISIS, who are on the ground there, raping, kidnapping, torturing and killing the Syrian people? Children, men, women, people of all ages.
They asked me: ‘Why is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria when it was al-Qaeda who attacked the United States on 9/11, not Syria?’ – I didn’t have an answer for them.
TAPPER: Obviously the United States government denies providing any sort of help to the terrorist groups you’re talking about. They say they provide help for the rebel groups.
GABBARD: The reality is, Jake, the reality is– and I’m glad you brought up that point because this is an often talked about thing by people like Adam Kinzinger, and others, saying we have to support the moderate rebels. Every place that I went, every person that I spoke to, I asked this question to them, and without hesitation, they said there are no moderate rebels. Who are these moderate rebels that people keep speaking of?
Regardless of the names of these groups, the strongest fighting force on the ground in Syria is al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. There is a number of other groups, all of them essentially are fighting with, or under the command of the strongest group on the ground, that is trying to overthrow Assad.
The Syrian people recognize and they know that if President Assad is overthrown, than a group like ISIS or al-Qaeda, that has been killing Christians, killing people simply because of their religion, or because they won’t support their terror activities, they will take charge of all of Syria.
This is the reality of the situation on the ground in Syria, and why they are pleading with us in the United States to stop supporting these terrorist groups, let the Syrian people themselves determine their future.”
Also see here for some feedback from Syrian-Americans about her trip.
Press Release on 31st January 2017:
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced today she will personally reimburse the cost of her trip to Syria. Though the trip has met every requirement of the House Ethics Committee, the congresswoman has decided to reimburse AACCESS-Ohio for the trip because it has become a distraction from the important issue at hand – do the American people want their taxpayer dollars to continue to be used in support of militant groups working hand-in-hand with al-Qaeda and ISIS in the effort to overthrow the Syrian government? Contrary to baseless claims in the media, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is beholden to no one in the region, her views on the situation are her own, and her determination to seek peace is beyond question.
No, my dear American friends.
Tulsi is a REAL patriot and she underlines this everyday with her words and her actions – for the people. She does not always stick to the party line and she calls it as she sees it, intelligently and with fore-thought. She’s a lot like Bernie Sanders, only younger, prettier and, probably, much smarter.
You dismiss her at your peril.
[There will more about what Tulsi Gabbard has been up to recently in a follow-up article]