Tulsi Gabbard* was born on April 12, 1981, in Leloaloa, Maoputasi County, on American Samoa’s main island of Tutuila. Her mother, who is Caucasian, was born in Indiana and grew up in Michigan, was raised Methodist and later found her way to Hinduism. Her father, who is of Samoan and European descent, grew up in the Deep South, the son of an Air Force Sergeant. When Tulsi was two years old, her family moved to Hawaii.
As she was growing up, Tulsi’s parents would enlist her and her siblings in “service days” - picking up litter from beaches or preparing food for homeless families. At first, she resented having to set aside her surfboard. But gradually she discovered that she was happier when she was putting the needs of others before her own.
As a teen, Tulsi was concerned about pollution she saw on the beaches and oceans of Hawaii, so she co-founded Healthy Hawaii Coalition. Wanting to do more, she campaigned for and was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives when she was 21 years old becoming the youngest legislator ever elected in Hawaii’s history and the youngest woman ever elected to a U.S. state legislature.
After the attacks on 9/11, she enlisted in the Army National Guard. In 2004, as Tulsi was campaigning for re-election to the State House, the 29th Brigade Combat Team was called up and began preparing to deploy to Iraq. Tulsi’s name was not on the mandatory deployment roster, but she left an easy win to re-election and volunteered to deploy.
While serving in a field medical unit in the Sunni Triangle at the height of the war, Tulsi had the heart-wrenching daily responsibility of going through the list of every injury and casualty in the entire theatre of operations, looking to see if any soldiers in her unit were on the list, so she could ensure they received the care they needed and their families were notified.
She served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009.
Having experienced first-hand the true cost of war, she made a personal vow to find a way to ensure that our country doesn’t continue repeating the mistakes of the past, sending our troops into war without a clear mission, strategy, or purpose.
Tulsi came home, forever changed, committed to fighting for peace and an end to regime change wars. Between her two tours of duty in the Middle East, Tulsi worked in the U.S. Senate as a legislative aide to Senator Danny Akaka, where she focused on veterans’ issues.
After returning home from her second deployment to the Middle East in 2009, Gabbard was elected to the Honolulu City Council. In 2012, at the age of 31, she was elected to the House of Representatives. In 2014, she considered a run for the Senate but ran and won reelection to the House. She won again in 2016 and 2018.
Serving more than six years in Congress, and as a member of the Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Tulsi has been a leading voice fighting to end regime change wars and instead focus our military efforts on defeating the terrorist groups that attacked and declared war on the United States. She has approached every issue through the lens of what will best serve the American people, secure our country, and promote peace.
In January 2017, Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in what she said was an unplanned meeting during a trip to Syria and Lebanon. Afterward, she justified the meeting because, she said, it is important to meet with adversaries if “you are serious about pursuing peace.” The same year, she expressed her support for a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On February 2, 2019, Gabbard officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign, saying that it was in the “spirit of service above self” that she announced her candidacy.
Asked by the New York Times, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” Gabbard responded, “I think there are some challenges with Israel that need to be addressed. I think that ongoing issues that we continue to see in the conflict between Israel and Palestine are complicated. But there needs to be progress made to ultimately to make sure that the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are able to live in peace and securely.” (New York Times, June 19, 2019)
- “Israel needs to stop using live ammunition in its response to unarmed protesters in Gaza. It has resulted in over 50 dead and thousands seriously wounded,” she tweeted in May 2014. (Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2019)
- Gabbard co-sponsored a bill that reaffirms long-standing United States policy in support of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Vice, September 25, 2019)
- Gabbard explained why she opposed a resolution in 2017 criticizing President Obama’s refusal to veto a U.S. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies:
“A few weeks ago, the United Nations voted on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. While the UN resolution was one-sided and problematic in many respects, it recognized that the continued expansion of Israeli settlements undermines the path to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On January 5, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives considered H.Res.11 which condemns the UN’s actions, as well as the U.S. government’s decision not to block the UN Resolution. I voted against H.Res.11 because it represents a one-sided view of the current situation, and undermines a long history of bipartisan U.S. efforts to work through bilateral and multilateral forums toward a two-state solution.
“I know how important our enduring alliance with Israel is. My vote upholds my commitment to maintaining and strengthening this alliance, as well as my long-held position that the most viable path to peace between Israel and Palestine can be found through both sides negotiating a two-state solution. While I remain concerned about aspects of the UN Resolution, I share the Obama Administration’s reservation about the harmful impact Israeli settlement activity has on the prospects for peace.
“Ultimately, a negotiated solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, and can only happen when both parties are committed to peace, where they alone determine the terms of the settlement. I co-sponsored H.Res.23 which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Israel, and a negotiated settlement leading to a sustainable two-state solution that re-affirms Israel’s right to exist as a democratic, Jewish state and establishes a demilitarized democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to support bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine in order to bring an end to this enduring conflict.” (Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard)
- Regarding Obama’s refusal to use terms like radical Islamic terror, Gabbard said in a CNN interview in June 2016 that “it’s important that you identify your enemy, you know who they are, you call them by their name, and you understand the ideology that’s driving them.” (Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2019)
Lester Holt: “Congresswoman Gabbard, Congresswoman Gabbard, you’ve said you would sign back on to the 2015 deal. Would you -- would you insist, though, that it address Iran’s support for Hezbollah?”
“Let’s deal with the situation where we are, where this president and his chickenhawk cabinet have led us to the brink of war with Iran.”
“I served in the war in Iraq at the height of the war in 2005, a war that took over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniforms’ lives. The American people need to understand that this war with Iran would be far more devastating, far more costly than anything that we ever saw in Iraq. It would take many more lives. It would exacerbate the refugee crisis. And it wouldn’t be just contained within Iran. This would turn into a regional war. This is why it’s so important that every one of us, every single American, stand up and say no war with Iran. We need to get back into the Iran nuclear agreement, and we need to negotiate how we can improve it.”
“It was an imperfect deal. There are issues, like their missile development, that needs to be addressed. We can do both simultaneously to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and preventing us from going to war.”
Holt: “But what would your red line be that would -- for military action against Iran?”
“Look, obviously, if there was an attack against the American -- our troops, then there would have to be a response. But my point is -- and it’s important for us to recognize this -- is Donald Trump and his cabinet, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and others -- are creating a situation that just a spark would light off a war with Iran, which is incredibly dangerous. That’s why we need to de-escalate tensions. Trump needs to get back into the Iran nuclear deal and swallow his pride, put the American people first.” (NBC News, June 27, 2019)
“[Trump] says he doesn’t want it [war with Iran], but the actions of him and his administration, people like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, tell us a very different story. They are setting the stage for a war with Iran that would prove to be far more costly, far more devastating and dangerous than anything that we saw in the Iraq war.” (ABC News, May 19, 2019)
- Gabbard has said she favors rejoining the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran, but that's exactly what he wants, because that's exactly what Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu, al-Qaeda, Bolton, Haley, and other neocons and neolibs want….That’s what he put first — not America.” (@TulsiGabbard)
- “It’s unfortunate that an issue as important as preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons has been muddled by partisan politics. This is an extremely serious issue, at a critical juncture, that should not be used as a political football.” Statement after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress opposing a nuclear deal with Iran. (Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2019)
- If they [the Trump administration] were truly concerned about human suffering, they would most certainly not take action to increase the likelihood of direct conflict with Iran or Russia—which could lead to World War III and suffering beyond our imagination. (The Nation, September 20, 2018)
- Regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops in October 2019:
COOPER: Congresswoman Gabbard, last week you said that 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?
GABBARD: Well, 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.
Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, 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.
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. Completely despicable.
As president, I will end these regime change wars by doing two things -- ending the 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 of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaida in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war. (Washington Post, October 16, 2019)
- “Asked whether Assad is an enemy of the United States, Gabbard responded, ‘No.’” Gabbard added she did not believe chemical weapons were used in Syria. (Politico, February 6, 2019)
- In January 2017, on a trip to Syria and Lebanon, she met Assad in what she said was an unplanned meeting. Asked if she had any compunctions about meeting with – and giving credibility to – a person responsible for the deaths of thousands of people and the displacement of millions, she replied: “Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him.” (Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2019)
- She called out Trump for firing cruise missiles on Syria following Assad’s use of chemical weapons there in April 2018, calling the strike “reckless and short-sighted.” (Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2019)
- “A US attack that significantly weakens the Syrian military would be a gift to these terrorist groups who want to overthrow the government and set up a Sunni extremist theocracy in Damascus. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar would be the beneficiaries. The military-industrial complex and others who profit from the continuation of these regime-change wars will benefit.”
“The United States is acting as the big brother and protector of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in Syria.”
“We’ve been waging a regime change war in Syria since 2011. Central to that war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad, along with our allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, has been providing direct and indirect support to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda who are effectively serving as our ground force in that regime-change war, enabling them to grow in numbers and strength in Syria.”
“While many members of Congress and the Trump administration rail against Iran and are calling for US troops to remain in Syria indefinitely to counter Iran’s influence and presence there, they refuse to acknowledge the fact that the United States regime-change war in Syria has greatly strengthened Iran’s presence and influence in that country. In other words, the Syrian government of Assad has become much more dependent upon and beholden to Iran and Russia, due to our efforts to overthrow their government. This obviously does not serve the national
“If they were truly concerned about the suffering of the Syrian people, then they would recognize that intervening to protect the terrorists who are trying to overthrow the Syrian government will simply prolong the war and lead to more suffering for the Syrian people.” (The Nation, September 20, 2018)
- “’This administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning.’ Gabbard added she would support Assad’s prosecution and execution as a war criminal if the attacks were proven, though she still wouldn’t support military action.” Remarks following the 2017 U.S. missile strike targeting the Syrian airfield believed to be the source of a chemical weapons attack that killed 74 civilians. (Robert L. Borosage, “Democrats Shouldn’t Be Trying to Banish Tulsi Gabbard,” (The Nation, April 12, 2017)
- Gabbard was one of three members of Congress to vote against House resolution 121, which condemned the government of Syria and "other parties to the conflict" for war crimes and crimes against humanity." She explained, "Make no mistake, this is a War Bill – a thinly veiled attempt to use the rationale of 'humanitarianism' as a justification for overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad. Similar resolutions were used in the past as a justification for regime change wars to overthrow the governments of Iraq and Libya." (Washington Examiner, March 17, 2016)
- “The U.S. is waging two wars in Syria. The first is the war against ISIS and other Islamic extremists, which Congress authorized after the terrorist attack on 9/11. The second war is the illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.
“The war to overthrow Assad is counter-productive because it actually helps ISIS and other Islamic extremists achieve their goal of overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad and taking control of all of Syria—which will simply increase human suffering in the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis, and pose a greater threat to the world. Also, the war to overthrow Assad is illegal because Congress never authorized it.” (Press Release, November 19, 2015)
- Gabbard opposed the Obama administration's proposed military strikes in Syria. She later introduced legislation to block U.S. military action against Assad. (Huffpost, November 10, 2013)
Gabbard voted for the House bill condemning the boycott of Israel and, a week, later, became a cosponsor of Rep. Ilan Omar’s bill to support the right to boycott. Though Omar’s bill does not mention Israel, she has said it is designed to make it possible to engage in the boycott of Israel through the BDS movement. In response to questions about the two seemingly conflicting positions, Gabbard said:Some of you have sent me messages and posted on social media asking for more information about why I voted for the way I did on a recent resolution talking about BDS so I wanted to give you some background and talk to you about my commitment to defending our First Amendment rights.Nothing is more fundamental to the identity of our country than the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution. Now I’ve fought to defend these freedoms both as a solider and as a congresswoman and it’s why we’ll continue to oppose unconstitutional legislation like S.1 [the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019], a bill that does restrict free speech by imposing legal penalties against those who participate in the BDS movement. That’s why I cosponsored H.Res.496, to affirm our freedom of speech and right to protest or boycott for any cause as well as stating opposition to any legislative efforts that seek to restrict these fundamental First Amendment rights.Now I voted for H.Res. 246 because I support a two-state solution that provides for the rights of both Israel and Palestine to exist and for their people to live in peace with security in their homes. I don’t believe BDS is the way to accomplish that. However, I will continue to defend those who choose to exercise their right to free speech without any threat of legal action. Now H.Res. 246 does not in any way limit or hinder our First Amendment rights. In fact, it affirms every American’s right to exercise free speech for or against U.S. foreign policy, as well as the right of Israeli and Palestinian people to live in safe and sovereign states free from fear and violence and with mutual recognition. The right to protest the actions of our government is essential if America is to truly be a free society. So no matter what our disagreements are about various political positions or choices that our government makes, we can all agree that every American should have the freedom to make those disagreements known and protest peacefully in support of their views. (Mondoweiss, August 2, 2019)
- “The world must never forget. Sadly anti-semitism has been on the rise in America and around the world. Please know as president that I will continue to stand with you to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry and to uphold our freedom of religion.” (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 3, 2019)
- When asked if she would condemn the anti-Semitic remarks of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Gabbard responded: “There are people who have expressed their offense at these statements. I think that what Congresswoman Omar was trying to get at was a deeper issue related to our foreign policy, and I think there’s an important discussion that we have to be able to have openly, even though we may end up disagreeing at the end of it, but we’ve got to be able to have that openness to have the conversation.”
When asked if she thought Ilan's remarks were anti-Semitic, she replied, “What I’m saying is, is what she was trying to bring up was something that was a deeper issue. And I don’t believe that her intent was to cause any offense to anyone.” (CNN Town Hall, March 10, 2019)
Sources: Tulsi 2020;
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard;
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“Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, Austin Scott Introduce Legislation to End Illegal U.S. War to Overthrow Syrian Government of Assad,” Press Release, (November 19, 2015);
Jeremy Lott, “Gabbard criticizes Syrian resolution as 'war bill',” Washington Examiner, (March 17, 2016);
James Carden, “Tulsi Gabbard on the Administration’s Push for War in Syria,” The Nation, (September 20, 2018);
Herb Keinon, “Presidential Contender Tulsi Gabbard Loves Israel, Just Not The Gaza Border,” Jerusalem Post, (January 13, 2019);
Marcy Oster, “Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who criticized Israel for firing on Palestinian protesters, announces 2020 presidential bid,” JTA, (January 13, 2019)
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Leila Ettachfini, “Where Each 2020 Democratic Candidate Stands on Palestine and Israel,” Vice, (September 25, 2019);
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