Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is ‘a brutal dictator’
WASHINGTON – 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard said Thursday evening that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is a “brutal dictator,” just a day after Sen. Kamala Harris said the Hawaii congresswoman had embraced Assad.
During an interview with CNN, host Chris Cuomo called on Gabbard to “acknowledge that Basha al-Assad is murderous despot.”
“I don’t dispute anything that you’re saying there. He’s a brutal dictator, just like Saddam Hussein, just like Gadhafi in Libya,” replied Gabbard, who is an Iraq War veteran.
Wednesday evening following this week’s Democratic primary debate, Gabbard was asked in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper whether she considered Assad a “torturer or a murderer,” which the congresswomen initially did not to answer.
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Cooper pressed her for a response, asking: “On a factual basis, Bashar al-Assad is a murderer and a torturer. Do you not agree with that?”
“I don’t dispute that,” Gabbard replied.
The questioning by Cuomo and Cooper came after Gabbard repeatedly attacked Harris during Wednesday night’s debate over Harris’ record while a prosecutor in California. Following the debate, Harris said Gabbard “embraced” Assad, is an “apologist” for him and “refuses to call him a war criminal.” Harris added that she “can only take what (Gabbard) says in her opinion so seriously.”
During a January 2017 trip to Syria, Gabbard met with Assad. She also said in February of this year that “Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”
Gabbard also opposed President Barack Obama’s request to use military force in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his people in 2013.
On Thursday, Gabbard maintained that the reason she has been outspoken about ending “wasteful regime-change wars is because I have seen firsthand this high human cost of war and the impact that it has on my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform.”
“I will never apologize to anyone for doing all that I can to prevent more of my brothers and sisters in uniform from being sent into harm’s way to fight in these wasteful counterproductive regime change wars, even if it means meeting with a brutal dictator,” she continued.
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The war of words between the two 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls is the latest episode in a weeks-long feud over their respective records and qualifications. Citing her “personal perspective as a soldier,” last month Gabbard said Harris “is not qualified to serve as commander in chief.” Gabbard added that Harris has “got no background or experience in foreign policy and she lacks the temperament that is necessary for commander in chief.”
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Thursday, Gabbard also continued to slam Harris, saying that the California senator used her power as the state’s attorney general to “further oppress people in an already broken criminal justice system.”
“The only response that I’ve heard her and her campaign give is to push out smear attacks on me,” Gabbard said. “Claim that I am somehow some kind of foreign agent or a traitor to my country, the country that I love, the country that I put my life on the line to serve, the country that I still serve today as a soldier in the Army National Guard.”
Contributing: William Cummings
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