We need unity, diplomacy to counter war and climate change: Gabbard


Editor’s Note: Second in a series of ethnic media conversations with the 2020 presidential candidates

In a teleconference with members of the ethnic press from across the country on Aug. 2, Democratic candidate for president Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawai‘i, introduced herself as a product of the country’s only majority-minority state, then commented that it took her visits to the mainland to reveal the very different ways people of color are sometimes seen and treated in the United States.

It’s very different from the spirit of “Aloha” that prevails in her home state, she said.

“Our current president is dividing our country and undermining core principles of who we are as Americans…” she said. “We are strongest when we stand united.”

Call moderator Jaya Padmanabhan of India Currents asked how she planned “to rise above” such divisiveness and Gabbard responded that the challenge is “staying focused on why we are here” and “understanding what unites us as we continue to fight the good fight.”

Leading off the ethnic media’s questions in the hour-long event, Henrietta Burroughs of East Palo Alto Today referred to the congresswoman’s work on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees and cited the morning’s news of the U.S. withdrawal from the INF, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed more than 30 years ago by President Ronald Reagan and his Soviet Union counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev.

“You have supported nuclear disarmament,” Burroughs said to the congresswoman, a military veteran. Did she fear that the failure to renew the treaty would trigger a new arms race, Burroughs asked, and what did she believe must be done to avoid it?

“We need to get back to the negotiating table,” said Gabbard. “These treaties are critical.”

Gabbard also cited the imminent need to renew the START treaty and, she said, immediately abandon any “thinking wrongly that a nuclear war can be won. That’s what’s at stake here. Nuclear proliferation being kicked off by Trump. The only alternative to diplomacy is war.”

Pilar Marrero of La Opinion followed Burroughs’ question with more foreign policy concerns, asking about the U.S. role in addressing “the massive refugee movement, specifically from Central America and also about “the Venezuelan crisis.”

“This really gets to the core of why it’s necessary to learn from the mistakes of the past,” Gabbard replied, citing “efforts at regime change, whether covert or overt,” and how some of the countries from which people are fleeing — Guatemala and Honduras, for example — “are suffering the consequences of short-sighted and failed policies, even those made with the best of intentions.”

A recent policy mistake, she said, is the current president’s decision last year to withdraw from UNHRC, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN’s refugee agency, which the president said had been too critical of Israel.

Joe Orozco, of Hoopa Tribal Radio, turned the conversation closer to home. Did the congresswoman intend to address shortcomings in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ management of its federal government trust responsibilities? Specifically absent, Orozco said, is any consideration of the importance of media such as newspapers and radio or of the need to support and sustain these outlets.

Gabbard said she’d made two visits to Standing Rock, North Dakota, where plans to construct a fossil fuel pipeline running through tribal lands in proximity to their water supplies inspired virulent protests in 2016 and 2017.

Hassan Abbas, of Arab American News, asked Gabbard about her “diplomatic strategy for achieving peace in the Middle East and at home.”

Gabbard said it was unlikely that she’d be able to parse the region’s issues in this brief question-and-answer session but reiterated her position that politicians and leaders must sit down with people they may have nothing in common with and “be willing to have those tough conversations.”

But for the United States she said, beyond misguided efforts at regime change, “we have to end this U.S. foreign policy of being the world’s police.”

She grew more specific in speaking of Iran. The current administration says it doesn’t want war with Iran but “every single thing it does points directly toward a path to war, continuing to escalate the crisis.”

Among many mistakes, she said, is “sending and deploying more U.S. troops to the region, “leading up to a war that would be far more devastating than anything we saw with the war in Iraq, and further exacerbate the refugee crisis that exists because of these conflicts and regime-change wars across the Middle East.”

Sing Tao Daily reporter Ke Xu in New York, in the last of the opening questions, asked Gabbard how current trade disputes with China might affect Asian Americans.

“I’m very concerned about escalating tensions” between the United States and China and the “irresponsible trade war,” she said, and characterized the president’s strategies as “unpredictable, shoot-from-the-hip.”

“An economic war can very easily escalate into a hot war,” she warned. The current dispute has harmed U.S. small businesses, farms and manufacturers, she said, and “they’re all caught in the “counter-productive effect.”

Calling for diplomacy and cooperation rather than conflict, her closing statement lamented the lost potential for good from countries “uniquely positioned to play a leadership role” in combating climate change.

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