Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), in a Thursday interview with host Chris Cuomo at CNN, reacted to criticism from fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen Kamala Harris (D-CA), after the candidates’ dust-up in a debate the day before, by stating, "the only response that I have heard her and her campaign give is to push out smear attacks on me, 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."
This statement from Gabbard is nonsense. Soldiers serving in the National Guard and other parts of the United States military in military interventions as has Gabbard are not serving their country. They are serving the exertion of power by the US government. Indeed, Gabbard in the interview expresses her opposition to the sending of the US military members “to fight in these wasteful, counterproductive regime change wars.”
So, while Gabbard disparages a list of the US government’s military interventions overseas, she has nothing but praise for the carrying out of those wars by military members. In the interview she calls military members her “fellow brothers and sisters in uniform.” She set this tone clearly in her February speech announcing her campaign. Gabbard then proclaimed:
And our men and women in uniform, generation after generation, motivated by love for one another and for our country, have been willing to sacrifice everything for us. They don’t just raise their hand and volunteer to serve only to fight for one religion but not another, to fight for people of one race but not another, people of one political party but not another. No. When we raise our right hand and volunteer to serve, we set aside our own interests to serve our country, to fight for all Americans.What a load of hooey.
We serve as one, indivisible, united, unbreakable — united by this bond of love for each other and love for our country. It is this principle of service above self that is at the heart of every soldier, at the heart of every service member, and it is in this spirit that today I announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.
Gabbard had a special position for some of her time in the military including when she was deployed to Iraq during the Iraq War — being employed in a medical group. Ron Paul, another US House of Representatives member who ran for president years before, has explained a reason he chose to become a doctor was that he knew he could be drafted into the military and wanted to avoid being tasked with killing people. Medical workers in the military can even find themselves tasked with helping sick and injured civilians where the US is at war and even opposition fighters. Such actions, sometimes undertaken by military medical workers not supportive of the war, were well presented in the television series MASH that took place during the Korean War.
In calling herself a soldier to defend her patriotism bona fides and frequently referencing her “brothers and sisters in uniform,” Gabbard is obscuring any distinction between certain medical roles in the military she has had and the more common role of advancing killing and destruction.
There can be reason to praise the providing of medical serviced by US military members in conflicts overseas, especially when those services are readily provided to the victims of and opponents of the US government’s intervention in addition to the people implementing the intervention. But, where Gabbard crosses the line into nonsense is in heaping adulation on the people who operate the killing machine loosed abroad by the US government.
Some of the military people operating the killing machine are duped or ignorant, in need of education. Some want out but, unlike workers in most other occupations, are not allowed to quit their jobs. Others are far less sympathetic. But, contrary to Gabbard’s characterization, none of them are serving their country or putting their lives on the line for their country. They may be fighting for Boeing, Raytheon, a president’s quest for a legacy, an officer’s desire for a promotion, or a number of other purposes, but they are not fighting for their country. Their country, as Gabbard has pointed out in regard to some overseas military interventions, would be better off if they were never deployed.
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