Tulsi Gabbard Denounces Regime Change in Ad Showing Assad Forces Bombing Syrian City

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard / Getty
March 6, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) released a presidential campaign ad this week which denounces regime change wars while showing a clip of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad's military dropping barrel bombs on a Syrian city.

In the ad, Gabbard references her two deployments to the Middle East as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard.

"Every single day I was confronted with the cost of these regime change wars," Gabbard says, as video of barrel bombs dropping on a city is shown. "These regime change wars have been carried out under the guise of humanitarian cause in countries like Syria."

The Daily Beast first reported that the footage is of the Assad regime dropping barrel bombs on the Syrian city of Daraya in February 2016, noting that "[h]uman-rights groups have criticized the use of barrel bombs for their indiscriminate effect on civilians and Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad has denied using them."

Newsy reporter Jake Godin tweeted "this 2-second clip from Tulsi Gabbard's 'wasteful regime change wars' 2020 campaign video is actually a clip showing Assad dropping barrel bombs on Daraya in February, 2016."

Video posted by the Daraya Local Council in February 2016 shows the barrel bombs being dropped. The first picture below is from the local council's video and the second is from Gabbard's ad.

The city's council estimated around 6,800 barrel bombs were dropped in Daraya between January 2014 and late February 2016, when a cessation of hostilities agreement went into effect. BBC News reported in June 2016 that the government dropped barrel bombs on the city after aid was delivered, preventing it from being distributed to residents.

Gabbard's campaign has not yet commented on the video of Assad's bombing in the ad.

Last month, Gabbard said Assad is "not the enemy of the United States" during an interview with MSNBC and dodged when asked to more specifically categorize his relationship to the U.S. She admitted it was "possible" that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people, something she has questioned in the past. United Nations war crime investigators determined in September 2017 that "[g]overnment forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during Syria’s civil war." The Arms Control Association notes the "Syrian government has been found responsible for most chemical weapons attacks in Syria."

Washington Post opinion article referred to Gabbard as Assad's "mouthpiece in Washington." She stood by her decision to meet with the Syrian dictator in January 2017. A few months later, Assad was accused of carrying out a chemical attack on civilians that prompted U.S. missile strikes in Syria.

The left-wing Daily Kos has criticized Gabbard for meeting with Assad, while the Nation has slammed Gabbard's skepticism of his use of chemical weapons.

Gabbard has lambasted the media for reports alleging her candidacy has gotten positive coverage from Russian-controlled outlets. Russian President Vladimir Putin has consistently been among Assad's top backers.