A bill that was recently introduced to the House by Tulsi Gabbard, (D-HI-2) has received very little traction in the American mainstream media, particularly considering its importance and what it says about how the United States has handled the "Syria file".
House Resolution 258 (formerly known as H.R. 6504 when it was introduced on December 8, 2016 in the 114th Congress) has the lengthy title "To prohibit the use of United States Government funds to provide assistance to Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to countries supporting those organizations and for other purposes." You may be thinking "Why is this bill even necessary? Surely the United States is not supporting terrorist organizations, particularly given that America has spent the better part of the last decade and a half and trillions of my tax dollars fighting a global War on Terror?". Well, you might just be wrong.
Here's what Ms. Gabbard had to say when introducing this bill back in December 2016:
Here's part of the text of her speech:
"Under U.S. law it is illegal for any American to provide money or assistance to al-Qaeda, ISIS or other terrorist groups. If you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaeda or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail. Yet the U.S. government has been violating this law for years, quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaeda, ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al Sham and other terrorist groups with money, weapons, and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government....
“The CIA has also been funneling weapons and money through Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others who provide direct and indirect support to groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. This support has allowed al-Qaeda and their fellow terrorist organizations to establish strongholds throughout Syria, including in Aleppo.
The CIA has long been supporting a group called Fursan al Haqq, providing them with salaries, weapons and support, including surface to air missiles. This group is cooperating with and fighting alongside an al-Qaeda affiliated group trying to overthrow the Syrian government. The Levant Front is another so-called moderate umbrella group of Syrian opposition fighters. Over the past year, the United States has been working with Turkey to give this group intelligence support and other forms of military assistance. This group has joined forces with al-Qaeda’s offshoot group in Syria".
Here is a screen capture showing the first page of the bill:
If you are interested, you can click on this link to get the entire text of H.R. 258. The bill was referred to the House Intelligence Committee on January 4, 2017.
The situation in Syria and Iraq is particularly confusing to western politicians. Things are rarely as they seem to be on the surface with various groups having alliances with other groups that are unclear. Here are two diagrams showing the geopolitical complexity of the situation:
In their haste to remove Bashar al-Assad from power, the Obama Administration sent arms including anti-tank TOW missiles and mortars among other materiel to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the rebranded version of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria. Apparently, the name change was enough to get the job done. Here is a link to the page where the National Counterterrorism Center brands al-Nusra as a terrorist organization:
Apparently, even the name change wasn't fooling all of the people all of the time as shown in this document from the Counter Extremism Project:
Here's a quote from the document:
"The Nusra Front has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and previously reported to the latter group’s leader, Ayman al- Zawahri. On July 28, 2016, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released an audio statement giving the Nusra Front formal permission to break ties with al-Qaeda as needed. Nusra Front leader Abu Muhammad al-Golani accepted the offer, thanking al-Qaeda and its leaders and announcing that the group no longer has “any affiliation to any external entity."
And you can take that to the bank! Apparently, it was enough for Washington.
Let's close with Ms. Gabbard's closing comments on the floor of the House:
"This madness must end. We must stop arming terrorists. The Government must end this hypocrisy and abide by the same laws that apply to its’ citizens."
We can hope that the new administration has a better understanding of the real repercussions of American foreign intervention....but I somehow doubt that things will change. On the other hand, it is interesting to see that one Representative, a retired and decorated member of the U.S. Army, can see outside the box, go off-script and challenge the rest of her colleagues into changing the military-industrial-political complex status quo in Washington.