Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) launched a profane attack on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy on Monday evening, denouncing the idea of defending Saudi Arabia: “We are not your prostitutes. You are not our pimp.”
Gabbard was responding to President Trump’s statements about a potential U.S. response to a recent attack by Houthi rebels on oilfields in Saudi Arabia that threatened global oil supplies and the security of a key American ally.
Yesterday President Trump offered to place our military, my brothers and sisters in uniform, under the command [sic] of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the dictator of the Islamist Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [sic]. Trump said, “[We] are locked and loaded, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Mr. President, as you know, I have never engaged in hateful rhetoric against you [sic], or your family, and I never will, but your offering our military assets to the dictator of Saudi Arabia to use as he sees fit, is a betrayal of my brothers and sisters in uniform who are ready to give our lives for our country, not for the Islamist dictator of Saudi Arabia. For you to think that you can pimp out our proud servicemen and women to the Prince of Saudi Arabia is disgraceful, and it once again shows that you are unfit to serve as our commander in chief. As a member of Congress, and as a soldier, I and all of my brothers and sisters in uniform have taken an oath to protect and defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America. There is nothing in our Constitution that gives you the power to go to war without the express consent of Congress [sic], but to speak of giving you the power to offer our military to a foreign power like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to use as they wish — President Trump, your words and actions are a betrayal of my brothers and sisters in uniform, the American people, and our Constitution. My fellow servicemembers and I — we are not your prostitutes. You are not our pimp.
There are several inaccuracies and problems in Gabbard’s assertions. First, it is not clear that President Trump offered command of the U.S. military to Saudi Arabia, and it is hard to imagine him doing so. A more reasonable interpretation of Trump’s tweet was simply that he would be consulting with an important American ally about an attack that is suspected to be the work of an American enemy — or, at least, the work of one of its proxies.
Second, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (its official name, not the “Islamist Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”) is officially an Islamic state, it is a stretch to call it an “Islamist” state. The term “Islamist” suggests association with terror organizations. Though the Saudi government, in decades past, spread extremist ideas and supported terror, in recent decades it has assisted the U.S. in fighting terror — partly because the regime is a target of Islamist terror.
Third, Gabbard’s claim never to have used “hateful rhetoric” against Trump is not accurate. In November 2018, she accused him of being “Saudi Arabia’s bitch.” In April, she also called him “al-Qaeda’s big brother and protector in Syria,” in a Tweet that was highlighted by Iranian state television. And earlier Tuesday, Gabbard tweeted: Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “‘America First.'”
Fourth, while Gabbard is correct that the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to declare war, it does not preclude the president from acting in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the military to protect the country. The War Powers Act of 1973 allows the president to initiate military operations that last up to 90 days before he or she must seek official authorization from Congress. The law is controversial, but it remains the law.
Finally, as Gabbard enjoys pointing out, she is an officer in the U.S. Army National Guard. Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) prohibits commissioned officers from using “contemptuous words” about the president — whether in uniform or out of uniform. Gabbard might enjoy some leeway from a military court due to the political nature of her job, but to say Trump has betrayed the military, and to call him a “pimp” and a “bitch,” is likely a violation of the UCMJ.
Gabbard may earn herself some attention, but she could also earn a court-martial.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.