WASHINGTON — The U.S.’s decision to bomb Syria Friday in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 40 people last week drew strong reactions from all four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who last year secretly traveled to the country to assess the civil war in Syria and meet with the country’s president Bashar al-Assad, had been urging the pursuit of peace over the use of missiles before the bombing. 

Gabbard sent a letter Wednesday to President Donald Trump outlining her concerns, and noting that military action would only make matters worse by bolstering terrorist groups and increasing the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe and the U.S.

L-Right, Rep Gabbard, Rep Hanabusa, Sen Mazie Hirono and right, Sen Brian Schatz at EW Center Hearing.
The four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation had varied reaction to the Trump administration’s decision to strike Syria. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gabbard’s letter, however, did not reference Assad, the recent chemical attack or her previous trip to Syria. In the past, she has been careful not to blame the Syrian president for the use of chemical weapons against his own people until more proof was available.

“The people of Syria want peace more than anything else in the world. Attacking Syria will not bring their war-torn country any closer to peace,” Gabbard said her in letter to Trump. “U.S. military action against Syria will simply escalate and prolong the war, resulting in more senseless death, destruction, and suffering.”

She then asked Trump to “resist the loud calls of war and instead wield the power of the Presidency to help bring peace to the people of Syria, their devastated country, and the region.”

Last year, Gabbard denounced the Trump administration’s decision to strike a Syrian military base in response to a chemical attack that took place in the country around that time.

“I am deeply concerned by the President’s incoherent strategy in this critically important area of the world where there are layers of complexity and no easy answers.” — U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono

She described the U.S. actions as reckless and something that could lead to nuclear war with Russia, which is an ally of Assad’s regime. She also called for the execution of Assad if he was in fact behind those chemical attacks.

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Mazie Hirono, meanwhile, focused their attention on the legalities of Trump’s decision to strike, something the administration has defended albeit using a secret justification.

Both sit on their respective chamber’s Armed Services Committees, as does Gabbard.

In a statement released Friday night, Hirono blamed Assad for the use of chemical weapons and called on the international community to hold him accountable. She also warned against possible escalation of U.S. military action in Syria, saying that it would need congressional approval.

“While today’s action was taken in concert with France and Great Britain, the President stated that ‘we are prepared for a sustained response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,’” Hirono said.

“I am deeply concerned by the President’s incoherent strategy in this critically important area of the world where there are layers of complexity and no easy answers.”

“If the President is going to shift our mission in Syria, he needs to come to Congress for authorization and explain exactly what his strategy is, and how it supports U.S. national security interests and ends the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis.”

Sen. Brian Schatz focused his attention on the Syrian refugees, and the fact that only 11 have been accepted into the U.S. so far in 2018. In a tweet, Schatz said, “If we are worried about the suffering in Syria we should go back to accepting refugees.”

Schatz was also critical of Trump’s own Twitter message in which the president used the term “Mission Accomplished!” after the missile strikes in Syria.

In 2003, those words were displayed on a banner behind then-U.S. President George W. Bush when he prematurely declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq. The image has since become an indelible reminder of the costs and failures of that conflict.

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