PALO ALTO, California — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) provided a “snapshot” of his foreign policy to members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community on Wednesday as he spoke alongside Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) at two events in Palo Alto, one of which drew over 4,000 people.
“Diplomacy is a much better option than going to war,” Sanders said, adding his belief that the United States must create a foreign policy based on coalition with other countries.
The hawkish Gabbard, a veteran herself, said she “understands, first-hand the cost of war. I know how important it is that we have a commander in chief who exercises good judgement, who has foresight and who is going to make that most important and difficult decision about where and how our military may be necessary to secure the safety and security of the American people.” She added, “But just as importantly, making that decision when not to use that power.”
For these reasons, and her personal dissatisfaction with Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s handling of the party, Gabbard resigned as the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and endorsed Sanders over Hillary Clinton.
“We must all be mindful that war is the last response, not the first response,” Sanders said. He explained that in 2002 he had adopted the “unpopular” belief that there was a way to drive Saddam Hussein out of Iraq without going to war. “I believe that that there was a way to retain and get Kuwait back and drive Saddam Hussein out without going to war. And it was not a popular vote. I did not think it was necessary to send American troops” to the Middle East.
Then he reminded the crowd that Hillary Clinton “chose to go to war as a senator from New York. I opposed that war as a senator from Vermont.”
Sanders said there were “unintended consequences that when you destabilize a region, bad things happen… The goal is not just to overthrow the bad guy. The goal is to think about what happens the day after you overthrow that guy.”
In 2015, Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper “I am not a pacifist.” He had voted in support of using force in Kosovo in 1999 to thwart ethnic cleansing and also in Afghanistan. He added, “I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort that we have got to exercise diplomacy. But yes, I am prepared to take this country into war if necessary.”
On Wednesday, Sanders went on to suggest that socioeconomic depravity was a catalyst for terrorism. “I want once again the United States to be seen as a friend of poor people throughout the world,” Sanders said.
“I think when we help poor countries throughout the world build schools, and provide healthcare and prescription drugs… when we do those things, that probably is as effective way as any to prevent the growth of terrorism in those countries.”
He recalled visiting a college in Virginia when two young Muslim women, who were “jumping up and down” to ask him a question. Sanders said one of these young women told him that “she is now fearful and afraid of the United States of America, the country where she was born and in which she grew up.” Sanders said Donald Trump was to blame.
“This is what Trump and his friends have done. And this is an outrage and you have word, from the bottom of my heart, I will do everything I can to fight bigotry of all kinds in this country, including of course Islamophobia.”
“In the year 2016 with our first African-American president, I would have hoped that we have learned our lesson that bigotry is not acceptable in the United States,” Sanders told the crowd.
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