Dennis Kucinich, along with fellow Democrat Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and Republicans Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ron Paul (R-TX), introduced the first bi-partisan bill calling for an exit strategy from Iraq (H.J.Res. 55). Around this bill and other Iraq withdrawal efforts Republicans are quietly meeting behind closed doors and progressive Democrats have formed the “Out of Iraq Caucus” to push for an exit strategy. Rep. Kucinich is leading the Congress to a real consideration of an exit strategy from Iraq.
Dennis Kucinch has most recently become well known to Americans as an anti-war, progressive Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 who emphasized worker rights, civil rights and human rights in his campaign. But, he has a long history of electoral success beginning when he was elected to the Cleveland City Council at 23 years old and Mayor of Cleveland at 31 at the time the youngest Big City Mayor. He is currently serving his fifth term as a Member of Congress.
Zeese: During the campaign Howard Dean was second only to you in his
opposition to the war. But now that he is the Chairman of the Democratic Party he has become a supporter of continuing the occupation. You recently sent an Open Letter to him in you argue that challenging the illegal war in Iraq is a winning issue for Democrats. Can you describe what you think Democrats should be doing?
Kucinich: What I said to Howard is that there is no issue more likely to energize millions of Americans to elect Democrats than this costly misadventure in Iraq. Certainly no issue in the political constellation has energized as much spontaneous popular organizing. All the polls not that they’re the most important factor, but they do reveal an important development reveal a trend: the war in Iraq is increasingly unpopular. But that election victory will not happen on its own. Democrats must stand for bringing the troops home. Now that is not an unattainable goal: a supermajority of the Congressional Democratic rank and file has consistently opposed the war. All the necessary prerequisites are in place for the Democratic Party to be the End the War party, and to be elected on that basis, except one: the Democratic leadership has consistently confused the picture of where Democrats stand on the war. As a former Presidential candidate who found his footing entirely because he took the right position on the war in Iraq, Howard should see this.
Zeese: Have you looked at our website, www.DemocracyRising.US, in particular the interview with Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar – an Iraqi engineer currently living in Baghdad. He describes the city of Baghdad as a mess – security faltering, sewage running in the streets, electricity inconsistent, more than doubling of unemployment, gas prices ten times their normal price, reconstruction very badly lagging, food shortages – and he describes ongoing abuses by occupying troops. What is your opinion about what is really going on in Iraq?
Kucinich: The situation is worse than we have been told by the Administration. Under the U.S., corruption and repression of organized labor have been routine. The destruction of Fallujah was worse than the news said it was. The degree of anti-Americanism is high, even among some of our hand-picked Iraqi partners. I don’t think anything good can come out of staying in Iraq. It was wrong to go in, and it is wrong to stay in.
Zeese: Specifically what should members of Congress be investigating or asking the GAO to investigate? Why aren’t more Democrat ranking members of Committees doing what Cong. Henry Waxman has been doing to expose contract fraud?
Kucinich: There are so many things to investigate this Administration for, starting with the obvious: what role did the White House play in “fixing the facts around the policy,” as the Downing Street minutes put it, to generate Congressional and public support for launching an unprovoked war against Iraq. The Washington Post reported in the spring of 2003 that Vice President Cheney and his staffer, Scooter Libby, both spent time at the CIA with analysts, though the substance of those meetings, and the potential for intimidation, has not been probed. On a related point, the false claims made for Saddam’s “vast stockpiles” of WMD by Secretary Rumsfeld before the Armed Services Committee have never been probed, though they were influential in leading to a Congressional authorization for use of force against Iraq. But the probes need not stop there. The true cost of the Medicare drug benefit was misrepresented to Congress by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and their chief actuary’s job was threatened to keep him from testifying to the truth. Or how about the manipulation of energy supplies going into California by a handful of deregulated energy producers, including Enron. The laundry list could be very long indeed.
Zeese: What should anti-war activists be doing to end the war? What should members of Congress be doing to help the citizenry (now a majority of Americans) who want to end the war-occupation? Should anti-war activists support those Democratic candidate who support the war? What are your constituents telling you?
Kucinich: Fortunately, we have a democracy and on major questions, in the end, popular will determines policy. But it takes patience and persistence on the part of the activists and organizers.
I can tell you what the country will look like when those citizen activists have succeeded: Popular opposition will come from all walks of life: veterans, families of active duty servicemen and women, unions, religious groups. Conventional labels will not apply. Conservatives, libertarians, liberals and progressives will be calling for bringing the troops home. By the way, that is an important point: citizen organizers should not feel constrained by the conventional political labels. Is opposing the war a liberal or a conservative position? I couldn’t say.
Let me tell you about my own efforts: I have been working with a fellow Democrat, Neil Abercrombie, and two of the most conservative Republicans in the Congress, Walter Jones and Ron Paul, to introduce the first bipartisan bill to begin the end of the war in Iraq. That bill is H.J. Res. 55, and I really believe that building support around it should be a legislative goal of the antiwar movement.
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