A Conversation With Dennis Kucinich
Posted on Jan 6, 2008
By Chris Hedges
Hedges: Do you think it is because in a presidential election they do not want to appear weak on defense issues?
Kucinich: One does not want to appear weak. That’s true. But one should also not want to appear unintelligent. How intelligent was it to send our troops into a war without any proof that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11, the anthrax attacks in the country ... that Iraq had no intention or capability of attacking the United States? There was no proof that Iraq had been involved in 9/11, had weapons of mass destruction. Why did we do this? So it was thoroughly unintelligent for these leaders—who made the choice to appear tough and turned out to be unintelligent. So now the American people are being given a choice and, really you have candidates who voted for the war when they could have stopped it, or to fund the war and reauthorize it. All of them have voted to fund the war or reauthorize it. The war, you get to the point, where the war in the debates actually was given four years’ life by having candidates Obama, Clinton and Edwards all agree that the war could continue to 2013.
Hedges: Why? What is the reason?
Kucinich: I think there is a mindset that comes from a complex of an implicit understanding of the power of those interests who profit from war and of the power of war as an idea and of being unwilling to challenge the status quo. A president has to represent the status quo, but what do you do if the status quo is corrupt? So they certainly know by now the war was wrong. If the war was based on lies, you tell the truth. You take the plan to get out. They are not talking about that. They are talking about a long-term occupation. There is no question about it: Everything speaks to a long-term occupation. If the Republicans win, we stay in Iraq. If the Democrats win, we stay in Iraq, unless I am the one who gets nominated. I put the plan out there to bring our troops home immediately, HR 4232. You have to keep in mind [that] if you want to know where people stand today, you have to look not at the broad brush of where the Democrats are, but at the individuals. Sen. Clinton took a hard-line position against Iraq, and she voted 100 percent of the time to fund the war until the last vote. Sen. Edwards took a hard-line position to attack Iraq. He voted all except one time to keep funding the war. Sen. Obama said he opposed the war before it started. He gave one, single speech, got elected—and his voting record is identical to Sen. Clinton’s in voting to support the war. How can you expect anything different? Even if Sen. Edwards says he made a mistake, if you look at the track of preparing for another war against Iran the same people—Sens. Clinton, Edwards and Obama—all said of Iran that “all options are on the table,” licensing George Bush’s aggressive rhetoric and preparations against Iran. They said that, each one of them.
Square, Site wide
Kucinich: Well, Congress actually had an opportunity to pass a resolution that would have forced the administration to come back in the form of an amendment. They rejected it. This Congress has, unfortunately, licensed the administration’s aggression, first by not holding them accountable for lying to Congress in the resolution that was brought before the Congress in October 2002. You may be familiar, Chris, with the dissection I did of that resolution, the Iraq war analysis of 2002. ... [Y]ou will see, what I did was dissect the thing draft by draft, statement by statement, and this was before Congress voted. If I can do this, why couldn’t have any of the others running for president today? This is when it counted. This the moment of maximum peril. This is the moment that America was about to go and launch a war of aggression against another nation. When I started challenging this, I was alone. Then there were six members, then 10 and then it grew to 125.
Hedges: How much is the reluctance on the part of the other candidates to address the Iran issue [as] an Israeli issue?
Kucinich: Sen. Edwards spoke [at the] Herzliya [conference, and] three times in one speech he said all options are on the table. Everyone understood what that meant. It is a metaphor for the use of nuclear weapons. It is unambiguous. Sens. Obama and Clinton at various times said the same thing. Anyone who is really supportive of Israel—and I consider myself supportive of Israel—would recoil in horror over the thought of the United States attacking Iran, because it is Israel that would end up paying the price. Anyone with an ounce of common sense understands that, which is why we have an obligation to move towards creating peace in the region, engaging Iran in diplomacy. I had an ongoing discussion with the Iranian ambassador [Javad] Zarif. I found out that an effort was made three years ago by the previous Iranian administration, [that of president Mohammad] Hatami, to settle the issues that were outstanding between Iran and the United States. It was thrown in the wastebasket by the Bush administration. There have been numerous efforts to try and build relations, and they all came from Iran. They were immediately, each and every one of them, rejected because the administration was determined to go on a course of action of aggression. [The November 2007] National Intelligence Estimate could have been much more severe in its judgment of the administration. It served a purpose in slowing down the movement towards war, but it does not totally stop it by any means because this administration is absolutely devoted to war as an instrument of policy.
Hedges: If this administration carried out a strike on Iran, would you predict that the Democratic leadership would support it?
Kucinich: I think you have to look at the sweep of legislation in the last year and a half. Anyone who looks at that could not conclude otherwise. It would just be a continuation of licensing of aggression against Iran. There is nothing that indicates they would do anything other than that because of the bills we have passed. I was often the only one, or one of two, who consistently challenged what we are doing with respect to Iran, voting against legislation that I knew was being used to lay the groundwork for war. It was very clear. There were maybe 14 different resolutions that were out there, and each time I went to the floor and I rose and I spoke against them. I said, “What are we doing?”
Hedges: What happens if we do not begin impeachment proceedings?
Kucinich: We haven’t proceeded with impeachment because the leadership says impeachment is off the table. Effectively, what they have done is to nullify the one provision of the Constitution that protects the American people from the presidency turning into a monarchy. Congress’ co-equality depends upon impeachment. Our democracy depends on the president and the vice-president being held accountable for the crimes they have committed against the American people. It is about lying, weapons of mass destruction, lying about Iraq’s so-called alleged connection to al-Qaeda and 9/11, trying to conflate Iraq with 9/11, trying to imply that Iraq had some ability to attack the United States or the intention to do so—in Cheney’s case, trying to build a similar case for a war against Iran based on lies again. But it is much more than that. It is responsibility for the deaths and injuries of thousands of American troops and over a million innocent Iraqis, the destruction of our domestic agenda by borrowing $1-2 trillion from China for the war, the ruining of America’s reputation, the wiretapping, the eavesdropping, the rendition, the torture, the suspension of habeas corpus—
Kucinich: None. Zero. I have to tell you, one of the things I was greatly concerned about is when I read that our Democratic leaders have been thoroughly briefed on torture, on waterboarding, as the Washington Post reported a few weeks ago. If you are silent, when you hear that, if you say nothing about it, silence becomes complicity.
Hedges: Is this because people like Hillary Clinton want to inherit an imperial presidency?
Kucinich: I don’t know about that. That becomes a consequence of not taking action. There might be something in that the American people would be so fed up with the Bush administration that they would once again take it out on the Republicans. But I frankly don’t think that will happen. I think what is more likely to happen is that people will become so disenchanted with the Democrats for not taking action that they won’t vote. People will just say there is no difference. They have not done what they said they would do. There is a loss of confidence. And so people will not vote. When we show up as a party with the full power of the Constitution behind us, the people will show us, too. They will show up.
Hedges: How do you feel about citizens’ movements, such as Code Pink, calling on people not to pay their taxes? It is built out of that frustration.
Kucinich: I understand that. That is a civil disobedience tactic. It also invites scrutiny by the IRS, which doesn’t really care about anyone’s politics. They just care about getting the money they are owed. It is a brave thing for people to do because there is a degree of risk in doing that. Why should people have to do this?
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