By Joshua Scheer
In an original Truthdig interview, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), the potential next chair of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, calls for congressional hearings into how and why America invaded Iraq, and demands “accountability” for those who led America into a “war based on lies.”
(Disclosure: Interviewer Scheer worked as an entry-level staffer on Kucinich’s state Senate campaign, and was later a summer associate in his congressional office.)
TRUTHDIG: Do you have a plan that could get us out of Iraq?
KUCINICH: I’ve had a plan to get us out of Iraq from the minute we got there. I’ve had it on my website for three years—elements of which are still very viable. It calls for the U.S. to give up its control of the oil assets to move towards soliciting U.N. involvement.
TRUTHDIG: Do you think the neocons are done, or do they have life left in them yet?
KUCINICH: I think they’re going to have to answer for the direction that they took this country. I don’t think this election, in and of itself, ends the questions about those who led us into a war based on lies. As a matter of fact, the only hope they have is to do a reversal and lead the way out of Iraq. Because even at this moment a number of their top adherents are continuing to insist on an active U.S. presence in Iraq.
Even now there are people who were urging President Bush to go to war who are staying that wrongful course. And people have to be held accountable. You can’t lead this country into a war that has lost thousands of U.S. troops and perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, [and that has] cost the American taxpayers $400 billion—and maybe up to $2 trillion—and leave it with some kind of blithe apology. There has to be accountability. When the people elected Democrats, they also voted for accountability.
The American people are relying on us—not just to take a new direction, which I believe is out of Iraq, but they’re insisting on accountability for those who led us wrongly into Iraq.
TRUTHDIG: Are you planning investigations?
KUCINICH: It’s imperative for there to be accountability. How that accountability is enforced is going to be the subject of a lot of debate. But that there should be accountability is absolutely imperative.
TRUTHDIG: [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi said she was going to go across the aisle and work with a lot of the Republicans who voted for the war….
KUCINICH: This isn’t about whether or not someone voted for the war as a member of Congress. Members of Congress have to be free to be able to choose again based on new information. So, it’s OK if somebody was once for the war, and they looked at it again—that’s OK. The problem is the attempt to cover up what was obviously a war based on lies. That’s the problem.
TRUTHDIG: So how are you going to expose that coverup?
KUCINICH: We need to have hearings on Iraq again. We need to go over again why we went there. We need to review the statements and all the errors that were made, and from that we bring the country together to take a new direction. It’s all fact-based. And then we start to heal our nation. But we cannot heal America if we continue with policies that are based on lies. We’ll never be able to bring closure to this Iraq matter unless we tell the truth about what happened. So America needs a new approach of truth and reconciliation. This isn’t a Democratic or Republican matter. This is a matter that relates to the conscience of this country. This is a matter of the heart—the heart of democracy itself. This is a matter of whether we’re going to a sober reflection about the events that have transpired since 9/11, with respect to Iraq. And until we do this, we will be trapped not only physically in Iraq, we’ll be trapped emotionally and spiritually in Iraq. We may never get out of Iraq if we don’t tell the truth.
There shouldn’t be any partisan direction on this. We should all be together. America wants a new direction in Iraq; it stated it loud and clear. It wants a Congress that’s going to question the president, not a rubber-stamp Congress. This is a time to tell the truth and to heal our nation. And the time for Congress to function as a co-equal branch of government and for the government to function as it was intended to function.
We must never forget that the people have asked for a new direction, and now it’s up to us to help them achieve that.
TRUTHDIG: So you’re calling for hearings right now?
KUCINICH: We definitely should have hearings, but the actual decision about whether or not to convene them will be up to the Democratic leadership.
TRUTHDIG: What do you make of Bush’s getting rid of Rumsfeld?
KUCINICH: Listen, Rumsfeld may no longer be secretary of defense, but he made decisions based on lies that took people to their deaths. He has to be held accountable—secretary or not. And the rest of the people who were involved with the decision-making process have to be held accountable.
TRUTHDIG: You’re OK with the social conservatives coming to the [Democratic] Party?
KUCINICH: The Democratic Party is a big tent. And we have to remain a big tent.
TRUTHDIG: And what about the people who basically only ran on the issue of being antiwar?
KUCINICH: Whether people specifically were elected in opposition to the war is almost beside the point. The American people voted in a new Congress because of the war. We have to recognize that. We have to recognize that the American people demand a new direction. So then the question is going to be: How do we, as Democrats, keep faith with the people, in assuring that there is accountability? That’s what the people want. They want to make sure that all these people that brought us into war have to answer for their decisions. And so far, you know what? They haven’t had to answer. We’re going to have to go back over the territory: How did we get into Iraq? You cannot talk about an exit plan unless you know how you got in. And once people understand very clearly how we got in, then it becomes more imperative to get out.
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio waves after speaking to delegates during the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston, Wednesday, July 28, 2004.