By Joshua Scheer
In an interview with Truthdig’s Joshua Scheer*, the Democratic congressman argues that the Pentagon’s new spending proposal would not only escalate the Iraq war but could be used to fund an attack on Iran.
Truthdig: Can you tell us about the Department of Defense’s new appropriation requests for the Iraq war?
Kucinich: Well, here’s what’s happening. The Congress appropriated $70 billion in so-called bridge funds for the Iraq war. Those funds began to be spent as of October 1st, 2006. Those funds will last until at least the end of June 2007. Keep in mind [that] all of last year when the war was sharply escalated, the Department of Defense spent $117 billion in Iraq. They’re coming in with a request for close to $130 billion (also here) in the spring for a supplemental appropriation. Now that means in a single year the costs of the war could go up to $200 billion, but they’re not saying what the money is used for specifically…. When you read the [Gordon] England memo very carefully you see that it basically expands the definition of what this $130 billion can be used for.
This ought to be of concern to everyone because this could be used for continuing the war, expanding the war in Iraq. When you look at the England memo you see that they’re talking about costs to accelerate specific force capabilities necessary to prosecute the war. But because it is not specific—and think about a $130-billion appropriation that is not specific!— this could be used to fund a potential attack on Iran. This $130 billion could also be part of a slush fund for an expansion of military spending and essentially taking it off budget.
What we have here is a situation that is totally out of control. Not only does the administration feel unrestrained in [its] spending, but they also apparently feel unrestrained by the mandate which the American people gave the Democrats on November 7th. The Democrats in Congress have a moral obligation to take a new direction with respect to Iraq, and that direction is out. The administration is borrowing money to fund this war. This administration has not shown any willingness to suffer any kind of oversight on the spending, but the ultimate oversight is when the bill is up for passage.
Truthdig: There are some in the Pentagon who are concerned and have sent this back to try to get a handle on what exactly they want to spend the money on, so this seems to not just be a concern of Democrats but even some in the Pentagon….
Kucinich: War spending generates a forward momentum—the more you spend, the more you are going to spend in the future. And so regardless of what anyone in the Pentagon is saying, Congress has the obligation here to cut off funds, and that’s what I’m calling for. We have to stop this! We have to stop this war and we have to stop the potential expansion of the war and we have to stop this administration from getting another $130 billion to promote war anywhere [it] please[s].
Truthdig: Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project, said: “That is like telling your wife she has worn out the Yugo for getting to the train station and you are going to buy her a Ferrari,” because some of military spending was for the most high-tech equipment, with the $70 billion already there….
Kucinich: What it means is that anything goes, every wish list that ever existed at the Pentagon is being dusted off and used under the cover of the Iraq war, but they’re expanding it. They’re saying it’s for the global war on terror. The global war on terror has become a license for the Bush administration to attack anyone anywhere, and there’s no accountability. The special inspector general for Iraq recently notified Congress that the United States sent 370,000 weapons over to Iraq but only recorded the serial numbers of 10,000 of those weapons. So what do you suppose that means? That means that with no accountability on weapons these weapons can go into anybody’s hands and no one will ever be able to trace it, because the serial numbers have not been recorded. This special inspector general has called corruption the second insurgency.
Whether it’s $130 billion or $30 billion, we are going to have to put an end to the funding of this Iraq war. That’s the only way it’s going to end. There is no other way. This is up to Congress now. This is not about George Bush anymore. The president has already made clear his intentions: He’s going to keep the troops there until the end of his term and it does not matter what that Iraq study group says. Everyone who knows anything understands that was just put out there to buy him some time, but Congress has a specific directive here from the American people as a result of the November 7th election, so the spring will tell the story of the next two years. It will tell if the Democrats are going to rescue the nation from a deepening war in Iraq, or whether we are going to permit the administration to carry the war through the end of [Bush’s] term…. You can’t simultaneously say you oppose the war and vote for the funding, and you can’t maintain [that] this is for the troops in the field when the money is there now to bring the troops home. So the moment of truth is fast approaching.
Truthdig: There is money, right? At least $70 billion from the budget. This money you are talking about, it is supplemental to that….
Kucinich: The money’s there to bring the troops home and that money is continued in the so-called bridge fund that was passed September 30th, 2006. We have the money to bring the troops home. The idea that the troops will be stranded is false and is being spread by people who want to keep the war and the war spending going.
Congress has to recognize that the American people took a stand in November. What could be more profound than changing the entire Congress, the House and the Senate, over the issue of the war? Is there anybody out there who could argue that the American people asked for more money for Iraq? That the American people asked for more troops for Iraq? Did the American people ask to prolong or intensify the war in Iraq? None of those things are true. What the American people want is to get out of Iraq. The test is going to be on this bill. The vote on this bill is going to be the moment of truth.
Truthdig: I wanted to get a quick comment on Silvestre Reyes, the new head of the [House] Intelligence Committee. Do you think he is a good choice?
Kucinich: I think he’s a good choice. He and I came into Congress together. I know him well. He’s solid [and] thoughtful. He did vote against the war. [He’s] someone who has worked on border issues—- I think that’s important. He’s a good man and I think he’s a good choice.
Truthdig: There are some concerns over [his] lack of experience versus Jane Harman, the outgoing minority chair. But he has been on the Intelligence Committee for a while….
Kucinich: He’ll have a lot of help.
*Interviewer Scheer worked as an entry-level staffer on Kucinich’s state Senate campaign and was later a summer associate in his congressional office. In this weekly interview series, Rep. Kucinich gives his take on the goings-on in Congress in the wake of the Democrats’ victory.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich