The press release was dated September 12, 2002, and it read like something produced by the office of Saddam Hussein: “The Bush Administration should not throw down the gauntlet to the nations of the world, particularly when Iraq does not present an imminent threat to the United States or any other nation....Prior to 1998, the United Nations made much progress in weapons inspections and [found] that Iraq had no usable capacity for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction or the ability to deliver such weapons. The UN did so despite a lack of cooperation from the United States in some cases, and interference in others. The United States . . . advanced covert action to try to kill Saddam Hussein... Since 1998, no credible intelligence has been brought forward which suggests that Iraq is manufacturing weapons of mass destruction or has developed capabilities for delivery of such weapons.”
These were in fact the words of US Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), issued shortly after President Bush had outlined, to the UN General Assembly, the defiant manner in which Saddam Hussein has repeatedly breached every pledge he made in the Gulf War peace agreement. Kucinich has become one of the leading voices in the chorus opposing US military action against Iraq, and one of Congress’ most outspoken critics of President Bush.
According to Kucinich, the way to resolve what he dubs the Iraqi “mess” is to simply resume weapons inspections under the auspices of the UN. “We should come up with a comprehensive solution,” he says, “which includes negotiations over sanctions and the ‘no-fly’ zones.” In other words, the duty of enforcing the inspections would rest with the very organization that, for a decade, has shown itself to be impotent and — to quote President Bush — irrelevant. Moreover, Kucinich proposes that the current sanctions and no-fly zones be negotiated down, as an inducement for Saddam to readmit the inspectors.
Like so many who share his political persuasion, Mr. Kucinich believes that his own good intentions can warm and win the hearts of ruthless tyrants. “In the finest example of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.,” he says, “we can learn to confront our enemies with ahimsa, unconditional love.” Kucinich’s speeches often bear more resemblance to New Age streams of consciousness than to serious political discourse. “We must overcome our fear of each other,” he says, “by seeking out the humanity within each of us. The human heart contains every possibility of race, creed, language, religion, and politics. . . . We need to create a new, clear vision of a world as one . . . where people can live in harmony within their families, their communities, and within themselves.” A lot of nice words that are difficult to take issue with, but nothing very useful for dealing with those plotting your death.
Convinced that most anything can be achieved through negotiation and demonstrations of good will, military action, in Kucinich’s view, is never justified. Consequently, he asserts that a US strike against Iraq would constitute not only an “unprovoked [act of] war,” but also “a violation of international law” that would cause Americans to “forfeit any moral high ground we could hope to hold.” For Kucinich, not even Baghdad’s lengthy, well-documented record of lying about its secret weapons programs constitutes a provocation to war.
Kucinich recently delivered a speech titled “A Prayer for America,” the text of which would eventually be posted on the Communist Party USA Website. “Let us pray for our children,” said the congressman. “Our children deserve a world without end. Not a war without end. Our children deserve a world free of the terror of hunger . . . of poor health care . . . of homelessness . . . of ignorance . . . of hopelessness . . . Let us declare our intent for peace. ..Let us work to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our own society. . . . Let us work for a world where someday war becomes archaic.” Again, lots of fuzzy sentiments, but no roadmap for getting to the destination.
Eventually, however, Kucinich got specific. He condemned what he called the “destructive” Patriot Act, through which the Bush administration granted security agencies greater authority to conduct wiretaps and surveillance on suspected terrorists. “We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it,” said Kucinich. “We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups. . . . We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance.” So long as the FBI and CIA are forced to work with their hands tied and their eyes closed, Mr. Kucinich is content.
Exhibiting utter contempt for George W. Bush and his advisors, Kucinich’s “prayer” went on to denounce “the war games of an unelected President and his undetected Vice President.” It is stunning that in a time of national crisis, an American congressman would use such language to undermine his President’s very legitimacy. Even more noteworthy is that Kucinich, in his public statements, speaks far more disrespectfully of Bush than he does of Saddam.
Kucinich’s perspective is quite simple: in matters of international conflict, the US is always wrong. He contends, for instance, that American anti-terrorism troops deployed in the Philippines, Yemen, Soviet Georgia, Columbia, and Indonesia only “create new possibilities for expanded war.” With regard to the military action that brought down the Taliban, he decries our country’s “bombing of civilians in Afghanistan,” and laments that “the blood of innocent people who perished on September 11 [was] avenged with the blood of innocent villagers in Afghanistan.” This astounding characterization of what our armed forces did reads like a propaganda piece from the pen of Mullah Omar himself.
Like the Clinton administration before him, Kucinich sees terrorist attacks as criminal-justice issues rather than acts of war. “When terrorists threaten our security, we must enforce the law and bring [them] to justice within our system of constitutional justice, without undermining the very civil liberties which permits our democracy to breathe.” In other words, rather than use our armed forces to destroy the regime that masterminded the 9-11 attacks, Kucinich would have preferred to see specific, identifiable culprits somehow arrested and imprisoned — but only, of course, if their defense attorneys were unable to get them acquitted.
Consistent with his view that military solutions are never appropriate, Kucinich deems federal military spending largely immoral. “The defense budget,” he says, “grows with more money for weapons systems to fight a cold war which ended, weapon systems in search of new enemies to create new wars. This has nothing to do with fighting terror. This has everything to do with fueling a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation.”
A few months back, Kucinich, in a seemingly uncharacteristic manner, said, “We must challenge those who would make of any nation a nuclear target; challenge those who would threaten to use nuclear weapons against civilian populations; challenge those who would break nuclear treaties.” But alas, he was referring not to Iraq or any other rogue nation, but to the United States. Indeed on June 11 he led thirty-one members of Congress in filing a federal lawsuit to block the President from withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was signed in 1972 with the now-defunct Soviet Union.
The lawsuit named President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as defendants. “With this suit,” said a defiant Kucinich, “we are saying to the President: we will not stand idly by while the liberties enshrined in our Founding documents are trampled upon. We will not stand idly by while the rule of many is cast aside by the hubris of one, As well, we are expressing our support for a specific treaty that has served world security well for 30 years. There is little evidence that dissolving the ABM Treaty will do any more than allow defense contractors to capture ever-greater sums of money from the federal government.” Among his fellow plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Representatives John Conyers, Jesse Jackson Jr., Barbara Lee, Cynthia McKinney, and Maxine Waters — all members of the Democratic Party’s far left wing.
Kucinich accuses the Bush Administration of seeking, through deployment of a space-based missile-defense system, “hegemony in space, . . . almost some kind of a 21st-century parody of the Spanish Armada, of yesteryear, seeking to rule the seas. Now it’s the United States trying to seize the highest ground in the universe, space. It is not our business to do so, [to use] space as the next junkyard for military contractors.”
Earlier this year, Kucinich introduced a bill to ban all space-based defensive systems “capable of damaging or destroying an object [like a ballistic missile], whether in outer space, in the atmosphere, or on earth.” In an age when such passivity could easily render our country vulnerable to nuclear blackmail or annihilation, Kucinich nonetheless chooses to place his faith not in a strong defense, but in the potential goodwill of rogue states and terrorist organizations.
Inviting us to put aside our supposedly irrational fear of future terrorist attacks, Kucinich exhorts us to “replace the images of death which haunt us, . . . images of September 11 . . . spliced into . . . images of our secular celebrations of the World Series, New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the strobic flashes which touch our deepest fears. Let us replace those images with the work of human relations, reaching out to people, helping our own citizens here at home, lifting the plight of the poor everywhere.” In what can only be described as idealism of truly irresponsible proportions, Kucinich deems his own flowery sentiments an adequate safeguard against nuclear holocaust.
On July 11, 2001 Kucinich introduced a bill to create a cabinet-level Department of Peace (DOP) in the executive branch of the Federal Government. The DOP’s amorphous role would be to emphasize “non-violent conflict resolution at both domestic and international levels,” “strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking,” and “promote the development of human potential.” Lumping together personal and international issues, Kucinich envisions the DOP dealing with such disparate matters as weapons reduction and nuclear disarmament, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal rehabilitation, violence against animals, gun violence, gang and school violence, hate crimes, and the establishment of a “peace curriculum” in the schools.
The money Kucinich would siphon away from defense spending, he would happily divert into such boondoggles as the DOP. But then, he has plenty of experience at throwing taxpayer dollars around like a drunken sailor. The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) gives him an “F” rating for how he handles taxpayer money. NTU ratings, unlike those of other watchdog organizations, do not selectively focus on only a handful of equally weighted “key votes,” but rather cover virtually every roll call involving federal money. For this reason, lawmakers of both parties recognize the legitimacy of these ratings. As former Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) puts it, “[O]f all the Congressional roll calls published by outside interests, the NTU’s is the most comprehensive and the most objective.” In 2001, the average pro-taxpayer score in the House of Representatives was 41 percent, and in the Senate 46 percent. Kucinich scored a paltry 12%.
Surely there are valid points to be made on both sides of such issues as military action in Iraq, defense expenditures, and how to best fight the war against terrorism. Our duty, as citizens, is to determine which of those points are grounded in the firmest logic, and which ones constitute mere wishful thinking or self-delusion. Under the scrutiny of such analysis, the weaknesses of Rep. Kucinich’s arguments — and those of his most liberal colleagues — are plain to see.