What will Rep. Dennis Kucinich's legacy be?
Not only was Congressman Dennis Kucinich a serious lawmaker and capable of brokering bipartisan opposition to military interventions in Libya and elsewhere, but Kucinich was also one of the few vocal legislators who thought peace was worthy of a cabinet level position and worth the attention of the executive and legislative branches. What a novel idea, especially as the U.S. is at war with six countries. As a fellow Ohioan, I'm proud that Cleveland kept reelecting him. Looking back on my interview with the congressman on Iran a few years ago, I realized his responses are as poignant now as they were then. Here are a few excerpts:
Shank: In the supplemental there was a clause that was pulled at the last minute stipulating that if the president chooses to wage war on Iran he must first seek authorization from Congress. Why did that clause get dropped and what are the ramifications of that edit?
Kucinich: First of all, we should be engaging in diplomacy with Iran. And in connection with that, I’m convening a meeting with members of Congress to talk about setting steps toward a diplomatic initiative that would begin to connect us with leaders in Iran. We need to do this. This idea of the United States trying to separate communities from integrating with the international community is wrong. So I raised objections to taking out from the supplemental language that would have mandated the president to come back to Congress for any action that he may intend to take against Iran.
Why is this significant? Because the administration has had a whole series of initiatives that would lead a prudent person to believe that it intends to attack Iran. Let’s look at the administration’s conduct with respect to Iran: declaring Iran part of an “axis of evil”; sending a fleet out to the Gulf region with the idea of sending a message to Iran; sending nuclear bunker busters and patriot missiles to the region; intercepting Iranian diplomats in the Kurdish area of Iraq who were there legally and lawfully; freezing Iran’s financial assets; pushing for sanctions at the U.N.
This administration has been on the war path and they’re on the war path not only against Iraq but against Iran as well. They want a war. We need to take a different direction. If we really believe in diplomacy we’ve got to start practicing it with Iran. And taking out of the budget a provision that said that the president has to come back to Congress if he wants to take action against Iran essentially gives him a green light. Congress has the authority to determine whether or not the president takes action.
The president has been trying to build a phony case blaming Iran for improvised explosive device technology and using that as a reason to call upon the authority of the War Powers Act to initiate an attack against Iran and to circumvent Article 1, Section 8 requirements of the U.S. Constitution. I reject that approach. I think the war talk alone brings the president and the vice president within the orbit of a justifiable discussion of impeachment. According to the U.N. charter, a nation cannot even threaten aggressive war against another nation. And Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution states that treaties constitute the law of our land. So the president is violating not only the UN charter but the U.S. Constitution.
These individuals occupying the White House need to be held accountable to international law. There must not be an attack on Iran. It would destabilize the region and the international community, it would jeopardize our troops in Iraq, and it could lead to a cataclysm.
Shank: The State Department says that the United States is engaging in diplomacy with Iran, but in fact they’ve set conditions on diplomacy. If Iran meets those conditions then the United States will dialogue with Iran. But the United States hasn’t set those same conditions on North Korea…
Kucinich: It’s worse than that. Iran made a diplomatic initiative in 2003 that would’ve not only addressed their use of nuclear power but would have taken huge strides to open a diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. The Bush administration rejected it. This administration doesn’t want diplomacy in the Middle East. It’s almost pathological. They have a lust for control and a desire to steal resources, to grab oil, to control nations for the purpose of a narrow economic group. Everything about it is wrong. It’s almost at the level where it is a criminal enterprise operating as a government.
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