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2004-03-22

The Peace Candidate: Kucinich Vows to Stay in Race

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Ira Kurzban, A Miami-based lawyer. Since 1991, he has served as General Counsel for the government of Haiti.

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Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich explains why is staying in the race for his party’s nomination. He talks about the continuing war in Iraq, the 9-11 commission and Israel’s assasination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin in Gaza. [includes rush transcript]

Only one presidential candidate attended one of the mass protests marking the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq. It wasn’t George W Bush and it wasn’t John Kerry. It was Ohio Congressmember Dennis Kucinich. He addressed more than 100, 000 people at the large protest in New York City on Saturday.

This weekend Kucinich issued a statement saying that he will not drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination. Kucinich said he is committed to ensuring that a peace platform is adopted by the Democrats ahead of November’s elections.

This Thursday, the Democratic National Committee is holding a "Unity Dinner" honoring John Kerry. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton will be in attendance, as will all of the Democratic presidential candidates who were once competing against Kerry. All of them, that is, except Kucinich. A DNC official told the Washington Post that Kucinich was not invited because, in the words of the official, Kucinich is not preaching party unity and is continuing his campaign. Kucinich responded to this non-invite by saying he is preaching unity on issues of peace, social justice and equal rights.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, your response to the level of protest, not only in New York, but around the world?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I believe that the rising tide in this world is towards human unity. It is not towards decent into chaos as some leaders might propel us towards , but that all over the world, people are striving to create more peaceful conditions, peaceful coexistence. And that this movement in the United States is still burgeoning, and I think that as it goes to a community level, it will continue to demonstrate the insistence of so many people around this country that America take a new path in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the fact that you’re one of the contenders for the democratic nomination who has basically looks like [Kerry] has wrapped it up. Senator John Kerry did not address any of the major protests.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: It’s true that Senator Kerry has gained sufficient delegates to be able to claim — lay claim to the nomination, and while that might be somewhat of a certainty, what is not certain is the direction of the Democratic Party and the direction of the United States. For example, I do not believe that people in this nation are ready to exchange a Republican version of the war in Iraq for a Democratic version of the same, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m continuing in this race all the way to the convention, to make sure that it’s known that there are voices who happen to be Democratic who are demanding that the United States take a new approach, that we get out of Iraq, that we bring in U.N. peacekeepers and bring our troops home.

AMY GOODMAN: You issued a letter this weekend declaring your commitment to remain steadfast saying that you intend to campaign right through the remaining primaries and caucuses to insure the Democratic Party goes in the direction of peace. On Thursday, there will be a major unity dinner of the Democratic National Committee to celebrate the party’s determination to bury differences and rally behind Senator John Kerry . Former President’s Clinton and Carter will be there at the National Building museum in Washington. Also present all of this year’s Democratic Presidential Candidates, except you. A D.N.C. official said because you are still campaigning and not preaching party unity.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well if by preaching party unity, they expect me to get out of the race for the convenience of the party, that’s not going to happen. The fact of the matter is there must be a clear democratic voice for peace. There must be a clear democratic voice for fair trade and for health care for all. My presence in this primary and caucus season enables democrats to extend their reach. We can’t win the White House, unless we’re able to reach out to Greens, Natural Law Party members, Reform Party members , Libertarians and those Democrats who feel that the party has lost its way. I’m actually helping to hold that principle of unity in the broadest sense. This narrow definition of unity cannot serve the interests of the Democratic Party.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you support Senator John Kerry?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: You know what? I’m still in the race. If I supported him, I would be out of the race.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Al Sharpton says he supports John Kerry.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I’m not going to try to discern the wisdom of the Reverend, but I am going to say, I’m still campaigning. There are differences of opinion between myself and the Senator Kerry.

AMY GOODMAN: What are they?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: You start with the war. He made a case…articulated a case for weapons of mass destruction. I challenged that there were such weapons. He voted for the war. I voted against it. He voted for the Patriot Act. I voted against it. He’s for NAFTA and the W.T.O., I say we have to overturn those and go back to bilateral trade conditioned on human rights and workers’ rights and the environment. There are differences that remain and we can’t paper over them in the name of party unity, especially during a primary and caucus season when there’s thirteen elections which remain. I think it’s urgent that the Democratic debate continue and then, you know, at the end of the process, we can then feel that all sides have been heard from. But the attempt to try to squelch debate right now is a mistake.

AMY GOODMAN: How much pressure are you under?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: None. Zero, are you kidding?

AMY GOODMAN: There are no debates planned right up through the Democratic convention.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Not to my knowledge, but the — each primary, each caucus represents an opportunity. For example, you know, there was a caucus in Alaska over the weekend and it looks like we may have picked up as many as five delegates out of 14. And so, you know, there’s still people out there who want to see a voice in the Democratic party, provide an alternative view and again, you know, Amy, maybe John Kerry can count to 47%, 48%, but the pivotal difference in this election is going to be — who is going to be able to reach out to those democrats who might otherwise say, what does this party stand for and why should we participate. That’s what my campaign is about. My — this campaign has the potential to make the critical difference in this election. That’s why I’m staying in, and people who will go to our website at kucinich.us will see laid out all of the reasons why it’s important for this campaign to continue.

AMY GOODMAN: We began the show with the top news story of the day. The Israeli government assassinating Sheik Ahmed Yassin the spiritual leader and founder of Hamas. Your response.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I don’t know how this assassination possibly can serve the interests of security in Israel. What it seems to be doing here is there’s an assassination policy which can only increase the tempo of the cycle of violence and intensification of division. This eye for an eye policy can mean nothing but further conflict. I think that — I think one of the callers representing the university said that there is a change coming. I think all over the world, people — the people are demanding change. There’s a peace movement in Israel, there’s a peace movement in the Palestinian communities. People all over the world are looking for a new direction and they’re demanding that their leaders respond in a way that is sensitive to breaking the cycle of violence. We need to do that here in this country. It needs to be done in the Middle East. It needs to be done all over the world.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your reaction to Richard Clarke, coming out right now. The top Counter-Terrorism Adviser to both President Clinton and President Bush, saying really harsh condemnation of the Bush administration. This is an excerpt of what he had to say on 60 Minutes last night.

RICHARD CLARKE: Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq, and we all said, but, no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. Rumsfeld said there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said there are lots of good targets in lots of places but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

60 MINUTES: You wrote you thought he was joking?

RICHARD CLARKE: Initially, I thought when he said there are not enough targets in Afghanistan, I thought he was joking. 60 MINUTES: What was your reaction to this Iraq talk? What did you tell everybody?

RICHARD CLARKE: I said invading Iraq or bombing Iraq after we’re attacked by somebody else, you know it’s akin to what if Franklin Roosevelt, after Pearl Harbor, instead of going to war with Japan said, let’s invade Mexico. It’s very analogous. 60 MINUTES: Didn’t they think that there was a connection?

RICHARD CLARKE: I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the C.I.A. was sitting there, the F.B.I. was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we have looked at this issue for years, for years we have looked for a connection, and there’s just no connection.

60 MINUTES: You told them that?

RICHARD CLARKE: Absolutely.

60 MINUTES: You personally.

RICHARD CLARKE: I told them that. George Tenet told them that.

60 MINUTES: Who did you tell?

RICHARD CLARKE: I told the group. I told the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General. They all knew it.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Clark on CBS’s 60 minutes last night. Your response, Congressmember Kucinich?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: How many times do we have to hear from sources close to the administration that there was a misrepresentation and lies to get us to go to war against Iraq? You could start with Bob Woodward’s book, Bush at War, page 49 makes it very clear that Secretary Rumsfeld wanted to attack Iraq after 9-11 even though there was no connection. You can look at Secretary O’Neil’s book. Ten days into the administration, he said, it was all about Iraq. You look at Mr. Clark’s book here. It’s about Iraq and they didn’t care if there was any tie or not they were looking to attack Iraq. So, here’s where we are: The Democratic Party is on the verge of obliterating the Iraq issue in the name of trying to appear tough, and I think therefore stupid on National Security. The Democrats are ceding the debate to Bush about 9-11. We should be challenging him for taking this nation into an illegal war for causing the deaths of countless innocent Iraqi civillians and over 570 American men and women who have valiantly served this country and the waste of $200 billion of tax dollars. The administration should be driven from office principally for it’s role leading us into the war in Iraq. And you know what? So many of the Democratic leaders are just ready to look the other way.

AMY GOODMAN: How is Kerry doing that?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: It’s the imperative that we make this a centerpiece of this campaign, that they lied to get us into a war, and you know what? Anybody who voted for the war, I understand, is at a disadvantage, but even then I suppose he has the chance to start to challenge the administration. The reason why I’m staying in this election is to make sure that the Democrats have a voice who can be very clear about the insistence on challenging this administration not only for going into the war, that’s wrong to go in, but it’s also wrong to stay in. We must expect our party will articulate a program to get us out of Iraq and that’s why I’m staying in this race.

AMY GOODMAN: This week will be public testimony, public hearings of the 9-11 commission. The National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice has refused to give sworn testimony. The Bush administration has refused to release 28 pages of the 9-11 report. Your response.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, here again, the administration used 9-11 as a basis for getting us into a war against Iraq. The more information that’s known up front about 9-11, the more the American people will come to understand the folly of our presence in Iraq and perhaps the administration’s late response to the crisis. We are at a moment in the history of this country where the whole world is waiting for America to embrace this principle of human unity and yet the policies of preemption and unilateralism that set us on a path to war against Iraq, bolstered by lies and misleading statements separate us from that human community. I think it is so urgent that all of us who care passionately about peace continue to insist on a new direction. That’s why if for those who are interested go to our website at kucinich.us, you will see the direction that we think the country ought to be taking. And Amy that’s why I’m staying in the race, to continue to be a voice to try to move the Democratic Party in a direction of peace, and in a direction of articulating a platform to get out of Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you not think that Senator John Kerry is moving the Democratic Party in a direction of peace.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: No. I’m going to help him.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you consider leaving the Democratic Party?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: No, no, no. I’m here to help make the Democratic Party more relevant. I’m a Democrat. I ran in the primary process to demonstrate the possibilities of creating a new direction for the party, and again, any Democrat may be able to go to 47%, 48%, the critical difference in this campaign is going to be the difference to attract and energize those people who stand for peace, social and economic justice, health care for all and fair trade. That’s the base that needs to be activated in order to win the election.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Ralph Nader running?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think that Ralph Nader’s candidacy points out the urgency of having that message inside the Democratic Party. If there’s no one with that message inside the Democratic Party, then people will feel there’s nothing there among Democrats. As long as I’m inside, then I can point the way that the Democrats can have some responsiveness and some recognition of the concerns that people have about corporate accountability, about the scandals on Wall Street, about the fact that we need to protect Social Security, about the importance of getting out of Iraq and bringing in U.N. peacekeepers reconnecting with the world community and there’s a larger issue here too. Creating a sustainable structure of international law where we confirm the importance of the non-proliferation treaty–getting rid of all nuclear weapons–where we sign the biological weapons convention, the chemical weapons convention, the small arms and landmine treaty, join the international criminal court, sign the Kyoto claimant change treaty. This is the moment where the United States ought to be thinking about rejoining the world and it’s urgent that the Democratic Party have a strong platform that points us in the direction of doing just that.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that Senator John Kerry should have been at the peace protests in the country this weekend?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think that it’s important for Senator Kerry to develop an approach and articulate an approach which will explain how quickly he intends to get out of Iraq, what his international policies will be, how they differ from the Bush administration and my presence in the primaries and the caucuses will give him the opportunity to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: The June 30 handover in Iraq. Your assessment of that, how do you — what is your — main point about this position.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: How can anybody take that with a straight face. If you look at their so-called constitution that the U.S. helped to draft , it keeps the U.S. in control of Iraq. It continues the military occupation of Iraq. If you look at the plans, there are people talking about the United States being in Iraq through 2009, if not longer. I mean, we need to end the military occupation of Iraq, to hand over control, quote, unquote, from the left hand of the United States to the right hand of the United States is not really any change in governing structure. We need to not only turn over the oil assets of Iraq to the United Nations to be handled on behalf of the Iraqi people, until the Iraqi people are self governing, but turn over the contract process to the U.N. we need to renounce the privatization process, and we need to ask the U.N. to develop a constitution and hold new elections in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you considering crashing the Democratic National Committee Unity Party.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I’m all for unity, but unity around principles of peace. Unity around principles of health care for all. Unity around fair trade. Let us have unity. Of course, we should have unity. Principles of unity are principles of coherence. We need human unity and need to stand for that. So I’m all for unity. I’m sorry I won’t be able to make that party, but you have to realize, I’m still an active candidate. There were ten candidates, now there’s two actively campaigning. So it’s not appropriate for me to be there at a rally for John Kerry I wish him well and I will do everything that I can to make sure that the Democrats develop a firmly articulated view about peace, about socioeconomic justice, fair trade and health care for all.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, thank you for joining us.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now.

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