Wes Hamilton, a member of Veterans for Peace and a Kucinich delegate from Washington, heads to the first-ever veterans caucus at the DNC calling for John Kerry to support U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
More than 400 veterans from all over the country gathered in Boston this weekend for the Veterans for Peace National Convention. The event was timed to coincide with the Democratic National Convention as veterans spoke out against the invasion of Baghdad and John Kerry"s call to send more U.S. troops to Iraq. Kerry himself is a Vietnam veteran who became a vocal opponent of the war after returning home.
This year"s Democratic National Convention marks the first time veterans caucus meetings will be called to order.
This past weekend, Democracy Now! joined Veterans for Peace at the Boston Public Library on Saturday as it wrapped up its national convention. Wes Hamilton, a Vietnam veteran from Olympia Washington who is attending the Democratic National Convention as a Kucinich delegate spoke to Democracy Now!
- Wes Hamilton, Vietnam veteran from Olympia, Washington. He is a member of Veterans for Peace and is attending the Democratic National Convention as a Kucinich delegate.
AMY GOODMAN: This past weekend Democracy Now! joined Veterans for Peace at the Boston Public Library on Saturday, as it wrapped up its national convention. Wes Hamilton, a Vietnam veteran from Olympia, Washington, who is attending the Democratic National Convention as a Kucinich delegate spoke to Democracy Now!
WES HAMILTON: I am a at-large uncommitted delegate from the State of Washington to the Democratic National Convention 2004. I am in Boston to participate in the Democratic National Convention, but I also came several days early to participate in the annual convention of the Veterans for Peace, who had their convention in Boston to coincide with the National Democratic Convention, just to have some prominence and some visibility here for the purposes of the Democratic Convention. I am a member of Veterans for Peace. I am a democrat. I am a member of the State of Washington Democratic Party system. As an at-large delegate, it means technically I am uncommitted and unpledged. However, I do have a pledge personally to Congressman Dennis Kucinich in his candidacy for the presidency. I strongly support Dennis Kucinich and all of the issues and concerns and the positions that he has taken and I am really committed to the integrity that he has brought to the political process. On Monday of this week, which will be the actual first day of the Democratic National Convention, there will be a caucus of veterans within that—the actual one of the very first caucuses of veterans held by the Democratic National Convention, in my understanding, in history. And I am rather excited to be a part of that process. I do—I am working with a number of veterans here at the Veterans for Peace who are going to be staying on for a few extra days after this conference to go with me to that caucus. I have secured support from membership of the Democratic National Committee to allow those veterans to actually join the veterans caucus as Veterans for Peace members to hopefully create a bridge and to encourage the members of the veterans caucus who are not currently members of Veterans for Peace, to sign up and become part of our organization and adopt the principles that we stand for. I don’t know what to expect. I do know that the democrats anticipate that there’s going to be a significant presence of veterans this year at the National Democratic Convention. They don’t keep records of the numbers of veterans who are actually delegates, but we anticipate that there could be anywhere from 400 to 800 delegates who are veterans among the 4300-plus delegates who are actually going to be participating in the Convention. I find that particularly exciting. I also consider it particularly important because as Mr. Kerry is a veteran, I think it’s important for us to be a part of that voice that’s going to hopefully win the election for him and get him into office. Having said that, I also think it’s important to say that I personally have very serious problems with many of Mr. Kerry’s positions on a lot of issues, particularly the War in Iraq, his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I know that many of the members of Veterans for Peace share my concerns. I know that there’s a number of other individuals regardless of their association with personal experiences with war, who disagree with Mr. Kerry, who are really concerned about the positions that he’s taking. I think it’s critically important for Senator Kerry to understand that there is a margin of voters out there whom he has an opportunity to win over if he’s willing to show the courage to stand up and embrace those progressive values and those ideas and encourage them to become part of his campaign. If he fails to do that, he’s going to be losing far more than he’s going to be gaining by continuing to appeal to the conservative element of this nation.
AMY GOODMAN: Wes Hamilton, Olympia, Washington delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He is a Kucinich delegate, speaking this weekend at the Boston Public Library.