On Capitol Hill 24 members of the House of Representatives have backed Rep. Kucinich’s resolution calling on the president to appeal to all sides in the current crisis for an immediate cessation of violence. [includes rush transcript]
As the Israeli attacks on Lebanon enter its third week, pressure is growing on the Bush administration to back an immediate ceasefire. On Capitol Hill 24 members of the House of Representatives have backed a resolution calling on the president to appeal to all sides in the current crisis for an immediate cessation of violence. The resolution also calls for the United States to send diplomats to multi-party negotiations. The author of the resolution is Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.
- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio Congressman and former Democratic presidential candidate.
AMY GOODMAN: The author of the resolution, Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, he joins us from Capitol Hill right now. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Kucinich.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. What have you laid out? What is your resolution?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, the resolution is House Concurrent Resolution 450, and it calls upon the President to seek an immediate cessation of the violence, to have the United States lead the way towards multiparty talks without any preconditions.
AMY GOODMAN: And what kind of support are you getting?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, there’s a couple dozen, right now, members of Congress who have signed on. I’m in constant discussion with members of Congress, and I’m hopeful that as the American public continue to watch, aghast at the violence that is occurring both in the Palestinian areas as well as throughout Lebanon, as well as the attacks that are continuing on Israel, that people all over will say, "Look, it’s time for the U.S. to step in and say, 'Stop this.' Let’s bring everyone together. Let’s in the short term stop the violence; in the long term, bring about a negotiated settlement involving all parties."
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, I’d like to play for you President Bush’s comments yesterday as he was standing with Nouri al-Maliki visiting from Iraq.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: So Condi goes with the following messages: we support this in our government, we care about the people, we will help to get aid to the people, and that we want a sustainable ceasefire. We don’t want something that’s, you know, short-term in duration. We want to address the root causes of the violence in the area, and therefore, our mission and our goal is to have a lasting peace, not a temporary peace, but something that lasts.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush. Congressmember Kucinich, your response?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, President Bush, of course, must recognize that a ceasefire would stop the violence in the short term and lead to a long-term negotiation, if he would step into it, get off the sidelines, get involved and get all members, all the parties involved to begin talking to one another, no preconditions, bring them together. I mean, that’s what the President ought to be doing. That’s what every other country in the world, except one, is asking the United States to do. The world is waiting for leadership right now. The U.S. must not stand on the sideline. There are people dying everywhere in this region, and the U.S. indifference is something that must be challenged by the Congress, which is why I introduced the resolution.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, do you really think it’s standing on the sidelines and not getting involved, or is it more directly the United States wanting Israel to route out Hezbollah?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, whatever it is, Congress has a role to play here and ought to be heard from as representatives of the American people. I mean, this resolution is all about trying to find a direction towards peace, but first in the short term, stop the violence. In the long term, bring the parties together. The way the administration is going about this right now is not only not constructive, but it actually is enabling violence to escalate, and we should not do that. I mean, I think that out of just compassion alone we should be calling for an immediate ceasefire, but going beyond that, it’s in the interest of the world to stop this is escalation of violence.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Congressmember Dennis Kucinich. He’s standing outside the Capitol. Did your cameraman have trouble going inside today in the security around the Iraqi Prime Minister speaking before Congress?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: It’s a lovely day out here, I can tell you. I’m not aware of any difficulties of that sort. I’m looking forward to hearing the Prime Minister’s speech. It’s going to be interesting to see how the country continues to square the spending of over $300 billion, the loss of 2,500 and more American lives, the loss of over 100,000 Iraqi lives, the attempt by the United States to try to insist on a permanent presence there, I think, is wearing thin among the Iraqi people.
There’s tremendous pressure on this Prime Minister, and I’m hopeful that he’s going to agree with our efforts of many of us in Congress to bring our troops home, to end the U.S. occupation and to give the Iraqi people a chance at true self-determination. Our presence there right now is helping to cycle a civil war and the sectarian violence that President Bush now wants to address by sending more troops to Baghdad, will only be fed by sending more troops to Baghdad.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me play for you another clip of President Bush addressing that very issue.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This plan will involve embedding more U.S. military police with Iraqi police units to make them more effective. The Prime Minister advised me that to support this plan, he and General Casey have agreed to deploy additional American troops and Iraqi security personnel in Baghdad in the coming weeks.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: What that means is that — you know, this President wants a long-term presence for the United States in Iraq. They’ve built permanent bases. They’re talking about spending hundreds of billions more. We need to get our troops out of there. He’s sending them into the fire, and it’s time that we recognize that the interest of our troops, if we really support our troops, we would bring them home. And our presence there has helped to inspire a civil war; we’re inciting it by sending more troops. This is a time for the U.S. to reappraise everything about our journey into Iraq.
Think about this. On one hand, we’re in a place we shouldn’t be and are causing more violence by our presence. On the other hand, in a place where we should get involved, involving the violence that’s taking place in the Palestinian areas and the Lebanese areas — and of course, you know, Israel is suffering too — look, we ought to be involved there. So this administration needs some help. My role in Congress is to organize members of Congress to show them, the administration, there’s another way to deal with problems in the world, other than just violence. You know, you can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.
AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t Michael Franti say something about that?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Michael Franti is — that’s who I got it from, and, you know, Spearhead has done a great job in taking a new message of the potential of peace. And Michael and I talk, and I want to say that what he had to say is relevant today. I mean, there’s a type of thinking, Amy, that we have to challenge, this thinking that somehow violence is going to produce peace is — haven’t we learned anything? 100 million people died in wars in the 20th century. We’re on a fast track now to have even — you know, to have great numbers of people die in wars in this century.
Where is our talent for peacemaking? Where is the expectations of our public officials pursuing the science of human relations to show that we’re capable of talking to one another to settle our differences, that we don’t have to kill each other? I mean, this administration has to have a vision that goes beyond its nose, which says, you know, just, "war, war, war." They have a talent for war-making. We ask that they have a talent for peacemaking, and that’s why I’ve introduced that resolution.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, a group of leading Senate Democrats is criticizing Prime Minister al-Maliki over his recent condemnation of Israel’s attack on Lebanon, as scheduled, of course, to address Congress today. In a letter to Maliki, the senators wrote, "Your failure to condemn Hezbollah’s aggression and recognize Israel’s right to defend itself raises questions about whether Iraq, under your leadership, can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East." The signatories include the Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator Charles Schumer of New York.
Al-Maliki has called for a ceasefire, condemned what he has called Israel’s operation of mass destruction and mass punishment. And several Democratic lawmakers, including Senator Hillary Clinton, as well as Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, have indicated they may boycott Maliki’s speech today, unless he renounces his comments. What is your position?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, the U.S. indifference and inaction at the current crisis isn’t winning any friends for the United States, and it’s not helping Israel. That’s why, what I’m saying, I’ve taken an approach that brings all the parties together, so we stop this condemnation that’s going back and forth. You know, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in his second inaugural that I think is a template for diplomacy and dialogue. He said, "With malice towards none, with charity for all." I mean, we have to have the capacity of going past the rhetoric and overlooking the slights and finding a way to bring people together. That’s the only way we can stop a widening war.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Congressmember Dennis Kucinich. So you will be there for al-Maliki’s comments today?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Of course, I’m going to be there, and you know, while I disagree with this administration’s policies, I think it’s important to hear from Maliki, as to what his hopes are for Iraq, and I hope to have a chance to speak to him and let him know that there are people in the United States Congress who support ending the occupation and bringing the United States troops home and who also believe we have a moral obligation to help rebuild Iraq. We blew it up. We’ve destroyed that nation, and we’ve done it with our military power. We have an obligation to help the people of Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: The Senate race that’s taking place right now in Connecticut, that certainly — well, the question is, is it shaking up the Democratic Party overall? You’ve got the Democratic stalwart Lieberman who is very much under siege right now, being challenged by a vociferous antiwar candidate, Ned Lamont. What’s happening to the Democratic Party, and do you support an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, Amy, I suppose you remember that I led the effort in the Congress in challenging the Bush administration’s march toward war. I organized 125 Democrats years ago in voting against the resolution. I continue to participate with all members of Congress who want our troops brought home. We need to bring them home immediately.
And as far as the Democratic Party, look, the Democratic Party needs to be heard from on matters of war and peace. Our party — its failure to take a position as a party in 2004 contributed to the defeat of the Democratic Party. Our party’s unwillingness to take a position in 2002 helped to keep the Republicans in power. I think that the people expect the Democrats to offer viable alternatives. That’s what I’ve been about. I’ve shown people that Democrats can stand for peace; we can stand for seeing the world as interconnected and interdependent; that it’s possible that we can have not just peaceful coexistence, but international cooperation. I mean, that needs to be the impulse of the world, and this political party, this Democratic political party, is not measuring up to the expectations of people, but even so, it’s a lot better than the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: This news has just come in from BBC, Congressmember Kucinich. "Israel Troops Ignored U.N. Plea. U.N. peacekeepers in South Lebanon contacted Israel ten times before an Israeli bomb killed four U.N. personnel. The post was hit by a precision-guided missile after six hours of shelling nearby. Diplomats familiar with the initial probe into the deaths say the news comes during crisis talks in Rome seeking to end the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. The U.N. Secretary General has called for a ceasefire, as fighting continues, and says that the bombing was deliberate." Your position on this, do you condemn the bombing?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I’m condemning the loss of life anywhere. There’s a lot of innocent people being killed, and those who serve in the United Nations and are there in the cause of peace have to be revered. Certainly an investigation is forthcoming, and I just hope an investigation will not show that this was deliberate. That would be appalling, and whether it was deliberate or accidental, the effect is the same: the loss of life of people who are trying to be in the service of peace.
This shows you how urgent it is for the United States to change its course, to call for an immediate cessation of violence, to bring all the parties together, without preconditions, and such multiparty talks will be the path towards a long-term resolution. The U.S. must recognize that we have to talk to one another.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, we have to leave it there. Thank you very much, Ohio Congress member, former Democratic presidential candidate.