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2014-07-03

Dennis Kucinich on the Iraq Crisis & What the U.S. Can Learn from Sweden’s Political Diversity

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Former U.S. congressmember and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich speaks to Democracy Now! while in Sweden to observe the political festival Almedalen Week, which brings together people from all points on the political spectrum. Kucinich says the United States needs a similarly inclusive political process. "You come here and you see so many different political persuasions represented, and our politics back at home are monochromatic," Kucinich says. "We need to awaken those sentiments in America and one way to do it is proportional representation." On the crisis in Iraq, Kucinich says: "If we learned anything from our experience, it should be that interventionism is not the wave of the future." Kucinich served in the in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2013, and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.

Transcript

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

AMY GOODMAN: And we end today’s show with a very familiar voice in U.S. politics, here at the University of Uppsala in Visby, Sweden.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Visby, Sweden, from the largest Swedish island of Gotland, where Almedalen is taking place. That is this mass gathering of tens of thousands of people of every party debating the issues of the day, sort of like a political convention in the United States except all of them together and more.

So, we’re joined by Dennis Kucinich. That might surprise some of the people who are listening and watching right now, the former congressmember who lives in Washington right now. What are you doing in Almedalen?

DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I found out about this amazing event here, and I had to see it for myself. Can you imagine where people of every political persuasion come together in an open space, freely discussing and debating in a sense of joy, like a festival? And the thinking is very deep. And it’s consequential. I believe that what’s happening here has the potential to catch on all around the world, in terms of improving the level of political dialogue and enabling people to try to find a way to reach common ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Joy in politics, you said?

DENNIS KUCINICH: Yeah, absolutely. There should be. I mean, the fact that we don’t have that is a testimony to our disconnecting ourselves from our own hearts, what it is we desire. You know, life should not be a funeral march to the grave. We should have the capacity for being able to lift up not just public dialogue, but lift up each other in a greater cause of nationhood. And so, when you see the kind of internecine conflict that happens in the United States—the partisan divide, the dichotomous thinking, the separation from each other—there is a different thing happening here in Sweden at Almedalen, which is a sense of a common bond as citizens with a common purpose for the nation. And people come together here. And the thing that impresses me is how quickly on the street you can get into the deepest discussions that have consequence. And so, that’s why—you know, having been here only for two days, I’ve had a chance to meet people from every level of society, decision makers as well as citizens, and there’s a sense that things matter in these kind of discussions, which are direct, relatively low-key, nonconfrontational, matter-of-fact. And behind it is—what animates it is a sense of commitment to each other and to the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: Proportional representation is really the name of the game in Sweden, right? Anyone who gets—I think it’s 4 percent of the vote, can be represented in Parliament. Can you comment on this? It’s a growing movement in the United States.

DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, it should happen. So, it’s really, you know, a step towards democratization, so that points of view that are held in the general populace are not squelched because they don’t reach some numerical significance that we call a majority. You know, majority politics are all very interesting, but what’s happening in the United States, with an increasing—increasingly blurring the differences between the two parties, there’s a hunger for alternatives, and there’s a hunger for those alternatives to find a means of inclusion into the process. So, certainly, you know, that’s one way to do it. And we need to broaden our discussion in America. When you come here and you see so many different political persuasions represented, and our politics back home are monochromatic—I mean, increasingly. It’s grey, and you can’t really tell the difference. Here, you can. But at the same time, there’s a common commitment to the nation. We need to awaken those sentiments in America. And one way to do it is proportional representation.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Kucinich, the issue of Iraq? I mean, for many of the years you were in Congress, this was a battle, not only all over Iraq, but a battle in Congress.

DENNIS KUCINICH: It was, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you feel needs to be done right now?

DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we have to recognize that the American people were lied to. Our country was taken into war against innocent people, and the consequences have been disastrous for the people of Iraq, who perhaps had a million extra deaths during that period, the destruction of their country, for the people of the United States, who saw their own men and women led to their deaths or grave injuries, and at a cost of perhaps anywhere from $3 [billion] to $6 billion long-term. This thing was a catastrophe.

And if we learn anything from our experience in Iraq, it should be that interventionism is not the wave of the future. We need to reassess this whole idea that somehow we have the right to intervene in the affairs of other nations. And we have to put away the pretense that we do it for some higher principle. The fact of the matter is we went after Iraq for oil. And the fact of the matter is that the United States has degraded our role as a great nation by attacking this nation that had no capacity to attack the United States and no intention of doing so, that didn’t have anything to do with 9/11, didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. It wasn’t a mistake, Amy. It was a lie.

So, what about Iraq today? Iraq today, we have to stop the games that our government is playing of subterfuge, of duplicity. The double game that’s being played in Iraq is a violation of what America should be about. And as we should be honest with people, we should be straightforward in our international policies. But we seem to be constitutionally uncapable of doing that. And that’s a problem. That’s a problem that involves a broad national discussion, involving people at every level, because the consequences of our continued interference in the internal affairs of nations is to create blowback, as Chalmers Johnson and others have written, and to create the conditions where America will always be at risk in the future of a loss of our ability to be able to meet the needs of our own people and of leading the planet toward destruction, because this planet that we have—you can talk about global climate change, but war is a form of ecocide. This planet that we have is not guaranteed to us. If we are faithful stewards of the planet, we also have to be mindful of our capacity to create peace, that we cannot imagine that peace will be created of itself. We have to be architects of peace. We have to be—we have to change our relationships with nations so that America is no longer a nation above nations, but a nation among nations. And I think that if we take that approach, we won’t find ourselves trapped in situations where we really violate the basic wisdom that our founders gave us in saying, "Beware of foreign entanglements." And we have entangled ourselves willfully, duplicitously, and America is better than that.

AMY GOODMAN: Former U.S. congressmember and former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, yes, speaking with me here at Almedalen Week on the island of Gotland in Visby, Sweden, where over 25,000 people have come to attend this unique political open-air festival. That does it for Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! has two job openings — administrative director, as well as a Linux systems administrator — and fall internships. Visit democracynow.org/jobs for more information.

Special thanks to our crew here in Sweden: Lars Thörnqvist and Gunnar Hoass and to John Hamilton and Denis Moynihan and Mike Burke.

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