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Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Democratic Leadership Failing U.S. Citizenry on War

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On Capitol Hill, the House is expected to agree today to give President Bush $96 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a major victory for the Bush administration, the Democratic leadership abandoned its effort to include a nonbinding timetable for withdrawal from Iraq in the war spending bill. Congressmember and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio says the Democratic leadership is failing the U.S. citizenry. [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: We go to Washington, D.C., to Capitol Hill. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, on Capitol Hill, the House is expected to agree today to give President Bush $96 billion to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a major victory for the Bush administration, the Democratic leadership has abandoned its effort to include a nonbinding timetable for withdrawal from the Iraq War, from the spending bill. The Democrats made the concession after President Bush vetoed an earlier bill that included a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Democrats say they do not have enough votes to override a veto and want to avoid accusations of denying funding for U.S. troops.

AMY GOODMAN: Antiwar groups have harshly criticized the Democratic leadership. United for Peace and Justice accused the Democrats of supporting a disastrous war and occupation. The group Win Without War said this decision marks a “complete capitulation to a failed president and a failed policy.”

We’re now joined by one of the leading antiwar voices on Capitol Hill, congressmember and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Kucinich.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Thank you. Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of this?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, there’s a fundamental misperception about the path the Democrats should be taking. We shouldn’t be offering any legislation at all. We should just simply tell the president we’re not going to fund the war. And this idea about funding the war to help the troops is absurd. You want to help the troops, bring them home.

I offered a plan, HR 1234, that would provide for a plan that would bring the troops home, close the bases, end the occupation and reach out to the international community for an international peacekeeping and security force that would move in as our troops leave. But we can’t do that until we end the occupation. We can’t end the occupation until we stop funding the war. We simply do not have to have a bill, Amy. It’s just as simple as that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about those Democrats who argue that they could not get a majority vote or at least one that would survive a presidential veto to stop the funding, so that they’ve got to then have a concession of some sort?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I want to make sure I’m being clear about this. I’m saying that it’s not necessary to have a bill, that the process depends on legislation to keep the war going. But there’s money in the pipeline right now to bring the troops home. We simply should tell the president we’re not going to fund the war, period. We don’t need legislation to do that. And the idea that somehow we need to fund the war to help the troops, again, it’s an absurd thought, and we need to start to reorient ourselves to getting out of Iraq. This administration isn’t going to do that, and frankly, the Democratic Congress is failing the American people at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, you spoke for about an hour on the floor of the House about the proposed Iraq oil law. Can you talk about this?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Yes. It’s really not too well known on Capitol Hill, but the benchmarks that the administration has been insisting upon, and now the benchmarks are in the Warner amendment that will be included in this legislative process that will keep us in Iraq, include a provision that insists that the Iraqi government pass a hydrocarbon act. The benchmark says it’s about equitable sharing of revenues. That’s three lines, vaguely worded lines, in a 33-page document that’s all about the restructuring of the Iraq oil industry to permit multinational oil corporations to take over 80 percent of Iraq’s oil. I mean, this is a criminal action that is going on here, and we ought to be standing up against it and challenging it. We have no right to take Iraq’s oil or to facilitate the acquisition of Iraq’s oil on behalf of multinational corporations.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of — even within Iraq, this law seems to be going nowhere, obviously because the contending forces there. What do you think in terms of an actual act that would permit the possibility of continuing a legalized framework for the trading of oil from Iraq that should occur?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, this is a question that is for the people of Iraq to decide when they’re not under occupation. You have to keep in mind that this process that the Bush administration has been pushing began even before the invasion of Iraq. They were meeting with oil companies, looking at how they could create a beachhead, essentially, in the Middle East, and they have been looking at the prize of Iraq oil for many years now.

And so, you have to remember that even though it looks like this legislation isn’t going anywhere, there is enormous pressure being put on the Iraqi government, and you can bet that before too long they’ll put the kind of pressure on them that the Iraqi government will break, will relent, and go ahead and pass this law that will permit about 80 percent of its oil to be controlled by multinational oil companies. Now, keep in mind that Iraq has as many as 300 billion barrels of oil. At a market price that looks like it’s going toward $70-a-barrel, you can be talking about $21 trillion worth of oil, 80 percent of which will be under the control of multinational oil companies, if it’s up to the Bush administration.

This is a crime, literally. And so, I’m challenging it. I’m letting the Congress know about it, and I’m going to keep an eye on this, because I think it’s the basis for a war crime charge.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, your hometown paper. It says, “It’s all about Iraq’s oil — rich, abundant, and coveted by multinational companies waiting to line their deep pockets. Or so said [Rep.] Dennis Kucinich Wednesday in an unusual hourlong address on the House floor. He laid out his contention that the White House and Democratic-led Congress are helping oil companies grab a stake in Iraq’s vast oil fields while claiming to be interested merely in winding down the Iraq war. The claim has brought Kucinich derision within his own Democratic Party. Leaders reject the suggestion that they would help 'privatize' Iraqi oil. And Republicans dismiss him altogether, with Republican Party spokesman Dan Ronayne saying, 'It sounds like congressman Kucinich is trying to get noticed with a nutty conspiracy theory.'” Your response, Congressman Kucinich?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, if you look at the facts, the facts speak for themselves. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Vice President Cheney was meeting with oil company executives. They were planning this takeover of Iraqi oil. You know, everyone knows that it has one of the largest oil supplies in the world. This war has been about oil from the beginning. And I’ve been one of the few people who’s been willing to challenge it and say that. And I think the American people need to know that our government has been instrumental in trying to push the privatization of Iraq oil for the profit of multinational oil companies. Our soldiers shouldn’t be there in Iraq. We need to bring our troops home. And when someone looks at the long test of truth over the last five years, I’m the one who’s been telling the truth. This administration has not told the truth. And some of my colleagues in Congress have kept their head in the sand, while there’s been enormous catastrophe in Iraq, loss of life there, loss of lives of our troops, up to over $500 billion wasted already in American taxpayers’ funds. I mean, someone has to stand for the truth here. Someone has to stand for the Constitution. And that’s what I’m doing.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Congressman Kucinich, I’d like to ask you also about the U.S. attorney scandal and yesterday’s congressional testimony by former Justice Department official, Monica Goodling. Up until last month, Goodling had served as the department’s liaison to the White House, and she denied having a major role in the firings of the attorneys, but she accused Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty of misleading Congress. She was questioned by Democratic Congresswoman Linda Sanchez of California.

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ: What things did you specifically brief him on that you felt he was not entirely forthcoming before Congress when he testified?

MONICA GOODLING: He was asked whether the White House was involved in any way, and he said, “Well, these are presidential appointments, so I’m sure White House personnel was informed at some point.” Certainly —

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ: And why would that not be a complete answer?

MONICA GOODLING: I think because of the way — the way it came across. I think people believed he was downplaying the role to a certain extent. And the White House had been involved for several — he had — he was aware that the department had worked for at least several months with the White House, and that many offices in the White House had signed off, and that they were, in fact, you know, participating and making phone calls and different sorts of things with members.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Monica Goodling. Your response, Congressmember Kucinich?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think there’s a chill that’s settled over America with the thought that the Justice Department process in this country has been politicized. When you look at the statue of Justice, Lady Justice has a blindfold, because justice is supposed to be impartial. What we see here is the possibility that the quality of justice in this country has been determined by politics, and I think that ought to be of great concern to all the American people.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask you also about the immigration situation right now. Obviously, the Senate has begun debate on an immigration bill. And what’s your sense of this bipartisan compromise and what may happen in the House?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, we have to see the language, but I think that someone needs to say, and I’m willing to say it, that the basis of this whole battle over immigration ignores the fact that the waves of immigration started right after NAFTA passed. Wages collapsed in Mexico. Migrants came across the border seeking a chance for a better wage and a better life.

I’m saying that we need to go back to NAFTA. We need to cancel NAFTA and cancel the WTO, go back to bilateral trade conditioned on workers’ rights, human rights and environmental quality principles. Once we have a trade agreement between the United States and Mexico that’s based on workers’ rights and a decent wage, then workers in Mexico can be assured that they can have a decent living. They don’t have to go north of the border in seeking that opportunity. People should have a chance to make the money where they live, but they haven’t been able to do that, because of these trade laws.

We need to stop attacking these migrant workers, because actually what’s been happening is they’re the victims of a system that has enabled corporations to make great profits using a cheap supply of labor. This has been a disgrace in this country, where we’ve actually supported a form of slave labor, and that has to stop. People who have been in this country and have been contributing to this country should have a path to legalization. We need to have, certainly, some control at the borders. But I’ll tell you, the way this whole immigration thing has been couched, I think, has done a disservice to the proud tradition of this country in welcoming immigrants from all around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Back to the attorney general: Do you think Alberto Gonzales should resign?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Of course, he should. But he’s not the only one who should resign. I mean, this administration has been responsible for conducting an illegal war, for lying to the American people about the cause of a war. I mean, I’ve submitted legislation to impeach the vice president. I think the president has to be called to an accountability. I think the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense and others should be subject to serious questions, whether or not they should be prosecuted for war crimes. I mean, there are some serious issues here related to governance.

And here’s the thing, Amy. Whoever would be the next president — I’m hoping that it’s going to be me — that, you know, we have to ask, what will their standards be? If we don’t challenge this conduct of office right now, we’re raising the bar for expectations so low that we can have a criminal in the White House next time around, and who cares? I care. The American people should care. We should want the Constitution protected.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Democratic-led Congress has failed the American people right now?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Absolutely. Are you kidding? This isn’t even a close question. We were elected in November to end the war. That’s why people voted Democrat. That’s why they gave us control of the House and the Senate. And they expected us to take a new direction. They didn’t want a Democratic version of the war, and they didn’t want to be told later on, “Well, we just don’t have the votes.” Well, you know what? You don’t need the votes to say no. You just don’t offer any legislation at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, I want to thank you for being with us, Ohio congressman and Democratic presidential candidate.

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