U.S. plans permanent war;
Americans can end it, says
Kucinich in San Francisco


The administration plans lasting war — but citizens can organize to thwart its plans. Dennis J. Kucinich expressed that view at “An urgent meeting of peace-makers” in San Francisco’s Mission District on Sunday, October 19, 2014.

“Right now, our government is defining security in terms of perpetual war,” said Kucinich, former eight-term, Ohio congressman. “A month ago in Washington, [official] people were testifying, saying they expect us to be at war for another 20 to 30 years.”

America has drones all over the Middle East and has launched attacks in seven Muslim countries, he said. “We know that this ‘War on Terror’ is a perpetual war, because every place we wage that war, we’re creating more terrorism.” It’s in reaction to U.S. attacks. “Bases all over the world and selling of arms all over the world” to opposing sides help perpetuate the warfare, he added.

“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost … between 4 and 6 trillion dollars…. Over a million innocent Iraqis perished as a result of a war based on lies.”

Remembering the ‘Great War’

Dennis Kucinich recalled the “sobering experience” of touring World War I battlegrounds in Belgium recently, along with his wife, Elizabeth. A memorable sight was the Menin Gate at Ypres, with names of some 55,000 fighters from British Commonwealth countries whose bodies were never found. (See photo.)

One purpose of the San Francisco meeting on October 19, 2014, was to observe the centennial of the World War that began in 1914 — soon to be called by many a “war to end all war” — and ask questions: Why are we still fighting? How can we the people bring about peace?

The belief that defeating Germany would bring lasting peace stemmed from a short, 1914 book by H. G. Wells titled The War That Will End War. That war killed about 10 million and wounded about 20 million before ending in an armistice on Nov. 11, 1918.

As a new world war threatened, Wells gave up the idea of peace through war. In a novel, he had a character say that the notion of ending war by waging war was like ending cannibalism by eating cannibals

Most other wars before and after have been based on lies too, Kucinich said.

Held at the Women’s Building, on 18th Street, the meeting was sponsored by the newly formed Bay Area Coalition Against Unconstitutional and Unlawful Wars, comprising 18 regional organizations that challenge the legality of executive military actions abroad. The War and Law League (WALL) had organized both the meeting and the coalition. (The previous article here, “Kucinich to address peace groups …,” lists them.)

(Congress never voted to authorize war on Afghanistan in accord with the Constitution, yet Bush Jr. and Obama have been bombing it for 13 years. Congress never expressly voted to attack Iraq either. In 2002, in an act not countenanced by the Constitution, it passed the buck to Bush Jr. to make that decision. No effort was made to settle differences with either country peacefully in accord with U.S. treaty obligations. Obama’s actions in Libya, Syria, and Iraq again have been purely executive.)

At home, Kucinich said, “the government is more involved in spying on people than in being transparent about what it is doing with the power that we’ve given them.” (President Obama came into office pledging the most transparent administration ever.)

Without mentioning a name or specific remedy, Kucinich condemned “those who have abandoned our constitutional principles, who have abandoned the law, who have taken up the practice of murder in other countries.” (Obama greatly expanded the use of drones, employing them to kill both foreign people and Americans of his choice in lands abroad.)

But he told of a time when he stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and challenged the executive war-making of President George W. Bush, reading proposed articles of impeachment. And Kucinich, a Democrat, recalled that “it was the Democratic leader at that time — who was a friend of mine but we disagreed mightily on this — who said that impeachment was ‘off the table.’” (The leader then was Nancy Pelosi, U.S. representative from San Francisco, who is running for a 15th term as this is being written.) It meant “that the Constitution was off the table … law enforcement was off the table … justice for a million dead Iraqis was off the table … justice for 4,600 American troops who died [in Iraq] … was off the table.

“We don’t have a spirit today of enforcing the law, except for people who are way down on the economic ladder. But those who are at the top, they’re free; they work with impunity, whether in government or in Wall Street.”

The San Francisco meeting was part of a national speaking tour by Kucinich, along with his wife, Elizabeth, titled “Redefining National Security: From Terror to Peace.”

He said, “Let’s make the journey from 9/11 to 11/11.” On the latter date in 1918, World War I ended.

Speaking without notes, he began by discussing the meaning of security and asking the audience what it meant to them. Among many answers: peace; control of our own lives; having all needs met; a living wage; constitutional protections; not having bases all over the world; control of what we produce; everyone having what he wants; protection of the environment, freedom from war. Just one man defined security in military terms: “If the U.S. is involved abroad, it must be multinational, and countries in the region must take the lead.”

Attack on Syria called unlawful

The president’s attack on Syria was unconstitutional and a war crime, ex-Rep. Kucinich wrote in Huffington Post, 9/23/14. (His talk in San Francisco was less specific.)

Congress did not authorize war in Syria, Kucinich pointed out. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution requires that any warfare first be authorized by Congress. What it did was release funds to train “moderate” rebels. (The War Powers Resolution, Section 8 [a], says authority to send forces into hostilities abroad shall not be inferred from any law — including an appropriations act — unless it specifically authorizes such action.)

Furthermore, “This attack on Syria … is by definition, a war of aggression. It is a violation of international law.” The president and his administration “must be held accountable by the International Criminal Court and by the American people….”

Its aims: wresting “control of the oil from ISIS” and “stuffing the November ballot box with bombs and missiles…. ” Voters would discover that Obama played into extremists’ hands, harmed civilians, and plunged the U.S. deep into another Middle East War, Kucinich wrote. He would have cut off the funds of ISIS and its revenue from oil sales, striking a deal with Syria and Iran.

He said ISIS gained its regional foothold through the funding and arming of its predecessors by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan. Epitomizing the “bankruptcy” of Obama’s foreign policy was “funding groups that turn on the U.S. again and again, a neo-con fueled cycle of profits for war makers and destruction of ever-shifting ‘enemies.’ ”…

“One wonders if Saudi training of these moderate mercenaries will include methods of beheading, which were popularized by the Saudi government long before their ISIS progeny took up the grisly practice.”

Earlier he rebutted Defense Secretary Hagel’s denial that the new Iraq action was a “boots-on-the-ground kind of operation.” Kucinich found U.S. interventions “fueling insurgency.”

Reviving the peace movement

Kucinich remembered standing among more than a million people who massed in New York’s Manhattan in February 2003 in opposition to George W. Bush’s planned war in Iraq. There were “rallies in San Francisco … LA … Cleveland … Chicago. All across America, people were saying no to war. The peace movement at that time was visible. Now we have an opportunity to revivify that movement….”

He asked. “What can be done to restore the civic awareness, to renew the consciousness of peace in this community and nationally?” People need not accept conditions as they are; they can change it through their own power, by working with others, he said. These were his experiences in Cleveland, Ohio:

Prompted by Kucinich, members of the audience contributed their experiences and advice. An activist from Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, said, “We shut down many millions of dollars of projects brought in by Wall Street” through speaking at public meeting and using initiative, recall, and Internet. Acting locally, the American people “could take back the country county by county.”

“What’s the first step if someone wants to do something in his community?” Kucinich asked him.

“The first thing is to find three or four others who want to support each other. Show up together. Speak at a microphone. I was a reclusive person. I learned to speak in a microphone in front of groups of people. For me, it took quite a bit of emotional adaptation.” During the Vietnam protests, he was “beaten and tear-gassed and thrown in jail by the police three times. We don’t have that motivation now…. We’ve got to get out and get that motivation going.”

Kucinich remarked, “You said you were reclusive, but when you stood in front of this group just now, I think everyone here felt your strength and your power.”

A Berkeley woman favored “direct action. You have to be visible. None of us has to do this alone. When people are organizing, join them. Take a stand…. Let others know what you’ve done. This is how things do change.” Another woman marched against war in Iraq in 2003 and in Occupy Oakland, feeling less safe during the latter protests, owing to the militarization of the police. Still another woman suggested getting more young people involved.

Kucinich, from Washington, DC, said he would share ideas for successful activism with groups throughout the country. Those seeking advice can make contact at KucinichAction.com.

Peace actions in Congress

Issues of war and peace made up an important part of Dennis Kucinich’s agenda during 16 years in Congress as a representative from Ohio through 2012.

In 2001 he introduced a bill to form a cabinet-level Department of Peace, and he reintroduced the legislation every two years. Among many provisions, it would have mandated expert recommendations to the president on techniques of conflict resolution, proactive involvement in international dialogues, and advance consultation with the secretary of peace by the secretaries of state and defense prior to engagement of U.S. troops abroad.

Representative Kucinich opposed Bush Junior’s Iraq invasion of 2003 and in 2007 announced a broad exit plan to bring the troops home and stabilize Iraq. In 2008 he introduced impeachment articles against Bush for misleading the nation to war.

He also opposed measures hostile to Iran and advocated increased dialogue with Iran. He advocated the abolition of all nuclear weapons. In 2003 he won the annual Gandhi Peace Award by the Quaker group Promoting Enduring Peace.

A concurrent resolution that he introduced in 2010 would have required Obama to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The House rejected it 356 to 65. It was based on the War Powers Resolution, which permits such a vote when U.S. forces are in a conflict unauthorized by Congress. In 2011 the congressman condemned Obama’s intervention in Libya and called the president’s war-making without congressional permission unconstitutional and impeachable.

He lost reelection in 2012 after the Ohio State Legislature adjusted congressional districts and placed Kucinich in a contest with the long-time Democratic representative Marcy Kaptur.

Kucinich was the son of a truck driver and the eldest of seven children. He attended parochial schools and earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Case Western Reserve University. His political career began in 1969 when he won a seat on the Cleveland City Council at the age of only 23. In 1977, at 31, he was elected mayor of Cleveland. In the wake of the steel industry’s decline and crushing effect on the city’s economy, he lost reelection. But in 1994 he made a political comeback, getting elected to the state senate. Two years later came his first election to Congress. Kucinich sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008.

Oct. 24, 2014