'Every nation needs to be disarmed'

Dennis Kucinich is a presidential candidate for the American Democratic Party. By calling for peace and international solidarity he is expressing a view held by many Americans, but is rarely voiced in politics.

Tikkun| March 2003 issue
What is the worldview that you would bring with you to your role as America’s leader?
Kucinich: ‘We live in a world in which dichotomous thinking has led to war. I try to look at the world holistically, to emphasize the ways that we are interconnected and interdependent, as an integrated whole. The job of an American leader is to bring about healing and reconciliation, by helping us overcome the divisions in our society between Blacks and Whites, rich and poor, us vs. other countries. If our world is going to survive, we are going to have to rise above these kinds of polarities, and to rise above all the conditions which restrict our definitions of Who We Really Are – so that we can free ourselves to become more than we are, and thereby through our own ascent elevate the human condition. It’s important that we not separate ourselves from others. In order to confirm our historic mission as a society, it’s imperative that we seek unifying principles – that is the essence of what being a truly united states involves.’
What do you mean by ‘our historic mission’?
‘Our nation was formed through the understanding of the unity of all people. Our sense of nationhood derives from our sense of what we hold in common: the idea of a right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which we hold in common not only in respect to our fellow countrymen and countrywomen, but as citizens of the world. These aspirations flourish everywhere, and our founders understood that. They didn’t say “all Americans are created equal,” but rather “all men” (which for us means all men and women). In putting it that way they were expressing a universal sentiment which includes people from all over the world. America’s vision is not just of a unity of states, but of the unity of individuals within these states and unity throughout the world. We need to always be mindful of our historical roots and the ways that they were derived from the spiritual principle of One-ness.’
You have been one of the few Democrats to unequivocally criticize another war in Iraq.
‘It’s a foundational principle of this country that we have the right to self-defense. In the Preamble to the Constitution, we say that “We the People of the United States, in order to from a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence….” It’s fundamental that we have the right to defend ourselves, and that right is recognized for all nations by the UN Charter. We need to distinguish between the right of a nation to defend itself and the right of any nation to assume the awful role of aggressor.
There is no question that a war upon the Iraqi people would be a war of aggression, a violation of the UN Charter, of the Geneva Convention, and of every moral principle this country has ever stood for. It’s reasonable for us to ask what Saddam Hussein stands for; it’s even more important to ask, “what do we stand for as a Nation?”
The Iraq war may be an important transition in American history – from a period in which we were cooperating with the other nations of the world to affirm international law, to a period of unilateralism. It’s up to the world community to address the challenges of disarmament, and America could lead by fulfilling the obligations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, abolishing all nuclear weapons, and working to implement the provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention which call for the control and hopefully eventual elimination of biological and chemical weapons.
There are seventeen nations in this world today pursuing, developing or currently holding nuclear weapons. Twenty nations are doing so with biological weapons, twenty-six with respect to chemical weapons, and seventeen nations are developing missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Does it occur to anyone that we are at a time in human history when we have the means of destroying our world? And yet within the capacity of our hearts we also have the means of healing our world. If there was ever a time when we need to fashion our swords into our ploughshares, this is it. If there was ever a time when America needed to lead the way to disarmament, this is it.
Does Saddam Hussein need to be disarmed? Of course. And so should every other nation.’
The argument we sometimes hear in response is that the circumstances are different with Saddam because he might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. In the post-‘9/11’ climate in the United States, that concern resonates with many people.
‘I support disarmament. But if we use war to disarm Iraq, we will create more terrorism.
If one nation proceeds unilaterally, it could easily encourage other nations to proceed unilaterally toward their own perceived security needs. We should work with the world community to disarm all nations. Any nation which possesses arms can be a threat to another nation and can spur an arms race. Any nation that expresses itself in a belligerent way must be brought to an accounting by the world community. But that can only be done if the countries involved in disciplining another country have themselves no ulterior motives and are acting with clean hands. Actions should not be taken for the purposes of empire, hegemony, or control of resources.
International terrorism presents a unique challenge because it operates without a specific territorial base. It is difficult to hold a particular country accountable for terrorist actions. Co-ordinated international police action is essential to systematically bring to justice all those engaged in acts of international terrorism. Bombing Iraq will not diminish terrorism; it will create more terrorism. We have an obligation to challenge terrorists. We have to do so within the rules of international law, without impairing civil liberties. The US has taken a serious turn against the interests of civil liberties with the passage of the Patriot Act, and the Administration continues to revise, through fiat, established criminal justice procedures. We have the right to defend ourselves as a nation, but we have to defend those human rights and constitutional protections that make the condition of nationhood something we celebrate. Terrorists win when they create conditions which lead our government to roll back constitutional freedoms.’
How do you account for the wimpy role of the Democrats in this? Its leadership has only called for moving more slowly and involving more countries, but has not challenged the war in principle.
‘Yes, many speak as though the question is what kind of invasion, instead of questioning the thrust of the Administration’s unilateral and pre-emptive doctrines. I have an understanding and compassion for my colleagues who are caught in the illogic of war. There is real fear about another attack. The Administration says, “Here is how we are going to deal with it: we are going to blow up Baghdad, invade the country, overturn the Saddam Hussein regime, occupy and rebuild Iraq.” Many members of Congress say to themselves, “Let the Administration do it.” This approval comes more from fear than from an understanding of the causal chain that brought terrorism to our shores. It lacks understanding of the relationship between the US and Iraq over the course of the past twenty years. It lacks understanding of the consequences of trying to force the world community to join in an attack on Iraq. It also lacks a basis in reality, because Iraq was not responsible for al Qaeda’s role in September 11 or the anthrax attack on our country. The Administration has not demonstrated that Iraq is an imminent threat to the United States. Even so, 126 Democrats had the courage to vote against going to war and they represent tens of millions of Americans.’
Is this part of the reason you are running for the Democratic nomination for president?
‘My candidacy is in response to the yearning of Americans for peace. For a nation which protects civil liberties. For a country that is strong, but that doesn’t want to be a policeman of the world. For a nation that will strengthen international law. My candidacy arises because Americans are aware that there has been a real transfer of wealth to the top. Americans who have worked their whole lives to try to secure a family, a home, are witnessing the destruction of our democracy. Unemployment is rising. Too many Americans are losing their jobs and their homes. Too many families are breaking up. And this transfer of America’s wealth from the many to the few is destructive of community.
America is at a transformational moment. We can form a more perfect Union, we can confirm our creative potential, and actualize our highest ideals in economics and in peacemaking. We can renew this country, we can restore the dream.’
What is your vision on the conflict in the Middle East?
‘One of the many tragedies of the Administration’s obsession with Iraq is that we’ve lost time and energy that could have been applied to the Middle East. I support the existence of the democratic State of Israel, for what it represents as a beacon of hope and as a bastion of democracy. I also support the creation of a Palestinian State. The blame game has to end. There has to be, in the words of one significant movement, compassionate listening, so that people can understand the suffering that each side has been going through. For the sake of future generations, both sides need to take painful steps toward genuine reconciliation. I think it can be argued that the creation of a Palestinian State can be part of the plan to ensure security for a democratic Israel. And I think it’s our responsibility, and the responsibility of the world community, to take steps that would stop the killing. If we saw a brother assaulting another brother, we’d intervene to stop it, not take sides but try to save both brothers’ lives. We should do that in the Middle East. It will take fortitude and imagination to create peace. We must use our hearts and heads to move toward reconciliation and not let any group be separated from others or divided from their own humanity. We must find the common ground that will allow for all people to survive and prosper. We need to be ready at every moment to create a new world, and not be trapped by old ways of looking at reality.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the direction this administration is taking its foreign policy, and I intend to change that if I am elected president of the United States. Violence is not inevitable. War is not inevitable. Nonviolence and peace are inevitable. It is our task to bring to this world the peace which will protect our children from fear, from harm, from destruction.’
 
 

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'Every nation needs to be disarmed'

Dennis Kucinich is a presidential candidate for the American Democratic Party. By calling for peace and international solidarity he is expressing a view held by many Americans, but is rarely voiced in politics.

Tikkun| March 2003 issue
What is the worldview that you would bring with you to your role as America’s leader?
Kucinich: ‘We live in a world in which dichotomous thinking has led to war. I try to look at the world holistically, to emphasize the ways that we are interconnected and interdependent, as an integrated whole. The job of an American leader is to bring about healing and reconciliation, by helping us overcome the divisions in our society between Blacks and Whites, rich and poor, us vs. other countries. If our world is going to survive, we are going to have to rise above these kinds of polarities, and to rise above all the conditions which restrict our definitions of Who We Really Are – so that we can free ourselves to become more than we are, and thereby through our own ascent elevate the human condition. It’s important that we not separate ourselves from others. In order to confirm our historic mission as a society, it’s imperative that we seek unifying principles – that is the essence of what being a truly united states involves.’
What do you mean by ‘our historic mission’?
‘Our nation was formed through the understanding of the unity of all people. Our sense of nationhood derives from our sense of what we hold in common: the idea of a right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which we hold in common not only in respect to our fellow countrymen and countrywomen, but as citizens of the world. These aspirations flourish everywhere, and our founders understood that. They didn’t say “all Americans are created equal,” but rather “all men” (which for us means all men and women). In putting it that way they were expressing a universal sentiment which includes people from all over the world. America’s vision is not just of a unity of states, but of the unity of individuals within these states and unity throughout the world. We need to always be mindful of our historical roots and the ways that they were derived from the spiritual principle of One-ness.’
You have been one of the few Democrats to unequivocally criticize another war in Iraq.
‘It’s a foundational principle of this country that we have the right to self-defense. In the Preamble to the Constitution, we say that “We the People of the United States, in order to from a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence….” It’s fundamental that we have the right to defend ourselves, and that right is recognized for all nations by the UN Charter. We need to distinguish between the right of a nation to defend itself and the right of any nation to assume the awful role of aggressor.
There is no question that a war upon the Iraqi people would be a war of aggression, a violation of the UN Charter, of the Geneva Convention, and of every moral principle this country has ever stood for. It’s reasonable for us to ask what Saddam Hussein stands for; it’s even more important to ask, “what do we stand for as a Nation?”
The Iraq war may be an important transition in American history – from a period in which we were cooperating with the other nations of the world to affirm international law, to a period of unilateralism. It’s up to the world community to address the challenges of disarmament, and America could lead by fulfilling the obligations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, abolishing all nuclear weapons, and working to implement the provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention which call for the control and hopefully eventual elimination of biological and chemical weapons.
There are seventeen nations in this world today pursuing, developing or currently holding nuclear weapons. Twenty nations are doing so with biological weapons, twenty-six with respect to chemical weapons, and seventeen nations are developing missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Does it occur to anyone that we are at a time in human history when we have the means of destroying our world? And yet within the capacity of our hearts we also have the means of healing our world. If there was ever a time when we need to fashion our swords into our ploughshares, this is it. If there was ever a time when America needed to lead the way to disarmament, this is it.
Does Saddam Hussein need to be disarmed? Of course. And so should every other nation.’
The argument we sometimes hear in response is that the circumstances are different with Saddam because he might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. In the post-‘9/11’ climate in the United States, that concern resonates with many people.
‘I support disarmament. But if we use war to disarm Iraq, we will create more terrorism.
If one nation proceeds unilaterally, it could easily encourage other nations to proceed unilaterally toward their own perceived security needs. We should work with the world community to disarm all nations. Any nation which possesses arms can be a threat to another nation and can spur an arms race. Any nation that expresses itself in a belligerent way must be brought to an accounting by the world community. But that can only be done if the countries involved in disciplining another country have themselves no ulterior motives and are acting with clean hands. Actions should not be taken for the purposes of empire, hegemony, or control of resources.
International terrorism presents a unique challenge because it operates without a specific territorial base. It is difficult to hold a particular country accountable for terrorist actions. Co-ordinated international police action is essential to systematically bring to justice all those engaged in acts of international terrorism. Bombing Iraq will not diminish terrorism; it will create more terrorism. We have an obligation to challenge terrorists. We have to do so within the rules of international law, without impairing civil liberties. The US has taken a serious turn against the interests of civil liberties with the passage of the Patriot Act, and the Administration continues to revise, through fiat, established criminal justice procedures. We have the right to defend ourselves as a nation, but we have to defend those human rights and constitutional protections that make the condition of nationhood something we celebrate. Terrorists win when they create conditions which lead our government to roll back constitutional freedoms.’
How do you account for the wimpy role of the Democrats in this? Its leadership has only called for moving more slowly and involving more countries, but has not challenged the war in principle.
‘Yes, many speak as though the question is what kind of invasion, instead of questioning the thrust of the Administration’s unilateral and pre-emptive doctrines. I have an understanding and compassion for my colleagues who are caught in the illogic of war. There is real fear about another attack. The Administration says, “Here is how we are going to deal with it: we are going to blow up Baghdad, invade the country, overturn the Saddam Hussein regime, occupy and rebuild Iraq.” Many members of Congress say to themselves, “Let the Administration do it.” This approval comes more from fear than from an understanding of the causal chain that brought terrorism to our shores. It lacks understanding of the relationship between the US and Iraq over the course of the past twenty years. It lacks understanding of the consequences of trying to force the world community to join in an attack on Iraq. It also lacks a basis in reality, because Iraq was not responsible for al Qaeda’s role in September 11 or the anthrax attack on our country. The Administration has not demonstrated that Iraq is an imminent threat to the United States. Even so, 126 Democrats had the courage to vote against going to war and they represent tens of millions of Americans.’
Is this part of the reason you are running for the Democratic nomination for president?
‘My candidacy is in response to the yearning of Americans for peace. For a nation which protects civil liberties. For a country that is strong, but that doesn’t want to be a policeman of the world. For a nation that will strengthen international law. My candidacy arises because Americans are aware that there has been a real transfer of wealth to the top. Americans who have worked their whole lives to try to secure a family, a home, are witnessing the destruction of our democracy. Unemployment is rising. Too many Americans are losing their jobs and their homes. Too many families are breaking up. And this transfer of America’s wealth from the many to the few is destructive of community.
America is at a transformational moment. We can form a more perfect Union, we can confirm our creative potential, and actualize our highest ideals in economics and in peacemaking. We can renew this country, we can restore the dream.’
What is your vision on the conflict in the Middle East?
‘One of the many tragedies of the Administration’s obsession with Iraq is that we’ve lost time and energy that could have been applied to the Middle East. I support the existence of the democratic State of Israel, for what it represents as a beacon of hope and as a bastion of democracy. I also support the creation of a Palestinian State. The blame game has to end. There has to be, in the words of one significant movement, compassionate listening, so that people can understand the suffering that each side has been going through. For the sake of future generations, both sides need to take painful steps toward genuine reconciliation. I think it can be argued that the creation of a Palestinian State can be part of the plan to ensure security for a democratic Israel. And I think it’s our responsibility, and the responsibility of the world community, to take steps that would stop the killing. If we saw a brother assaulting another brother, we’d intervene to stop it, not take sides but try to save both brothers’ lives. We should do that in the Middle East. It will take fortitude and imagination to create peace. We must use our hearts and heads to move toward reconciliation and not let any group be separated from others or divided from their own humanity. We must find the common ground that will allow for all people to survive and prosper. We need to be ready at every moment to create a new world, and not be trapped by old ways of looking at reality.
There is something fundamentally wrong with the direction this administration is taking its foreign policy, and I intend to change that if I am elected president of the United States. Violence is not inevitable. War is not inevitable. Nonviolence and peace are inevitable. It is our task to bring to this world the peace which will protect our children from fear, from harm, from destruction.’
 
 

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