[Editor's Note: On Monday, after an all-night session, the House moved to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling as one of its final acts of the year. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was battling drilling in ANWR this weekend when he filed this report. See also the related story by Robert Collier and photo essay by Deddeda Stemler, Life and Death in the Arctic to learn what is at stake.]
Early in the morning of Monday, Dec. 19, the United States House of Representatives will vote on the defense authorization bill, which will contain a provision to permit drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). I have taken three opportunities on the floor of the House early today to alert the American people to this backdoor approach to passing a very controversial bill that is desecration of the basic human rights of the Gwich'in people.
When will America get off the treadmill of sacrificing native rights to greed, territorial ambitions and fear? We will soon observe a grim anniversary that testifies to our persistent moral dilemma when it comes to those who were here first.
One hundred fifteen years ago, on Dec. 29, 1890, the U.S. Seventh Calvary, under the control of Col. James Forsyth, directed artillery fire against Lakota men, women and children. One hundred fifty Native Americans were killed in what became known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee, in South Dakota.
U.S. government troops were drawn to the land of the Lakotas to enforce a ban on Ghost Dance religion, a native mysticism that taught nonviolence and included chanting prayers and dancing by which one could achieve the ecstasy of harmony with the paradise of the natural world. The dance was forbidden out of fear that excitation of religious passions would turn to Indian violence against the U.S. government.
The history of the United States' relationship with our native peoples has been one shame-ridden chapter after another of expropriation, humiliation and deception, theft of lands, theft of natural resources, destruction of sacred sites and massacres. The U.S.' relationship with our native peoples has been an endless cycle of exploitation and contrition. Massacres and apologies.
Who in the future United States will apologize to the descendants of today's Gwich'in tribe, whose humble, natural way of life, religion and culture is threatened with extinction by the plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? The Gwich'in tribe has lived on its ancestral lands for 20,000 years in harmony with the natural world.
Drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic refuge, called by the Gwich'in "the Sacred Place Where All Life Begins," will disrupt caribou calving grounds, leading to the long-term decline not only of the herd but of the tribe that depends upon it for survival. This will violate Gwich'in internationally recognized human rights and make a mockery of our founding principle of the inalienable right of each person to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Members of Congress will come to the floor today and say we need to drill to protect our economy, to defend our country, to keep our way of life. I intend to point to the reciprocal nature of our moral decisions.
Christian teaching tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves. We learn from other spiritual insights that what we do unto others we actually do to ourselves. We cannot in the consciousness of true American spirit return to a history of slavery, a history in which women had no rights, or a history in which native peoples were objectified and deprived of their humanity, their culture, their religion, their health, their lives.
We must make our stand now not only as to who the Gwich'in are, but, in a world where all are interdependent and interconnected, who we are, and what we will become based on our decisions today.
When we perpetrate acts of violence, such as drilling in ANWR, we are damaging ourselves as humans. It will destroy the land, it will destroy the caribou herd, it will destroy the Gwich'in. It will destroy us all. Another part of the true America will die. We must not only search for alternative energy. We must search for an alternative way to live. We must escape this cycle of destruction. We must reconcile with nature. We must find a path to peace, with our native brothers and sisters.
One hundred fifteen years ago, the Ghost Dancers were killed. Yet we still meet their ghosts. They are dancing upon the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
With an estimated 50 million Americans and Canadians left without power and in some cases water, common sense requires us to reflect on the absurdity of deregulation of public utilities. The right of utility franchise is vested in the people. We give utilities permission to operate, and enable them to set up a profit making business in exchange for the promise of affordable and reliable service.
In 1992, investor-owned utilities pushed the Democratic House to pass HR776, which granted electric utilities broad powers. The bill was supposed to restructure the electric utility industry to spur competition.
Instead, utilities used deregulation to effect a series of mergers limiting competition. In order to accelerate profits, cost cutting ensued, involving the layoff of thousands of utility company employees, including some who where responsible for maintenance of generation, transmission and distribution systems. A number of investor-owned utilities stopped investing in the maintenance and repair of their own equipment, choosing to cut costs to enhance the value of their stock rather than spending money to enhance the value of their service.
A prime case in point is FirstEnergy Corp., late of Ohio. FirstEnergy formed through a merger of utility companies that owned nuclear power plants that often were neither used nor useful, and as a result incurred huge debt. FirstEnergy's predecessor, the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) in the 1950s and '60s was a high performing blue chip stock until it invested in nuclear power.
FirstEnergy tried without success to keep online a very troublesome nuclear power facility at Port Clinton, Ohio, the Davis-Besse plant. Davis-Besse is currently shut down and has been for some time. FirstEnergy and federal regulators failed to properly monitor the plant's operations; boric acid corroded the head of the reactor, threatening to breach the reactor vessel.
Millions of people in the Midwest and the water supply of the entire Great Lakes region were at risk because of First Energy's negligence, improper maintenance, and actual cover-up of the degradation of the reactor. Further, federal regulators decided that despite the danger to one of the largest populated areas of the United States, FirstEnergy's financial condition required the flawed reactor to continue operation. The regulators put profit ahead of public interest.
If there ever was an example of an unholy alliance between government and industry, this is it. If there ever was an example of the failure of necessary regulation by the government of an investor-owned utility, it is the government's failure to regulate FirstEnergy. Now, according to published reports, the blackout that affected an estimated 50 million people may have begun in the FirstEnergy system.
I've been familiar with First Energy and the challenge of utility monopolies for over 30 years. Early in my career, in the 1970s, I watched FirstEnergy's predecessor, CEI, as it was hard at work trying to undermine the ability of the City of Cleveland to operate its own municipal electric system. CEI conducted a tireless crusade to attempt to put the city's publicly owned system, Muny Light, out of business. Muny Light competed against CEI in a third of the city and provided municipal power customers with savings on their electric bill of 20-30 percent. It also provided cheaper electricity for 76 city facilities and thousands of Cleveland street lights, saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year.
An antitrust review revealed that CEI had committed numerous violations of federal antitrust law in its attempt to put Muny Light out of business. CEI worked behind the scenes to block Muny Light from purchasing power from other power companies. CEI became the only power company Muny Light could buy from. At that point, CEI sharply increased and sometimes tripled the cost of purchase power to Muny Light. And, as a result, Muny Light began to lose money. CEI used Muny Light's weakened operational and financial condition (which they created) as evidence of the public system's lack of viability and as proof that the only way the people of Cleveland could have reliable power was for the city to sell its electric system to CEI. Throughout this period, the Cleveland media, which received substantial advertising revenues from CEI, crusaded against the city's ownership of a municipal electric system.
In 1976, after years of work to undermine Muny Light, CEI finally succeeded in getting the mayor and the council of Cleveland to agree to sell Muny Light, giving CEI a monopoly on electric power in the Cleveland area and enabling CEI to greatly expand its rate base to get more revenue to pay for its rapidly mounting expenses associated with building nuclear power plants. At that time, I was clerk of the Cleveland Municipal Court, a citywide elected office. I organized a civic campaign to save Muny Light. People gathered signatures in freezing rain to block the sale. I ran for mayor of Cleveland on a promise that if elected, my first act would be to cancel the sale of Muny Light. I won the election, and I cancelled the sale.
The Muny Light issue came to a head on December 15, 1978, when Ohio's largest bank, Cleveland Trust, the 33rd largest bank in America at that time, told me that they would not renew the city's credit on 15 million dollars worth of loans taken out by the previous administration unless I would agreed to sell Cleveland's municipally owned utility to CEI.
On that day, by that time, the sale of Muny Light was being promoted by both Cleveland newspapers, virtually all of the radio and TV stations in town, the entire business community, all the banks, both political parties, and several unions, as well as a majority of the Cleveland City Council. All I had to do was to sign my name to legislation and the system would have been sold and the city credit "protected." The chairman of Cleveland Trust even offered 50 million dollars of new credit if I would agree to sell Muny Light.
Where I come from it matters how much people pay for electricity. I grew up in the inner city of Cleveland, the oldest of seven children. My parents never owned a home; they lived in 21 different places by the time I was 17, including a couple of cars. I remember when there were five children and my parents living in a three-room upstairs apartment on Cleveland's east side. My parents would sometimes sit in the kitchen at one of those old white enamel-topped tables, which, when the surface was chipped, was black underneath. When they counted their pennies, I could hear them clicking on the tabletop. Click, Click, Click.
When I was in the board room with the Chairman of Cleveland Trust Bank, I was thinking about my parents counting their pennies and I could hear those pennies hitting the enamel tabletop. So I said no to the sale of Muny Light to CEI. At midnight, Cleveland Trust put the City of Cleveland into default.
Later it was revealed that Cleveland Trust and CEI had four interlocking directors. Cleveland Trust was CEI's bank. Together with another bank, Cleveland Trust owned a substantial share of CEI stock and had numerous other mutual interests. Public power was saved in Cleveland. I lost the election in 1979 with default as the major issue. Cleveland Trust changed its name to AmeriTrust. The new mayor changed the name of Muny Light to Cleveland Public Power.
In 1993, the City of Cleveland announced that it was expanding Muny/Cleveland Public Power. It was the largest expansion of any municipal electric system in America. I had been long gone from major elected office. In fact, after the default, most political analysts considered my career over. I had been asked many times by other politicians why I just didn't make the deal and sell the light system, especially when my career was on the line. I believe that there are, in fact, some things more important than the next election.
After I left City Hall, I couldn't get a job in Cleveland, I almost lost my home, and my marriage fell apart. I was living in California when a Cleveland reporter called to tell me that people were saying the expansion could not have happened without my decision to save the system. People in Cleveland began to say that I was right not to sell Muny Light and asked me to come back. I ran for State Senate in 1994 on a slogan "because he was right" with little rays of yellow light shining behind my name on my campaign signs. I was one of the few Democrats to unseat a Republican incumbent that year in a state election.
Two years later, I was one of the few Democrats to unseat a Republican incumbent to gain election to Congress. My campaign signs had a light bulb behind my name with the words "Light up Congress." Today, I'm running for president of the United States and I want to light up America. A good place to start will be to shed light on a deregulation process that has abandoned the public interest.
The Honorable Dick Cheney
Office of the Vice President of the United States Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501
Dear Mr. Vice President:
While it has been widely reported that the President made a false assertion in his State of the Union address concerning unsubstantiated intelligence that Iraq purchased uranium from Niger, your own role in the dissemination of that disinformation has not been explained by you or the White House. Yet, you reportedly paid direct personal visits to CIA's Iraq analysts; your request for investigation of the Niger uranium claim resulted in an investigation by a former U.S. ambassador, and you made several high-profile public assertions about Iraq's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. We hope that you will take the opportunity to provide responses to the following ten questions.
I. Concerning "unusual" personal visits by the Vice President to CIA analysts.
According to The Washington Post, June 5, 2003, you made "multiple" "unusual" visits to CIA to meet directly with Iraq analysts. The Post reported: "Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq's weapons programs."
These visits were unprecedented. Normally, Vice Presidents, yourself included, receive regular briefings from CIA in your office and have a CIA officer on permanent detail. In other words, there is no reason for the Vice President to make personal visits to CIA analysts.
According to the Post, your unprecedented visits created "an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration's policy objectives."
1) How many visits did you and your chief of staff make to CIA to meet directly with CIA analysts working on Iraq? 2) What was the purpose of each of these visits? 3) Did you or a member of your staff at any time direct or encourage CIA analysts to disseminate unreliable intelligence? 4) Did you or a member of your staff at any time request or demand rewriting of intelligence assessments concerning the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
II. Concerning a request by the Vice President to investigate intelligence of Niger uranium sale, revealing forgery one year ago.
This alleged sale of uranium to Iraq by Niger was critical to the administration's case that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program. During the period of time you reportedly paid visits to CIA, you also requested that CIA investigate intelligence that purported to show Iraqi pursuit of uranium from Niger, and your office received a briefing on the investigation.
According to The New York Times of May 6, 2003, "more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. Ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger."
The ambassador "reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged," according to the Times. Indeed, that former U.S. Ambassador, Joseph Wilson, wrote in The New York Times, July 6, 2003, "The vice president's office asked a serious question. We were asked to help formulate the answer. We did so, and we have every confidence that the answer we provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government."
Moreover, your chief of staff, Mr. Libby, told Time magazine this week that you did in fact express interest in the report to the CIA briefer. Our understanding is that Standard Operating Procedure is that if a principal asks about a report, he is given a specific answer.
5) Who in the office of Vice President was informed of the contents of Ambassador Wilson's report? 6) What efforts were made by your office to disseminate the findings of Ambassador Wilson's investigation to the President, National Security Adviser, and Secretary of Defense? 7) Did your office regard Ambassador Wilson's conclusions as accurate or inaccurate?
III. Assertions by the Vice President and other high ranking members of the Administration claiming Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
The President's erroneous reference to the faked Niger uranium sale in his State of the Union address was only one example of a pattern of similar assertions by high ranking members of the administration, including yourself. The assertion was made repeatedly in the administration's campaign to win congressional approval of military action against Iraq.
For instance, you said to the 103d National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 26, 2002, "they [the Iraqi regime] continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago... we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons... Should all his ambitions be realized... [he could] subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."
In sworn testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, just weeks before the House of Representatives voted to authorize military action against Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified on September 18, 2002: "He [Saddam]... is pursuing nuclear weapons. If he demonstrates the capability to deliver them to our shores, the world would be changed. Our people would be at great risk. Our willingness to be engaged in the world, our willingness to project power to stop aggression, our ability to forge coalitions for multilateral action, could all be under question. And many lives could be lost."
8) Since your address to the VFW occurred nearly 7 months after Ambassador Wilson reported his findings to the CIA and State Department, what evidence did you have for the assertion that Iraq was continuing "to pursue the nuclear program" and that Saddam had "resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons"? 9) Since the Secretary of Defense testified to Congress that Iraq was "pursuing nuclear weapons" nearly 8 months after Ambassador Wilson's briefing to CIA and the State Department, what effort did you make to determine what evidence the Secretary of Defense had for his assertion to Congress?
Further refutation of the authenticity of the forged Niger documents came from IAEA Director General ElBaradei, when he reported to the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003: "These documents, which formed the basis for reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded... we have found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq." Yet on March 16 -- nine days afterwards -- you again repeated the unfounded assertion on national television (Meet the Press, Sunday, March 16, 2003). You said:
"We think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," and "We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
10) What was the basis for this assertion made by you on national television? We hope you will take the opportunity to answer these questions about your role in the dissemination of false information about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war in Iraq. We look forward to a response.
Dennis J. Kucinich, Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations
Carolyn B. Maloney, Member
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations
Bernie Sanders, Member
Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld,
I am writing to request your assistance in resolving the controversy surrounding the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch.
In the days following Private Lynch's rescue from an Iraqi hospital by U.S. Special Forces, numerous U.S. officials described to national media outlets the circumstances surrounding this event. They portrayed Private Lynch as receiving bullet and knife wounds, experiencing mistreatment by Iraqi officials, and being spirited away amid harsh enemy fire. They reported that Private Lynch suffered amnesia and could not recall her rescue. Although U.S. officials requested anonymity, their stories were widely reported without correction or qualification by the Defense Department. Indeed, the Department appeared to confirm the accuracy of these reports, releasing for reporters an edited section of videotape taken by a military cameraman using night vision equipment. Indeed, in introducing this clip, General Vincent Brooks, the U.S. spokesman in Doha, reportedly said: "Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen."(1)
More recently, however, contrary media accounts have emerged. At their core, these accounts argue that the rescue was essentially staged for a made-for-TV video. Specifically, these accounts have reported that, in fact, Private Lynch sustained no bullet or knife injuries. They have also reported that U.S. forces knew in advance of the operation that no Iraqi forces were guarding the hospital. They have reported that Iraqi medical staff treated Private Lynch humanely, even donating their own blood. They have reported that Iraqi medical staff actually tried to deliver Private Lynch in an ambulance two days earlier, but they were fired upon by U.S. forces. And they have reported that U.S. forces participating in the rescue of Private Lynch were not fired upon by Iraqi forces. Perhaps the harshest account claimed that the Pentagon's staging of this event was "one of the most stunning pieces of news management yet conceived."(2) And Private Lynch's father, Greg Lynch, told reporters that Private Lynch did not in fact suffer from amnesia. When he was asked to elaborate on the military operation that recovered his daughter, he said, "Right now we are really not supposed to talk about that subject, you know."
As you can see there is a wide gap between the facts as reported initially and the manner in which they are being reported now. As I understand the Defense Department's position, these recent accounts are "outrageous, patently false and unsupported by the facts."(3) At the same time, Defense Department officials now seem to be qualifying their earlier statements. For example, Bryan Whitman, Department of Defense spokesman, reportedly said "the U.S. military never claimed that the troops came under fire when they burst into the hospital."(4)
I believe it is time for the Department of Defense to fully disclose what happened.
First, I request that you order the public release of the unedited footage taken by the military cameraman of the military operation to recover Private Lynch. There has been a great deal of commentary on the manner in which the Department edited and aired a videotape of the rescue operation. Several media representatives have requested that the full tape be released so the American people can make an independent assessment of these conflicting claims. I see no reason for the Department to reject this request.
Second, I would like you to answer formally the following questions about the health status of Private Lynch and the military operation to recover her:
-- Did U.S. forces encounter any Iraqi forces in the hospital?
-- Were U.S. troops fired upon during the rescue operation? If so, please describe specifically the nature of the interchange.
-- Did U.S. [forces] have any information suggesting that Iraqi forces had abandoned the hospital?
-- Did Private Lynch sustain any gunshot or knife wounds?
-- Did U.S. officials have any information suggesting that Iraqi medical staff were trying to deliver Private Lynch to American forces?
-- Did U.S. forces at any time fire on any ambulances?
Finally, I understand the Department has ordered an investigation into the facts surrounding Private Lynch's capture by Iraqi forces. I also understand, however, that investigators were not asked to examine the circumstances surrounding Private Lynch's rescue. In light of the controversy that has arisen regarding this case, I suggest that the Pentagon's ongoing investigation also include the facts surrounding Private Lynch's rescue as well.
If you have any questions about this request, please call my Legislative Director, Jaron Bourke... I look forward to receiving your response.
Dennis J. Kucinich, Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations
(1) The Truth About Jessica, The Guardian, May 15, 2003
(3) Pentagon Aims Guns at Lynch Reports, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2003
(4) U.S. Rejects BBC Lynch Report, BBC, May 20, 2003
Is President Bush's war in Iraq about oil? Of course it is. Sometimes, the obvious answer is the right one: Oil is a major factor in the President's march to war, just as oil is a major factor in every aspect of U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf.
What commodity accounts for 83 percent of total exports from the Persian Gulf? What is the U.S. protecting with our permanent deployment of about 25,000 military personnel, 6 fighter squadrons, 6 bomber squadrons, 13 air control and reconnaissance squadrons, one aircraft carrier battle group, and one amphibious ready group based at 11 military installations in the countries of the Persian Gulf? (Note, the disproportionate troop deployments in the Middle East aren't there to protect the people, who constitute only 2 percent of the world population.)
What was Iraq's number one export when the U.S. made an alliance with Saddam Hussein, sold him biological and chemical weapons agents, and then did not object when he gassed his own people?
For what major Iraqi resource has Saddam Hussein denied contracts with the largest U.S. and U.K. multinational companies? (Note, those companies are the #2 (ExxonMobil), #4 (BP-Amoco), #8 (Shell) and #14 (ChevronTexaco) largest companies in the world, and the Bush Administration has been known to listen when large energy corporations speak.)
For what Iraqi resource did French and Russian multinational companies receive lucrative contracts from Saddam Hussein? What valuable commodity does one reprehensible, megalomaniacal tyrant (Saddam Hussein) control that another reprehensible, megalomaniacal tyrant (Kim Chong-il) does not?
How do the White House and State Department plan to pay for a post-Saddam occupation and reconstruction?
The answer to all of these questions is oil, of course. Oil obviously drives U.S. policy in the Middle East. So who can doubt that this war in Iraq concerns oil?
Meanwhile, the justifications the Administration has made for this war can be rather easily dismissed. Contrary to Administration assertions, a war against Iraq will not be in self-defense: Iraq does not pose an imminent threat to the United States. It doesn't have the ability, nor has it ever had the ability, to shoot a missile or send a bomber to harm America. Iraq does not possess nuclear weapons. Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
No credible link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda has been made. Iraq did not have anything to do with the anthrax-containing letters that killed several Americans.
Contrary to the Administration's portrayal of an Iraqi threat, Iraq is hardly uniquely threatening. Sixteen other countries in the world have or might have nuclear weapons, 25 countries have or might have chemical weapons, 19 other countries have or might have biological weapons, and 16 other countries have or might have missile systems. Yet the Bush Administration is not on the verge of invading them.
Contrary to their denials that this war has anything to do with oil, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle wanted to go to war in Iraq long before they became Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Defense Policy Board. In a 1998 letter they sent to then-President Clinton, they stated "it hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction ... a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard... The only acceptable strategy is ... to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy."
Does President Bush's war in Iraq concern Iraq's oil? Obviously.
Presidential candidate and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. Visit www.kucinich.us.
Unilateral military action by the U.S. against Iraq is unjustified, unwarranted and illegal. The Administration has failed to make the case that Iraq poses an imminent threat to the United States. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to 9/11. There is no credible evidence linking Iraq to Al Qaeda. Nor is there any credible evidence that Iraq possesses deliverable weapons of mass destruction, or that it intends to deliver them against the United States.
When Iraq possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, quite sad to say, it did so with the knowledge of, and sometimes with materials from, the U.S.
During the Administration of Ronald Reagan, sixty helicopters were sold to Iraq. Later reports said Iraq used U.S.-made helicopters to spray Kurds with chemical weapons. According to The Washington Post, Iraq used mustard gas against Iran with the help of intelligence from the CIA.
Iraq's punishment? The U.S. reestablished full diplomatic ties around Thanksgiving of 1984.
Throughout 1989 and 1990, U.S. companies, with the permission of the first Bush Administration, sent to the government of Saddam Hussein mustard gas precursors and live cultures for bacteriological research. U.S. companies also helped to build a chemical weapons factory and supplied the West Nile virus, fuel air explosive technology, computers for weapons technology, hydrogen cyanide precursors, computers for weapons research and development, and vacuum pumps and bellows for nuclear weapons plants. "We have met the enemy," said Walt Kelly's Pogo, "And he is us."
Unilateral action on the part of the U.S., or in partnership with Great Britain, would for the first time set our nation on the bloodstained path of aggressive war, a sacrilege upon the memory of those who fought to defend this country. America's moral authority would be undermined throughout the world. It would destabilize the entire Persian Gulf and Middle East region. And it would signal for Russia to invade Georgia; China, Taiwan; North Korea, the South; India, Pakistan.
The U.S. must recommit itself to the U.N. Charter, which is the framework for international order. We have a right and a duty to defend ourselves. We also have an obligation to defend international law. We can accomplish both without going to war with Iraq.
There is a way out.
It must involve the United Nations. Inspections for weapons of mass destruction should begin immediately. Inspectors must have free and unfettered access to all sites.
The time has come for us to end the sanctions against Iraq, because those sanctions punish the people of Iraq for having Saddam Hussein as their leader. These sanctions have been instrumental in causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. Emergency relief should be expedited. Free trade, except in arms, must be permitted.
Foreign investments must be allowed. The assets of Iraq abroad must be restored.
And a regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction should be established.
The only weapon that can save the world is nonviolence, said Gandhi. We can begin this practice today by calling upon the Administration in Washington to stop the talk of war, and stop the planning for war.
In their heart of hearts, the American people do not want war on Iraq. The American people want peace.
There is no reason for war against Iraq. Stop the drumbeat. Stop sending troops and supplies to Kuwait and Qatar. Pull back from the abyss of unilateral action and preemptive strikes.
We know that each day the Administration receives a daily threat assessment. But Iraq is not an imminent threat to this nation. Forty million Americans suffering from inadequate health care is an imminent threat. The high cost of prescription drugs is an imminent threat. The ravages of unemployment is an imminent threat. The slowdown of the economy is an imminent threat, and so, too, the devastating effects of corporate fraud.
We must drop the self-defeating policy of regime change. Policies of aggression and assassination are not worthy of any nation with a democratic tradition, let alone a nation of people who love liberty and whose sons and daughters sacrifice to maintain that democracy.
The question is not whether or not America has the military power to destroy Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The question is whether we destroy something essential in this nation by asserting that America has the right to do so anytime it pleases.
America cannot and should not be the world's policeman. America cannot and should not try to pick the leaders of other nations. Nor should America and the American people be pressed into the service of international oil interests and arms dealers.
We must work to bring Iraq back into the community of nations, not through destruction, but through constructive action worldwide. We can help negotiate a resolution with Iraq that encompasses unfettered inspections, the end of sanctions and the cessation of the regime-change policy.
We have the power to do this. We must have the will to do this. It must be the will of the American people expressed through the direct action of peaceful insistence.
If the U.S. proceeds with a first strike policy, then we will have taken upon our nation a historic burden of committing a violation of international law, and we would then forfeit any moral high ground we could hope to hold.
Representative Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, is head of the Progressive Caucus in Congress.
I offer these brief remarks today as a prayer for our country, with love of democracy, as a celebration of our country. With love for our country. With hope for our country. With a belief that the light of freedom cannot be extinguished as long as it is inside of us.
With a belief that freedom rings resoundingly in a democracy each time we speak freely. With the understanding that freedom stirs the human heart and fear stills it. With the belief that a free people cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time.
With the understanding that there is a deeper truth expressed in the unity of the United States. That implicit in the union of our country is the union of all people. That all people are essentially one. That the world is interconnected not only on the material level of economics, trade, communication, and transportation, but innerconnected through human consciousness, through the human heart, through the heart of the world, through the simply expressed impulse and yearning to be and to breathe free. I offer this prayer for America.
Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving for civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask, why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?
How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, the right to peaceably assemble?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, and allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?
How can we justify in effect canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?
We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it. We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant. We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups. We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere such as medical records and financial records.
We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for intelligence surveillance. We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy. The Attorney General recently covered up a statue of Lady Justice showing her bosom as if to underscore there is no danger of justice exposing herself at this time, before this administration.
Let us pray that our nation's leaders will not be overcome with fear. Because today there is great fear in our great Capitol. And this must be understood before we can ask about the shortcomings of Congress in the current environment. The great fear began when we had to evacuate the Capitol on September 11. It continued when we had to leave the Capitol again when a bomb scare occurred as members were pressing the CIA during a secret briefing. It continued when we abandoned Washington when anthrax, possibly from a government lab, arrived in the mail. It continued when the Attorney General declared a nationwide terror alert and then the Administration brought the destructive Patriot Bill to the floor of the House. It continued in the release of the Bin Laden tapes at the same time the President was announcing the withdrawal from the ABM treaty. It remains present in the cordoning off of the Capitol. It is present in the camouflaged armed national guardsmen who greet members of Congress each day we enter the Capitol campus. It is present in the labyrinth of concrete barriers through which we must pass each time we go to vote. The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear, ill equipped to deal with the Patriot Games, the Mind Games, the War Games of an unelected President and his unelected Vice President.
Let us pray that our country will stop this war. "To provide for the common defense" is one of the formational principles of America. Our Congress gave the President the ability to respond to the tragedy of September the Eleventh. We licensed a response to those who helped bring the terror of September the Eleventh. But we the people and our elected representatives must reserve the right to measure the response, to proportion the response, to challenge the response, and to correct the response.
Because we did not authorize the invasion of Iraq.
We did not authorize the invasion of Iran.
We did not authorize the invasion of North Korea.
We did not authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan.
We did not authorize permanent detainees in Guantanamo Bay.
We did not authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention.
We did not authorize military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus.
We did not authorize assassination squads.
We did not authorize the resurrection of COINTELPRO.
We did not authorize the repeal of the Bill of Rights.
We did not authorize the revocation of the Constitution.
We did not authorize national identity cards.
We did not authorize the eye of Big Brother to peer from cameras throughout our cities.
We did not authorize an eye for an eye. Nor did we ask that the blood of innocent people, who perished on September 11, be avenged with the blood of innocent villagers in Afghanistan.
We did not authorize the administration to wage war anytime, anywhere, anyhow it pleases.
We did not authorize war without end.
We did not authorize a permanent war economy.
Yet we are upon the threshold of a permanent war economy. The President has requested a $45.6 billion increase in military spending. All defense-related programs will cost close to $400 billion. Consider that the Department of Defense has never passed an independent audit. Consider that the Inspector General has notified Congress that the Pentagon cannot properly account for $1.2 trillion in transactions. Consider that in recent years the Dept. of Defense could not match $22 billion worth of expenditures to the items it purchased, wrote off, as lost, billions of dollars worth of in-transit inventory and stored nearly $30 billion worth of spare parts it did not need.
Yet the defense budget grows with more money for weapons systems to fight a cold war which ended, weapon systems in search of new enemies to create new wars. This has nothing to do with fighting terror. This has everything to do with fueling a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation, risking the future of our nation, risking democracy itself with the militarization of thought which follows the militarization of the budget.
Let us pray for our children. Our children deserve a world without end. Not a war without end. Our children deserve a world free of the terror of hunger, free of the terror of poor health care, free of the terror of homelessness, free of the terror of ignorance, free of the terror of hopelessness, free of the terror of policies which are committed to a world view which is not appropriate for the survival of a free people, not appropriate for the survival of democratic values, not appropriate for the survival of our nation, and not appropriate for the survival of the world.
Let us pray that we have the courage and the will as a people and as a nation to shore ourselves up, to reclaim from the ruins of September the Eleventh our democratic traditions. Let us declare our love for democracy. Let us declare our intent for peace. Let us work to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our own society. Let us recommit ourselves to the slow and painstaking work of statecraft, which sees peace, not war as being inevitable. Let us work for a world where someday war becomes archaic. That is the vision which the proposal to create a Department of Peace envisions. Forty-three members of Congress are now cosponsoring the legislation. Let us work for a world where nuclear disarmament is an imperative. That is why we must begin by insisting on the commitments of the ABM treaty. That is why we must be steadfast for nonproliferation.
Let us work for a world where America can lead the way in banning weapons of mass destruction not only from our land and sea and sky but from outer space itself. That is the vision of HR 3616: A universe free of fear. Where we can look up at God's creation in the stars and imagine infinite wisdom, infinite peace, infinite possibilities, not infinite war, because we are taught that the kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.
Let us pray that we have the courage to replace the images of death which haunt us, the layers of images of September the Eleventh, faded into images of patriotism, spliced into images of military mobilization, jump cut into images of our secular celebrations of the World Series, New Year's Eve, the Superbowl, the Olympics, the strobic flashes which touch our deepest fears, let us replace those images with the work of human relations, reaching out to people, helping our own citizens here at home, lifting the plight of the poor everywhere. That is the America which has the ability to rally the support of the world. That is the America which stands not in pursuit of an axis of evil, but which is itself at the axis of hope and faith and peace and freedom.
America, America. God shed grace on thee. Crown thy good, America. Not with weapons of mass destruction. Not with invocations of an axis of evil. Not through breaking international treaties. Not through establishing America as king of a unipolar world. Crown thy good, America.
America, America. Let us pray for our country. Let us love our country. Let us defend our country not only from the threats without but from the threats within. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good with brotherhood, and sisterhood. And crown thy good with compassion and restraint and forbearance and a commitment to peace, to democracy, to economic justice here at home and throughout the world. Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good.