Dennis Kucinich on the President’s surge policy and Iran
HH: It’s a pleasure to have now Dennis Kucinich. Congressman Kucinich is running for president. His website is www.kucinich.us. You will find there posted a comprehensive exit plan to bring toops home, to stabilize Iraq as well. Congressman Kucinich, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DK: Thanks, Hugh. It’s a pleasure to be on your show. I appreciate it.
HH: Well, Congressman, what happens if the troops withdrew quickly? Wouldn’t Iraq descend into just chaos and violence even far beyond what we see there now?
DK: Well, I’m not talking about that scenario. What I’m offering is a process, and the Kucinich plan involves the United States, first of all, of letting the international community know that we are going to end the occupation, close our bases, withdraw our troops, let the Iraqi people have control over their own oil assets, and then we get the international community engaged, so we can put together a peacekeeping and security force as we transit out. At that point, a process of reconciliation, reconstruction, reparations, and other things I set in motion. I mean, we can’t stay there. Occupation is fueling the insurgency. More troops are only going to mean more troop casualties and more civilian deaths.
HH: So you wouldn’t pull them out until there was an international force there to replace them?
DK: Yeah, you have to have a process. But you know what? You can’t start the process as long as we’re occupying it. No one’s going to help the United States if we just say we’re going to stay there, and we’re going to stay there until we understand that the American people are ready for a new direction, and for that matter, the world’s ready for a new direction. And I think Iraq is, too.
HH: If after we left, a Rwandan-style genocide, of which Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic Monthly has warned, began, would you support the return of American troops to stop that genocide?
DK: Well, but wait. Before I entertain that scenario, 650,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, according to the Lancet Report, 650,000 excess deaths during the period of the war. I mean, we already have huge casualties taking place. The United States presence hasn’t stopped it. As a matter of fact, our occupation fueled the insurgency.
HH: Do you believe the Lancet Report, Congressman?
DK: I’m sorry?
HH: Do you believe the Lancet Report?
DK: Absolutely. I mean, a survey…you know, I held a briefing on it, at which we questioned people about their methodology, and their methodology was solid. And for that matter, the administration has deliberately underreported civilian casualties. That was one of the criticisms of the Baker-Hamilton Report. So you know, we don’t…I don’t think the American people really know the extent to which the Iraqi people have incurred enormous casualties.
HH: So if an even greater amount of violence began, though, after we exited, a Rwandan-style…
DK: Well, you know, you can raise the specter of Rwanda, but the fact of the matter is, you know, the U.S. is an occupying army here. That’s why the insurgency has fuel.
HH: Should we have stopped Rwanda, though, Congressman?
DK: I’m sorry?
HH: Should we have stopped Rwanda when we had the chance in the 90’s?
DK: I think that what we needed to do then, in the 90’s, and what we didn’t do, is to strengthen the process of international law, and strengthen the United Nations. And the United States does have a role to play with the international community, but Hugh, where I would take issue with our policy is that these strategies of preemption and unilateralism and first strike are dead ends.
HH: But once that kind of killing starts, and let’s stay fixated on Rwanda for a moment, if a Rwandan-style genocide begins, should the United states intervene to stop slaughter like that, Congressman Kucinich?
DK: We should not act unilaterally, because it traps us. We can’t be the policeman of the world.
HH: So even if…
DK: You know, we can act unilaterally in defense of our own nation. As a matter of fact, I voted for the United States to defend itself with, right after 9/11. But I voted against the Iraq resolution, because there was no proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, had the intention or capability of attacking the U.S. You have to look at each case as it exists. We invaded Iraq. They…I feel we violated international law in doing that.
HH: Congressman, do you…
DK: I mean, there is a role for the U.S. to play, but it’s not as the cop of the world.
HH: Congressman, do you know what the Quds forces are?
DK: (pause) I’m sorry?
HH: Do you…are you aware of the Quds forces?
DK: What are you talking about?
HH: The Quds forces from…they’re an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Are you familiar with them?
DK: (pause) Go ahead.
HH: Are you? Because I don’t want to pursue it if you’re not.
DK: Well, go ahead. I want to hear what you have to say.
HH: Well, they’re operating in Iraq. Does that concern you?
DK: I think that we need to get the region involved in stopping the insurgency. And the way you do that, the first step you take, is to take away the energy that the insurgency is gaining from the occupation. Look, Iran…you know, we should be concerned about any nation feeling that they can advance their interests through the chaos and civil war of Iraq. And the way that you do it, you have to have a political settlement. We cannot solve this militarily. Most…and many generals who believe that.
HH: Pop quiz, Congressman. Do you know who the supreme leader of Iran is?
DK: (pause) You’re talking about the religious leader?
DK: I can’t tell you the name off-hand.
HH: And he’s made…do you know who the president of Iran is?
DK: We’re talking about Ahmadinejad?
HH: Do you think that they are intent on dealing with us? Or do you think, or do you believe what they say, Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad, when they talk about the confrontation with the West? Do you take them at their word?
DK: I think that we need to talk with them. And I think that you know, I think dialogue is essential here, and I think the person…I’m just remembering the…Khamenei, I think his name is.
HH: Yeah, I just said that.
DK: The supreme leader that you’re talking about. And we need to be in touch with the leaders of Iran. We cannot look at…the fact that we are Americans. I mean, we’re a courageous nation. We should never…President Kennedy said it in his inaugural. We should not negotiate out of fear, nor should we fear to negotiate. And we need to be able to reach out to these countries, even if we disagree with them, and are opposed to everything they stand for.
HH: But if they don’t want to talk…let me ask it this way. Do you think they genuinely hate Israel? And that their threats against Israel are real?
DK: Well, first of all, let it be said, I’m a staunch supporter of Israel.
HH: I know that, but do you believe their threats?
DK: …and their survival. We’ve got to have a context to this discussion, and the context is I support Israel, I suport its survival, and I also think the U.S. policy doesn’t help Israel here.
HH: But do you think Khamenei and Ahmadinejad believe what they say about Israel, that it will be gone in a flash?
DK: I think what Ahmadinejad has said is very cynical. I don’t think that he’s…I don’t think that he could possibly believe that the Holocaust didn’t occur, but that he says it is hurtful.
HH: No, but do you think he intends harm to Israel, in the manner that he has described it? Are you familiar with his statements?
DK: I…listen, I think that we need to make sure that he understands that it’s not acceptable for him to give threats, directly or indirectly, to Israel.
HH: I know that, but do you believe that he believes what he says?
DK: I think we need to talk to him, to have him think differently. I’ve got a different approach.
HH: Congressman, last question, last question. Do you think that Iranian fanatics applaud every time you come on television and talk this way?
DK: You know what? I’m hopeful that there are people throughout the world who believe that war should not be an instrument of policy, whatever country they’re in.
HH: But what about the fanatics? Do you think that you represent to them the soft underbelly of America?
DK: You know what? I’m from the neighborhoods of Cleveland. It would be wrong to mistake what I stand for.
HH: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, we look foward to having you back…a lot.
End of interview.