Late last week, I spoke with Representative Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, about the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, specifically the provisions on Iran, and more broadly about the politics that repeatedly allow the country to seek war even after recent exercises proved to be disastrous. This conversation is edited slightly for length and clarity.
GZ: I’d like to talk a little bit about the NDAA, which passed recently. You said on the House floor that it made a war with Iran basically a US policy.
DK: The language of the NDAA is a prescription for war. Now, John Conyers was able to get an amendment accepted that says “this is not an authorization of war.” But what the bill does almost makes the Conyers amendment moot. It puts in place all of the preparations for war. It sets in place ships in the Persian Gulf, planes in the region with munitions, plans to target Iran. And so you can say “well, it’s not authorized.” But lacking an authorization for war hasn’t stopped this particular president from being able to elect intervention or aggression. And so the language in the NDAA opened the door for aggression against Iran by permitting very specific preparations for an attack.
There’s a double game going on here. One is, you talk about the need for diplomacy. And talks can sometimes be nebulous. But there’s nothing nebulous about aircraft carriers, about jet fighters, about powerful munitions that are being put in place to stage an attack. You don’t do that just for an exercise. That, in and of itself, can be seen as an act of aggression. That’s a threat to attack. Under the UN Charter you can’t even threaten another nation with an attack. And the UN charter has essentially been swept aside, where threats have become a matter of style now.
[This bill] is self-defeating. They help to bring about that which they pretend to fear. We need a coherent national defense which relies on diplomacy and not aggression. We aren’t there right now. We need to stop putting the gun on the table and telling people “let’s talk,” because no nation with any self-respect would negotiate under those terms.
House Resolution 568 [“Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the importance of preventing the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability”] also has some people concerned. Why?
It presupposes that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, which it does not. And it thwarts any efforts at diplomacy.
It seems like “capability” is vaguely defined there, so it could impede some of the talks that are going on in Baghdad.
Capability could mean any country which produces nuclear power. You could start to bring in Japan, Brazil, other countries. What are we doing here? We’re setting a new standard for the level of nuclear weapons which says that if you have a program to develop nuclear power, ipso facto, it is a nuclear weapons program in the making. It’s just not so. But beyond all that, the question that is continually begged is why isn’t America leading the way toward total abolition of nuclear weapons. Then the effort of the world community would be not to pick winners and losers but to help all of humanity win by eliminating the weapons that we fear one country having and yet are comfortable with others having it.