Scott Horton Interviews Rep. Dennis Kucinich
This recording is from the KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles broadcast of March 11th. The full archive is here.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich discusses the runaround he’s been getting from the Department of Defense after requesting a visit with Bradley Manning; why Manning’s draconian pretrial treatment raises serious questions about the US criminal justice system and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; and the Kucinich-Walter Jones co-sponsored resolution requiring the president to get the troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end.
MP3 here. (11:40)
Dennis Kucinich was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 8, 1946. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Speech Communications from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio in 1974.
Having been elected to Cleveland’s City Council at age 23, Dennis J. Kucinich was well-known to Cleveland residents when they chose him as their mayor in 1977 at the age of 31. At the time, Kucinich was the youngest person ever elected to lead a major American city.
Kucinich has held many jobs outside of politics including being a hospital orderly, newspaper copy boy, teacher, consultant, television analyst and author.
Since being elected to Congress in 1996, Kucinich has been a tireless advocate for worker rights, civil rights and human rights.
Transcript – Scott Horton Interviews Congressman Dennis Kucinich, KPFK, March 11, 2011
SCOTT HORTON: Introducing Dennis Kucinich. He’s a congressman in the Democratic Party representing Ohio’s 10th district. He ran for President in 2004 and 2008. He is currently the chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is of course staunchly antiwar and pro-Bill of Rights. Welcome to the show. How are you doing?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Good to be with you. Thanks for the invitation.
HORTON: Well I’m very happy to have you here. So, I want to talk about Afghanistan but I can’t but help but put Bradley Manning and the issues surrounding his case at the front of the list here, Congressman. It seems that the young man is being mistreated in military custody, and I know that you’ve been trying to meet with Bradley Manning, get permission to meet with him in the brig for as long as a month now, and you’ve as yet been unsuccessful in having a chance to visit him in military custody. Is that right?
KUCINICH: That’s right. I put in a request to the secretary of defense, who referred me to the secretary of the army, who referred me to the secretary of the navy, who referred me to the secretary of defense, and still not an answer on whether or not I can visit Private Manning.
HORTON: Unbelievable. I could see them giving the runaround like that to a reporter or something, but you’re a congressman. They can’t treat you that way, can they?
KUCINICH: Actually they shouldn’t treat reporters that way, but – they shouldn’t treat anyone that way. They should be accountable. But unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Pentagon doesn’t have any accountability.
HORTON: Right now I’m confused though, because his friend David House, for example, is able to visit him. Can he not just add you to that same list somehow?
KUCINICH: Well, I don’t know. I’m a member of Congress. I have to go through a different channel. The Secretary of Defense office is the appropriate channel for a member of Congress, and I have to add that as a member of the oversight committee of Congress I’m also entitled to go and see the conditions under which Private Manning is being held.
HORTON: Well you know I spoke earlier this week with the other Scott Horton, the heroic anti-torture human rights lawyer who writes for Harper’s magazine, and he was formerly the chair of the New York Bar Association’s Committees on Human Rights and International Law and so forth, and he was drawing a very strong parallel correlation it seemed between the treatment of Bradley Manning and the dehumanization which was the end really of all of that enhanced interrogation, as they called torture in the last administration – it was the program of “learned helplessness” – and he said it looked a lot to him like they’re sort of giving, I guess in my terms, he agreed with me that this is sort of the “Padilla Treatment Jr.,” that it’s not quite the full Monty they gave him, Jose Padilla, in military custody, but they are it seems severely mistreating this young man in there.
KUCINICH: It does sound similar.
HORTON: And so is there anything that you can do, say, for example, from your position as the chairman of this domestic policy subcommittee, or that’s a bit too far out of range there?
KUCINICH: This is outside the range of the subcommittee that I’m on currently, but I will say that I’m looking at all other legal options. It’s not clear because this is somebody who is within the control of the Department of Defense. However, last I heard, the Department of Defense is not outside the United States Constitution.
HORTON: Well, a good point, although [laughs] I’m not so sure if you’ve been updated on recent events there, but I guess we’ll see.
Well, listen, I got to tell you that I know I speak for a lot of people when I thank you sincerely for your efforts, if only the only result so far has been in drawing more attention to the plight of Bradley Manning. A lot of us consider him an American hero and a human hero for that matter. He seems to have helped spark these revolutions across the Middle East against terrible dictators there and has accomplished much more than that, if it is indeed true that he did what they say he did, and so it’s especially terrible to see them mistreating somebody like him, a hero like him, in this way. And so I just sincerely want to thank you for your effort and I hope you’ll continue to try to help him.
KUCINICH: Look. No one held prisoner anywhere in America should be tortured. And the fact that he’s awaiting trial and they’re doing this to him raises serious questions about our criminal justice process. And I’m going to continue my efforts to address the plight of Private Manning and to try to stop this outrageous treatment of him.
HORTON: Well I’m sure you saw today the president said, well he checked with the Defense Department and they assured him that everything is within the proper guidelines.
KUCINICH: Yeah, I checked with the Defense Department too. They told me everything was okay, the Army Secretary told me everything is okay, and a couple of days later I read that he is being forced to strip naked and stand outside his cell at attention. So, I don’t know. It seems that the higher up that people get in our government, the less information they have about what’s going on.
HORTON: Right, yeah, the more responsibility they have for what’s going on – interesting how that works, huh?
Well, you know, today I’m sure you’re also aware that the State Department’s spokesman, P.J. Crowley, along with Amnesty International, have denounced to varying degrees the treatment of this young man. You think anything in DC is going to change that would change his circumstances in Quantico? I mean anytime soon, perhaps?
KUCINICH: I think that more and more people are getting involved and that the way in which Private Manning is being treated, publicly by the way, raises real questions about the decency, about the morality, of people in the government.
And in particular the Secretary of Defense has a grave responsibility here because he’s acting in the administrative capacity of the highest responsibility. He’s acting in the president’s stead as a member of the president’s cabinet handling defense matters. He has a very grave responsibility here, and this thing – you know, if these reports keep coming out and they do not permit third parties to come in and make an assessment, I don’t think that we can take their word for it. We just can’t.
HORTON: All right now I wanted to ask you about your new resolution introduced Wednesday, I believe, House Resolution 28, “Directing the President, Pursuant to the War Powers Act, to Remove U.S. Forces from Afghanistan” – the mandate is by the end of this year. Is that correct?
KUCINICH: That’s right. This is an opportunity for people to be heard. I was just notified that the Congress is going to hear this resolution next Thursday, and that means that everyone who is concerned about it ought to call a member of Congress and urge them to vote for the resolution sponsored by myself and Congressman Jones, Republican of North Carolina. It’s a bipartisan effort to end the war. It’s House Concurrent Resolution 28, House Concurrent Resolution 28, and I’m looking forward to the debate and forward to an opportunity to once again demonstrate to the American people the urgency of us getting out of Afghanistan.
HORTON: Now when you say the House is going to debate it, you mean it will be voted out of committee and the full House will debate it? I’m not sure how that works.
KUCINICH: No, the last thing that I heard is that Republican leadership will bring it to the floor under what’s called the unanimous consent, which means everyone agrees that it can be brought up now, and they may even bypass the committee, and we’ll have two hours of debate.
HORTON: Well, we may be a decade too late, but it’d be nice if we could finally get debate started there.
KUCINICH: It is late. No question about it. And I join you, you know, for the last decade in saying that we should not have gone in there with our troops and we should not have stayed there. But we are there and we need to continue our efforts to get out, and this is another opportunity.
HORTON: Well, you know, Robert Gates and the generals continually seem to push the so-called time horizon – you never really get to a horizon, right? And they seem to say now 2014, 2015, etcetera. What is the policy, do you think? Because sometimes they admit that they’ll have to negotiate their way out of there if they are to ever leave, that they cannot, you know, outright win a military victory. Why are we fighting a war in Afghanistan anyway, Congressman?
KUCINICH: People have forgotten, you know, we – first it was to go after al Qaeda, and now it’s to keep Afghanistan safe. But since the occupation has fueled an insurgency, the best protection we can give the people is to get out.
HORTON: All right, now, I want to ask you about the possibility of somehow forming a coalition and running for president on a joint ticket with Republican congressman Ron Paul. Because it seems like, though you’re a progressive and he’s a libertarian Republican, that the issues that you two agree on and vote together on are consistently the very most important issues facing our society: Peace, the Bill of Rights, corporate welfare, etcetera. Maybe we could really change the two-party system to, you know, the People versus the War Party, and get all the good guys on one side and those for what we have now on the other.
KUCINICH: I have a great deal of respect for Ron Paul. You know, one need not agree with someone on everything to be able to take their measure, and he’s someone who is totally dedicated to this country, who is courageous, and I’m glad that he and I have had the chance to work together in opposing these wars and in challenging Wall Street and in working to protect civil liberties.
HORTON: All right, well, I want to thank you again for your time on the show. Thank you for all your efforts against the wars, efforts for peace and for protecting the Bill of Rights and for accountability and the rule of law as it is meant to apply to elected and appointed officials as well. You have a lot of fans at KPFK, and of course at Antiwar.com, and again I want to thank you for your time on the show today.
KUCINICH: Thank you. Thanks for the invitation, and let’s talk again, okay?