The United States still has a chance to pull away from a war that can
have devastating consequences for the country, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a
Democratic presidential hopeful, told a Marin County audience this weekend.
"We see what war has already wrought. We know where it's heading," the Ohio
congressman said. "It's time for America to step away from the abyss. It's
time to end this war now."
Nearly 2,000 people gave the unabashedly liberal Kucinich a standing
ovation at the beginning and the end of his talk at the Veterans Memorial
Auditorium in San Rafael. The parking lot at the Marin center was jammed with
cars, many sporting peace symbols and anti-war bumper strips. In front of the
hall, vendors hawked "Impeach George Bush" buttons and stickers.
Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio talks with reporters Friday, March 21, 2003 in Manchester, N.H. before addressing the New Hampshire National Education Association. It was Kucinich's first visit to New Hampshire, which hosts the nation's first presidential primary, since declaring his candidacy. (AP Photo/Lee Marriner)
The Bay Area is prime territory for his insurgent campaign for president,
Kucinich said in an interview before his Saturday night talk, sponsored by the
Praxis Peace Institute. At a Friday campaign stop at Mission College in San
Jose, for example, more than 250 people signed on as volunteers.
"This area has the possibility of being the forge of a new America, a
source of new ideas," he said.
Although former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has received plenty of media
coverage for his own anti-war stance, there's no Democrat running to the left
"My role as co-chairman of the progressive caucus (in Congress) is to be
out front with progressive policies and alternatives," he said. "I want to put
out another view of America's role in the world."
Kucinich jumps eagerly into areas unseen in the platforms of the other
Democratic presidential contenders. He is backing an effort to end the death
penalty for federal crimes, wants universal heath care for all Americans and
calls for total nuclear disarmament.
If elected, he promises to end the country's participation in the World
Trade Organization, dump the North American Free Trade Agreement and return to
bilateral trade agreements, under which the United States can demand that
other countries pay workers a living wage, allow union organizing and respect
Kucinich also worries about the country's willingness to go it alone in
world affairs, without treaties or other international agreements.
"This policy that makes the United States the policeman, judge, jury and
executioner of the world must be reversed," he said in his speech. The United
States "must work with the other nations of the world in matters of
But Kucinich always brought the topic back to the war in Iraq, where he
said he "supports our troops, but not their mission."
When Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, introduced Kucinich on Saturday, she
talked about his years of anti-war activism, including his plan for a Cabinet-
level Department of Peace, which would promote nonviolent solutions to
national and international problems.
Nonviolence and international cooperation are even more important now that
"a great nation is unleashing devastating destruction against a humble nation
ravaged by sanctions," Kucinich said.
"If a bomb drops in the marketplace in Baghdad, we feel it," he said. "When
a mother mourns the life of a child in Basra, it's our loss, too."
The war is not only hurting America's standing and reputation with the
other countries of the world, but also the people at home, Kucinich said.
"It's unconscionable that we have the money to blow up bridges over the
Tigris and Euphrates, but not the money to rebuild bridges in this country,"
But it's one thing to draw an enthusiastic response from a crowd of anti-
war activists in Marin County and another to build the national support needed
for a realistic run at the Democratic presidential nomination.
Kucinich is confident that there's an audience out there for his liberal,
anti-war message. Mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31, Kucinich beat a
Republican incumbent in 1996 to win his current congressional seat.
"I've shown the ability to attract votes to progressive Democratic programs
in Cleveland, which is Middle America," he said. "I fully expect that I'll
stay in contention for the Democratic nomination."
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle