In an interview with Truthdig research editor Joshua Scheer, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) criticizes the leadership of his own party for announcing Tuesday that it would support a massive increase in spending for the Iraq war:
Truthdig: Why do you think [the leadership supports funding the war in Iraq]?
Kucinich: The leadership feels that they can bring about greater transparency [in spending], that they can bring special committees to look at what's gone wrong with the war, and that there's going to be improved oversight.
Truthdig: Were there dissenting opinions ... ? Do you think this will pass?
Kucinich: I think this is going to be a serious test of the Democratic Party. We were put in power because people expected a new direction in Iraq. It goes without saying that they expect greater transparency and oversight, but they also expect us to do something to bring the troops home. Now, if Congress goes ahead under Democratic leadership and votes to approve what some are now estimating as an additional $160 billion for the war in Iraq, bringing the total for the fiscal year to $230 billion, the Democratic Congress will have bought George Bush's war. Now, who would buy a used war from this administration?
Truthdig: Weren't the Democrats elected because of the war in Iraq?
Kucinich: The Democrats came to power because of a strong desire on the part of the voters to get out of Iraq. That's why people voted Democratic. So now, with the Democratic leadership taking a position saying they're going to approve the supplemental budget in the spring, this could be seen by many as a breach of faith.
The most difficult part of the challenge is to get members of Congress to understand that they themselves voted for a bill which went into effect on Oct. 1 that appropriated $70 billion, which could be used to bring the troops home. Unfortunately, our leadership is saying they're supporting the supplemental as a way of supporting the troops. So if we continue to ignore the money that's there right now to bring the troops home, we're losing an opportunity to bring the troops home now. People are now saying that they oppose the war, but they're continuing to fund it in the name of supporting the troops.
They say they're not going to abandon the troops in the field. We're professing a strange love for these troops by keeping them there, because the money's there to bring them home.
Truthdig: For me this is really disheartening, because I feel like I have been lied to, and the American people have been lied to, because the [Democratic] Party was so against extra funds for the war. It's almost like the party has done a bait-and-switch.
Kucinich: I think there's going to be a concern around the country that this does represent a bait-and-switch. I'm hopeful that this position will be reconsidered and that the Democrats will not vote to keep the war going. But at this point, if the Democrats go forward and support a supplemental which by some accounts is now rising to $160 billion, they'll be providing enough money to keep the war going through the end of George Bush's term.
This is the time for Democrats to be uniting to exit from Iraq. And the exit door is already well lit with a sign that says $70 billion. If we support the troops, why in the world would we not use the money to bring them home, instead of spending more money to keep them in? Why would we, when we have money to bring them home right now, appropriate another $160 billion which would keep them there, possibly through the end of George Bush's term?
Image: AP; composite: Karen Spector / Truthdig