OLYMPIA - A man who has twice run for president of the United States spent Presidents Day in Olympia speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and encouraging people to organize for peace and human rights.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, addressed more than 800 people in the Capitol Theater and the overspill crowd in the streets Monday afternoon. He described the cost of war not just in monetary terms, but also how it is draining the soul of the nation.
“We aren’t using the resources of our country to take care of the issues here at home,” Kucinich said, adding that the total cost for the Iraq War will move well into the trillions of dollars, money he believes should be spent on social issues such as health care, education and retirement benefits.
He also took jabs at the country’s defense budget and the Patriot Act and called for high-ranking officials in the Bush administration to be brought to justice for their “lies to take us into war with Iraq.” During the Bush administration, Kucinich called for the impeachment of both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
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“There must be accountability,” he said. “It’s time to reclaim who we are and stand for justice.”
However, the congressman did admit that it wasn’t an issue the current Congress or the Obama administration was willing to take on.
Kucinich, who ran for president in 2004 and 2008, also warned that President Barack Obama is on notice for his conduct regarding the war in Afghanistan. When asked for his exit strategy for Afghanistan, Kucinich needed three words: “Just go. Quickly.”
Many of the congressman’s remarks revolved around the idea of changing the way we think and focusing our ability to live and express ourselves peacefully. Between shouts from the crowd and applause breaks, he said that it’s time for the country to get past the “us vs. them” mentality, saying that way of thinking is a precursor to war. He noted that reconciliation is a vital step in the process.
During a question-and-answer period, Kucinich addressed the ideas of retooling the economy for peaceful purposes and discussed his thoughts on universal health care, his vegan diet and the current union issues taking center stage in Wisconsin.
“Their struggle is the struggle of all Americans for economic justice,” he said.
He also talked about the need to transform the country’s economy by repealing trade agreements that send jobs overseas and by turning “swords into plowshares” by taking military industries and turning them into ones that benefit the people, such as car manufacturing. He also called for the closure of all overseas bases.
After the event, those still lingering around the theater discussed what they had heard.
Carolyn Trefts of Olympia said she left the theater with a sense of hope, saying that she’s taking home the message that people must transform the way they think to make themselves into a peaceful society.
The event, which was sponsored by the Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation and the local Veterans for Peace, Rachel Corrie Chapter 109, included musical performances from the Artesian Rumble Arkestra and the Olympia’s Peace Choir.
Capitol Theater wasn’t the congressman’s only stop in the region Monday. He also attended the Washington state workers’ rally at the Capitol Rotunda. And moments after leaving the stage in downtown Olympia, he joined state Democrats at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey for their yearly crab feed.
Organizers expected speeches from Gov. Chris Gregoire, U.S. Reps. Jay Inslee and Adam Smith and others – including Kucinich.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476www.theolympian.com/outsideoly