Speech by Dennis Kucinich
“. . . Come my friends, ’tis not too late to seek a newer world,” . . . Alfred Lord Tennyson
If you believe that humanity has a higher destiny, if you believe we can evolve, and become better than we are; if you believe we can overcome the scourge of war and someday fulfill the dream of harmony and peace on earth, let us begin the conversation today. Let us exchange our ideas. Let us plan together, act together and create peace together. This is a call for common sense, for peaceful, non-violent citizen action to protect our precious world from widening war and from stumbling into a nuclear catastrophe.
The climate for conflict has intensified, with the struggle between Pakistan and India, the China-Taiwan tug of war, and the increased bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians. United States’ troop deployments in the Philippines, Yemen, Georgia, Columbia and Indonesia create new possibilities for expanded war. An invasion of Iraq is planned. The recent disclosure that Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Libya are considered by the United States as possible targets for nuclear attack catalyzes potential conflicts everywhere.
These crucial political decisions promoting increased military actions, plus a new nuclear first-use policy, are occurring without the consent of the American people, without public debate, without public hearings, without public votes. The President is taking Congress’s approval of responding to the Sept. 11 terrorists as a license to flirt with nuclear war.
“Politics ought to stay out of fighting a war,” the President has been quoted as saying on March 13th 2002. Yet Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution explicitly requires that Congress take responsibility when it comes to declaring war. This President is very popular, according to the polls. But polls are not a substitute for democratic process. Attributing a negative connotation here to politics or dismissing constitutionally mandated congressional oversight belies reality: Spending $400 billion a year for defense is a political decision. Committing troops abroad is a political decision. War is a political decision. When men and women die on the battlefield that is the result of a political decision. The use of nuclear weapons, which can end the lives of millions, is a profound political decision. In a monarchy there need be no political decisions. In a democracy, all decisions are political, in that they derive from the consent of the governed.
In a democracy, budgetary, military and national objectives must be subordinate to the political process. Before we celebrate an imperial presidency, let it be said that the lack of free and open political process, the lack of free and open political debate, and the lack of free and open political dissent can be fatal in a democracy.
We have reached a moment in our country’s history where it is urgent that people everywhere speak out as president of his or her own life, to protect the peace of the nation and world within and without. We should speak out and caution leaders who generate fear through talk of the endless war or the final conflict. We should appeal to our leaders to consider that their own bellicose thoughts, words and deeds are reshaping consciousness and can have an adverse effect on our nation. Because when one person thinks: fight! he or she finds a fight. One faction thinks: war! and starts a war. One nation thinks: nuclear! and approaches the abyss. And what of one nation which thinks peace, and seeks peace?
Neither individuals nor nations exist in a vacuum, which is why we have a serious responsibility for each other in this world. It is also urgent that we find those places of war in our own lives, and begin healing the world through healing ourselves. Each of us is a citizen of a common planet, bound to a common destiny. So connected are we, that each of us has the power to be the eyes of the world, the voice of the world, the conscience of the world, or the end of the world. And as each one of us chooses, so becomes the world.
Each of us is architect of this world. Our thoughts, the concepts. Our words, the designs. Our deeds, the bricks and mortar of our daily lives. Which is why we should always take care to regard the power of our thoughts and words, and the commands they send into action through time and space.
Some of our leaders have been thinking and talking about nuclear war. In the past week there has been much news about a planning document which describes how and when America might wage nuclear war. The Nuclear Posture Review recently released to the media by the government:
1. Assumes that the United States has the right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
2. Equates nuclear weapons with conventional weapons.
3. Attempts to minimize the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.
4. Promotes nuclear response to a chemical or biological attack.
Some dismiss this review as routine government planning. But it becomes ominous when taken in the context of a war on terrorism which keeps expanding its boundaries, rhetorically and literally. The President equates the “war on terrorism” with World War II. He expresses a desire to have the nuclear option “on the table.” He unilaterally withdraws from the ABM treaty. He seeks $8.9 billion to fund deployment of a missile shield. He institutes, without congressional knowledge, a shadow government in a bunker outside our nation’s Capitol. He tries to pass off as arms reduction, the storage of, instead of the elimination of, nuclear weapons.
Two generations ago we lived with nuclear nightmares. We feared and hated the Russians who feared and hated us. We feared and hated the “godless, atheistic” communists. In our schools, we dutifully put our head between our legs and practiced duck-and-cover drills. In our nightmares, we saw the long, slow arc of a Soviet missile flash into our very neighborhood. We got down on our knees and prayed for peace. We surveyed, wide eyed, pictures of the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. We supported the elimination of all nuclear weapons. We knew that if you “nuked” others you “nuked” yourself.
The splitting of the atom for destructive purposes admits a split consciousness, the compartmentalized thinking of Us vs. Them, the dichotomized thinking, which spawns polarity and leads to war. The proposed use of nuclear weapons, pollutes the psyche with the arrogance of infinite power. It creates delusions of domination of matter and space. It is dehumanizing through its calculations of mass casualties. We must overcome doomthinkers and sayers who invite a world descending, disintegrating into a nuclear disaster. With a world at risk, we must find the bombs in our own lives and disarm them. We must listen to that quiet inner voice which counsels that the survival of all is achieved through the unity of all.
We must overcome our fear of each other, by seeking out the humanity within each of us. The human heart contains every possibility of race, creed, language, religion, and politics. We are one in our commonalities. Must we always fear our differences? We can overcome our fears by not feeding our fears with more war and nuclear confrontations. We must ask our leaders to unify us in courage.
We need to create a new, clear vision of a world as one. A new, clear vision of people working out their differences peacefully. A new, clear vision with the teaching of nonviolence, nonviolent intervention, and mediation. A new, clear vision where people can live in harmony within their families, their communities and within themselves. A new clear vision of peaceful coexistence in a world of tolerance.
At this moment of peril we must move away from fear’s paralysis. This is a call to action: to replace expanded war with expanded peace. This is a call for action to place the very survival of this planet on the agenda of all people, everywhere. As citizens of a common planet, we have an obligation to ourselves and our posterity. We must demand that our nation and all nations put down the nuclear sword. We must demand that our nation and all nations:
Abide by the principles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Stop the development of new nuclear weapons.
Take all nuclear weapons systems off alert.
Persist towards total, worldwide elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Our nation must:
Revive the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty.
Sign and enforce the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Abandon plans to build a so-called missile shield.
Prohibit the introduction of weapons into outer space.
We are in a climate where people expect debate within our two party system to produce policy alternatives. However both major political parties have fallen short. People who ask “Where is the Democratic Party?” and expect to hear debate may be disappointed. When peace is not on the agenda of our political parties or our governments then it must be the work and the duty of each citizen of the world. This is the time to organize for peace. This is the time for new thinking. This is the time to concieve of peace as not simply being the absence of violence, but the active presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of human awareness. This is the time to concieve of peace as respect, trust, and integrity. This is the time to tap the infinite capabilities of humanity to transform consciousness which compels violence at a personal, group, national or international levels. This is the time to develop a new compassion for others and ourselves.
When terrorists threaten our security, we must enforce the law and bring terrorists to justice within our system of constitutional justice, without undermining the very civil liberties which permits our democracy to breathe. Our own instinct for life, which inspires our breath and informs our pulse, excites our capacity to reason. Which is why we must pay attention when we sense a threat to survival.
That is why we must speak out now to protect this nation, all nations, and the entire planet and:
Challenge those who believe that war is inevitable.
Challenge those who believe in a nuclear right.
Challenge those who would build new nuclear weapons.
Challenge those who seek nuclear re-armament.
Challenge those who seek nuclear escalation.
Challenge those who would make of any nation a nuclear target.
Challenge those who would threaten to use nuclear weapons against civilian populations.
Challenge those who would break nuclear treaties.
Challenge those who think and think about nuclear weapons, to think about peace.
It is practical to work for peace. I speak of peace and diplomacy not just for the sake of peace itself. But, for practical reasons, we must work for peace as a means of achieving permanent security. It is similarly practical to work for total nuclear disarmament, particularly when nuclear arms do not even come close to addressing the real security problems which confront our nation, witness the events of September 11, 2001.
We can make war archaic. Skeptics may dismiss the possibility that a nation which spends $400 billion a year for military purposes can somehow convert swords into plowshares. Yet the very founding and the history of this country demonstrates the creative possibilities of America. We are a nation which is known for realizing impossible dreams. Ours is a nation which in its second century abolished slavery, which many at the time considered impossible. Ours is a nation where women won the right to vote, which many at the time considered impossible. Ours is a nation which institutionalized the civil rights movement, which many at the time considered impossible. If we have the courage to claim peace, with the passion, the emotion and the integrity with which we have claimed independence, freedom and, equality we can become that nation which makes non-violence an organizing principle in our society, and in doing so change the world.
That is the purpose of HR 2459. It is a bill to create a Department of Peace. It envisions new structures to help create peace in our homes, in our families, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, and in our nation. It aspires to create conditions for peace within and to create conditions for peace worldwide. It considers the conditions which cause people to become the terrorists of the future, issues of poverty, scarcity and exploitation. It is practical to make outer space safe from weapons, so that humanity can continue to pursue a destiny among the stars. HR 3616 seeks to ban weapons in space, to keep the stars a place of dreams, of new possibilities, of transcendence.
We can achieve this practical vision of peace, if we are ready to work for it.
People worldwide need to be meet with likeminded people, about peace and nuclear disarmament, now.
People worldwide need to gather in peace, now.
People worldwide need to march and to pray for peace, now.
People worldwide need to be connecting with each other on the web, for peace, now.
We are in a new era of electronic democracy, where the world wide web, numerous web sites and bulletin boards enable new organizations, exercising freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, to spring into being instantly. Thespiritoffreedom.com is such a web site. It is dedicated to becoming an electronic forum for peace, for sustainability, for renewal and for revitalization. It is a forum which strives for the restoration of a sense of community through the empowerment of self, through commitment of self to the lives of others, to the life of the community, to the life of the nation, to the life of the world.
Where war making is profoundly uncreative in its destruction, peacemaking can be deeply creative. We need to communicate with each other the ways in which we work in our communities to make this a more peaceful world. I welcome your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.thespiritoffreedom.com. We can share our thoughts and discuss ways in which we have brought or will bring them into action.
Now is the time to think, to take action and use our talents and abilities to create peace:
in our families.
in our block clubs.
in our neighborhoods.
in our places of worship.
in our schools and universities.
in our labor halls.
in our parent-teacher organizations.
Now is the time to think, speak, write, organize and take action to create peace as a social imperative, as an economic imperative, and as a political imperative. Now is the time to think, speak, write, organize, march, rally, hold vigils and take other nonviolent action to create peace in our cities, in our nation and in the world. And as the hymn says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
This is the work of the human family, of people all over the world demanding that governments and non-governmental actors alike put down their nuclear weapons. This is the work of the human family, responding in this moment of crisis to protect our nation, this planet and all life within it. We can achieve both nuclear disarmament and peace. As we understand that all people of the world are interconnected, we can achieve both nuclear disarmament and peace. We can accomplish this through upholding an holistic vision where the claims of all living beings to the right of survival are recognized. We can achieve both nuclear disarmament and peace through being a living testament to a Human Rights Covenant where each person on this planet is entitled to a life where he or she may consciously evolve in mind, body and spirit.
Nuclear disarmament and peace are the signposts toward the uplit path of an even brighter human condition wherein we can through our conscious efforts evolve and reestablish the context of our existence from peril to peace, from revolution to evolution. Think peace. Speak peace. Act peace. Peace.