Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich stood on the House floor Tuesday to denounce the war in Iraq. The 56-year-old former "boy mayor" of Cleveland, now a four-term Ohio congressman, won praise from 2000 Green Party candidate Ralph Nader for saying Iraq was not responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Kucinich is positioning himself as the "peace candidate" for 2004 -- a la George McGovern in the 1972 president election -- but is anyone in his splintered Democratic Party listening?
McGovern won the presidential nomination on a peace in Vietnam platform that forced the premature retirement of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. But McGovern was defeated in a landslide by Richard Nixon.
The political Web site Politics1 says Kucinich likely will end up as the 2004 nominee of the Natural Law Party, which advocates a ban on genetic engineering of food and use of holistic meditation to end war and conflict.
Shades of the "flower power" 1960s: a peace candidate, food supply fears and transcendental meditation. Flashbacks, man!
A posting on the Natural Law Party Web site, natural-law.org, said Kucinich plans to reintroduce a bill Monday to create a cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peace that would be funded at 1 percent of the Pentagon budget. The original Department of Peace legislation (H.R. 2459) -- which went nowhere -- had 44 sponsors, most liberal Democrats, including Rep. James P. McGovern, who worked as an aide in former Sen. George McGovern's office and ran his 1984 presidential campaign in Massachusetts. The two are not related.
Congressman McGovern beat Kucinich to the punch when he took the House floor to call for "real debate about real issues" days before President Bush ordered cruise missiles fired into Baghdad, trying to knock off Saddam Hussein.
U.S. armored troops were on the outskirts of Baghdad Friday.
Since the fighting began, McGovern's mentor, the 80-year-old George McGovern, has been criss-crossing the country speaking his mind about hunger, war, politics and warning that Iraq may be only the beginning.
McGovern's most recent book, last year's "The Third Freedom, Ending Hunger in Our Time," is an outgrowth of his work as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations food programs in Rome.
McGovern wants to globalize U.S. programs for free school lunches, food stamps and Women, Infants and Children nutrition initiatives to flight hunger worldwide and said the Bush administration's justification that "liberating" Iraq by force of arms is humanitarian appeals to him despite his opposition to the war.
"That's one argument that has some appeal to me," McGovern told a forum at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism Thursday. "If it were possible to achieve that in this war, it would be one useful byproduct.
"I'm not sure that the way that you do that is by destroying the country," said the former South Dakota senator.
McGovern fears Iraq will be followed by U.S. intervention in Iran, North Korea and possibly Syria. Damascus received a stern warning from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about providing night vision goggles to Iraqi forces.
McGovern deplored the lack of debate in Congress about pre-emptive U.S. military action, which got more real debate in the parliaments of Turkey and Britain. Former President Jimmy Carter, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner has called the war "unjust," but says he would keep quiet and support the troops.
McGovern supported the 1991 Gulf War to drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
"I think it's too bad because the function of a two-party system is to have two live wire parties that believe in their principles and believe in their programs ... and are willing to stand up and battle," McGovern said. "That's what I think is the genius of the two-party system."
"I don't like this crowd that calls themselves neo-conservatives. I wouldn't trust them across the room and those are the people who have the ear of the president," he said.
He said "neo-cons" and Rumsfeld were pushing to take advantage of the fact the United States is the world's greatest military power "and anybody who gets in our road we're going to knock down."
Not one of the "sideline warriors" that got us into this war -- with the exception of former Gen. Colin Powell -- has ever been near a battlefield, McGovern, a World War II fighter pilot said. "And that's why I detest this needless, unnecessary and unjust war."
He suggested Saddam Hussein should have remained contained, just like in the Cold War when America contained more dangerous dictators and regimes in the Soviet Union and China.
"I think this (war) is a bad way to bring about the liberation of Iraq," he said. "I would prefer making sure that he's contained. But at the same time taking other initiatives. For example, supposing instead of going to war we had lifted the sanctions on Iraq and permitted them to sell oil and to buy things that they need? You would be justified in not selling armaments or things that could be converted into armaments, but provide other markets the same as we do to other countries. The same as we always did to Russia even during the days of (Josef) Stalin."
Saddam considers Stalin, Russian for "man of steel," a hero.
"What we discovered in that policy with regard to Communist China and Russia, they had governments as brutal as Saddam Hussein, but somehow by bringing them into the family of nations with the passage of time things began to moderate somewhat in both Russia and China."
McGovern said during the Cold War -- a period of nuclear assured mutual destruction -- there were always "hotheads suggesting that we should atomize the Chinese and the Russians before they did it to us.
"Fortunately, those lunatics never came to power either in Russia, or China, or the United States," he said.