Johan Galtung and Dennis Kucinich discuss the proposal for a Department of Peace
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. Now joining us on The Real News is Congressman Dennis Kucinich. He’s a former presidential candidate. He was reelected to the seventh term in Congress representing the 10th District of Ohio. And Professor Johan Galtung. Professor Galtung is the founder and acting director of TRANSCEND International, a network dedicated to mediation and conflict resolution. He’s also the author of the book The Fall of the US Empire – And Then What?. So before we get to “And Then What”, go back to the beginning. When did you make the Department of Peace proposal formally, and where is it at?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): On July 11, fully two months before 9/11, I introduced legislation in the Congress to create a Cabinet-level department of peace that would seek to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our society. And it would do it through a practical application of principles to deal with the crisis, the tragedy in our society of domestic violence—spousal abuse, child abuse, violence in the school, gang violence, gun violence, racial violence, violence against gays. We have this tendency in our society towards violence, which I believe is learned, and which I think people can learn to take a different direction that would be more temperate and nonviolent if we have structures in our society that can help educate children and provide vehicles for people to be able to resolve their differences.
JAY: So this began for you more as a domestic issue than international relations issue.
KUCINICH: It actually began as an international relations issue, because I looked at what the United States was doing in bombing Serbia in 1999. I took exception to that. I thought that with a tremendous peace movement and a movement to rebuild the civic life in Serbia, represented by people out in the streets, that we should not be trying to do anything that would undermine them, or worse, put their lives in jeopardy. So I learned a lot about how ready members of Congress seem to have been to justify war of any kind. And so that got me thinking about war in general, about how in the 20th century over 100 million people perished in wars during the 20th century, and most of the people who perished were civilian noncombatants. So I started to think about is there a way to set up a structure in our society where we can tame this impulse towards violence, where we can do it in a systematic way, where we can help people whose work it is right now to address those issues.
JAY: Professor, we’ve had 2000 years, at least, of various governments proclaiming to be Christian, to believing in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and war after war after war. Everyone says they’re for peace, and there’s been lots of structures created to promote peace. In terms of the roots of violence, how are you going to get at that?
PROF. JOHAN GALTUNG, FOUNDER, TRANSCEND INTERNATIONAL: I think you can say that in all religions there is a hard version, hard reading, and a gentle reading. And if you look at some of the sayings in Deuteronomy and some others, they are pretty hard. If you look at the way the Lord behaves when he punishes we sinners, it’s also quite hard. And then on the other hand you have the Sermon on the Mount, often quoted, and you have others that you can pick up as examples of a gentle reading. And in the United States it would be the American prince [sic], the Quakers, the Mennonites, the Anabaptists who particularly had picked up that. Now, in the US, I think a little bit unfortunately, the hard reading has been the majority reading. That has something to do with 1620, the kind of people who were on the boats.
JAY: But it’s not only the US. I mean, the Europeans have been extremely talented at killing each other for hundreds of years. Perhaps nobody has slaughtered each other as much as the Europeans have.
GALTUNG: Absolutely. Absolutely. But we have found something now in the European Community union. Forget about the euro crisis right now. I mean, the idea of finding something that somehow integrates the countries, we found that in the Nordic union much earlier, after 800 years of warfare. Don’t believe that we Nordics are born with fish blood in the veins and no passions and so on. And, of course, some of the background is the same, the one I quoted. Now, Rep. Kucinich mentioned Serbia. And in Serbia, the opposite of war is not disarmament; the opposite is conflict resolution. The point is to find out what’s the underlying conflict and can you solve it. Well, the Albanians were the majority, and in my view had all rights to an independent Kosova (in Albanian pronunciation), but they couldn’t take the Serbs with them. And that was the northern part. They had at least as a minimum right the autonomy in that part, like in Switzerland is organized. So a resolution would be a system of cantons, majority cantons Albanian. Others will be three Serbian. And that will be encased in a kind of community of Serbia, Kosovo/Kosova, to take both pronunciations, and Albania. So [inaudible] work in our non-governmental mediation.
JAY: Well, before we came to do the interview, I was watching C-SPAN, and one of the representatives came up—and I’m sorry I don’t have his name, but they were talking about open bidding for the new fighter engine, and essentially more of the debate of how can I get more military spending in my state versus some other state. And, Dennis, you got up afterwards and talked about caring for the earth, and if we can’t care for the earth and nature, how are we going to care for each other. There’s quite a contradiction in objectives in the statements. How do you have a Department of Peace without unraveling how much economic interest there is in the United States in war?
KUCINICH: The instruments of war, the more they proliferate, the more likely it is they’ll be used. And there’s no question that our economy is built so much upon the instruments of war. And it is noteworthy that our United States budget, which we are famously underfunding education, social welfare programs, seems to have unlimited amounts of money for building up military.
GALTUNG: And as Mark Twain says, to he who has a hammer, all problems look like nails.
KUCINICH: The more that we use the weapons, the more likely it is that we’re going to end up in conflict. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
JAY: Seeing as we’ve started with Mark Twain, there’s another quote. He says—I’m not getting it exactly right, but it’s pretty close. He said, yes, there were lies, but they were lies in a good cause, he says as a parody towards the warmongers. How do you break through this American mythology that this fighting’s in a good cause?
KUCINICH: Well, the big lie is that we’re not capable of peace. The big lie is that war is inevitable. War is not inevitable. Peace is inevitable if we are willing to go about the painstaking work of human relations, what Franklin Roosevelt called the science of human relations, it’s up to us to work on a daily basis in building. But the weapons make it very easy to just dispense with diplomacy and go right to conflict. And that’s a problem.
GALTUNG: Let me take an example that, if you take Israel Palestine. What we have been doing with hundreds of dialogs in the area is to come up with a six-state solution: Israel with the five surrounding Arab countries. That means Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine recognized, and Egypt, after the model of the European Community in 1958, which integrated Germany (that had been somewhat problematic) on a line, a trajectory that has been marvelous in terms of avoiding war and building friendship. I see that as very viable and would like to see it pursued. And, you see, a Department of Peace could have all these peace options and look at them as much as the Pentagon would look at the military options. And it would be a balance. And, of course, the secretary would be present with the defense secretary [inaudible] have some interesting debates at government meetings, I would imagine.
KUCINICH: That’s exactly right.
GALTUNG: And that’s exactly the point, just like we have those countries now a department of the environment who will then have the opposing voice to the department of industry. And it’s that kind of dialog of opposites in search of resolution that is the basis of democracy.
JAY: Okay. In the next segment of our interview, let’s talk about how you think we get there from here. So please join us for the next segment of this interview on The Real News Network.
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