10:32 a.m. September 1, 2013

Kucinich: Threat Of False Flag in Syria Greater Than In Any Other War

"Classified briefings are designed to control members of Congress. They are a device to control… it needs to stop."

WASHINGTON - A little before 2 p.m. yesterday, standing in the Rose Garden of the White House, President Obama announced he was seeking congressional approval for an attack on Syria. Two hours earlier, also in Washington DC, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) was telling me what would happen if he didn't.

"[The President] would open himself up to an impeachment on the basis of the Constitution and on the basis of his own analysis," he said, audibly outraged.

The "his own analysis" to which Kucinich was referring is a 2007 interview Obama gave to the Boston Globe, where the future president said "the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Kucinich continued: "I'm not calling for his impeachment; I'm not advocating for his impeachment, but it is a clear and factual assessment that any president who uses the war power without consulting with Congress risks impeachment and this has nothing to do with Democrat, Republican, right, left - it's about the Constitution of the United States. And the administration and the president have shown a depressing lack of concern about the Constitution, and this isn't the first time."

Kucinich's distrust of Obama's decision-making on Syria can be traced back to Libya. "Congress was in session!" he begins. "He made the decision around St. Patrick's Day. I actually saw him at a reception right behind the House of Representatives in the Rayburn Room, and the president was seated next to the Speaker of the House, and on the way out the door, we just exchanged pleasantries, you know, 'How you doing?' and he said, 'I've got some things I have to take care of,' just generally speaking. And then I found out what he was taking care of was getting ready to take us into a war against Libya."

Retelling the story, Kucinich still sounds amazed. "I talked to the Speaker of the House afterwards, who had sat next to the president for about an hour and a half. I asked him 'Did he say anything to you?' - I'm on pretty good terms with Mr. Boehner, even though we didn't vote alike - he said 'No, he didn't tell me anything about it,' and he's Speaker of the House. So he could've engaged Congress, but he didn't - on Libya. And you know we had the big debate later on, which I was instrumental on helping bring to the floor, but by then the defense had already moved forward and once they move forward, you can't recall the missiles or drone strikes."

If Kucinich pictures President Obama as the power-tripping quarterback of the high school football team, he is himself the activist at the sit-in, holding a hand-painted sign. A highly visible anti-war politician (and current Fox News contributor), he laughs in disbelief while explaining the many things that he vehemently believes to be wrong about foreign policy during the last decade. But the laughs quickly dissolve into pained sighs. Kucinich sounds like a heartbroken man.

"I watched Secretary of State Kerry's presentation yesterday, and the fundamental flaw in the logic of the administration is there isn't any definitive proof that Assad knew about the chemical weapons attack or caused it to happen. [Kerry] basically charged that," Kucinich huffed. "In terms of the discussion between two Syrian military officials that was overheard or intercepted… it appears to be them denying that either had anything to do with initiating an attack."

"But beyond that," Kucinich returns to his main point, "this isn't even a close question - the Constitution requires the president to come to Congress to get approval to do anything. And when the president speaks in terms of his own certainty and his own determination and things like 'I meant what I said,' 'I have not made a final decision,' - well, it's not his [decision] alone to make. The Constitution - Article 1, Section 8 - makes it very clear that the Founders put the war power in the hands of the Congress," Kucinich says this slowly, as if he can't believe he has to.

"When you look at the fact that in the UK, the Parliament was heard from and caused Cameron to call a meeting at which time they decided no, and Cameron couldn't get the votes, and he accepted that. One of the reasons why he couldn't get the votes, in his comments afterwards, he essentially said, there wasn't any smoking piece of evidence, there was no smoking gun. Now, if a debate over factual considerations that relate to involvement in a war resulted in a 'no' vote in the Parliament, why would this administration accelerate an effort to go to war, deliberately ignoring the congress of the United States? I see this as constitutional crisis."

Because Kucinich is a true believer, he never runs out of things to say. His endless streams of thought about foreign policy weave seamlessly into his thoughts about economics and class the general spirit of the country.

"When you have real power, you don't have to remind anybody about it," Kucinich explains to me. "The whole world knows that America has great military power and economic power. But with that comes responsibilities for restraint and for wisdom, and we're not seeing that right now." He continues, "When I think of what's happening in the broader region, with Al Qaeda having taken Iraq to chaos and the Taliban clearly being ascendant in Afghanistan and war lords having taken over Libya with Al Qaeda's black flag flying over Benghazi once the government was knocked off by the United States, and you look across the entire region, the US policies have been a disaster and have ended up causing people who otherwise would love America to hate America. In the name of advancing our values, we've separated our values."

While many American citizens still suffer from recurring nightmares of invasions past in Iraq, for Kucinich the looming probability of military action towards Syria is a far more frightening prospect. "The potential for a false flag in Syria is greater than at any other time that we've gone to war under false pretenses," he tells me. "That is how serious it is… because in Syria, you have so many different players that could be motivated to try to drag the US into a conflict in that region. There are so many different intelligence groups that are out there who can act as agents provocateurs. I could name ten off the cuff: you can start with Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and you go to some of the disparate groups that are part of the opposition who would love the US to become their air force, their navy and their army. You can go to Qatar in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. You can look at the jihadists in Iraq who have come into Syria. You can look at Turkey and Israel and the regional interests that are there. There are so many different players - and from Britain and from France - there are so many different players that anybody could have been involved in a chemical attack."

Kucinich's speech slows a bit, "Now, look, in the instant case where there's intelligence intercepted - the conversation was them denying that they initiated the attack. In that kind of confusion the last thing that we need to do is to inject ourselves and expand the war, which any kind of US action will do. It will trigger actions all over the world in opposition to the US. So, we're not helping people in doing this. This whole idea of humanitarian war needs to be rejected. There's nothing humanitarian about war. The world community has an obligation to respond when it can come to an agreement, but if it can't, it can't. And there's a point at which we in America have to make a decision that we're not going to be the policemen of the world, because the minute that we decide we are, that then gives us some kind of a franchise or an entitlement to go in anytime we want anywhere. No, no - we can't afford it spiritually, financially, morally - it cannot be afforded. Even with great power, there are limitations to the use of power."

I wrap up with Kucinich at around11:30 a.m. At about 1:45 p.m., Obama confirms he will go to Congress after all. Will Kucinich be satisfied after all? He calls me after 6 p.m., his tone less bombastic, more measured.

"It's appropriate to go to Congress," he says of Obama's decision. "Now there has to be an open discussion. No 'secret evidence,' presented to Congress - that's not acceptable. When you have a cause for war, everything has to be out there in the open. This idea of classified briefings that they take Congress in and they don't tell the American people - that doesn't wash, not at all. At this point, that is deception."

We hang up, but he calls me again a little while later. He apologizes for bothering me. "There was something I forgot about classified briefings," he says. "Classified briefings are designed to control members of congress. They make them sign an oath that they are not going to release any information. They are used to keep members shut down from talking. They are a device to control. And then things are given to the media and members can't discuss it because it's confidential." Kucinich continues, "They are told purposely misleading things, and it's considered to be a modus operandi in any administration, and it needs to stop. There needs to be a direct challenge to secret information. This is yesterday's approach to government."

This time, Kucinich says he really has to go. He's walking to his seats at the baseball game. He apologizes one final time for calling. "But Olivia," he says, "This is really important."