Department of Peace by 2005? |

Department of Peace by 2005?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, believes peace on Earth is a requisite for human survival.

With that in mind, he introduced a bill Tuesday that would establish a Cabinet-level Department of Peace, designed to promote peace through mediation and education from the community to international levels. The department would not only address war, he said – although war is on the forefront of many people’s minds – but also would address domestic violence, human rights and hate crimes.

Most importantly, it would give the president another option to consider when dealing with domestic and international challenges.

“We need to learn to solve our differences with our minds,” said Katherine Benziger, a self-proclaimed active pacifist from Wildernest who attended an informational meeting about the bill Tuesday. “We need to move beyond solving our differences with our fists. But we do not have anything in government that speaks to that.”

The bill has the support of 47 other congressional leaders – all Democrats – including Mark Udall, who represents Summit County in District 2.

Creating a new department, Kucinich estimates, would cost about $8 billion, or 2 percent of the defense budget. Kucinich presented the bill in July 2001, but it lost momentum after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The current war in Iraq and the presidential administration’s policies make this the perfect time to introduce such legislation, he said.

“This is a perfect time to question the assumptions we have about our culture, our society and the world as to whether war should be considered inevitable,” he said. “Is there another way of proceeding? Is there a path we can take to make it possible to play a leading role in the world without having to project our armed forces?

“The president has very difficult decisions to make,” he continued. “If his policy makers are individuals who believe war is an acceptable method of policy, how can the president be faulted for pursuing war? He can only make decisions in the context with who’s inside to offer alternatives. If he’s given more options, the president can see that peace-making and peace-keeping can be practical. It’s good for the president to have an entire department at his disposal. If he doesn’t have those options, it’s difficult for the president to do anything other than use military might. We have to hold open the possibility that the president would have considered another path if the Department of Peace was there.”

Kucinich said war is an outdated method of achieving goals.

“We’re going against the tide of history, of human unity,” he said. “We are creating circumstances that are inappropriate for the 21st century. War should not be happening.”

He also said the current administration’s policies put Americans at risk.

“At a moment when all things could fall apart, the U.S. endorses principles of violence,” he said. “That resonates around the world. We’re not the only nation that could take a preemptive strike. We influence the world community. We need to stop and reflect on the direction we’re going. This is a turning point in our nation and the world. There’s no question we can win the war. The question is, “Can we win peace?’ I’m very concerned about where this world is headed.”

Peace is needed now more than ever, he said, largely because of the number of nations with destructive capabilities. According to Kucinich, 17 nations have or are seeking nuclear capabilities, 20 have or hope to attain biological weapons and 26 are pursuing chemical weapons. Seventeen have the weapons to deliver chemical and biological agents.

Additionally, Kucinich cited a Yale University analysis that indicated the cost of freeing and rebuilding Iraq could be between $1.6 billion and $1.9 billion.

“When Americans learn that the things they’re concerned about – education, health care, the economy – are about to be swept aside for a war, the Department of Peace will be practical.”

Kucinich said he’s not sure if the bill will be well-received at the White House, but he wants to give the president more options.

“If the president doesn’t want to use it, he doesn’t have to,” Kucinich said. “But if he asked for advice, you could change the country, and you could change the world. That’s what this is all about. This could be a new beginning.”

Such new beginnings, however, take time, Benziger said.

“Maybe by 2005, 2006, it could be reality,” she said. “It isn’t likely to happen under the Republican administration. But if we can build it, the population begins to look at it as an option.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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