Reps. Lee, Kucinich call for Peace Dept.

OAKLAND, Calif. – Speaking to a crowd of 200 peace activists March 11, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) took the occasion to condemn the Bush administration’s plans to target seven nations with nuclear weapons.

“To think that the nuclear option is on the table as a viable strategy is terrifying,” said Lee. “We must keep peace out there as an option.”

Kucinich declared, “We have a crisis in the country – a crisis in the the lack of belief in the power of peace. The Bush plan,” he said, “challenges America morally. It raises the question of what America stands for.” Both statements were warmly applauded by the audience gathered to hear about a proposed Cabinet-level Peace Office initiated by Lee and Kucinich.

They were joined in their stand by Jackie Cabasso, spokesperson for the Peoples Non-Violent Response Coalition (PNVRC), organizer of the event, who said, “The U.S. position needs to be condemned today, immediately! We need a Department of Peace, but we need some interim measures in the meantime.” The PNVRC was formed in the wake of the events of Sept. 11 to promote non-violence as the answer to terrorism.

The bill (HR-2459) that would set up the Department of Peace was introduced in Congress on July 11, 2001 by Kucinich; so far there are 61 co-sponsors, including Lee.

The bill would order the federal government to set up a $3 billion a year agency with a Secretary of Peace who would be a member of the President’s Cabinet, and seven assistant secretaries. The mission of the Department would include: hold peace as an organizing principle; endeavor to promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; develop policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, non-violent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict, and structured mediation of conflict.

A national “Peace Day” would be declared as an occasion to urge all citizens to create peace.

The forum was moderated by Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel. Oakland teacher Jessica Wright, also spoke of the need to involve young people in peace work.