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Ohio congressman leading the charge to avoid Iraq war


If the groups opposing U.S. intervention in Iraq are playing an outside game -- putting external pressure on members of Congress -- then Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is orchestrating the inside game, working to convince his colleagues that U.S. action against the Baghdad regime “is neither desirable nor inevitable.” It’s a new role for the one-time “boy mayor” of Cleveland -- he was elected to that post more than two decades ago at age 31.

In mid-July, as Bush administration rhetoric targeting Iraq increased, the 56-year-old Kucinich was among the first members of Congress to oppose an attack. He urged the U.S. to “work in coordination with the international community to contain Iraq, and not proceed unilaterally with an unprovoked war.”

Three weeks later he drafted a letter signed by 74 other House Democrats urging the president to seek Congressional approval before launching an attack.

Most recently, Kucinich has launched a series of congressional-hearing-like “briefings” to make the case against intervention. Speakers at these events have included former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter and one-time U.N. assistant general secretary Dennis Halliday. The goal of the briefings, said Kucinich, is to “provide an opportunity for the American people to hear an alternative view.”

From his modest perch as ranking member of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations, Kucinich does not possess the clout of his House leadership colleagues nor the reputation of a keen legislative strategist.

And for all his earnestness and energy, legislative acumen may be what opponents of U.S. policy need most as Congress prepares to consider a Bush administration-backed resolution authorizing the president to attack Iraq.

-- Joe Feuerherd

National Catholic Reporter, September 20, 2002