Friday, September 07, 2007

Dennis Kucinich Making Middle East Peace

From the Kucinich Website:
While the other leading candidates for the Presidency were spending the Labor Day weekend campaigning at picnics, barbeques, state and county fairs, and parading in front of the cameras, YOUR candidate, Dennis Kucinich, without fanfare, was quietly traveling throughout the troubled Middle East in search of real-world solutions to monumental, global challenges.

The votes we cast next year will have an impact here in the United States and around the world, and the candidate we elect must be equipped to make sound foreign policy decisions, based on first hand experience and in-person communications with other world leaders.

So, while other candidates partied and picnicked and posed, Dennis and Elizabeth traveled to a troubled, dangerous region of the world to meet with heads of state and other political leaders to find ways to solve the problems, mitigate the dangers, and find common ground for diplomatic cooperation - and PEACE.

"Strength through Peace" - the Kucinich philosophy - means direct engagement, diplomacy, adherence to international law and upholding treaties. It was in that spirit that Dennis and Elizabeth decided to visit the Middle East; to see whether political and religious leaders as well as the citizens of the region were open to the kind of positive dialogue recommended in the Baker Hamilton report. The kind of dialogue ignored and dismissed by the White House.

The six day trip started in Syria. In the Golan region, they visited the site of the "Shouting Valley" where Syrians whose families were separated by the occupation have to literally shout to each other across a distance of several hundred yards in order to maintain family and personal contact.

Syria has accepted and settled more than one and a half million refugees from Iraq. Dennis and Elizabeth visited an area on the Syrian-Iraqi border, as well as one neighborhood in Damascus where some of the Iraqis had settled. The Syrian government is providing free education and healthcare. "People are desperate," said Dennis. "They have lost loved ones in the war. They have nothing but the clothes on their back. This is a profound humanitarian gesture on the part of this country because it significantly increases the population of Syria. Now, someone must provide for these refugees."

On the second day, there was an extended meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They discussed a wide range of other matters including building relations between Syria and the United States, the role of the European community in negotiations between Syria and Israel, hopes for a national unity government in Lebanon, matters affecting Pakistan, and Assad's stated desire for a peace agreement with Israel.

Elizabeth met with the President's British-born wife, with whom she shares an interest in community economic development, education and the welfare of refugees.

One of the most moving parts of their trip was a visit to the holy site of Notre Dame de Saydanaya, a revered Christian mecca where legend says the Virgin Mary appeared 1,500 years ago, fully veiled Muslim women worship together with Christians. "In this time of religious strife, it is important to bear witness to places that show the way of peace," Elizabeth observed.

Peace and harmony in the Axis of Evil?? Would that message be seen on American TV? No.

Next, Dennis and Elizabeth visited Lebanon. There, Dennis met with President Emil Lahoud and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora where further discussions centered on resolving the conflict with Israel and issues surrounding stability in Lebanon.

President Lahoud was specific about the challenge of Shiites having resigned from the government: "Lebanon is governed by a consensus on every issue. To have this we must have the three main religious groups represented equally (Shiites, Sunnis and Maronites). When one group leaves, you cannot have a legal government."

And, in what may be a surprise to many here at home, there is a surprisingly large American population in Lebanon. How large? About 50,000, many of them active in "Democrats Abroad Lebanon", a branch of the Democratic Party's official overseas arm. Those U.S. citizens were thrilled to have a chance to meet Dennis and Elizabeth at a special evening meeting, and they used the event to kick-off their plans for getting Americans in the country to vote in Democrats Abroad's delegate selection process to choose delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention next year in Denver.

Lebanon's leading Christian cleric, Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronite Church met with Dennis and Elizabeth. Cardinal Sfier is no stranger to U.S. politics. He has met with George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condaleeza Rice in Washington. As the leader of a large segment of an ethnically and religious diverse nation, he told the Kuciniches, "We have to appreciate living together with persons who are not of our faith and working with them to achieve a common good."

Dennis and Elizabeth also made plans to return to Qana, the site of heavy fighting during last year's war and to participate in a televised 'Town Hall forum' in downtown Beirut with residents of the city.

Dennis, who will be returning to the U.S. in the next few days, summed up the trip this way: "I believe that through direct communication, there is hope for peace. The world is ready to embrace America again. It is important that America reaches out to show our true values, our compassion and our willingness to work for peace."

When he and Elizabeth return, he will provide a more detailed description of their travels and a more comprehensive assessment of his political and diplomatic findings.

Strength through Peace,
Kucinich for President 2008

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