interview and bio
follows article below
Pacifica/Flashpoints interview with Congresswoman McKinney
DB: Well, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, it is great to have you with us on Flashpoints. I wanted to follow up on that very powerful commentary with just a few questions that come off speeches you have made from the House floor on related information. First of all, why do you oppose the Rumsfeld 48.1 billion dollar increase in the military budget? What is most troubling about this for you?
CM: It was incredible sitting in the room on the day that secretary Rumsfeld gave his presentation to members of the Armed Services Committee. Of course I serve on the House Armed Services Committee, and every year the Secretary of Defense comes before that Committee with a statement on the budget. Now, the 48.1 billion $ increase that Secretary Rumsfeld requested was interesting because basically what he said was we can afford it. Notwithstanding the fact that the Pentagon has lost 2.3 trillion dollars that we very well cannot afford to have lost
DB: Lost it? Where did they lose it?
CM: Thatís a darn good question. You would think that Arthur Anderson is their accountant over there. They have lost 2.3 trillion dollars, and they don't know where to find that money. And of course the Secretary acknowledged the fact 2.3 trillion dollars remain unaccounted for, but in his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, the Secretary said that the US can afford it. Now, he also said that we have a responsibility in this brave new post September 11 world, to make sure that we can adequately defend ourselves. And what he used as a justification for this unprecedented hike, the biggest hike in a generation, was the fact of the events around September 11. But as you know, and I know, it wasn't the military that failed. It was a failure of people who had information to act.
We know that there were several warnings that were given prior to the events of September 11. From people in Germany to people in the Cayman Islands to people even, now we learn about the owners of the pilot school. People were calling in to the FBI and the CIA and they were giving information that was critical.
Even prior to these warnings we had the trial itself from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. And we had the trial from the American embassy bombing... And now the US government is being sued by survivors of the embassy bombings, because it is clear that America had warnings and did nothing. Did nothing to protect the lives of the people who serve in our foreign service and who serve us in other ways in our embassies around the world. Now the US government is being sued, and we're gonna have to pay for that, as those families are now paying every day with the loss of their loved ones
There was adequate warning. There were people who failed to act on the warning. And that's what ought to be investigated. But instead of requesting that Congress investigate what went wrong and why, we had president Bush (painful for me to say that, but) we had president Bush placing a call to Majority Leader Senator Tom Daschle asking him NOT to investigate the events of September 11, And then, hot on the heels of the president's phone call was another phone call from the vice president asking that Tom Daschle also not investigate the events that lead to September 11.
My question is, What do they have to hide? And why is it that the American people are being asked to make tremendous sacrifices now in our civil liberties. And the fact that we got this request for an unprecedented hike in -- the hike alone of 48.1 billion dollars is more than any one of our allies spend total on their defense.
And then the other issue that saddens me is the fact that the former President, president Bush's daddy, sits on the board of the Carlyle Group. And so we get this presidency, of questionable legitimacy, requesting a nearly unprecedented amount of money to go into a defense budget for defense spending that will directly benefit his father.
Where are the brakes on transparency and corruption that I see happening as a result of the fact that the president's father stands to make money off of the very requests that the president has made, on what I would call a specious argument saying that we need to increase defense spending because of Sept 11, when we now know that there was enough warning that we didn't have to even experience September 11 at all; at least thatís the way it is now beginning to appear.
DB: How would the father make money on this budget?
CM: the father sits on the board of an organization called the Carlyle Group. Now when we had Frank Carlucci come to testify at the House International Relations Committee shortly after George W was sworn in,
DB: former Defense Secretary
CM: former Defense Secretary -- and we have a requirement that organizations that come before our committee, the House International Relations Committee, have to disclose Federal contracts. And so I requested of our chairman, Chairman Hyde, whether or not the Carlyle Group would be subjected to that requirement, since everyone else has to do it. And of course the Carlyle Group was NOT required to make any disclosure as to the Federal contracts that it had. That in itself means that they are skirting the rules of the House.
Notwithstanding that, the fact that the father sits on the board of the Carlyle Group, which is one of the highest level defense contractors in the country. I think they're number 11 or 12 in defense contracts. And they have at least one program, the Crusader, which doesn't work, it's a weapons system that doesnít work, has experienced tremendous cost overruns, and yet it continues to be funded, and we can only think that it's the heavy hand of very well-placed lobbyists that make sure that weapons systems that are, that have a connection with the Carlyle Group get funded. And even building contracts: bases abroad, all of the bases that we are now looking at, new bases going into Uzbekistan. The positioning of troops in former Soviet Georgia -- those troops are going to have to be housed, fed, and the weapons systems are going to have to be contained, and all of that is money. And sadly the Carlyle Group will benefit from this increase in funding that has been requested by the president.
Interestingly also, and probably the scariest of all, was the new mission, as identified by the Secretary, for our Armed Services. And that is that a major role now for the US military will be to occupy an opponent's capitol and displace its regime.
Now, if that's the mission -- and weíve been told that there are as many as 60 countries around the world that host terror cells that we need to go in and flush out -- then basically what we're talking about is expanding US military presence all over the planet. And that is a frightening experience and a frightening thought for me because I know that if we provide weapons they get used. And if our troops are there, they are going to use those weapons and those weapons that we provide might even be used against our own troops; we have to be very careful about that.
But interestingly the Secretary said that they intend to "drain the swamp", and itís interesting to me that it appears to me that this new mission of our military to go into a capitol and take it over was started in Washington DC.
DB: Final question, Congresswoman McKinney. These are mighty powerful thoughts youíre expressing here. I'm wondering how much support you have in Congress, and perhaps you have heard from people who are quite unhappy with your voicing these kinds of very strong, controversial thoughts.
CM: It's always good to hear from people who think like you. I definitely hear from people who don't think like you. And thatís healthy. Itís a part of the American process. But just as itís healthy for me to hear from people who don't think like me, it's also very healthy for people like me to have a voice and to be willing to speak. And itís totally inappropriate, I believe, for my patriotism to be questioned, my feelings of attachment and loyalty for America to be questioned
DB: Has it been questioned?
CM: You would be surprised at the hate mail that I get in the Congressional office. DB: What do people say to you?
CM: I wish I had a piece right here and I'd read it to you. We got one piece that told me that I needed to go back to Africa and take Jesse with me. it seems that the people who write in find it impossible to omit the fact that I'm black. And so the racial aspect of the hatred also comes out. I can accept people who disagree. But I don't know that we need thought police in our universities, because our universities are supposed to teach freedom of thought. And I don't know that we need thought police and speech police inside the US Congress, because the Congress is supposed to represent Americans of all stripes and all ideologies. And I know that there is a very powerful peace movement in this country . I hear from them, I know they're out there. I'd love to hear a little bit more from them.
DB: Well, we have very much appreciated hearing from you today. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, reading her essay "Thoughts on our war against terrorism", and then speaking with us on Flashpoints here on Pacifica radio. We thank you so much for your time and your good information and commentary.
CM: Thank you very much and I look forward to talking with you again. ******************* I suggest sending colorful, happy cards (postcards?) that can be displayed at her office: 124 Cannon Building Washington, DC 20515 ph 202 225 1605 fax 202 226 0691
Cynthia Ann McKinney
In just five years, Cynthia Ann McKinney, Georgia's first African-American Congresswoman and the only woman serving in the state's congressional delegation, has emerged as an internationally renowned advocate for voting rights, human rights and the strengthening of business ties between Africa and the United States. She is known as a passionate, intelligent, charismatic and effective member of the House of Representatives.
As a Georgia state legislator from 1988 to 1992, Congresswoman McKinney gained national attention because of her determined struggle for a fair and just reapportionment plan in Georgia. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives by a decisive margin in 1992, McKinney has continued that struggle. Her new district, the Fourth Congressional District of Georgia, was redrawn as a result of recent US. Supreme Court decisions challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.
Georgia's Fourth District is one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the southeastern United States. The district comprises parts of DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties, two of the most dynamic and populous counties in the fifteen-county metropolitan Atlanta area. South DeKalb County is home to the most affluent African-American community in the country. Likewise, Gwinnett County has consistently ranked among the top five fastest growing counties in the country.
Congresswoman McKinney's increasing influence on Capitol Hill was acknowledged with her appointment to the powerful and prestigious National Security Committee. She is also a key member of the International Relations Committee, serving on its International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee. For the last five years, the Congresswoman has been the House sponsor of the Arms Transfers Code of Conduct. This much-needed legislation, which aims to prevent the sale of US weapons to dictators, finally passed the House in June 1997. Congresswoman McKinney has also taken a leading role in promoting stronger diplomatic and economic ties with African nations. This year, President Clinton invited Congresswoman McKinney to serve on the official American delegation to the inauguration of Liberian President Charles Taylor. In addition, President Clinton requested that McKinney attend high-level talks to open diplomatic ties with the new Democratic Republic of Congo. At the same time, she has assisted a number of Georgia-based companies in establishing and strengthening trade relations with African nations.
In addition to dutifully serving the needs of her constituents, Congresswoman McKinney has taken a leading role in Democratic politics. In 1993, the Democratic Caucus elected her Whip for Region 8, a leadership position covering the Democratic delegations of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. She was elected secretary of the freshman class by her colleagues in the 103rd Congress and was the first freshman representative to head the Women's Caucus Task Force on Children, Youth and Families. She has served as vice president of the Democratic sophomore class. Congresswoman McKinney is also an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus and works closely with the Hispanic Caucus.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on March 17, 1955, Cynthia currently lives in south DeKalb County. She earned a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California in 1978 and is currently working to complete her dissertation in international relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. In 1984, Cynthia worked as a Diplomatic Fellow at Spelman College in Atlanta. She also taught political science at Clark Atlanta University and later at Agnes Scott College, a women's college in Decatur, Georgia. Before being elected to Congress, Cynthia served on the board of the HIV Health Services Planning Council of Metro Atlanta from 1991-92.
Cynthia is the daughter of veteran Georgia State Representative Billy McKinney and Leola McKinney, a nurse of forty years at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. Cynthia McKinney is the proud mother of a twelve year-old son, Coy McKinney.