Barry Kissin: Trying to rouse the masses to action

March 02, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

The history of the Vietnam War is repeating itself in Iraq, in part because Americans didn't have a national discussion about why the earlier conflict was wrong.

So says Barry Kissin, a 54-year-old Frederick County Democrat running for the 6th District Congressional seat now held by Republican Roscoe Bartlett.

Whatever else he is, Kissin is not a calculating candidate saying things he believes will play well with the voters.

In a visit with Herald-Mail editors this week, Kissin spoke with the fervor of an evangelist who is convinced the congregation isn't listening.

To hear him tell it, political activism is a family tradition that began when his mother turned on the televised 1971 hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. J. William Fulbright.


As a result, Kissin said, his mother joined the Women's Strike for Peace and the family embraced the back-to-the-land movement and purchased a farm in Frederick County.

The Fulbright hearings showed Americans that their government had lied to them about Vietnam, Kissin said, but that knowledge wasn't enough.

"We ended the (Vietnam) war because of the protests, but we never talked to ourselves about what the reasons were," Kissin said.

The U.S. should get out of Iraq now, Kissin said, because "they don't want us there."

Asked if an abrupt pullout might lead to chaos, Kissin said that the Iraqis were better off before the U.S. invasion, even though they bore the brunt of sanctions put in place after the Gulf War.

"Our presence on an ongoing basis is igniting a civil war. Our presence is not a positive, constructive presence," he said.

Asked if getting out could be done easily and safely, Kissin said he believed it could, but had little faith that the Bush administration could do the job efficiently.

The cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is still going on, and not much progress is being made, he said.

Americans will realize that bringing the troops home now makes sense, once their consciousness is raised, he said.

Asked how that consciousness-raising could be accomplished, Kissin said this:

"Write a good article about this conversation."

Kissin believes the controversy over allowing some of the nation's ports to be managed by a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates just shows that the Bush administration is not really concerned about security, or the safety of U.S. troops in Iraq, for that matter.

What seems to matter to this president, Kissin said, is letting no-bid contracts to big business.

"We are engaging in war for profit," he said.

Rep. Bartlett is part of the problem, Kissin said, because he's "smack dab in the middle of the power structure."

Prior to approving the resolution allowing the U.S. to invade Iraq, Kissin said Bartlett told a crowd at Hood College he couldn't support such a move, then did so anyway.

Kissin said Bartlett also talks about the need to use less oil, but hasn't endorsed one possible solution - rationing - brought up repeatedly at a workshop of experts the congressman sponsored.

Asked if the incumbent could be defeated, Kissin's campaign manager, William Lafferman, said that the difference now may be that there are two well-organized Democrats - the other is Andrew Duck - who are ready to contend much earlier than others in the past.

And the time may be right for a change, Kissin said.

"I do think we're at a unique point. People may be ready to consider some fundamental assumptions," he said.

When he announced in November, Kissin called for a 5 percent a year cut in the use of fossil fuels, universal health care through the Medicare system and repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act.

So far in this race, Kissin has not done much campaigning in the traditional sense, telling voters why he would be the best leader. Instead, like an Old Testament prophet, he calls on citizens to wake up, realize what is happening and act. It will be interesting to see how the voters respond.

Bob Maginnis is Editorial Page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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