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Going Green: An Interview with Cynthia McKinney

By: 
Jared Ball
Date Published: 
June 01, 2008

Cynthia McKinney, a former six term Congresswoman from Georgia, is running for the presidential nomination of the Green Party. As a member of Congress she was one of the most outspoken critics of the US government’s “war on terror,” introducing Articles of Impeachment for George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. In addition to continuing to speak out against the war, she has focused on exposing institutional racism, and the destruction of the environment. She was interviewed for Left Turn by DC activist and local radio show host Jared Ball.

Jared Ball: would you briefly outline why you are running for the presidential nomination of the Green Party? What is the purpose behind that campaign and why are you different from the major candidates that we have been inundated with over the last few months?Cynthia McKinney: This is about family, this is about our future, this is about young people. When I look out I see that there’s no end to US militarism, there’s no end in sight for the wars that we’re involved in, the American people still don’t have single-payer health care, there has not been a rollback on the infringement of our civil liberties and a restoration of the Bill of Rights, our fiscal house is not in order, and even as we talk about voting, we can rest assured that all of our votes are not going to be counted, and nobody’s talking about that!

We have yet to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Instead, we have people like former President Clinton investing in the selection of ethanol as the energy source for the future, but ethanol pits the land that we use to feed ourselves against land use for energy purposes. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised at the exorbitant rise in prices of food, because now we’re pitting fuel versus food. There’s not been a sufficient discussion of green technology, green jobs, investment in US infrastructure, and employment for US residents.

I just came back from Mexico City, where there is real political opposition, where people in the face of the election theft in 2006 shut down the city for five months. Now they are fighting the passage of NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], a piece of legislation that was a result of the Clinton administration and the Democratic Congress.

NAFTA has cost the people of Mexico. Three million people have left the agricultural sector, which is responsible for feeding the people of Mexico and helping to feed us. They’ve left because of the scarcity of jobs and the choices that were made for the Mexican people by people in the US. Now, the Mexican Congress has been shut down completely by its opposition members who have declared the Congress closed rather than take up legislation to privatize Mexico’s oil resources in Pemex [Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state run oil company].

Because of NAFTA, the American people have lost jobs, and as a result of losing our jobs, we’ve also lost our manufacturing infrastructure. We’ve lost our ability to earn the kind of wages that keep us above the poverty level. So instead of us talking about a minimum wage, the Democratic Congress ought to be talking about a living wage. But there’s no discussion of that.

And in the midst of people losing their homes, due to predatory lending, we now have some people suggesting public policy that will destroy houses, because now there’s this thought that in order to prevent the total collapse of housing prices, we’ve got to destroy excess housing stock. All of this is being discussed and I guarantee you that these things will become public policy, and not only will the American people be affected, but people around the world will be affected because of what we failed to do in this country.

And all I’m asking people in this country to do is think critically and analytically and vote independently. At some point, we have got to put justice on the table. At some point, we have got to end the racial disparities - those racial disparities that have been institutionalized. And the way we do business in this country has to be deinstitutionalized as a result of public policy.

Frederick Douglass said that power concedes nothing without a demand. So this Green Party run is my attempt to place a demand on the system for justice, to place a demand on the system for peace, to place a demand on the system for fairness. And if we’re going to have a discussion of race and gender, let it be related to the public policy that we are going to see implemented.JB: I’ve been thinking that a lot of what you’re talking about—ending militarism and the impact that militarism has on people here—is very similar to what Dr. King said about the bombs dropping in Vietnam exploding at home. I was thinking about how AFRICOM [US Africa Command] is being set up around the continent of Africa, being headed up by a black general who hails from Morgan State University where I now teach. As someone that tries to deal a lot with pan-Africanism, how does that issue relate again to your campaign?CM: Well, we know that the United States military isn’t going to Africa for altruistic purposes. If it were, then they would be invited there. But very few African states even want to host the United States military because they understand what this will entail. I have likened the US foreign policy with respect to Africa’s resources to a situation like the “wild, wild west” where you had these independent entrepreneurs who were willing to go into Africa and provide arms and weapons so that Africans could kill each other while they escaped in the background with Africa’s wealth.

And so now, while it will not be as loosely organized as was the “wild, wild west,” it will be more organized. It will be organized theft. And that’s what AFRICOM represents, the growing dependence of the United States on all of the resources of the African continent, from its hydroelectric potential - which the Congo River I’m told alone can supply the electricity needs of Western Europe - to its uranium, its tungsten, and titanium. This is of course in addition to its gold, its diamonds, everything that Africa is blessed with. The problem is the greed of some people who are not willing to pay a fair price. They don’t want trade with Africa, they want to steal from Africa and they’ve got the US military to back them up in the process.

That’s what we’ve seen everywhere, from the Rwanda genocide, to the outrageous behavior of the Revolutionary United Front under Fode Sankoh in Sierra Leone, to Liberia, to US policy in support of apartheid South Africa, to the attempts to keep Angola and Mozambique under colonialism so that the US would have access to its resources. We have a National Security memorandum written by Henry Kissinger talking about ensuring continued US access to Africa’s resources. JB: You’ve said things like Single Payer, which I know neither of the two dominant democratic candidates have uttered as a phrase yet in terms of health care. You talked about the issue of the voting machine counting, also another issue I’ve not heard them raise. Certainly everything you’ve discussed with AFRICOM is something we’ve not heard discussed by the major candidates and even your discussion of NAFTA is not often connected to the legacy of the Clintons.

So I appreciate you again expanding the range of the debate. Could you go ahead and remind people how they can get in touch with your campaign?CM: Please visit runcynthiarun.org for more information. But the list of demands that we have to put forward - first and foremost – [is that] our votes have got to be counted. And we have to assert our rights to education, housing, health care, a livable wage, freedom from police terror, racism, Islamaphobia, homophobia, gentrification, and how dare the US not support the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights. We’ve got to repeal the PATRIOT ACT, the Secret Evidence Act, the Military Commissions Act, and we also need to repeal NAFTA, CAFTA, [and] the US-Peru and US-Colombia trade agreements that are now before the Congress.

Can you imagine that even today women go to work, perform the same work as men, and don’t get equal pay for equal work? Some places don’t even have the right to unionize. And of course we must put reparations on the table. At some point we need to discuss reparations and the release of political prisoners. I was just there in Philadelphia at the Mumia protest and once again a political prisoner has found an exception made in his case to normal jurisprudence. It’s wrong!

We’ve got to end the “war on drugs,” and we have to treat those who have addictions as having health problems, not as prisoners. We need to give people their voting rights back and then of course we must respect this earth with clean air, clean land, and clean water. Jared Ball’s radio show, Jazz and Justice, airs Mondays from 1-3 PM and can be heard live online at http://www.wpfw.org and is archived at http://www.voxunion.com. Voxunion.com is home of Organized Community of United People (Organized COUP), a group of Washington, DC based activists working to effect positive change in communities of color through media and education.Special thanks to Heather Pankl for transcription.