WASHINGTON – On the heels of President Bush's request to boost the defense budget by 7 percent, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, joined by other Congress members and celebrity activists, asked lawmakers Tuesday to give the U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence a chance.
"If we had a Department of Peace, we wouldn't be in Iraq or gearing up for war in Iran," said Kucinich, D-Ohio, a 2008 presidential candidate and the measure's original sponsor.
"Peace is an American value," said Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md., who joined Kucinich at a Capitol Hill news conference announcing the proposal.
The bill, first introduced in 2001, aims to create a Cabinet-level department to promote non-violence and reconciliation both domestically and internationally.
Kucinich said the bill asks for at least 1 percent of the defense budget to fund the new agency.
"This isn't just about the United States," said Kucinich. "In the world, there is now a greater need and urgency to move toward peace."
Despite the fanfare, the bill, which supporters say has 52 co-sponsors in the 435-member Congress, is not likely to have a large impact on the war, said Jeffrey Davis, political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"I can't imagine [Kucinich] thinks it has a chance to pass both the House and the Senate and become law," Davis said.
Wynn, who posed for pictures with actor and activist Sean Penn during the Jan. 27 peace rally in Washington, D.C., again joined celebrities from the Peace Alliance, most notably Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix.
Wynn is "a rising star as a peace activist," Kucinich said introducing him.
"A late convert," Wynn joked in reference to his initial vote in favor of the Iraq war.
Wynn can laugh now, but his early position on Iraq nearly cost him his job. In a narrow Democratic primary victory, opponent Donna Edwards made inroads by painting Wynn as being out of touch with his Democratic constituents.
Wynn addressed the need for international peace talks, but unlike previous speakers, focused on the potential for domestic success. Gangs and domestic violence are national problems that can be helped by the Department of Peace, he said.
The Department of Justice looks to solve gang problems using arrests and imprisonment, Wynn said, but the Department of Peace would try to promote reconciliation and use mediation to handle the same problem.
A Department of Peace would not be a substitute for the Department of Defense, but rather a complement, said Marianne Williamson, founder of the Peace Alliance.
"The idea of peace," said Williamson, "is bigger than any one piece of legislation."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.