Despite Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich saying a Syrian media report “mischaracterized” a press conference he gave while on a “fact-finding” trip to Syria, video footage of an interview he gave on Syrian television while in Syria clearly shows Kucinich being deferential to and even laudatory of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
In an exclusive video obtained by The Daily Caller, Kucinich openly praises Assad, whose regime has reportedly killed over 1,300 demonstrators and injured many more since protests against the dictatorship began earlier this year. (Report says Kucinich praised Syrian dictator, congressman says statement ‘mischaracterized’)
“What I learned from my meeting with President Assad is that he does care about what’s happening, that he wants to respond, that he’s thinking about the different ways that would be the best way to address the needs of the people,” Kucinich said in the interview, video of which was provided to TheDC by The Middle East Media Research Institute. “And that’s what he’s talking about. He’s talking about the people. He’s very engaged in that kind of a discussion. And frankly, that’s a positive development.”
Kucinich does note that there is a democratic movement afoot in Syria, but says that the government is responding appropriately.
“There are great democratic aspirations for freedom. And it’s part of this desire for freedom which is really sweeping the region and the world. And that the government is listening to the people,” Kucinich said. “But you’re at the point right now where it must, from what I’ve seen, the government shows a willingness to listen, shows a desire to help the people, work with the people to bring about change.”
Kucinich appears on the video very accepting of the investigation he was told the Syrian government is launching into the violence, even though Syria is a closed society with no institutions to hold the government accountable.
“And that’s why you have an investigation in Syria, that the government has supported, to find out how did the violence occur,” Kucinich said.
When pressed by the interviewer to say that any changes that occur in Syria must not come about from outside pressures, Kucinich concurs, saying that the United States still needs a lot of work even after 200 years.
“There is no rushing. You have to unfold democratic traditions,” he said. “We’re still working on it in our own United States, after you know, more than 230 some years. So I think, though, that while one cannot be rushed into it, it’s important not to try to set back reforms that can be brought about now.”
When asked by the interviewer whether it is correct to say there is an unfair image of President Assad outside Syria, Kucinich merely responds by saying image problems are part of the nature of leading.
“In the affairs of state, it’s not unusual for one day a leader to be in a negative light, and the next day, they are in the positive light,” he said.
It is unclear if the Syrian television interview is the “press conference” the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported about on Tuesday. While Kucinich said the SANA report mistranslated and “misquoted” him, the Syrian television video reveals that Kucinich’s remarks were not too different than what he was reported to have said at the press conference.
While the video was clearly edited down, Kucinich’s quotes do not appear to be taken out of context.
When contacted by TheDC for comment, Kucinich’s office sent a press release in which the congressman urges diplomacy, condemns the violence in Syria and says his trip to Syria has begun to pay dividends.
“I don’t support the violence, I don’t condone the violence and by direct appeal to President Assad and in supporting those who are seeking freedom and serious reforms, I am working to end the violence,” he said in the statement. “I appealed to President Assad to remove his forces from the cities. He told me he would, and today we learned that he has begun to do just that.”
Congressman Kucinich: There are great democratic aspirations for freedom. This is part of this desire for freedom, which is really sweeping the region and the world. The government is listening to the people.
There has to be an agreement between the opposition and the government. When those agreements start to come together, things will change. I have no doubt that they will change. But you’re at the point right now where it must… From what I have seen, the government shows a willingness to listen, and shows a desire to help the people, and to work with the people to bring about change. That is a good sign. It’s a precondition for change. You have to have a willingness. If the willingness is there, perhaps the aspirations of the people will be realized. The fact that you can have opposition meeting in downtown Damascus, openly – whether the meeting is open or not is another matter, but they’re meeting… That’s important. That shows that people are stretching those freedom aspirations, and saying: It’s different now, we’re going to meet publicly. This is what we think. Then, in that manner, people will keep informing the government of the way they want things to go, and the government will have to respond. Again, it’s a process. We can’t make any final judgments on things, but we have to be aware that something is happening. So I came here because I think that what happens in Syria is critical, not only for this region – for every nation in the region – but it is critical to the world. If you see a nation where the people are striving for democratic change, and where the government appears to be ready to respond – that is very important.
Any time you have ferment in a nation. Anytime you have masses of people coming together, there is always the possibility that someone may have an agenda that is different than most of the opposition, and that may be an agenda that is different from the government’s. So one must be aware of the possibilities. I don’t have any information about this, but it’s something that is a cautionary thing, just to be aware of, that is always possible. One must be aware, so that when you see events unfold, you know if there’s anything… if there is any catalyst for an event that could not have been predicted because it is like a third party intervention.
Reporter: It caters to a different agenda.
Congressman Kucinich: Yes, and so we have to be aware of that, that it is possible. Do I know that it happened? No, I don’t know that. That is why you have an investigation, in Syria, that the government has supported, to find out how the violence occurred.
I think it is important for members of Congress to have an understanding of the process that is going on here – that people are seeking freedom of expression, and are seeking the realization of their democratic aspirations, but that the government is listening, that it is not dismissing it, that it is not unaware. What I learned from my meeting with President Assad is that he does care about what’s happening, that he wants to respond, that he’s thinking about the different ways that would be… the best way to address the needs of the people. And that’s what he is talking about. He’s talking about the people. He’s very engaged in that kind of a discussion. Frankly, that’s a positive development. How it plays out we can’t predict. It is going to be very important that the opposition and the government talk to each other, and then chart a course together. That is something that is up to the Syrian people. Do I think that’s possible? It’s possible, of course it’s possible, but Syria has to go down a long road right now. But it should go down that road, with encouragement.
Reporter: And not be rushed into it, I think that is very important.
Congressman Kucinich: There is no rushing. You have to unfold…
Reporter: Due to outside pressures…
Congressman Kucinich: You have to unfold democratic traditions. We’re still working on it, in our own United States, after more than some 230 years. So I think, though, that while one cannot be rushed into it, it is important not to try to set back reforms that can be brought about now.
Reporter: There is a very unfair image of President Assad in the West and in America at the moment, wouldn’t you say?
Congressman Kucinich: In the affairs of state, it is not unusual for a leader to be in a negative light one day, and the next day, they are in a positive light.