Four Years of CODEPINK Rabble-Rousing for Peace

by Medea Benjamin Wednesday, Oct. 04, 2006 at 8:17 AM

Medea Benjamin looks back on 4 years of the CODEPINK peace movement.

We started CODEPINK four years ago, shortly after the Bush administration had announced its color-coded alert system. Remember? It was yellow for mellow, orange for high alert, and red was-well, red. We felt the color-coded alerts were a way to manipulate people's post-9/11 fears to justify invading Iraq. We started a new color code, CODEPINK, to say, "Yes, let's bring to justice those who attacked us on 9/11, but let's not wage war on a country that had nothing to do with 9/11." Invading Iraq, as we wrote in a report after our first fact-finding trip to Baghdad before the US invasion, "would be disastrous for the Iraqi people and make us less safe here at home."
Four years later, we have unfortunately been proven all too right. Iraq is indeed a disaster, with some 100 Iraqis dying violent deaths every day. Almost 3,000 of our soldiers have died. We are sinking $8 billion a month into this quagmire, with no end in sight. And we are not, as the recent intelligence report confirms, safer at home.
While many people who joined anti-war rallies early on have since retreated, becoming part of the silent majority who oppose the war, we at CODEPINK have been protesting this war non-stop. We've camped out in the freezing rain outside the White House and in the sweltering heat outside Bush's ranch in Crawford. We went without food for 80 days as part of a fast to bring the troops home. We've stood outside high schools and career fairs encouraging young people not to join the military, provided support to soldiers who refuse to go, and lobbied for veterans' benefits under the banner "Love the Troops, Hate the War." We've lobbying our elected officials, helped organize at congressional hearings, passed local anti-war resolutions and campaigned statewide to bring home our National Guard. We've dogged warmakers and supporters from George Bush to Karl Rove to Hillary Clinton, popping up in "pink slips" at their fundraisers, speeches, parties and homes to tell them their services are no longer desired.
All the while, we've been working closely with Iraqis. We hosted Iraqi women on speaking tours throughout the U.S. and raised funds to help refugees. We traveled to Iraq six times to deepen our knowledge and our networks, and when it became too dangerous (one of our delegations was held up at gunpoint and one of our colleagues killed), we began meeting with Iraqis in Jordan instead. Just last month, we met with Iraqi Parliamentarians to support their efforts at Sunni-Shia reconciliation.
We've been hauled off to jail-over the over again-when we brought our anti-war message to the Democratic and Republican conventions, the United Nations, Senate offices, congressional hearings, political fundraisers, Halliburton shareholder meetings and Pentagon briefings. We've been banned for life from the National Press Club, banned from several military bases, banned from the area around Congress, banned from the United Nations. One of us was even banned from Washington DC for an entire year!
Sadly, despite our efforts and those of hundreds of other peace groups, we have not been able to stop the war. Nor have we been able to spark a truly mass movement. But CODEPINK groups have sprung up in over 250 communities at home and abroad, we have over 150,000 on our email list, we have trained hundreds of new activists, and we have helped turned the tide of public opinion. While early on peace activists were vilified by the press as unpatriotic Saddam-lovers, today we represent the majority of Americans who say this war was a mistake and want to see a speedy withdrawal of our troops. We also represent the majority of Iraqis, who in poll after poll have shown that they want U.S. troops to leave.