George Bush and CODEPINK: Women for Peace
On November 1, while CODEPINK was outside the Heritage Foundation protesting the appearance of George Bush, Bush himself was inside talking about CODEPINK. "When it comes to funding our troops, some in Washington should spend more time responding to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the requests of our commanders on the ground and less time responding to the demands of MoveOn.org bloggers and Code Pink protesters," he said.
It's curious that Bush, who once declared that "Osama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend ourselves" wants Congress to pay more attention to Osama bin Laden than groups like MoveOn and CODEPINK that represent the majority of Americans.
In any case, we take Bush's acknowledgment of CODEPINK as a great victory. We only wish he had listened to us back in 2002 when we warned that attacking Iraq would be a disaster. And we certainly wish that Bush-and Congress-would listen to us when we say, "Bring the troops home and don't start a war with Iran!"
Bush's mention of CODEPINK comes on the heels of a string of high government officials talking about our organization. They try to portray CODEPINK as a far-out radical group, and then link us to the Democrats. The strategy is to obviously to discredit the Democrats by painting them with the CODEPINK brush.
On October 24, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino made the hilarious statement that "Unfortunately, it seems that increasingly Congress is being run by CODEPINK." On September 11, the day after the General Petraeus hearing, Spokesman Tony Snow said, "I don't think it can have been good for Democrats yesterday to have had the MoveOn ad or to have had the CODEPINK demonstrators...trying preemptively to smear General Petraeus."
MoveOn does have close ties to the leadership of the Democratic Party, but this is not the case for CODEPINK. CODEPINK is non-partisan, and many of our local groups have waged intense campaigns against high-profile Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, for not doing more to end the war. Nancy Pelosi is so furious at CODEPINK for camping outside her San Francisco home that she has refused to meet with us despite dozens of requests. After our relentless campaign to pressure Hillary Clinton to take a stronger stand against the war (see www.listenhillary.org ), her security guards try to block us from even entering her events.
So while the Republicans are trying to falsely associate the Democratic leadership with CODEPINK, we've come a long way since the days when the Bush Administration refused to even acknowledge the anti-war movement. When we mobilized millions of people out in the streets on February 15, 2003, in the largest anti-war rallies in history, Bush dismissed us a "focus group" and charged ahead with his war plans.
Now, with less than 30 percent of Americans supporting Bush's policy in Iraq, the Administration's repeated references to CODEPINK and MoveOn is an admission of the power of the millions of dissenting Americans who are pressuring Congress, marching in the streets, supporting peace candidates and otherwise pushing to end this war and stop a new one with Iran.
The greater national recognition of CODEPINK has produced its own backlash. Conservative groups are now coming out every Wednesday night in Washington DC to picket our CODEPINK DC house and have launched a campaign to try to get us evicted. The hate mail and violent phone calls have increased. The police on Capitol Hill are cracking down on CODEPINK activists and judges are issuing us "stay-away orders" to keep us away from the Capitol. Some of us have discovered our names on an FBI criminal database and have found ourselves banned from entering Canada.
This is precisely the time for CODEPINK and other groups to step up their activities, and for new people to come forward to help. Remember the prescient words of Mahatma Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." We're now in the stage where they are fighting us. We're anxiously awaiting the stage when we win.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace and Global Exchange. CODEPINK is looking for more activists-women and men--to join them at the Washington DC CODEPINK house. See www.codepinkalert.org for details.