When Code Pink: Women for Peace was launched on November 17, 2002, the organization described itself as a “grassroots peace and social justice movement” whose mission was “to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities.” Rejecting “the Bush administration’s fear-based politics that justify violence,” the nascent group called instead “for policies based on compassion, kindness and a commitment to international law.” The group’s name was intended to mock the Bush administration’s “Code Orange,” “Code Red,” and “Code Yellow” designations for the various levels of terrorist threats that, in the government’s estimation, existed at any given time.
Code Pink was founded principally by four radical activists: Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, Diane Wilson, and a Wiccan spiritualist calling herself Starhawk. (Approximately 100 additional female activists also participated in getting the organization off the ground.) Evans was, and remains, the nominal leader of the group, which works closely with Ms. Benjamin’s Global Exchange and Leslie Cagan‘s United For Peace and Justice. According to a Capital Research Center report, Code Pink members “subscribe in varying degrees to strands of Marxist, neo-Marxist, and progressive left-wing thought, and their ideas belong to a long and complex history of radical politics going back to the early Bolsheviks.” The group views America as an irremediably “racist” and “sexist” society whose political and economic systems, by their very nature, breed war, poverty, and injustice.
According to the Capital Research Center, “Code Pink is the business name for a nonprofit called Environmentalism through Inspiration and Non-Violent Action.” The name “Code Pink” was selected to parody the Bush administration’s color-coded security alerts regarding terrorist threats—alerts that Code Pink said “were based on fear and were used to justify violence.” By contrast, the “Code Pink Alert”—signifying “the color of the roses … the color of the dawn of a new era when cooperation and negotiation prevail over force”—warned that the Bush administration posed “extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring, and compassion that women and loving men have held.” Proclaiming that “women have been the guardians of life … because the men have busied themselves making war,” Code Pink called on “women around the world to rise up and oppose the war in Iraq … to be outrageous for peace.”
Code Pink strove, from its earliest days, to portray itself as a politically nonpartisan organization composed not of seasoned activists, but of ordinary, peace-loving women with no political ax to grind. In truth, however, the group’s founders and leading members had long histories of radical left-wing and pro-socialist activism. For example, a number of Code Pink’s prominent figures were previously, in the 1980s, ardent supporters of the Communist Sandinista regime of Nicaragua. Indeed, both Medea Benjamin and Code Pink organizer Kirsten Moller worked in eighties with the Institute for Food and Development Policy, which aided the Sandinistas. Similarly, Code Pink spokeswoman Sand Brim—who told reporters in January 2003 that she was merely an average woman with reservations about war—had likewise tried to help Central American Communists during the eighties. As executive director of the organization Medical Aid, Brim in 1985 flew an American neurosurgeon to San Salvador to operate on the battle-injured hand of Nidia Diaz, Commander of the Marxist Revolutionary Party that had claimed responsibility for the murders of four U.S. Marines and nine civilians.
Other early and current Code Pink members previously, in the 1990s, helped organize anti-free-trade protests across the globe, targeting large corporations with high-profile campaigns and multi-million-dollar lawsuits. Still others were cutting their radical teeth in the fields of environmentalism and eco-terrorism during the nineties. Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans, for one, today sits on the directors’ board of the Rainforest Action Network, an anti-capitalist, anti-corporate coalition of environmental groups.
From its inception, Code Pink’s principal modus operandi has been street theater. During each of its first 100 days, the organization staged all-day antiwar vigils in front of the White House. Moreover, it initiated a campaign to present pink slips (women’s lingerie)—a word play on the paper-variety “pink slips” that are given to employees as notification that their jobs are being terminated—to President Bush and other pro-Iraq War officials. During one Washington, DC demonstration, a group of Code Pink activists, garbed entirely in pink, marched up the Capitol steps, unfurled their anti-war banners, and stripped down to their undergarments, shouting: “We’re putting our bodies on the line … you congresspeople better get some spine! We say, stand back, don’t attack—innocent children in Iraq. We don’t want your oil war, peace is what we’re calling for!”
Arguing that the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. troops who had invaded that country in March 2003 was well-justified, Evans said in an August 2003 interview: “Basically what the Americans did was destroy any form of infrastructure that could have held the country together—like the Iraqis say, to wipe anything that could hold the country together off the map…. There isn’t an Iraqi you meet who doesn’t feel that they’re being disrespected, that this is being done on purpose. It’s made them hate the American government, hate it. They just think it’s stupid and cruel and mean and thoughtless and everything you can think of…. What’s cool about the resistance is that the Iraqis don’t back down.”
In conjunction with Global Exchange and United For Peace and Justice, Code Pink in 2004 helped establish Iraq Occupation Watch (IOW) to monitor potential American abuses—including “possible violations of human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly”—during the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq. Code Pink’s and IOW’s common objective was to thin out U.S. forces in Iraq by persuading soldiers to seek discharges and be sent home as conscientious objectors.
On the domestic front, Code Pink endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Also in 2004, Code Pink was a signatory to a letter urging members of the U.S. Senate to vote against supporting Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorist security fence in the West Bank, a barrier that Code Pink has described as an illegal “apartheid wall” that violates the civil and human rights of Palestinians. To view a list of fellow signers, click here.
In late December 2004, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans participated in a delegation to Iraq that also included representatives of Global Exchange, International Occupation Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Families for Peace. These delegates delivered more than $600,000 in cash and medical supplies (many of which were donated by Middle East Children’s Alliance and Operation USA) to the families of the insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. Senator Barbara Boxer, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Rep. Henry Waxman provided diplomatic courtesy letters to help facilitate the transport of this aid through Customs. The organizations sponsoring the delegation were Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Project Guerrero Azteca for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Voices in the Wilderness.
For much of 2005, Code Pink staged weekly protests outside of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where many wounded U.S. soldiers were being treated. The protesters displayed signs bearing slogans like “Maimed for Lies” (by the Bush administration) and “Enlist here and die for Halliburton.” At one of these rallies, Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan, who began to work closely with Code Pink as her public persona grew, told the five-year old son of Laura Youngblood, whose husband, a United States Navy Corpsman, had recently been killed in Iraq: “Your daddy died for a lie.”
In July 2005, Code Pink joined a coalition of individuals and organizations demanding the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center and an “immediate independent investigation into the widespread allegations of abuse taking place there.” Among the coalition’s members were Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem, Not In Our Name, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Culture Project, and United For Peace and Justice.
Also in 2005, Code Pink published a book titled Stop the Next War Now, which included essays by such notables as Medea Benjamin, Phyllis Bennis, Becky Bond, Leslie Cagan, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jodie Evans, Eve Ensler, Randall Forsberg, Kit Gage, Janeane Garofalo, Amy Goodman, Julia Butterfly Hill, Arianna Huffington, Naomi Klein, Barbara Lee, Wangari Maathai, Cynthia McKinney, Nancy Pelosi, Arundhati Roy, Cindy Sheehan, Helen Thomas, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Alice Walker, and Lynn Woolsey.
As the Iraq War continued to rage, Code Pink launched an aggressive Counter-Recruitment campaign aimed at dissuading young men and women from joining the U.S. military. According to the organization, this project represented a way of “standing up to these warmongers and liars” in the Bush administration. To this day, Code Pink continues to maintain:
“Counter-recruitment is a national movement to resist the recruitment of young people into the US military. Counter-recruitment has several components: informing youth of the realities of military service; resisting recruitment through the schools via JROTC and testing; taking action on military sexual trauma; offering career alternatives to the military; vigiling and protesting in front of military recruiting offices; giving support to war resisters and veterans; and building awareness of militarism in our culture.”
Depicting the financial cost of the Iraq War as a drain on resources that would have been better spent on programs to combat the racism, sexism, poverty, corporate corruption, and environmental degradation that were allegedly decimating domestic life in the United States, Code Pink lamented that: “[M]any of our elders … now must choose whether to buy their prescription drugs, or food. Our children’s education is eroded. The air they breathe and the water they drink are polluted. Vast numbers of women and children live in poverty.” The threat of distant terrorists, claimed Code Pink, was insignificant when compared to the “real threats” that Americans faced every day: “the illness or ordinary accident that could plunge us into poverty, the violence on our own streets, the corporate corruption that can result in the loss of our jobs, our pensions, our security.”
In July 2006, Code Pink sponsored “Troops Home Fast,” a 28-day hunger strike against the Iraq War. This action was conducted as a “rolling fast,” where each participant abstained from eating for one day. Among the participants were such luminaries as Cindy Sheehan, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Ed Asner, Willie Nelson, Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, and Cynthia McKinney.
In August 2006, a 12-person delegation of American radicals—including Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans, and Judith LeBlanc—traveled to Jordan to meet with 11 members of the Iraqi parliament. According to Benjamin, the parliamentarians, impressed by the spirit underlying the aforementioned 28-day “fast,” had personally invited the delegates.
Upon their arrical In Jordan, the American delegates met with Sheikh Ahmad al-Kubaysi, a Baghdad-based cleric who:
The prime sponsor of the Code Pink-led delegation was the Iraq National Dialogue Front, a coalition headed by Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni who:
- opposed the new, post-war Iraqi constitution because it guaranteed the establishment of an autonomous region for the Shi’ites;
- condoned armed “resistance” against American forces;
- offered to join the Iraqi “insurgency”;
- regularly called upon the United States to disarm itself in the face of terrorism;
- derided “the biased people [who] are trying to … to brand as terrorists the honorable national resistance movements”; and
- demanded the release of all Iraqi prisoners—including a massive number of foreign jihadists and Saddam loyalists—on grounds that all of them were being held “on the basis of suspicions and false reports.”
By the time their meetings with the Iraqi parliamentarians were over, the Code Pink delegates had accepted virtually the entire terrorist platform, saying:
“The common thread among this diverse group of Iraqis and Americans was a desire to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, ensure no permanent bases in Iraq, and secure a U.S. commitment to pay for rebuilding Iraq. Other issues that emerged in two-days of intensive talks include the need to dismantle militias, provide amnesty for prisoners and the various armed groups, compensate victims of the violence, revise the Constitution and preserve the unity of Iraq, and reverse U.S.-imposed de-Baathification and economic policies. We left this historic meeting with a commitment to make sure that the voices of these Iraqi parliamentarians are heard here in the U.S., and we will bring a group of them to the U.S. in the Fall.” (Emphasis in original.)
In 2006, Code Pink leaders Cindy Sheehan, Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin traveled to Venezuela to meet personally with that country’s Communist dictator, Hugo Chavez. After the meeting, Evans reported that Chavez had “called Cindy [Sheehan] ‘Mrs. Hope’” Further, Evans said of Chavez: “He was a doll. Generous, open, passionate, excited, stimulated by the requests and happy to be planning with us. He was realistic but willing to stretch.” In a similar spirit, Medea Benjamin praised Chavez’s policies and stated that “George Bush—and [former Democratic presidential candidate] John Kerry for that matter—could learn a thing or two from Hugo Chavez about winning the hearts and minds of the people.”
In December 2007, when Pakistani President (and American ally) Pervez Musharraf was under pressure to step down from power, Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry of Code Pink traveled to Pakistan to help America’s enemies increase the pressure on Musharraf. Both were arrested and deported by Pakistani authorities.
In September 2008, a number of Code Pink leaders met personally with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York City. Soon thereafter, Code Pink launched an aggressive pro-Hamas, anti-Israel campaign. That November, Jodie Evans and a Code Pink contingent visited Iran at the personal invitation of Ahmadinejad. Davood Mohammad Niar, head of the U.S. Desk of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, escorted the group on a visit the holy city of Qom.
In 2009 Code Pink further escalated the intensity of its international campaign to stop the blockade that Egypt and Israel had imposed on Gaza (to prevent the importation of weaponry) after Hamas‘s 2006 election as the region’s dominant political entity.
In December 2009 Code Pink led an international delegation of anti-Israel leftists to Gaza, where they delivered “tens of thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid” as a gesture of defiance against Israel’s blockade. Hamas protected the demonstrators during their two-day stay in Gaza by tightly controlling their movements and contacts, and by having them stay in a Hamas-owned, Five-Star hotel that one demonstrator described as “the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh addressed the activists in Gaza via cell phone, while other Hamas officials spoke to them in person.
Next, the demonstrators prepared to go to Egypt, to participate in a Hamas-organized “Gaza Freedom March,” again to protest Israeli policy. Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin told the media that Hamas “has pledged to ensure our safety” in Egypt. Joining Code Pink on the trip were former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
Code Pink’s trip to Gaza and Egypt was timed to mark the one-year anniversary of Israel’s December 2008 defensive action against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, who had fired some 3,300 rockets into Israel during the preceding few months. Hamas marked the anniversary by launching a number of rockets into Israel while the organization hosted the Code Pink delegation.
Also during the trip, Code Pink endorsed the “Cairo Declaration to End Israeli Apartheid” authored by pro-Hamas leftists who likewise had gathered for the “Gaza Freedom March.” The declaration called for a wide-ranging boycott of Israeli economic, travel, academic, and cultural endeavors.
When the Code Pink excursion to Gaza and Egypt was over in early January 2010, the organization’s website proudly announced that the delegates had focused “worldwide attention on the [Israeli] siege”; “lifted the spirits of the isolated people of Gaza”; “put the spotlight on the negative role Egypt is playing in maintaining the siege”; “forced the Egyptian government to make a concession by etting 100 delegates into Gaza”; and “signed on to a lawsuit against the Egyptian government for building a wall to block off the tunnels that have become the commercial lifeline for the people in Gaza.”
Between 2008 and 2010, Code Pink made nine trips to Egypt in a campaign to undermine the Egyptian government, which was on friendly terms with Israel and was helping to enforce the Israeli blockade against Gaza. Then, when riots erupted in Egypt in late January 2011—ostensibly protesting the autocratic and corrupt regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak—Code Pink representatives were on the ground in Cairo from the very start of the uprising. In early February 2011, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin reported that her organization had already raised more than $10,000 for the anti-Mubarak protesters. In an effort to augment that sum, Code Pink issued an emergency appeal for an additional $5,000 to fund “the next big uprising” against the Egyptian government.
On January 10, 2015, Code Pink activists forced their way through a security fence at the McLean, Virginia home of former Vice President Dick Cheney and stormed his front porch, displaying signs that bore slogans like “Wanted: For Torture and War Crimes.”
During a January 28, 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. national security strategy in the face of global challenges, testimony was given by three former Secretaries of State: 91-year-old Henry Kissinger, 94-year-old George P. Shultz, and 77-year-old Madeleine Albright. During the proceedings, a number of Code Pink protesters — bearing signs that read “Kissinger War Criminal” and “Cambodia” — rushed up behind the former diplomat at the witness table and tried to arrest him for “war crimes.”
On March 1, 2015, Code Pink participated in an anti-Israel protest at the site of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC. The demonstration featured a Hezbollah flag flying overhead; chants that “BDS is the best” (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement); chants that “The State of Israel’s Got to Go”; a banner bearing a Star of David and the slogan, “The Blood Is On Your Hands”; and a sign likening Israel to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Code Pink is an organizational supporter of the Free Gaza Movement. It is also a member organization of the Abolition 2000, After Downing Street, and United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalitions, and a member of the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
Code Pink has received financial support from the Benjamin Fund, Global Exchange, the New Priorities Foundation, the Streisand Foundation, the Threshold Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.
Code Pink identifies dozens of left-wing organizations as its “allies.” Among these are Adalah-NY, Alternet, CommonDreams, Democracy Now, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Global Exchange, Gold Star Families for Peace, the Huffington Post, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jewish Voice for Peace, MADRE, Military Families Speak Out, The Nation, the National Priorities Project, the New Priorities Network, the Peace Majority Report, Pacifica.org, the Rainforest Action Network, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, United For Peace and Justice, Veterans For Peace, Women in Black, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Zmag.
As of 2006, Code Pink consisted of at least 250 chapters in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. In November 2011, Jodie Evans reported that the organization had “about 100 local chapters,”andthat some 200,000 people received its e-mails each week.
Code Pink’s current issue priorities are:
- Ground the Drones: “Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) have become the signature weapons of the Obama administration’s air strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Drones scout over the two countries, launching Hellfire missiles into the region, missing their intended targets, [and] resulting in the deaths of many innocent people including children.”
- Peace with Iran: “Faced with the specter of another catastrophic war, CODEPINK is putting pressure on politicians—and their wives—to use diplomacy, not bombs.”
- Women Occupy: Deriving its name from the Occupy Wall Street movement, Code Pink urges its members to “focu[s] women’s issues, as well as racism and classism.”
- War Criminals: “Thus far the U.S. has failed to prosecute anyone up the chain of command for abuses that have occurred in the highest offices of the United States of America [during the George W. Bush administration], setting a precedent for future leaders to repeat the same crimes. That is why CODEPINK is modeling citizen justice … by holding the former Bush administration, Obama administration and others accountable for leading us into unjust and illegal military interventions.”
- Palestine and Israel: “CODEPINK stands in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists and human rights advocates working to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and to promote the rights of Palestinians. In addition, we work here in the United States to educate Americans about the realities of Israel’s occupation and to change U.S. foreign policy in the region. We feel personally implicated in Israel’s violations of human rights and international law because our tax dollars—$3 billion annually in military aid—subsidize Israel’s occupation.”
- Boycott Sodastream: “SodaStream markets itself as an environmentally friendly product to ‘Turn Water Into Fresh Sparkling Water And Soda’… but there is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land and water resources! SodaStream is an Israeli corporation that produces all of its carbonation devices in an illegal settlement in the West Bank. All Israeli settlements exist in direct contravention to international law! This settlement company obscures its true illegal origin by marking its products ‘Made in Israel,’ however ‘made in an illegal Israeli settlement’ is more like it.”
- Bring Our War $$ Home!: “Spread the truth about how our taxes are being wasted on militarism and war, and help get a bigger piece of the budget pie for our needs at home!”
For additional information on Code Pink, click here.
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