Medea Benjamin is a cofounder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years. Described as “one of America’s most committed — and most effective — fighters for human rights” by New York Newsday, and called “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times.
Medea has distinguished herself as an eloquent and energetic figure in the progressive movement. In 2005 she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. In 2010 she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Medea has been working to promote a U.S. foreign policy that would respect human rights and gain us allies instead of contributing to violence and undermining our international reputation. In 2000, she was a Green Party candidate for the California Senate.
During the 1990s, Medea focused her efforts on tackling the problem of unfair trade as promoted by the World Trade Organization. Widely credited as the woman who brought Nike to its knees and helped place the issue of sweatshops on the national agenda, Medea was a key player in the campaign that won a $20 million settlement from 27 US clothing retailers for the use of sweatshop labor in Saipan. She also pushed Starbucks and other companies to start carrying fair trade coffee.
Her work for justice in Israel/Palestine includes taking numerous delegations to Gaza after the 2008 Israeli invasion, organizing the Gaza Freedom March in 2010, participating in the Freedom Flotillas and opposing the policies of the Israel lobby group AIPAC. In 2011 she was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising and In 2012 she was part of a human rights delegation to Bahrain in support of democracy activists; she was tear-gassed, arrested and deported by the Bahraini government.
Medea Benjamin, returned from Pakistan, where she traveled with families of the victims of U.S. drone strikes. Speaking at Sunday night’s Peace Ball in Washington, D.C., Benjamin urged progressives to remember the plight of U.S. victims abroad. “Let’s make sure that we force our congress and our president to represent the policies of kindness and compassion that we, as Americans, hold dear,” Benjamin said.
Just remember, the drone policy is one where the U.S. is telling the world we can go anywhere in the world we want, kill anyone we want, on the basis of secret information. It is a policy that is inhumane. It is a policy that is counterproductive. And it is a policy that is totally illegal according to international law. And it’s something that must be stopped.
So we were recently in Pakistan, a group of 34 very brave Americans, not only from CODEPINK, but groups like Veterans for Peace, that went to say to the Pakistanis, “We do not support the drone program, and we care about you and your lives. Your lives are as precious as our lives.” And when we were in a meeting with hundreds and hundreds of Pashtun men, one of them stood up, and he said—put his hand on his heart, and he said, “If you have come here to win our hearts and minds, you have done so.” And it showed us that if we go around the world showing we care about other people’s lives, if we go around the world spreading compassion and kindness, we will get love back in return. So let’s go out spreading a lot of love, and let’s make sure that we force our Congress and our president to represent the policies of kindness and compassion that we, as Americans, hold dear.
“Frankly, it’s a win-win situation for us, whether we get into Waziristan or not.
“We are going because we are challenging the Pakistani government to allow us to go to a place that has been off limits but needs to be seen. And if they try to stop us, it will be clear they do not want the world to see what is going on there.”
On Tuesday October 2012 in Islamabad, the women met retired generals, ambassadors and even a former head of the notorious military spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and discussed other tactics to publicise their cause.
Those included mounting a hunger strike outside the US embassy in Islamabad. Benjamin said the group was still considering the idea.
“It was something a couple of members of the group brought up, but we wanted to wait until we got here to see how appropriate that might be,” she said.
A former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization, Benjamin is the author/editor of eight books. Her latest book is called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to get lethal drones out of the hands of the CIA. Her articles appear regularly in outlets such as The Huffington Post, CommonDreams, Alternet and OpEd News.
We as Pakistani nation are thankful to you for such efforts to bring peace and harmony in region, these protests and efforts will always be remembered. Our hearts, our doors and our emotions are always open for you. We support you and encourage you to continue your peace building efforts. In this struggle we are standing with you.
Medea can be reached at: medea[@]codepink.org.
Courtesy of Medea Benjamin [CODEPINK]