The women wear pink dresses and sportswear and carry pink parasols and pink protest signs that declare their opposition to the Iraq war. Mainly white and middle-aged, they proclaim themselves to be the wives and mothers and daughters of men and women in the armed services, and they say they are earnestly devoted to peace and opposed to U.S. war policies. Acting out bits of political theater, they denounce their enemies — no, not Osama bin Laden — but giant puppet figures who walk with them. The puppets have the oversized heads of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
The women call themselves Code Pink: Women for Peace. But don’t be fooled by all the theatricality of the ladies in pink. Behind the deceptive façade of stagy protests and moral outrage, the women running Code Pink are serious and very radical political activists. They 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. As I pointed out in my book, The Politics of Peace: What’s Behind the Anti-War Movement?, the leadership of the current anti-Iraq war movement is an outgrowth of the old Communist Party and of Communist splinter groups that emerged in reaction to Stalinism. The women who lead Code Pink are in that tradition.
Of course, Code Pink describes itself as a “grassroots peace and social justice movement.” It was founded in November 2002 as the U.S. was about to topple Saddam Hussein, but more generally, it has aimed to coordinate feminist protests against George W. Bush and the War on Terror. The group is not just anti-Bush and anti-war, however. It is anti-everything about America — against the U.S. economic system, against U.S. foreign and domestic policies and against the American culture of “racism” and “sexism.”
Code Pink’s leaders are not pacifists — they are revolutionaries. They are not devoted to peace — they are dedicated to political turmoil. They are not even feminists in the ordinary sense of that term. While they hold themselves out to the public as women who have left the kitchen for the street on behalf of peace, the leaders of Code Pink are actually well-organized political operatives on a radical mission.
Jodie Evans, a long-time radical activist, is the nominal founder of Code Pink, but she has had plenty of help from a cadre of other radical women. (Evans was briefly famous during the 2003 gubernatorial recall election in California when she helped engineer the Los Angeles Times story about alleged past sexual harassment by Arnold Schwarzenegger.) Along with Evans, Medea Benjamin, Diane Wilson and the radical Wiccan spiritualist known as “Starhawk” helped create Code Pink. These women have close working relationships with the leaders of the other principal radical anti-war groups, including ANSWER (“Act Now to Stop War and End Racism”) and United for Peace and Justice, which is led by longtime socialist and Fidel Castro devotee Leslie Cagan.
Funding and Leaders
Code Pink is part of a global network of leftwing activists. Individuals in the network may pursue diverse issues and programs, but all are united in opposition to the U.S. The network has a common ideology, but like an army on the march, it contains overlapping (and sometimes competing) political goals jostling for position.
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin had earlier set up Global Exchange, the U.S. group most responsible for organizing worldwide protests against “globalization” — the spread of free trade and free markets. Global Exchange shut down Seattle in 1999 (in protests against the World Trade Organization) and created chaos in Washington, D.C., in 2000 (protesting meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund). Established in 1988, it takes in $4 to $6 million annually, much of it by organizing “study tours” to places such as Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. Global Exchange also receives support from the Ford Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Rubin Foundation, Tides Foundation and other groups warring against the War on Terror.
As a matter of tax law, the IRS recognizes Code Pink as a project of a small Malibu, Calif.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Environmentalism Through Inspiration & Non Violent Action. Code Pink currently claims more than 250 chapters worldwide, from Norway to India and Costa Rica. According to the parent nonprofit’s tax form, Code Pink is run on a shoestring budget — $130,028 in 2004. A search of philanthropic databases reveals that it received $12,000 from the Tides Foundation (2003), $5,000 from the Barbra Streisand Foundation (2004) and $5,000 from the New Priorities Foundation (2005).
However, it’s likely that the Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG) is of greater importance to Code Pink. Set up in 1999, PSFG is an umbrella organization for more than 50 grant-making foundations that underwrite groups on the left. Writer John Perazzo notes that PSFG has some $27 billion in combined assets and that its grants go to all the major leftist anti-war groups, including Code Pink, Not In Our Name, United for Peace and Justice, War Resisters League, and the Ruckus Society.
While the funding sources and organizational status of groups such as Code Pink and Global Exchange are murky, the political ambition of these groups is clear. It is nothing short of world revolution: “We are committed to incorporating the power of diversity and difference in our human rights work. We believe the anti-oppressive global society we are fighting for evolves from turning traditional power/privilege dynamics into interconnected communities.”
And it is the United States and international institutions that stand in the way: “Whether it is U.S. companies such as Nike abusing the women who make its shoes, the U.S. government fueling an illegal, unjustified, murderous war in Iraq, or the World Trade Organization (WTO) undercutting consumer and environmental protections, Global Exchange offers itself as a partner for peace and social justice.”
In this grand strategy, Code Pink plays a specialized role — it is supposed to represent women — and it uses a specialized tactic — it claims to represent non-political women aroused by injustice. But one wonders why it bothers with the pretense.
One need only look at the biography of 54- year-old Medea Benjamin. Born Susie Benjamin to a wealthy family, she changed her first name to that of the enraged woman in the Greek tragedy who seeks revenge against her husband by murdering her children. Benjamin’s own vengeance against America has led her to support murderous dictators across the globe. She is an ardent pro-Castro advocate, having once lived in Cuba and married a pro-Castro Cuban. For years she led guided tours to Cuba. After returning from her first trip to Cuba in the early 1980s, Benjamin told the San Francisco Chronicle that Cuban life “made it seem like I died and went to heaven.”
In the 1980s, Benjamin helped form the Institute for Food and Development Policy (IFDP), which sent aid to the Marxist Sandinistas ruling Nicaragua. During the 1990s, she and other members were field marshals during the anti-globalist riots in Seattle. In 2000, she was the Green Party candidate for the California U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat. She chronicled her radical, Socialist agenda in her book, I Senator.
Code Pink’s Jodie Evans has a pedigree equal to Benjamin’s. She is a trustee of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a coalition of anti-capitalist environmentalists. RAN’s co-founder, Michael Roselle, also founded the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which the FBI has ranked alongside the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) as one of the top terrorist groups in the U.S. Evans took her most recent anti-American junket in January 2006 when she joined Benjamin and their newest convert, Cindy Sheehan, on a visit to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. On an earlier trip to Iraq, Evans helped to found the International Occupation Watch (IOW) in Baghdad. With assistance from Benjamin and Leslie Cagan, IOW helps U.S. soldiers declare themselves conscientious objectors and monitors alleged American abuses in Iraq. Its declared mission is to be a “watchdog regarding the military occupation and U.S.-appointed government, including possible violations of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
Better Pink Than Dead
To mock the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded terror alerts, the radicals of the anti-war left chose pink, the color symbolic of baby girls. Code Pink supporters say they will warn against the “extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring and compassion that women and loving men have held.” In 1917, the Bolsheviks cried out for “peace, land and bread” to fool the Russian people into believing they were patriotic, not ideological. Nine decades later, Code Pink relies on the same Leninist tactic.
Code Pink is selective in its criticism. The group condemns only American institutions, particularly the military. Rather than condemn war in moral terms, as pacifists do, Code Pink has a calculated anti-U.S. message. It is vocal and unceasing in condemning America’s alleged sexism, racism, poverty, political and corporate corruption, and environmental degradation, and it asserts that these failings are championed by the American elite. Proclaiming that “women have been the guardians of life … because men have busied themselves making war,” Code Pink calls on the women of the world to “rise up and oppose the war in Iraq. We call on mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters … and every outraged woman willing to be outrageous for peace.”
Code Pink’s modus operandi is street theater, which explains why it attracts media attention to its claim to speak for half of all humanity. The left has learned how to create political theater and use it for its own advantage. For instance, during one Washington, D.C., demonstration, women dressed all in pink marched up the Capitol steps, unfurled their banners and stripped down to their bras and panties, screaming: “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.” Guess what story made the television evening news.
During one Code Pink political demonstration — a four-month-long anti-war vigil in front of the White House — protesters ceremoniously handed-out “pink slips” to argue that pro-war officials should be fired. The act captured national attention because the pink slips were just that — pieces of lingerie. The reasons for the war in Iraq, according to Code Pink leftists, have nothing to do with mistaken decisions by government officials who acted with the best of intentions. The Code Pink explanation is deeper, darker and systemic.
Leftists contend that America’s political culture and economic system inevitably create war, poverty and injustice by their very nature. This requires Code Pink to remove itself from the ordinary political system, as the Bolsheviks did. Its activists are neither Democrats nor Republicans, but revolutionaries. In explaining why the U.S. occupies Iraq, Code Pink claims the problem is not Saddam Hussein or the threat of terrorism in America. Instead, it is the nation’s refusal to deal with problems at home: “In the United States of America, many 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 is polluted. Vast numbers of women and children live in poverty.” In other words, the real causes of the war in Iraq are of less interest to Code Pink than the ideological arguments about war that it can use to produce political change in the U.S.
Similarly, Code Pink defines terrorism as a by-product of a corrupt system — America’s. The War on Terror is a phony war. The U.S. system is the cause of war abroad and a threat to Americans at home. “Real threats” come from within: “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.”
The imagery and symbolism of Code Pink is a deliberate and creative effort to entrap the politically innocent: “We choose pink, the color of the roses, the beauty that like bread is food for life, the color of the dawn of a new era when cooperation and negotiation prevail over force.” The color of the roses? Beware the thorns!
Code Pink’s website recommends other left-wing collaborators who endorse its view of politics. The movement’s overall goal is to bully corporate America into submission. For instance, the Code Pink website contains a link to a group called the Bioneers. This is an ecological front group in the anti-war coalition. Code Pink’s Jodie Evans is on its board of trustees. According to its website, Bioneers “conduct programs in the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, traditional farming practices, and environmental restoration…. Bioneers seek to unite nature, culture and spirit in an Earth-honoring vision, and create economic models founded in social justice.”
Another Pink ally is OneWorld United States, which, according to its website, provides information links to “help build a more just, global society through its partnership community.” The group proposes to unify the global left “by providing access to information, and enabling connections between hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of people around the world.”
Most Code Pink allies arbitrarily link the Iraq war to their own social and economic agendas. For example:
- The Rainforest Action Network will work for peace through a 10-step program to “end America’s oil addiction,” the proximate cause of the Iraq war.
- Global Exchange wants to replace NAFTA with an “international system of cooperation that fosters social equality, human rights, cultural diversity, environmental sustainability and community well being.”
- The storm troopers at the Ruckus Society announce: “You have been part of helping the Ruckus Society kick ass for 10 years. We have fought for workers’ rights, clean air, clean water and a future free from war. We’ve taken action to protect North American forests. We’ve marched together in the streets of Seattle, and we’ve stood in solidarity with Native warriors to preserve their way of life.”
- The mission of the Office of the Americas is to “end the long standing culture of militarism” in the hemisphere. Naturally, it will “focus on the foreign policy of the United States.”
How are clean air, clean water, native warriors, cultural diversity, racism, sexism and capitalism a cause of war? Being a leftist means you never have to explain the connection: Simply assert it.
Contrary to the Code Pink claim, there is little historical evidence to justify the position that capitalism causes expansion and war. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Napoleon were no businessmen, and Hitler led a movement called “National Socialism.” Today, it is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that seeks engagement with China. Indeed, businesspeople have been among the most fervent peacemakers. Consider the observations of famed economist Jacob Viner:
“In the British Parliament it was spokesmen for the moneyed interests, for the emerging middle classes in the Northern manufacturing districts and for the City of London, who were the appeasers during the Napoleonic Wars, during the Crimean War, during the Boer War, and during the period from the rise of Hitler to the German invasion of Poland. In our own country it was largely from business circles that the important opposition came to the American Revolution, to the War of 1812, to the imperialism of 1898, and to the anti-Nazi policy of the Roosevelt Administration prior to Pearl Harbor” (Quoted in Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, McGraw Hill, 1985, p. 65).
How Left Manipulates Gender
Just as the modern political left distorts the historical record to link trade and enterprise to war, so also does it deliberately manipulate gender for its own political purposes. The left’s “biological politics” tries to claim a necessary connection between women and peace politics. Appealing to women’s rights groups, it asserts that if men make war, then women must make peace. Historically, leftwing parties have been based on the concept of economic and social class. The working class is typically the agent of revolutionary change. But the modern left can’t rely on workers, so it appeals to the concept of gender and the political role of women.
But what about women on the political right, or in the Republican Party? Margaret Thatcher, Senators Elizabeth Dole and Kay Bailey Hutchison, activists such as Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham — all have risen in politics. Yet the right rewards individual merit, not gender. And most women who are political conservatives disdain the ideological baggage of modern feminism. “Class struggle” is not a cause for conservative women.
In American history, most women social activists have been classified as “progressives.” Modern historians put the suffragettes, women abolitionists and women advocates for labor rights and anti-imperialism on the left. Today’s feminist movement is almost completely dominated by the left. At its extreme, ideological feminists adopt a form of biological politics that denies any significance to gender. When women professors broke into tears of rage after Harvard University’s then-President Larry Summers suggested a genetic cause for the scarcity of women mathematicians, they were rejecting biology for ideology. Radical feminist politics assaults the American campus with its “insights,” including the view that men seek to suppress and dominate everything.
Long ago, feminists adopted anti-militarism and anti-imperialism, claiming that these political causes were uniquely suited to their nurturing gender. Like the left-wing view that capitalism leads to war, the view that women in power produce peace is an anti-intellectual fraud. The claim also masks the historical record, which shows that men are mainly responsible for both war and peace, diplomacy and militarism. Nevertheless, the myth of gender-based causation dominates leftist opinion: To be a woman is to be a peacemaker.
The worst part of the ideology of the left is not its blindness to evidence. It is the way it deliberately manipulates innocent people. Leftist groups such as Code Pink tell women that they are the unique source of peace activism because they are a maternal and nurturing class, as opposed to men, who are aggressive and violent.
Blind and Deaf
Code Pink and other women’s anti-war groups consider themselves anti-capitalist and pro-internationalist. Unfortunately, their version of “internationalism” includes sending “peace delegations” to Iran and meeting with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Code Pink has left the Christian and pacifist origins of the women’s peace movement far behind. Today feminist anti-war groups target the U.S. as the primary source of war and oppression in the world. American “imperialism” explains everything from NATO to NAFTA — it is the cause of global violence from Haiti to Iraq.
This leaves Code Pink and its allies blind and deaf to the real issues of modern political reality, including the causes of war. Code Pink’s ideological twitches are not serious. Because all its opinions are predictable, there is no reason to ask its counsel.