WASHINGTON, DC, May 23 — President Barack Obama delivered a major counterterrorism policy speech largely defending his controversial targeted assassination program, one day after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that four American citizens were among those killed (three inadvertently) in U.S. drone strikes abroad.
What was already a noteworthy moment in the Obama Presidency became even livelier when an audience member repeatedly disrupted him, shouting slogans in protest of the policies he was there to rationalize. In a remarkable scene, Obama tolerated and even engaged her, and, following her removal from the premises, remarked, “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to...”
That woman was Medea Benjamin, a social justice veteran of over 30 years, co-founder of the peace group CODE PINK (founded 2002) and fair trade organization Global Exchange, and author/co-author/editor of numerous books including her latest, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
Medea urged the President to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay and asked,
Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives?
Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA?
Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities?
Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed?
Will you compensate the innocent family victims?
That will make us safer here at home...
I love my country. I love the rule of law
The drones are making us less safe, and keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantanamo is making us less safe...
Non-intervention has been a mainstay of the CODE PINK ethos. In a 2005 article promoting diplomatic solutions with Iran titled Let's Learn From the Death of Mohammed Mossadegh, Benjamin wrote:
“The tragic aftermath of the US-sponsored overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, together with the ongoing violence and instability in Iraq, should teach us to steer clear of trying to socially engineer another country’s internal affairs.”