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Photo courtesy of Global Exchange

The Benjamin Code: 'People better fight against the illegal infiltration of organizations,' says Codepink co-founder Medea Benjamin.


Did You Get the Memo?

Here in Santa Cruz, locals have been screaming about impeaching Bush pretty much from the moment the GOP stole the Florida election in the waning days of 2000. Cruzans have also repeatedly raged against the media machine that so far has failed to take the case for impeaching Bush in the least bit seriously, even though the infamous Downing Street memos, which were leaked to the British press last year, show that our president deliberately fixed the intelligence to invade Iraq. And now locals are wondering whether the rest of the United States will stay silent in the face of a newly leaked memo, this time of a two-hour meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair that took place nearly two months before the invasion. During that Jan. 31, 2003, meeting Bush made it known that the United States intended to invade whether or not there was a second U.N. resolution and even if U.N. inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons program. All of which is pretty damning stuff.

Yes, Nüz and the rest of Santa Cruz know that the chances of impeaching Bush are horribly slim, given the Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the recent restacking of the Supreme Court. But as AfterDowningStreet.org co-founder David Swanson puts it, "I don't think the Republicans got their current majority by whispering about what they were going to do if they got it. So why should we, when we hold what are majority opinions?"

Swanson, who speaks in Santa Cruz on Feb. 15 (which happens to be the third anniversary of the 2003 "Stop the War" mobilization that brought 15 million people onto the streets worldwide) says that since launching AfterDowningStreet.org, he's come to see that what's moved the public to oppose the war is all the exposure to the administration's lies.

"The percentage of people believing that this war was based on lies is unprecedented," says Swanson. "The truth is we may have to impeach Bush and Cheney in order to stop the war. So, we need to shift the emphasis from watching to being citizens. If we push for investigation, for censure, it's of great educational benefit."

Recalling all the traffic Afterdowningstreet.org has seen, Swanson says, "It had zero to do with the brilliance of design of the website. People were excited about having authoritative evidence, a basis for impeachment, at last."

"Leaking has been phenomenal in the U.K., and it's been dripping for the past eight months," he adds, noting that the leaking has now started on this side of the pond.

"But we see that people who speak out, or even ask questions, face fierce retributions, with Joe Wilson's wife Valerie Plame being the most famous. So, people now know that whistleblowers aren't protected. We're supposed to have a democracy, but we have to go to leaked memos in the U.K. to find the truth."

Arm Shots

Meanwhile, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin, who speaks alongside Swanson on Feb. 15, says it was absurd to arrest peace activist Cindy Sheehan for wearing a T-shirt that said "2245 dead. How many more?" just before Bush gave his Jan. 31 State of the Union speech about, er, freedom and democracy (a speech that fell three years to the day since Bush's "Let's Invade Iraq!" tea party with Blair).

"To say you can't sit in the galley of Congress wearing a T-shirt is absurd, it shows the hypocrisy of the Bush regime," says Benjamin, who sees Sheehan's recent announcement that she's considering running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein as a "great way to translate antiwar activism into the political arena."

"It's another platform to send messages to Dianne Feinstein and all other congressmembers," says Benjamin, noting "how stunned" Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi was, "when she finally came down from her throne and held a town meeting in San Francisco, by all the anger directed at her for not taking leadership positions on privacy and the Patriot Act and moving the Democrats towards an antiwar position and calling for impeachment."

"You do things because it's the right thing to do," says Benjamin. "As a consequence of doing that, the leadership shifts with you and you move people towards the direction of truth and justice."

Acknowledging that there is "nothing in the electoral realm to be very excited about this coming November," and that "the disconnect between Congress and the peace movement contributes to people feeling disempowered," Benjamin cites various grassroots campaigns that have people excited and feeling empowered, including the Bring Home the National Guard movement, which began at city level and which Benjamin fully expects the California State legislature to pass, thereby putting the pressure on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election this fall, to bring the Guard home.

As for the news that Codepink has been spied on at every level, Benjamin feels sure the direction to spy is "coming from on high and it's not isolated."

"People better fight against the illegal infiltration of organizations," she warns, as she encourages people to sign up with the Global Women Say No to War campaign, which hopes to present U.S. embassies with 100,000 signatures on International Women's Day, March 8.

Special guests Karen Meredith and Nadia McCaffrey, who both lost their sons in the Iraq war, and members of Gold Star Families Speak Out! will be on hand at the Feb. 15 Making Change/Creating Peace talk by Swanson and Benjamin at 7:30pm at the Vets Hall, 846 Front St. The evening includes music by David Winters, the premier performance of Full Disclothesure Now! by the Un-Covered Operatives Alliance. Admission is $10-$50. Tickets are available at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, 515 Broadway St., Santa Cruz, 831.423.1626, or at the door. Call 831.588.8487 or email [email protected]

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From the February 8-15, 2006 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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