Monday, June 18, 2007

Stopping Lieberman/Stopping the Next War Now

Medea Benjamin

On June 10, Senator Joe Lieberman said on CBS Face the Nation that he had seen incontrovertible evidence that Iran was training and equipping Iraqi extremists to kill American soldiers and that we should prepare for military strikes against these training bases in Iran. He also decried Iran’s nuclear weapons program, insisting that if we hope to stop their nuclear weapons development, “We can’t just talk to them. If they don’t play by the rules, we’ve got to use our force, and to me that would include taking military action.”

Leslie Angeline, a member of the peace group CODEPINK who had just returned from a citizen diplomacy delegation to Iran, was appalled by the Senator’s remarks. The next day, she began a sit-in at his DC office and decided to fast until the Senator agreed to meet with her and other activists. We also alerted our CODEPINK supporters to call Lieberman’s office, and the phones were ringing off the hook. By the afternoon, the Senator had agreed to a meeting on Thursday, June 14.

On Thursday, a group of 60 people—including members of the Iranian community--showed up for the meeting. The group’s anger only deepened when we were told by Lieberman’s staff that the Senator had changed his mind and was no longer willing to meet.

Tensions mounted in the packed office as the group insisted on seeing the Senator and the staff called the police, who gave a warning that everyone would be arrested if they refused to leave.

Leslie Angeline now on the fifth day of her hunger strike, broke down, sobbing uncontrollably. “I MUST talk to the Senator,” she pleaded. “He has to know that the Iranians are beautiful, warm, kind people, that 70 percent of them are under 30, that they love Americans, that they have never attacked another country in 200 years and have no intention of attacking the United States.” Leslie took out stunning photos of Iranian children that she had taken on her trip. “These are the children who would die if we bombed Iran. We’ve already killed so many Iraqis; we just can’t do this to the people of Iran,” she cried.

The Iranian women in the group began hugging Leslie and crying as well. The emotional exchange, being filmed on camera, must have embarrassed the Senator’s staff. They backed down from the threat of arrests and instead agreed to have their chief of staff, legislative director and Middle East aide meet with three of our team while the others waited in the hallway.

Inside, our group argued for over an hour about how to deal with Iran. The staff claimed that classified briefings proved that Iran is “responsible for the murder of Americans in Iraq”. We asked for and received no evidence backing these claims. We said that the Iraqi government, protected by US forces, was pro-Iran so why would Iran want to kill American soldiers? Our group insisted that even if these concerns about Iran were real, if the US attacked Iran, the Iranian government would certainly retaliate against US soldiers in Iraq—and U.S. deaths would soar.

Our team argued that the timing of Lieberman’s statement on national TV was extremely harmful to the ongoing, delicate negotiations that had begun last month in Baghdad and that it left the perception that Lieberman was trying to scuttle the talks. We noted that confrontational rhetoric from such a prominent U.S. official only strengthens the hand of the hardliners in Iran.

The staff pointed out that on Monday Lieberman reaffirmed his support for US-Iranian negotiations. We replied that his bellicose statements were much more prominent and asked that Lieberman speak out more forcefully in favor of negotiations. They agreed to pass this concern to the Senator.

Our visit to Lieberman’s office with both emotional and well-reasoned arguments, combined with a powerful show of community support and calls from his constituents, seemed to have made an impact and the Senator might think twice in the future before publicly promoting a military attack on Iran. Just to be sure, we assured his aides we represented a much larger constituency and we would be back in greater numbers if the Senator repeats the threat of military force instead of actively supporting dialogue. We also repeated our request to meet directly with the Senator, and we have asked local peace groups and individuals in Connecticut to continue to pressure the Senator in his home state.

What we can learn from the war in Iraq is that once a war has started, it acquires a momentum of its own and becomes harder and harder to stop. That’s why it’s so critical to prevent a war with Iran before it starts, and holding elected officials like Senator Lieberman to account is a key element of stopping the next war now.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange, is coauthor of Stop the Next War Now. Global Exchange ( organizes citizen diplomacy delegations to Iran and CODEPINK ( is pressuring elected officials and the presidential candidates to stop supporting a military attack on Iran. To join us contact


Anonymous said...

Thanks Medea for this eloquent account of a meeting that might be a turning point. I think we should also have "an early warning system" to get calls and emails in to the media, specifically to the Sunday morning political talk shows, letting Face The Nation, and others, know that we are monitoring them and that they can't get away with hyping and highlighting war talk such as Lieberman's recent dangerous blast. FTN and other such shows should be pressured to have other voices and perspectives on. This could be followed up with letters to the editor, esp. to the newspapers in the district of the war monger -- Connecticut, in this case.

JimPreston said...

Thanks for the great post. What a great example of Code Pink stepping forward to Stop the Next War Now!! I heard Sen. Lieberman's comments the day he made them and was glad (but not surprised) that Code Pink jumped into action. Are you aware of the code language of "The Time is Now"? (I think that the basic principle is that some action against Iran will improve Israel's long-term security) Lieberman's comments were basically a paraphrasing and justification for this approach, shifting the rationale away from Israel and towards "supporting our troops". Just to make myself clear, I don't mean to take an anti-Israel position here. I take an anti-war position!!

I'll see you soon,
in peace,

Eileen Coles said...

Hi Medea,

Thanks to all of you for doing this.

Another argument to present is that even if there were justification for military action against Iran, we just don't have the troops to get it done right. The military is stretched very thin. There's a reason they keep hitting people with Stop Loss and extending their overseas tours involuntarily. People who ask the proponents of action against Iran should not just be challenging them on the WHY, but also on the HOW; because it's got to be the most crackpot, stupid idea I've seen since the USAF tried repeatedly to push through funds to develop bombs that use pheromones to "turn people gay".

Should they choose to do it with bombs instead of troops, the irreversible impact on an already ravaged global ecology, along with the blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the use of (nuclear/biological/chemical) weapons of mass destruction by ANYBODY is something else to remind them of. Using nukes in that area of the world will infuriate our European and Asian allies, as well as those whose relationships with us are already on shaky ground. This would push our War Crimes meter firmly into the red with the rest of the world. Read the G-8 interviews with Vladimir Putin on infoclearinghouse and Der Speigel (you won't see them in the American press!). Russia is already watching this scenario with great interest.

In short, ANY military action against Iran is not only wrong - it's currently impossible to do right with our forces stretched as thin as they are. It's the American equivalent of invading Russia, a mistake that both Hitler and Napoleon made with the result being their eventual defeat and complete removals from the world stage as major powers.

If it happens, it will be the beginning of the end, not just for the innocent Iranians, but also for Americans whose military has already been abused and stretched to the breaking point. Looking at it from a strategic perspective alone, it's got to be one of the most psychotic ideas I have ever seen.

If they aren't going to hear it from a humanitarian perspective, mentioning the obvious logical flaws in the idea would force even the coldest hearted Machiavellian to admit that the idea of bombing Iraq is completely insane. Whatever imaginable "benefits" a paranoid and meglomaniacal psycho could ascribe to a first strike on Iran simply do not outweigh the VERY REAL negatives that would result.

Finally, it is very important to lay the blame for Iran's possession of nuclear technology squarely where it belongs - with the same CIA who trained Osama bin Laden and have stood idly by while a sister-in-arms, Valerie Plame, was outed because her husband wouldn't play Cheney and Rove's evil game.

If I had been with you that day, my copy of James Risen's book ("State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration") would have been left in Lieberman's office. Nobody who reads it is going to come away not knowing who the real bad guys are.

If Senator Lieberman is concerned about people who "don't play by the rules", let's let him know that America has a bit of dirty laundry of our own we need to do first. We have to stop this retarded, decades-old game of "inventing" enemies just to keep the military/industrial complex alive at the greater expense of both the nation and the world. We cannot afford to leave out the fact that we are well aware that we have our own CIA to thank for this contrived "crisis" in the first place.

Senator Lieberman and staffers, you've made it clear that you like to read Code Pink's web page. Well if you're reading THIS, I hope some of it sinks in.

Kathleen said...

(with tears in her eyes) "But Mom how can people just kill each other like that? How can men in power just APPROVE of it? Don't they know those dead bodies are loved by someone?"

These were the words my daughter posed to me last night after we watched "The Ground Truth" which I had rented from Netflix, in an attempt to understand the changed young man that is my nephew, back from Iraq since Novemember, due to go back in October, and unable to face his family and speak of any of it without becoming angry or sullen. Men like Lieberman KNOW what they've done to my dear Andy, and yet they are willing to take more young men from all countries, train them to kill MORE men, women, and children, and for what?

I am so happy to feel I have found a group of women that are finding ways to help in some measure. I can't just sit here any longer. I want to get my community to swarm the streets as they did in the 60s, to be as outraged as I am. Medea, I wish I had the courage to wage a hunger strike, to get thousands of us to join you...I have a rare neuromuscular disease (for real, I know sounds like "oh, there's the excuse") so truly cannot fast, but maybe you will inspire a huge group to do so.

We must stop further violence and protect the innocent in Iran!

Anonymous said...

i am an iranian girl out of iran, i have missed my country and i love my country and people like every person in this world. i want to thank leslie and all the people who helped him for his attepts to change the policy of america against iran. unfortunately the people are paying the price of the mistakes done by the goverments.
again thanks very much indeed from all lovers of iran and humanity

ghazaleh said...

thanks very much from every body who is trying to stop brutality against the human being in all over the world. as an iranian out of iran and as a lover of my country, i am so proud that i see still there are people in the world who are against the war and against killing the innocent people.
dear leslie and all the people who hepled him:
thanks very much indeed for your attempts

Anonymous said...

I was a child when the revolution took place in Iran and I saw how many of my people lost their lives because of that.

My family and I were forced to leave because we wanted to live free lives. I haven't seen the country for 28 years. We have spent all of this time in Canada.

It pains me to no end to see how my people are portrayed in the media. Very, very rarely do they show any aspect of humanity in us.

I am so touched by what was done by the people of Code Pink with respect to confronting that lier Joseph Lieberman.

Thank you.

If there is ever an attack against my birth county and her people. I will know that there are good people who genuinely cared about us, who know that we are good people too. You really touched my heart today.