Friday, November 14, 2008

So Long and THANK YOU, from James O'Donnell


The “lone young man stuffing manicotti in the kitchen” has left the Pink House… and although my involvement with the Pinkies has only just begun, my departure from the Pink residence feels like the end of an era… if not for CODE PINK, then at least for me.

For nearly five months I occupied the basement of the CODE PINK DC House, a.k.a. “the Cave,” and I am pleased to report that my time as CODE PINK “caveman” (or “troglodyte”) was one of the happiest, most positive, constructive, and best times of my life.

(For those considering a sojourn at the Pink House, I highly recommend the experience.)

At the CODE PINK House I became personally acquainted with several courageous American heroines I’ve admired for years, from Medea Benjamin to Col. Ann Wright to Cindy Sheehan to Desiree Fairooz to...

In my time in DC, I met and was inspired by many other heroic individuals previously unknown to me, people whose dedication to peace and justice continue to inspire me to this day: Liz Houricane, Gael Murphy, Leslie Angeline, Jes Richardson, Tighe Barry, Jim Preston, Sarah Rose-Jensen, Rae Abileah, Adam Kokesh, Jennifer Teguia, Julie Allen, Pete Perry, Alicia Forrest, Jason Ortiz, Jay Marx, Devon Nola, Kim Gollub, Laura Heath, Cynthia Papermaster, and many more...

These are people I am very proud to call friends. I will always aspire to carry forward what I learned from the character, integrity, and idealism they exhibited daily in the time I came to know them.

Together we attended many hearings, staged many demonstrations and protest actions, and reached out to our government representatives and members of our community, from other progressive organizations to just plain folks. We also hosted pot luck dinners, studied issues, conducted teach-ins, made banners, and built relationships in one of the most supportive, tolerant, open environments I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Thank you! Thank you, CODE PINK, for all that you do, for your tireless efforts and unyielding advocacy for a more peaceful and just world.

Your critics don’t begin to understand how patriotic, moral, hardworking, and decent you are. CODE PINK cares, genuinely and deeply, about all of the world’s victims of war, avarice, militarism, and institutionalized plunder -- from Iraq to Gaza to Sudan to Tibet to Burma to New Orleans to Queens and beyond.

Anyone who thinks CODE PINK is about “hating America” isn’t paying attention. CODE PINK is America at its best: generous, conscientious, idealistic, and informed... with the moral courage to do something about it.

Although I could recount many examples of successes and positive experiences at the Pink House, I promised a good friend of mine that I wouldn’t allow this blog to grow to novella length, so I’ll just share with you my favorite chapter: our efforts to prevent Congress from passing a resolution that would ease the Neoconservatives’ path to war with Iran.

I don’t want to sound boastful, but I truly believe that CODE PINK was a key cog in the machine that stalled this misguided and potentially disastrous resolution.

Under the guise of diplomacy and resting on a foundation of false claims that would make the bogus case for war with Iraq blush, this bipartisan resolution called for war with Iran, including a naval blockade cutting off all refined petroleum products into Iran (an act of war under international law and a war crime, inflicting collective punishment on a population of 70 million human beings, 70% of whom are under the age of 30 years old).

Over a sustained period, CODE PINK’s efforts were focused on numerous actions (and our actions were amplified by the efforts of several other groups, including the Washington Peace Center, the Institute for Policy Studies, and others).

We employed several strategies from the humorous to the serious, from the colorful to the sober -- smart, silly, straight, crooked -- we went all out. Partnering with the Institute for Policy Studies, we conducted sit-ins and teach-ins at the offices of the House and Senate sponsors of the resolution. Sometimes we made appointments or brought lunch and juice to share with staffers.

We were polite, committed, and implacable. We had a war to stop.

When Medea hit the scene, I saw an entire house (a PINK one) mobilize overnight, and I saw an armada (also PINK) created in no time flat: canoes, kayaks, and a rubber raft, all outfitted with mounts for banners (thank you, Tighe).

Congressman Gary Ackerman awoke the next day to find his houseboat BLOCKADED!

“How do YOU like it?” was the basic message, but it was delivered with humor and civility... and when the media arrived to cover our action, the message was still civil but deadly serious:

“Do you know that the U.S. intelligence community and International Atomic Energy Agency flatly contradict the alarmist claims you make in your resolution, Congressman?”

“Are you aware of the harm similar sanctions regimes have done to civilian populations, leaving the target governments virtually unscathed?”

(Once your funny sailor hats and banners get those cameras to show up, that’s when you hit ‘em with your facts! Heaven knows today’s media isn’t interested in correcting the warmongers’ screwed-up facts on their own initiative -- that task is left to groups like CODE PINK!)

And finally, we succeeded.

A resolution that had come out of the blocks with more than a hundred co-signers in the House was KO’d. A resolution favored by the Military Industrial Complex’s pet, AIPAC, was down and out for the count, not to return this session.

Veteran CIA briefer and peace activist Ray McGovern was among those who later confided to us that this success was, in his experience, a first (usually, AIPAC gets what it wants -- which, incidentally, doesn’t usually correspond to what most Israelis want).

Representative Barbara Lee’s top legislative staffer, Greg Barry, was among those who later informed us that we had made a difference. “The Peace Community can really take some credit on this one,” he told Pete Perry and me.

After reviewing one of my fact sheets, Mr. Barry had pointed me and the Pinkies toward a number of sympathetic Representatives, those most likely to use our facts to bring their peers up to speed. (It’s AMAZING how ill-informed many politicians are about the matters on which they vote -- several Representatives seemed to truly believe that this resolution was about avoiding war with Iran! They simply could not have read the resolution, or understood it, for that to be the case...)

That was the high point of my DC experience: several actions, a house in high gear, the hearts and minds of a diverse and motivated group of people all working toward the same goal, and an astonishing and gratifying result. Quite possibly, due to our actions, lives were spared, both “ours” and “theirs.”


Again, thank you, CODE PINK.

Thank you for letting me participate in the good that you do. I spent nearly five amazing months in your midst, wrote my first blog, cooked a few meals, researched for hours, laughed, cried, met some of the most awesome human beings I ever hope to encounter, and forged relationships I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Keep up the great work.


Jean S said...

where are you going?!!?

caterliz said...

James -WOW-
that was a very nice and even uncharacteriscally brief blog!
thank you for sharing your stories so brilliantly!We enjoyed the 5 months with you as a avalued team researcher.
Best of Everything --Big Hugs from the frontline of DC PEACE & nonviloent resistance
the basement

JimPreston said...

We look forward to seeing you again soon. Keep up the good work!!

CODEPINK said...

Jean, I am in Fremont, CA, living with my sweetheart Jen Teguia. Our Code Pink DC friendship has grown into something more over the past couple months, and we are both very excited about this next chapter in our lives with shared values, activism, and dare I say, LOVE!

Liz and Jim, thanks for the kind words on the blog and my time in DC. Big hugs right back at you, Liz -- be sure to share 'em with Des, Gael, and our other friends. If I weren't so happy to be where I'm at right now, I'd really be missing the Pink basement and "Old Bluey" (that ratty couch I called a bed).


CODEPINK said...