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Interview with Code-Pink founder, Medea Benjamin After She "Heckled" Obama

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MB: It's an absolute crisis. There are over 100 men in Guantanamo who haven't been eating, and they started over 100 days ago. They are being terribly force-fed in a way that even the American Medical Association calls torture.  They need some justice, not nice sounding words from President Obama. We [have] heard since before he was president that he was going to close Guantanamo. People are sick of hearing him say that. They want it closed.

DBMedea, you have many times put your body on the line. How does it feel? Were you frightened of being hurt?

MB: I was very scared going in there. I assumed that I would be recognized and kicked out. But I was there for two-and-a-half hours and nobody said anything to me, which sometimes makes me feel that I'm invisible. It was very scary to be in there and think about interrupting the President of the United States. It is not an easy thing to do, but I kept breathing deeply and thinking about the people I met in Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been so harmed by our policies. I thought about the people who have been hunger striking for over 100 days. I thought that maybe I could get it out if I thought about how meaningful it would be for the people who are suffering from our policies.

DBYou were there as a founder of Code Pink, a women-driven organization. Do you think women are playing a special role in trying to restrain these wars being expanded with advanced weaponry? What is the role of Code Pink and women in the context of a forever war?

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MB: There are women who heed the original call by Julia Ward Howe for a Mothers Day to declare we will not raise our children to kill other mothers' children. We got together with mothers in Pakistan to hold hands and heed that call together in our different languages. But it is certainly not exclusively a women's issue. Today the president talked about the ethical and moral issues of the drone strikes. There certainly are, but he didn't get into them. This is an issue that people of faith must speak out against. It is also a huge legal issue. I wish the entire legal community were more vociferous about ways the administration is violating international law and the U.S. constitution.

DBYou have said that the President of the United States using extra-legal drone assassinations, killing children, makes him a candidate for a war-crimes investigation.

MB: Yes, there's an investigation by the United Nations going on now which will conclude in a couple of months. Certainly the U.S. actions like using devil taps that kill rescue workers is definitely a war crime. I look forward to seeing the UN response. The high court in Pakistan recently came out with a judgment, which said the U.S. drone strikes are war crimes.

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DBIs there anything else you would want to say to the president? Maybe he's listening.

MB: There were two issues I didn't get a chance to talk about. One is how the over 800 foreign bases scattered around the world, particularly in places like Saudi Arabia, the holy lands, are making us more hated and should be closed. I also wanted to give a shout-out to Bradley Manning because were it not for him, we wouldn't know a lot of the information that our government has tried to hide from us.

DBHe was thoroughly abused under the authority of the President of the United States.

MB: Yes, he was kept in horrendous conditions in Quantico marine base and has not been given the right to a speedy trial. He is facing life in prison for trying to shed light on the war crimes of this administration.

DBMedea, thanks for your courage and for being with us today.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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