- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Anti-war protesters are objecting to military action in Syria, but their efforts pale compared to the crowds that came out against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women’s anti-war group Code Pink, blames the Democrats,

“We’ve been protesting Obama’s foreign policy for years now, but we can’t get the same numbers because the people who would’ve been yelling and screaming about this stuff under Bush are quiet under Obama,” she said.

Code Pink has seen a decrease in membership and, as a result, isn’t able to plan as many events across the country. Ms. Benjamin also said they are getting less attention from reporters, which means less visibility.

“We’re smaller. We lost a lot of people who didn’t like us criticizing Obama. But we still got our feistiness,” Ms. Benjamin told The Washington Times as she waited outside Wednesday’s House hearing, where administration officials made the case for striking Syria.

Ms. Benjamin and fellow Code Pink members arrived to stand in line outside the House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting room just before 10 a.m., securing a spot that allowed them to take prime seats behind Secretary of State John F. Kerry.

During the testimony, some of the group’s members held up their hands with their palms colored red, symbolizing that the blood of Syrians would be on America’s hands if it gets involved in the civil war, Ms. Benjamin said. Another protester had pink tape across her mouth.

A day earlier, Ms. Benjamin was arrested for protesting in the middle of the Senate’s hearing on Syria, yelling “We don’t want another war” as she was escorted out.

She said she expected better of President Obama and that it “feels terrible” to have to protest against a member of the Democratic Party.

“It feels surreal,” she said. “It seems like this country is so topsy-turvy when you have Code Pink and Rand Paul on the same side of foreign policy issues.”

Another group member waiting for the hearing said the conflict goes beyond party lines and the Democrats are now “just as bad” as Republicans.

“When I first moved to this country in 2008, I was very excited to see Barack Obama,” said Noor Mir, who is originally from Pakistan. “But it seems as though he is backed up by so many warmongers that he’s just become one of them.”

Ms. Benjamin said 10 years of war have worn down many would-be protesters, while others are deterred by fear of being arrested or by the sluggish economy, which has them focusing on their jobs.

Code Pink was founded in November 2002 when about 100 women staged a four-month vigil for peace in Iraq outside the White House, culminating in a 10,000-person march on March 8, International Women’s Day.

The group made headlines throughout the war, including getting kicked out of President George W. Bush’s 2005 inauguration for holding up banners and yelling “Bring the troops home,” as well as getting kicked out of the Republican National Convention in 2004 for interrupting Mr. Bush’s acceptance speech. More recently, the organization has protested to call for an end the Obama administration’s use of drones and to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ms. Benjamin said she doesn’t expect Code Pink to reach the same level of media attention over its Syria protests as it did at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also said she wished they didn’t have to be in the spotlight.

“It feels terrible because the only reason we’re back in the media is because there’s another potential war. We’d rather not be in the media and not be going to war,” she said.

Ms. Benjamin says that Code Pink gets a lot of public support whenever they speak out, but that people are still unwilling to join the group even if they agree with its message.

“It’s like people want us to do it for them,” she said. “They say, ‘You’re speaking for us,’ and we say, ‘No, we need to hear your voice, too.’”

A recent poll supports Ms. Benjamin’s theory that liberal activists are against the war.

A Progressive Change Campaign Committee survey released Wednesday found that 73 percent of more than 57,000 liberal activists who responded are opposed to America taking military action in Syria. The three-day survey also found that only 18 percent of activists supported strikes, while just 14 percent agreed the U.S. should take action without the support of allies.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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