We speak with Medea Benjamin, who has traveled to and written about US conflicts in the Middle East, about the war on Yemen, the origins, the extent of US involvement and how it connects to other conflicts. Yemen is a current center of failed US foreign policy. We also discuss what we can do about it, as well as Labor Day and current news.
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Above photo: Medea Benjamin (C), and other activists hold signs during a rally against U.S. drone attacks in front of the White House in Washington, Nov. 15, 2013. GETTY
Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK and the co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 40 years. Described as “one of America’s most committed — and most effective — fighters for human rights” by New York Newsday, and “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times, she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. She received numerous prizes, including: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial, the Gandhi Peace Award, and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Award. She is a former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization.
In 2000, she was a Green Party candidate for the California Senate. During the 1990s, Medea focused her efforts on tackling the problem of unfair trade as promoted by the World Trade Organization. Widely credited as the woman who brought Nike to its knees and helped place the issue of sweatshops on the national agenda, Medea was a key player in the campaign that won a $20 million settlement from 27 US clothing retailers for the use of sweatshop labor in Saipan. She also pushed Starbucks and other companies to start carrying fair trade coffee.
Since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Medea has been working to promote a U.S. foreign policy that would respect human rights and gain us allies instead of contributing to violence and undermining our international reputation. Medea has also been on the forefront of the anti-drone movement, publishing Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control in 2013. She organized the first-ever International Drone Summit, led delegations to Pakistan and Yemen to meet with drone strike victims, and directly questioned President Obama during his 2013 foreign policy address. The campaign against weaponized drones has helped reduce the number of civilian casualties and force the government to compensate the families of innocent victims.
Medea’s work for justice in Israel/Palestine includes taking numerous delegations to Gaza, organizing the Gaza Freedom March in 2010, participating in the Freedom Flotillas and opposing the policies of the Israel lobby group AIPAC. In 2011 she was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising and in 2014 she was detained, beaten and deported by the Egyptian security forces. In 2012 she was part of a human rights delegation to Bahrain in support of democracy activists; she was tear-gassed, arrested and deported by the Bahraini government. In 2015 and 2018 she participated in Women Cross the DMZ, an international delegation of women calling for peace in Korea.
Her groundbreaking work on the negative consequences of the US-Saudi alliance include the 2016 book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, and the 2016 International Summit on Saudi Arabia. Her latest book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is part of a campaign to prevent a war with Iran and instead promote normal trade and diplomatic relations.
Medea is the author of ten books. Her articles appear regularly in outlets such as The Guardian, The Huffington Post, CommonDreams, Alternet, and The Hill. Medea can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @medeabenjamin.