ROCK HILL, South Carolina – On January 28, Medea Benjamin visited Winthrop University to deliver a lecture on the use of drones in international warfare.
Benjamin is the co-founder of CODEPINK, a women-led grassroots organization dedicated to mobilizing for peace and social justice. CODEPINK is an extremely well-known peace organization; Benjamin herself has published several books and been very involved in the discourse regarding mechanisms to achieve global peace. Most recently, she has been involved in a convention in Geneva to advocate for the inclusion of women in the Syrian peace talks.
Benjamin included images of the families of victims of United States drone strikes in countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These images were a powerful part of her presentation because they challenged the very concept that makes drone strikes appealing to the U.S. military: dehumanization. By giving the victims of drone strikes a face, name and a story, she relayed the idea that all people, no matter where they are on the globe, are people who experience pain and loss.
While CODEPINK has been very staunch in its opposition to several practices of the U.S. military (such as illegal drone strikes and military occupations abroad,) Benjamin argued that drone strikes hurt everyone, not just those who are victims in the traditional sense. Comparing Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rates, Benjamin explained that there are frequent instances of PTSD in soldiers who operate unmanned aerial vehicles, not only those who engage in combat directly.
Therefore, drone strikes are detrimental to the peace and security of the U.S. in addition to the countries affected by targeted drone killings.
One of the most common arguments made against drone strikes, and one that Benjamin herself made, is that drone strikes are detrimental to global security. This assertion creates the framework for an interesting juxtaposition between global security and national security.
While many argue for the use of drones by stating that it is in the country’s national security, Benjamin argued that U.S. military drone strikes essentially terrorize entire nations in the name of ending terror. By forcing civilians and militants alike to live in a condition saturated with impending fear that never ends, people do not make the country or its people any safer.
Rather than framing the discourse about drones through a national security lens, global peace advocates aim to show how global security should be the primary focus and that none of us are safe until we are all safe.
The discussion about drones is (and should be) occurring within a larger conversation of global peace and the global peace movements that enable us to work towards that larger goal. At the heart of CODEPINK lies the belief that women must be actively involved in conversations about global peace.
CODEPINK’s call to women states, “We call on women around the world to rise up and oppose the war in Iraq. We call on mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, on workers, students, teachers, healers, artists, writers, singers, poets, and every ordinary outraged woman willing to be outrageous for peace. Women have been the guardians of life-not because we are better or purer or more innately nurturing than men, but because the men have busied themselves making war. Because of our responsibility to the next generation, because of our own love for our families and communities and this country that we are a part of, we understand the love of a mother in Iraq for her children, and the driving desire of that child for life.”
The importance symbolized by women-led peace movements is one that can provide a model for other inclusive peace movements; it symbolizes that we are more than the boundaries that bind us, more than the divisions that disassemble us, and more than the deafeningly quiet drones that silence us.
To learn more about the work of CODEPINK and get involved in the global peace movement, visit www.codepink.org.
– Brandi Geurkink