Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Medea Benjamin & Jodie Evans: What Killed America’s Peace Movement?

CODEPINK founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans are rare voices of conscience confronting the bipartisan warmongers.
CODEPINK founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans.
CODEPINK founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans. [Photo courtesy of CODEPINK]

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More than six months into Russia-Ukraine war, peace seems increasingly out of reach. The United States, for its part, is continuing to send tens of billions of dollars to fund Ukrainian military spending—money that often circles back to the American weapons industry—without so much as a dissenting voice in Congress or U.S. corporate media, laments “Scheer Intelligence” host Robert Scheer. On American streets, there are few remnants of the anti-war movement that Scheer himself helped shape in the 1960s and 70s. 

The feminist anti-war group CODEPINK, with its mission to “educate, inspire, and activate” Americans about the need for peace and how it intersects with crises such as climate change, stands out as one of the few effective peace movements in the U.S. today. Its co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans join Scheer to offer their perspectives on the war in Ukraine and the reasons they still have hope for a peaceful future. Benjamin has reported from conflict zones and written a dozen books, with the most recent, “War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict,” forthcoming from OR Books in October. Evans has served in former California Governor Jerry Brown’s cabinet and led citizen diplomacy delegations to Gaza, Iran, and Afghanistan. 

Both Benjamin and Evans are scathing in their rebukes of the bipartisan support of the military industrial complex, but as lifelong political activists, they highlight how direct action and collective organizing have yielded results. Most recently, they point to a CODEPINK protest that successfully pressured a Chicago politician to stop receiving campaign funds from weapons manufacturers. The two have also advocated for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while effectively critiquing and protesting NATO’s role in the most recent conflicts in Eastern Europe. 

Responding to Scheer’s pointed criticism of the Democratic Party and its warmongering, as well as American apathy towards war, Benjamin and Evans argue that younger generations are more inspired and politically active than anyone expected, and this is an important reason not to give in to despair. Listen to the full discussion between Benjamin, Evans and Scheer as they grapple with the conflict in Ukraine and consider what Americans can do to help stop the ongoing violence. 

Credits

Host:

Robert Scheer

Producer:

Joshua Scheer

Transcript

Robert Scheer:

Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case, more than intelligence, passion, commitment, we have really the heart of what exists of a peace movement in the United States: Medea Benjamin, author also of very important books about world conflict from Iraq to Afghanistan; Jodie Evans, who has done so much to create CODEPINK, along with Medea Benjamin.

And I wanted to talk to you guys, particularly about where is the peace movement? Today is the day after the announcement of Mikhail Gorbachev’s death. I have a piece about that. I had interviewed him some 40 years ago. I thought the Cold War is over, peace would come. It hasn’t happened. We’re now talking about maybe a nuclear war with Russia, without communists, without the Soviet Union, so we find occasion to threaten the disruption of the planet. So, let’s just begin with that. What happened to the peace movement? Hello?

Medea Benjamin:

Jodie, why don’t you go first?

Jodie Evans:

Okay. So, what happened to the peace movement? The peace movement, let’s just look at the last 20 years, which is when we started CODEPINK in response to Bush’s frightening the American people into war on Iraq, an innocent country, with his color coded alerts, orange, red, and yellow. We called CODEPINK. Bob, that was 20 years ago, and there were, remember, 12 million people in the streets saying no to that war.

And since then, the United States has spent 21 trillion dollars on the war on terror, and we have marched, and we have protested, and we did eight nonstop years of disrupting congress, and what happens is you’re up against Teflon. You’re up against a Pentagon that is buying up everyone in power. I mean, we just watched a vote on weapons for Ukraine, and I don’t know, I haven’t looked into it, but I don’t know in the history of the United States if there was not even one dissenting vote against war and militarism. Not one dissenting vote.

So, we’ve just watched 20 years of the United States culture be weaponized. Right now, a couple of years ago, I launched China Is Not Our Enemy, because I watched exactly the same playlist that took us to Vietnam War, that took us to Iraq War, happening towards China. And the propaganda is so thick that people… peace isn’t even in the conversation. Here we are with Ukraine. The conversation is about more weapons. It’s never about ‘how do we get to peace?’

So, we’ve watched, we had the 2006 election where it was all about peace, and we got a lot of interesting people in, and there was a huge push, and what happens is they all get into congress and they all vote for a bigger Pentagon budget. And so, we’ve watched then you’ve got people that need to be fighting on the fronts of their own communities, for their own needs. So, the costs of war aren’t visible.

They’re not what people see, they’re not what the media’s talking about, but we’re all experiencing the costs of war, including the planet where war is the greatest contributor to climate change, and the war machine and those that line their pockets with it are just gone off. It’s very frustrating for peace activists, because you work and you work and you work and the budget gets bigger, and the violence gets more extreme, and the effects…

Looking what’s happening in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and what we’ve done, none of the costs of war are visible. And you’ve got a whole generation that’s grown up since the Iraq War that doesn’t know the world without war. So, that’s this whale we start with. I’ll turn it over to Medea.

Medea Benjamin:

Well, I just want to make one correction, Jodie, which is that there were 57 Republicans who voted against that 40 billion dollars, and that’s ironic because Republicans are supposed to be the war party and Democrats a little bit less of the war party. But what happens when there’s a democrat in the White House is that the Democrats just march in line.

And we saw when President Obama came in how the peace movement pretty much fell apart, and we see now under Biden how the overwhelming support of Democrats not only for the Ukraine 40 billion dollar allotment in which you’re right, Jodie, not one Democrat, not even Barbara Lee, no one of The Squad, stood up and said, “Negotiations, not more weapons.” But you also have the Pentagon budget continuing to rise, and so I think this bipartisan consensus that you don’t want to be seen as “weak on security” means that the weapons makers laugh all the way to the bank.

They continue to make obscene profits off of people’s suffering and misery, and that there’s no accountability because the media other than Bob Scheer and some other exceptions don’t go back and look at what happened. We had a year anniversary of the Taliban being back in power in Afghanistan, and so we had a day or two of reminiscing about that war in the mainstream media, but otherwise it’s not talked about.

And now, we see Iraq back in tremendous conflict and people really don’t care about it, and if they do, they’d scratch their heads and say, “I wonder what happened after the US was there for so many years? Why can’t they get it together?” Rather than recognizing that the US goes into countries and blows them up and tears them apart and leaves them in worse shape than before.

So, it’s hard to build a peace movement when as Jodie said, you can’t see the immediate costs of the war, although those costs are so evident if you understand what trillions of dollars could do to give us a decent healthcare system, to give us a free college education, not $10,000 off your student loan, and to address the fact that our planet is burning up and we don’t know if we will survive as a species.

Robert Scheer:

Well, yeah. Let me take as… first of all, I do want to object to any expectation that the Democrats would not be the war party. It’s true. The Republicans certainly willing to blow up a lot of people, but the fact of the matter is Richard Nixon, terrible in so many ways, was the one who did negotiate peace with Mao Zedong, and all of this crap now you have to find you can’t negotiate with Putin, who isn’t a communist.

He’s quite conservative and pro-cartel and everything, but Richard Nixon went and what was supposed to be the most bloody communist dictator, Mao Zedong, he and Henry Kissinger and whoever thought we’d now be celebrating Henry Kissinger for making sense, and I think he’s almost 100. And they went and negotiated, and as a result, we had peace with China until now. Now, the Democrats want to have war with China over, of all things, Taiwan. Once again, back. And to my mind, it brings up really George Orwell, because we no longer have… they’ve forgotten terrorism. That’s gone.

We no longer have communists that are really threatening us. I mean, in Russia it’s the anti-communist Putin who defeated Gorbachev’s side that is in there. In China, they’re capitalist communists, but it goes back to Orwell’s need for our system for an enemy, as the great organizing, and it doesn’t matter what you call the enemy. And it’s always in the name of freedom and our security and they just change. And it’s totally cynical, and the Democrats seem to be the main party of war. I know you might not agree with that, but they’re the ones who gave us Vietnam from beginning to end.

Medea Benjamin:

Well, we have some examples of the Democrats doing negotiating like Obama negotiating with Iran for the Iran nuclear deal. Negotiating with Cuba to normalize relations, but of course they’re both war parties and we don’t expect the Democrats to be the party of peace, but we do expect some of the members of the Democratic Party, and the ones who call themselves progressives, to stand up for a more peaceful foreign policy.

Where that all falls apart is when you talk about things like Israel Palestine, where even the progressives don’t want to go there because we have allowed AIPAC and its iterations to be throwing money into our elections to defeat any progressives that will come out even for a mild statement of supporting Palestinian rights. But yes, Bob, you’re right. Of course, we have two war parties.

Robert Scheer:

No, but I want to push this further, because one possibility is if the United States would really believe in capitalism and trade and so forth, then they would worry about how can we get good jobs back, and how can we do better capitalism? And if you think China’s a threat, well okay. Produce products better, have better workers, et cetera, et cetera. That’s not what’s going on here now. We are threatened economically by the vigor of the Chinese economy, so we’re going to play the enemy card again. We’re going to pick a fight, of all things, about Taiwan, once again.

Which, my god, they had agreed under all these different presidents that okay, we’ll have some kind of accommodation about what is China and its relation to… no. We’re now actually talking about war with China, war with Russia in which this guy Putin who we backed. I was there at the time covering it for the LA Times. This was the answer to the Soviet Union, Yeltsin and Putin and so forth.

No, we’re now going to have war, and even nuclear weapons are in play. And so, I really want to get back to this notion of Orwell. Maybe the American society is sick at the heart of it that we require an enemy in order to think. In order to feel anything, and we develop all sorts of fantasies about the evil empire that we’re opposing. And that’s happening once again. A one-sided propagandistic view of what’s going on.

Jodie Evans:

Well, Bob, but the ‘we’. The ‘we’ has been undermined with no investment in education. It’s been propagandized, so the we you’re talking about, if you’re talking about the government or the people? Because the people are exhausted by all… just look at how hard workers work in the United States with so little back, and you’ve got an exhausted citizenry that is manipulated by yes, the idea you have. But I think it’s even just an addiction to war. There’s no capacity to… it seems like there’s no capacity to stop and see oh my god, we’re running off a cliff with the way we’ve been doing this.

There’s no capacity to think about what really security is, which has nothing to do with weapons and war. There’s a lie that is perpetrated within the United States of America that has seeped into the very sinews of what it means to be a citizen, and what even you’re allowed to say as a citizen when you think of a country made up of so many immigrants. And that fear of being able to stay, so there’s so many factors that hold into place a citizenry that believes in its media, even though it’s lying to them all the time.

I mean, Russians know they’re getting propaganda. Americans believe in the media they’re getting. So, yes. There’s an addiction, there’s… I mean, capitalism itself. I call it the war economy, the destructive, extractive, oppressive economy. It is our culture, but it’s being driven by those that are making money with it and collecting power from it. So-

Robert Scheer:

By the way, I want to identify you folks. That’s Jodie Evans, along with Medea Benjamin, founded CODEPINK. But I want to get Medea into this, because one thing here, you’ve also been, I shouldn’t say just also, but you’ve been an important eye witness journalist. You’ve gone to these war zones, you’ve seen the horror of it, and that there’s a horror now going on in the Ukraine.

Not the same horror that after all life ends, of course nuclear weapons are involved and so forth, but we’re in another one of these never-ending wars, and now the fantasy is, “Oh, for once we’ve found the good war. We’re on the side of freedom and democracy and those bad Russians, they did this without any cause, without any history.” We know this is another one of those manipulated events. The whole thing of the color revolutions, and Free Ukraine, and the role of the CIA, the role, and we saw that in Vietnam. This story gets repeated over and over.

I remember when I first went to Vietnam in the early 1960s, that was the whole story. Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam, these brave people fighting with these terrible communists from the North. And you know today, when they bash China, they’re saying, “Move your Apple manufacturing and everything else from communist China to communist Vietnam.” We now accept communist Vietnam as the model country in Asia, and when we’re rallying everybody, I just keep getting back to Orwell. We know it’s idiocy. We know you’re inventing an enemy, but the point is the media all buys into it.

We have a sick culture, and it’s a pathetic statement that you made at the beginning of the show. If it’s the three of us, and maybe another 300 that are saying something, and you can’t even count on a Barbara Lee to speak up. No, she went with Nancy Pelosi stoking this dispute between China and Taiwan. The last thing we need.

And one other point I want to throw in and get you to comment on, yes, we have these existential crises in addition to the possibility of nuclear war, with climate change, with this vast income inequality, with the desire of the US to have a uni pull on the world when the rest of the world is trying to go its own ways in solving some of these problems. And the fact of the matter is, we are in a worse situation, I think, than we were at the worst moments of the Cold War. Where there’s just no one speaking out, and that’s why in desperation, I turn to the two of you. We’re alone.

Medea Benjamin:

Thanks, Bob.

Robert Scheer:

Well, no. I mean… And I’ve always admired your work, but I didn’t think that you were the only ones. I mean, really, I sat around for the last couple weeks, and I said, “Where is the peace movement?” And I called lots of people, and they said, “Well, this is more complicated, and we have to criticize the Russians more and blah blah blah.” And I know all that.

I know there are no saints in this world, other maybe that the two of you, but the fact of the matter is, the absolute silencing of the peace movement, and everybody want to talk once again, we’re talking about important issues. Choice and the Supreme Court, and the lesser evil, and the fact of the matter is, when it comes to war, the Democrats are not the lesser evil.

It was the Democrats that dropped the bombs on Hiroshima, on Nagasaki, the greatest act of terrorism ever in the world if by terrorism we mean targeting civilians. And no one has ever, even identifies that as part of the Democratic Party’s legacy.

Medea Benjamin:

Well, it’s funny when you talked about the companies-

Robert Scheer:

Could you use your names by the way? Use your names, please.

Medea Benjamin:

Yes. This is Medea. Yeah, when you talk about companies moving from communist China to Vietnam, it makes me think in today’s world about moving from not buying Russian oil to buying more Saudi oil, and we see how Biden called Saudi Arabia a pariah state when it’s running for office, and then goes and does the evil fist bump with Mohammed bin Salman, and so yes. The Saudis are the good allies who are the brutal, brutal murderers and one of the only absolute monarchies left in the world, and yet it’s the Russians that we have been attacking.

We have been very much opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but we do think it’s important that people understand the context for that, and there Gorbachev comes in having been someone who really took James Baker, Secretary of State, at his word that the NATO was not going to move one inch Eastward towards Russia’s border. Instead of getting it down in writing, he was way too trusting, a historic blunder, and maybe the Russians wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine today if we had gotten that in writing and there was an agreement that NATO would not be expanding the way it did.

And then we have the intimate involvement of the United States in the 2014 coup in Ukraine. We talk about Russian involvement in US elections, and you have to laugh at that when you see US involvement in things like Ukraine, a coup and deciding who is going to take over afterwards. So, unfortunately, the American people don’t have this context and are too easily duped into seeing the world in these black and white terms.

But I don’t want to leave everything so negative, Bob, because Jodie and I do have the privilege of working on these issues, working with young people, relating these issues to other things going on in their lives like the environment and we do see that in the younger generation, there’s a lot of mistrust of the mainstream media.

There’s a lot of searching for alternative news, and there are people who really feel like the foundations of the system that were built are absolutely wrong, and that they have to look for something totally different. So, in that sense while we don’t have a large and effective peace movement, we do have a growing movement of young people saying that this capitalist aggressive militaristic society is not one that the world can sustain.

Jodie Evans:

Yeah, and this is Jodie. I mean, to echo what Medea’s saying, and there is a movement out there, and in ways it’s more connected and integrated than we’ve been in the last 20 years. Now’s a time of teaching. Like we said earlier, what are these costs of war that you can’t see? What is the history that you weren’t taught? So there are I would say hundreds of people out in their communities. Our campaigns are based locally, so we’re working inside of cities to get them to divest from weapons, or universities to get them, as a way to teach here’s where the war comes home to your communities.

We have teaching activities probably once a week on how do you understand this thing you’re being used by in the media and take it deeper and learn really what’s happening. And there’s many many voices, and many amazing organizations that we partner with. We just did the peace summit as a counter to the summit of the Americas, and there were 200 members of our coalition. So, groups are smaller, though we’re building, creating relationships, building something that really needs to be robust to come out what’s happening.

And also last year on 9/12, as we moved out of the 20 years of the war on terror, we launched at the Pentagon, which was the big tent to bring in all the issues that we need to cut the Pentagon. It’s the militarization of our streets. It’s the violence of US immigration policies at our border. It’s the starving of the needs of life that instead we feed the more war and militarism and line the pockets of the rich. So, really building amongst our partners in all the movements, including and especially the movement to save the planet.

Because really working to teach inside of these movements how those costs, they’re burying, but it’s not so obvious from when they’re in the fight of just trying to get what they need. So, I would say it’s more diverse than it has been in the last 20 years, the depth of education is profound. I mean, we just did two actions outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office after she went to Taiwan and they were huge, and the teaching at the rally was full of depth and understanding and passion.

So, these things are happening, but they’re happening more locally. We still can’t get into congress, except with an appointment, so rallies outside of congress don’t feel useful. Rallies outside of members of congress’s offices in their communities are being much more effective. We just had one in Chicago. It was a weekly vigil outside of a member’s office that had him finally surrender to not taking any more money from weapons manufacturers to his campaign, and we have those happening across the country.

We’re just launching a new campaign to take on the F-35, and to expose how ridiculous the building of weapons is. The level of waste and stupidity to build these weapons that then are ineffective and don’t even work. To be able to build these stories that help everyone understand better what they’re funding with 60% of their tax dollars.

Robert Scheer:

That was Jodie. I just want to… look. I would shrivel up and die if I didn’t know that at least the two of you were still out there trying to organize people. I don’t want to surrender to pessimism, and I agree with what you’re saying about younger people. I teach at a university. I’ll be doing it until 10:00 tonight, and my concern about younger people is that they’re being led to cynicism because they see that of course the Democratic Party is not sincere in any way. I mean, they really, they dropped the ball on immigrants rights, for example. Totally forgotten.

That was the big thing they were going to do that was going to be better than Trump. We’re arresting more people at the border now before. They know the wars, but what I’m concerned about is that they might go to the Right. And we’ve seen this in Europe. We’ve seen that the traditional peace, more peace oriented social Democratic Left. I mean, my goodness, in the Cold War, we had the bulk of Germans who didn’t want armaments, who didn’t want it, now Europe is being torn apart and Germany is going to lead the way to militarization as if the second World War never happened. And we’re getting that.

I mean, in England there’s hardly any kind of peace movement. When Labor shifted in that direction, and here in the United States, any journalist, any writer, anybody who dares to suggest as we did around Vietnam that maybe the US position is not so virtuous. Maybe the side we’re backing is not totally in the right, maybe there’s complexity of the kind that Nixon actually embraced at the end. You will be red-baited out even though Putin was the anti-red. You mentioned Gorbachev.

Putin was the guy the US backed to prevent Gorbachev from being… Yeltsin and then Putin, to prevent Gorbachev from bringing about the reforms he wanted and Putin was the sober alternative to Yeltsin that we backed. But once he asserted that maybe they have some national interests and a different perspective, oh, he becomes the enemy.

And I think we’re in a very scary situation where red-baiting without a red is the fashion, dismissing any journalist. You have an organization like Consortium News which for decades has done excellent reporting, and they’re going to be red-baited out of existence. They’ve already denied funding and Paypal and all this stuff. You’re getting it everywhere.

Our best journalist in the country, Chris Hedges, former Bureau Chief for the New York Times, and he now is going to be made into a non-person. Even people like Matt Taibbi that have a huge following are being dismissed and so forth. So, I just don’t want you… I know you don’t think it. I don’t think we should underestimate the danger of this current situation.

Medea Benjamin:

I don’t think we do, but we realize that our job is to mobilize and inspire and organize, and that’s why when we’re with young people who aren’t afraid of the word socialism and in fact embrace it, and you see that there are chapters of Democratic Socialists of America all over this country, and you see that polls taken show that young people think that we need an alternative to capitalism, that is very hopeful.

And the media alternatives that we have, while they might be small compared to the Fox News, we see that young people don’t watch cable TV. They don’t watch Fox News, they don’t watch MSNBC, they don’t watch CNN, and so there’s a possibility for them to be less polluted by the propaganda. And yes, they could go to the Right, but I think the tendency is for young people to search for more progressive alternatives.

And so, that does lead us into a sense that our job is to bring more young people into the peace movement, to keep connecting this movement as Jodie said to all these other issues, and to not let it be that the people from the generation of Vietnam are the ones who are still the torch-bearers for a peace movement. It has to be a movement of young people.

Robert Scheer:

Yeah, okay. This might be a good way to wrap it up, but I just want to… I applaud your energy and optimism and your smarts. And trust me, I hope you’re right, but I think… I’ve just never seen as frightening a situation as this, because you take an Ed Markey. It wasn’t just Nancy Pelosi went to Taiwan. What is Ed Markey who is a congressman, who is one of the few consistent voices warning about what a disaster nuclear war would be. The end of all life down to cockroaches. He was on that.

Not one member of The Squad or any of the others. You talk about yes we have people talking about socialism, but what has that got to do with it when every single major socialist party in Europe, including The Greens who aren’t socialist, but they’re supposedly progressive, have lined up behind war? Let’s humiliate Russia. When did we ever say that? Let’s humiliate Mao Zedong? No. Nixon negotiated with Mao Zedong. Try to figure out what their interests were. If I have to look now at this point in my life at Richard Nixon as a source of inspiration and courage, we are in big trouble. Optimism aside.

Jodie Evans:

Well, I guess, this is Jodie, we get to look every day at the passion and enthusiasm and brilliance of the people that are coming to CODEPINK and getting engaged. And people are really reaching out right now, and they’re seeing, and they want to get engaged, they want to learn. And so, maybe we need to invite you to one of our gatherings so you can feel the energy out there that is local and is building.

Yes, Bob. It is frightening. Everything you say, we look at it, we see what’s very scary, and that just gives us more impetus to continue to educate, inspire, and activate which is the goal of CODEPINK.

Robert Scheer:

Well, I applaud that, and you don’t need lectures from me. You guys have looked at war in the face. I was going to bring Medea in, but certainly she’s somebody who has in person documented the horror of war, and I just want to say in closing, this is great that we’ve got you. How do they sign up? CODEPINK, is there an email or something? What’s the quickie way to sing up?

Jodie Evans:

CODEPINK.org

Robert Scheer:

Okay, and I just want to say, I’m not… look. I’m 86 years old. I’m doing this because I’m worried, but I’m not… I believe we can turn this around. I agree with you. My students are as smart as any generation I have encountered. What I’m worried about is the smarts become cynical, and they think that we can’t do anything. We voted for Obama, we voted for this person, and they betray us, and so what are we going to do?

And cynicism is really the enemy. And whether they go to the Right, or they just become indifferent, whether they just try to enrich themselves, and I don’t blame young people for that. Because ever time, I mean the idea that there is not one single on the federal level, elected Democrat in the Senate or the House, let alone the White House, that is talking about peace and negotiation.

If we can’t negotiate with Putin and now end this show by talking about Gorbachev, then we’ve missed a great opportunity because we undermined, we meaning the US government, undermined Gorbachev, chose Yeltsin, chose the people who made a coup against Gorbachev. Putin is one of those people we chose. Now they’re telling us he’s such a monster you can’t talk to him.

They’re also saying that about the Chinese leadership. And when these so-called liberals, enlightened people, and Democrats say they can’t negotiate, they are not just a war party, they are the main war mongers today. More effectively so than the Republicans. That’s my little editorial. I’ll leave you each the last word, and we’ll wrap it up. But I do want to applaud what you guys do.

Medea Benjamin:

Well, maybe it’s not the worst thing for young people to be cynical about electoral politics as long as they get involved in other kinds of campaigns. And looking at the world, I get inspired because I know that we are the global majority. I just came back from Latin America, and it was so inspiring to see the changes that are going on there because of people power. People coming out on the streets by the tens of thousands, forcing changes in their governments, and that’s the kind of thing that we need to do here at home.

Robert Scheer:

Jodie, can we end it on that, or you got a last word?

Jodie Evans:

Yeah, and it’s really to not let it affect you and get in community. And I think that’s what we’ve really seen at CODEPINK, that when you’re in community and you can talk about it and share and be engaged together, it keeps you out of that cynicism and depression, which is what we’re really trying to build a lot in CODEPINK.

So, if you join us, we have lots of places where you can engage and be in relationship with a beautiful community of peace activists, and Medea’s about to go on three months of a book tour with her new book on Ukraine to really get us more deeply educated about the history and Ukraine in ways the media doesn’t. So, sign up and you can find out when she comes to a community near you.

Robert Scheer:

Oh, let me stretch this a little bit. Tell us about the new book before we close, Medea.

Medea Benjamin:

Well we, as you have been seeing how this war in Ukraine has torn apart even people who call themselves liberals, much less progressives, and people being so confused about it. And so, we thought it was important to write a book that does lay out the context for this war, that gives people an understanding of the role that NATO has played, the US has played, the Russians have played, the Ukrainians have played, but to really put it in this broader context.

And then to understand how the US and the UK have undermined peace talks, how they have been hell bent on building up the military in Ukraine for years now, that this is not something that just started when the US invaded in February, and that if we don’t want to see this war drag on for years and years with rivers of blood from Ukrainians, then we have to do something about it. And we talk in the book about the lack of this Democratic response to the massive amounts of money we’re pouring in.

Where do these weapons go? What is the role of neo-Nazis? Who is being hurt by these sanctions? Because they have backfired big time. Instead of really squeezing the Russians, they’re squeezing the Europeans with these enormous energy prices, and the global community with the increased prices of grains that have caused massive hunger. So, we outline all of this in the book, and the whole purpose of it is to get people to think, to get them involved, and to get them to join in a movement to say no more weapon sales. We demand negotiations.

Robert Scheer:

And how do they get the book, and what’s the title, and who are the other authors?

Medea Benjamin:

It’s myself and my colleague Nicolas Davies. It’s called War In Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. It’ll be out in the beginning of October by OR Books.

Robert Scheer:

Oh, they’re a good publisher. They bring out really important work. So, okay. Maybe I can get a chapter from you, or a few chapters to run before then. But we’ll look forward to it. So, that’s all the time we got today for Scheer Intelligence. I want to thank, first of all our guests. You guys, okay. I’ve said it over and over. I can’t think of two more useful citizens in this country than Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin, but I think a lot of people know that. I want to thank the folks at KCRW for putting these shows, posting them up these podcasts.

Laura Kondourajian, and I always get the name right. Laura Kondourajian, and Christopher Ho at KCRW. A terrific NPR station here in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. Joshua Scheer, our executive producer, Natasha Hakimi Zapata who writes the introduction, and the JKW Foundation, which in the memory of a terrific writer and significant wonderful human being, Jean Stein, helps fund these shows. See you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.

24 comments

  1. Evans is exactly correct, Americans are full-on addicted to war and always have been. We’ve always been a hostile & ignorant people and that has not abated. Remember, the polls during the Vietnam War showed that most people were in favor of it, despite the anti-war movement and despite the obvious illegalities & atrocities. Our problems aren’t just political; they’re also social and cultural. Dare I say more the latter.

    When she mentioned addiction, I remembered the old show “Nurse Jackie”, depicting the life of a drug-addicted nurse. In one episode, someone was speaking with Jackie (played by Edie Falco) and said something like was she a former addict. Jackie deadpanned “there’s no such thing”. America will never overcome its addiction because its people refuse to wake up. Americans love their addictions. If there’s one bigger addiction than war, it’s consumerism.

    The old saying of “a people get the government they deserve” continues to rear its head.

  2. The conflict in Ukraine will end in nuclear war. The west has gone insane and will destroy….everyone. It won’t be long now. It is clear as day if you have the eyes to see. Enjoy your normal life while you can because our days are numbered.

    Just FYI….there never was any peace movement to kill. America is a rabid dog.

  3. What was Russia to do about the Ukrainian Nazis and their affiliates who were going to attack the Dombas ? They’d already killed thousands. I think Russia was forced into their military response.

    To me, it is crazy that the western world can get so riled about Russia, while the US has attacked so many countries in the last two decades alone, killing over a million humans. Where’s the outrage? Who will sanction us?

    1. Aristotle was one of the greatest Greek (Western) philosophers who lived between 384 and 322 BC.
      At this same moment in time (circa. 500 BCE.) the great Chinese (Eastern/Asian) philosophers were already deep into critical thinking, yet the West paid their search for wisdom no heed.
      Two thousand – plus years of Western institutional religious doctrine, and what has changed?
      There is still only one god – the one of our Western minds creation.
      To me, the description for the western worlds perception of itself, is way beyond “crazy” though a stronger word of condemnation for the amoral hypocrisy of the West eludes me!
      Profound insight, sincerely appreciated.
      Thanks!

      1. “the last virtues in an empire near collapse are tolerance and apathy”. Aristotle
        “all of western philosophy is a footnote on Plato”. AN Whitehead

  4. immoral liars—americans love violence—fully 80% supported the invasion of Vietnam & Iraq, 90% Afghanistan….americans have always been genocidal enjoying killing from afar”. Philip Slater
    most rent Reuters/IPSOS: only 15% US adults moral enough to believe torture never justified!
    “of all peoples in an advanced stage of economic civilization amerikans are least accessible to long views always and everywhere in a hurry to get rich they give no thought to remote consequences they perceive only present advantages…americans do not feel Americans do not remember. americans live in a materialist dreamm”. Moisede Ostrogorski

  5. Our hopes lie in the progress of South America and Central America
    Via AMLO, Fernandez,Maduro, Ortega, Diaz-Canal, Castro, Castillo, Lula to continue to reject the war mongering hegemony of bloodoilthirsty capitalism. Support them for a truly anti war and democratic future. Code Pink does, thankfully, avidly.

  6. What killed the US’s peace movement as well as it collective response to the ,
    climate crisis, in my opinion, are the #MeToo mania, without any statute of limitations, along with the numberless sins and misdemeanors generated by Identity Politics. The political atmosphere is a minefield; fear and rage have overtaken any real sense of peace. Compassion, endemic to peace, has been transformed from an impulse into an option, with Social Darwinism in the wings cruelly declaiming that the many millions of refugees both in the US and abroad have only themselves to blame for their anguish. Whatever one thinks of Identity Politics, it represents, in my view, pharisaic responses which should be bracketed while we fight together to rescue as best we can a world in distress.

  7. You make it sound like the peace movement was stopped only in the 21st century. The peace movement was attacked by the government and the media in the 1960s. Marijuana was criminalized then to have a reason to arrest counter-culture types.
    There were massive protests against the first Persian Gulf War, but the media just didn’t report on them. They were buried. I went with a contingent from Minnesota to Washington to lobby against a war, and I met folks from all over the country. The elected representatives from all of these states were reporting that 9 out of 10 of the messages they were getting – emails and phone calls – were against a war. People wanted a diplomatic solution.
    I drove from Minnesota to Indiana through the heartland of the Midwest, and I heard farmers, the salt of the earth, talking about politics and they were dead-set against the actions of the government. I thought at the time that George Bush should be court-ordered to travel there, to learn what real Americans are like. And I’d like to suggest that you three travel there as well. You don’t seem to know much about regular people.
    Of course, the farmers I saw, and the owners of the small businesses I met, are different now. They have been crushed by the economic policies of their own representatives. The small mom-and-pop cafes are probably no longer in existence.
    When you say “we” are doing this or that, I wonder which “we” you mean. The government is not “we.” I sometimes wonder if they seceded from the rest of the country and just didn’t bother to inform us. We’re sitting back here with the Constitution, scratching our heads, and wondering what hit us.
    If, by “we,” you mean the United States government, then We are the biggest terrorist organization on the planet. That’s where terrorism went. We became what we feared.
    Yes, we backed Putin. You’ve forgotten this now, but we backed Saddam Hussein. He used to be “our guy.” Until he wasn’t.
    You’re repeating all of the propaganda about how stupid and obedient the American people are. Go out and actually talk to people. You’ll find out that most people oppose what the government is doing. They just don’t know what to do about it. And they’re afraid to talk to anyone, because the powerful have successfully made our society divided on almost any topic.
    Moreover, “anti-war” itself has become a pariah. Caitlin Johnstone wrote an article called “The Left Will Never Achieve Its Goals Until It Confronts the Establishment Propaganda.” She’s right. The anti-war movement won’t be able to recruit new members until it confronts the public perception created by the anti-anti-war propaganda.
    We will need to find alternate ways to communicate, since the major avenues, like the mainstream media, are closed to us.
    Get out of your Beltway ivory towers and talk to real people.

    1. History tells us, in no uncertain terms, the U.S. has forever had only one unidirectional peace movement: taking possession, by hook and by crook, of a piece of everyone else’s lands and precious natural resources.
      It was okay for Obama’s America to draw red lines, but not for Putin’s Russia!

    2. I care nothing about the complaints of obsequious morons that do zero….Christopher Lasch demonstrated there has never been an anti-war movement in USA…he described 1960’s protests vs Vietnam genocide as a “fear of death movement”—when military conscription ended so did the fear of death protests yet american genocide in SE Asia continued for 4 more years

  8. I’m sorry to say this but i think Medea and Code Pink have been unwittingly turned into steam-letting valves of the war machine. They are the lipstick for the pig, the smile the Devil puts on to look like the lesser evil. America is rotten to the core and there is almost no good left in it. Sad.

  9. Very interesting ….
    One thing I definitely would have asked these folks is “How do you feel about the ‘Vote Blue, No Matter Who’ mantra?” Their answer to that would have revealed sooo much …
    There seems to be a general agreement that the Ds are as bad, if not worse, on the subject of wars, as the Rs – so, unless we don’t vote at all, the LOTE theme might indicate a vote for Rs – for whom are these ladies going to vote?
    There is nooo mention of an alternative –
    Jodie says “We still can’t get into congress, except with an appointment, …” unless you mean you, personally, if it’s the cause you want in there is another way to get into Congress besides “an appointment” – it’s called “an election” and there is a guy, Matt Hoh, running for Sen as a Green in NC who decries these endless wars – as a matter of fact, awhile ago I though I saw Medea in a spot with him – so why don’t these peace ladies mention him as a way “to get into Congress” – are they afraid of ruffling D feathers too much? – Ds who originally succeeded in keeping him off the ballot with some BS about having enough valid signatures until he sued and is back on, but the Ds will no doubt contest the decision –

    Let’s face it, the Ds aren’t afraid of these ladies, they are afraid of 3rd parties to their Left (though that takes very little these days) – if they were afraid of them they’d be denounced as “Putin puppets” as Jill Stein was and hauled into a Sen subcommittee which is another way of getting into Congress ….

    It’s Clinton, et.al. who re-ignited, and re-infected the country with Russiaphobia, with her Russiagate BS – accusing Russia of “undermining our Democracy!” while the Ds at the same time were undermining it by keeping out the “competition” for our votes off the ballot, out of debates and starved of funds – now that’s a book I would like to see written …

    So ladies, for whom will you vote, for whom will you encourage others to vote – or will you stay silent on the subject?

    And Mr. Scheer, will you interview Matt Hoh – he is not the only one who the Ds are trying to keep off ballots – because if you really want to have folks who will vote no for all this Pentagon crap, these are the guys who will do it – in fact, I’ll wager they are the only ones – except for the Rs who voted no 😀

    I think it is so sad, and frankly quite frustrating, that Progressive media, while wringing their hands about the Ds, still refuse to elevate, or oft even mention, the only folks who actually ARE progressive –

    Btw – the difference between now and the Viet Nam war era was the draft – that is the lesson the big wigs have learned – if “our boys and girls don’t have to fight it, we don’t really care who gets killed” –

    1. Agree with all you say and would add that Obama did much damage because he replaced “boots on the ground” (and US casualties) with drones and Kill Lists. His sycophants welcomed that as well.

  10. Russia’s SMO was essential to protect the lives of civilians. FACTS: Hostilities were not instigated by the Russians commencing 24/2/2022, hostilities were instigated by the USA at least since 2013/14 when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian Yanukovych government and installed extreme right wing fanatics in the ukrogovernment who started to ban the Russian language and glorify Stepan Bandera, a psycho who wore the SS Nazi uniform and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, gypsies etc in WW2. In 2014 the Ukronazis burned to death 48 ethnic Russians in the trade union building in Odessa, triggering the demand of the Donbass ethnic Russians to secede from western Ukraine. The ukronazis then bombarded and shelled Donbass for 8 years, killing 14,000 civilians according to UN figures. All this time Putin was trying to negotiate a peaceful outcome with Minsk 1 and 2, but was blocked at every turn by the US and NATO. In the weeks before 24/2/2022 there was a buildup of around 80,000 western Ukrainian forces, all trained by NATO, on the border of Donbass and they increased their shelling of Donbass by 30+ times, obviously intending to invade Donbass. Putin was forced to act to prevent the mass slaughter of ethnic Russians in Donbass. Furthermore the Russians came to learn of the 30+ pathogen biolabs in ukraine funded by the USA, a fact admitted by Victoria Nuland herself. There were no WMDs in Iraq but there definitely were WMDs in the making in Ukraine.
    Did you know that”Ukraine” means “borderland” and prior to the breakup of the USSR that area was considered culturally and ethnically indistinguishable from Russia proper? Did you know that the proto-Russians, the Rus, the founders of the Russian nation, were the original founders and builders of the city of Kiev and were hence called the Kievan Rus? Kiev is the founding city of mother Russia and many other so-called Ukrainian cities are historically, ethnically and culturally Russian. Those areas ended up in Ukraine by a quirk of gerrymandering committed by Kruschev.
    For example Odessa is considered historically a Russian city and no doubt many of their inhabitants today want to be freed from the terror of the ukronazis.

  11. It is a war OF terrorism that imperialists wage because their minds have been arrested by a royal cult that doesn’t believe that all humans are wealthy. Capitalism IS fascist royal terrorism and clever financial colonization and subjugation. The cult believes that only elite royal shareholders are wealthy. The immature violent royal competition for individual privelaged access to resources and health undermines everyone’s human dignity and inherent goodness. Real wealth and power is manifest when our compassion flows back and forth effortlessly fulfilling a shared purpose, a shared identity, a shared goal, a shared history, a shared future with everyone allowing our trust and love and creativity to flourish in efforts for each other with cooperative coordination organized for mutual satisfaction and fulfillment. Our inherent goodness only is what allows for this. Real wealth and power is shared and embodied equally in us all. If there is anything worthy in any national constitution it’s only an honest reflection of the incredible inherent constitution of humankind. Immature narcissistic mindsets don’t understand their own real value and instead create narcissistic fantasies of their superiority which justify war, lies and every horrible thing in their “great power competition” of cover up ignorance and personal immaturity and irresponsibility.

  12. The liberal bourgeoisie have no grasp of the broad consequences of their war on the poor, much less the impact of their “Russiagating” since early 2017.

  13. Robert:

    Thank-you for an excellent interview and asking the question I have asked myself many times: where is the peace movement?

    If you are looking for causes, at the heart is the great ability of humans to rationalize. I have affluent relatives and when I bring up the issues you write about on Scheerpost, I get all sorts of rationalizations and deflections. They have a good life, and it can pay to be cynical, to not challenge the status quo in the media and to avoid any cognitive dissonance.

    You could add to the title of your website, Scheerpost: On the Decline and Fall of the American Empire. The MIC and US govt’s efforts are on a timer: along with Russia and China, most of the world is getting better at organizing a resistance to US power. Russia has 1/10th the military budget and 1/20th the size of the economy of the US, and yet (from Larry C Johnson, Scott Ritter, Andrei Martyanov) Russia has far better military technology, and is demonstrating it. I don’t take pride that Russia is more competent, I just mean to illustrate how corrupt the US Military Industrial complex is.

    The US is a simmering cauldron of economic, political and social unrest heading into the 2024 election. Nuclear war, and the slower version of nuclear war, climate chaos, would be as Hedges writes the end of civilization. Even without these threats, the US elite is cannibalizing (and rationalizing via mainstream media) away its future. Sure, you can cynically have an affluent life now if you are an oil, pharmaceutical or arms executive, but you are paying for it with the future.

    1. French economist jacque Sapir disagrees —per ppp and given machine vehicle commodity exports he considers Russia to be the only dispensable economy on earth—-more significant than UK and Germany…technically US has no economy—nothing produced indebted everything imported….Russia the only nation with positive balance of trade all nations—reserve fund increased 32% by 100 billion$ past 6 months

  14. Bob – you are not an old fogie or out of touch or burnt out or cynical or pessimistic. You are correctly appalled at the dismal current state of affairs and prospects for the future.

  15. “one of the few effective peace movements in the U.S. today” – It should be noted that even in their home turf, when CODEPINK calls for a demonstration before the White House they are lucky if they can get a couple dozen people out, hardly a manifestation of “how direct action and collective organizing have yielded results.” This is not so much a criticism of Evans, Benjamin, and company as of us all. Why were groups like ANSWER able to get a hundred thousand or more out on the mall protesting the invasion of Iraq and yet now, when we are faced with a much more significant and immediate threat thanks to the hegemonists, the antiwar movement is AWOL?

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