Middle East

CodePink replies

Ongoing protests in Iran, including protests of striking workers, oppressed national groupings and of women.
Will Codepink stand with the oppressed or the oppressor?

Oaklakdsocialist had published an open letter to Code Pink taking issue with their delegation to Iran, one which would have been used as a cover for the regime there. This approach by Code Pink is not just some tempest in a teapot; it is representative of the “peace” movement in general in the US, as well as the attitude of all too many “socialists”, who drop their socialism at the borders to the US; once they cross that border, as long as a regime is in conflict with US imperialism they have nothing critical to say. That is the basis for the red-brown alliance, the alliance between lefts and fascists and semi-fascists. Below is a reply from Medea Benjamin and our reply to her:

Benjamin writes:

Dear John,
I passed your letter to David Hartsough, one of the delegation organizers and someone you might know as a lifetime Quaker peace activist who has traveled around the world on peace delegations. Here is his response:Dear John and Friends at Oakland Socialist,Thanks for your letter to Code Pink about our planned visit to Iran. When the US government is attacking the people of Iran with heavy duty economic sanctions and threatens military action and war against Iran (which will be devastating for the people of Iran as well as the whole world), we feel we have a responsibility to do EVERYTHING we can to stop this madness and dangerous slope toward war.  To do nothing is to be complicit and support the tragic and horrendous policies of our government. We will be making every effort to talk with people in Iran from all backgrounds, classes, and political perspectives. As you know, Code Pink is not an organization to be used by any government for their own purposes. We do represent the American people who do NOT want another tragic war in the Middle East which will not only mean death and destruction for the people of Iran, but steal the badly needed funds for working for the health, education, and well-being of the American people.Lets work together to help prevent a US war against Iran and the Iranian people!!!Thanks for sharing your concerns. We hope this will help alleviate some of your misgivings. Please share with other co-signers of your open letter.Warm Greetings and Peace,
David Hartsough
Oaklandsocialist replied:

Dear Medea Benjamin:

Thank you for having forwarded the letter from David Hartsough. However, I must say that I found his response unconvincing for several reasons.

In the first place, we disagree that war between two capitalist nations is a matter of lack of “mutual respect” between nations. This concept fails to recognize that “nations” are not one united entity under capitalism; they are divided up into classes and under capitalism it is the capitalist class that rules. A “nation” goes to war when the ruling class – in this case the capitalist class – determines that it has no other means of furthering its interests. As Clausewitz put it, “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” So, what your notice does is fail to recognize the class nature of both the United States and Iran and the class nature of all politics.

David says that you will make “every effort to talk with people in Iran from all backgrounds, classes and political perspectives.” This is somewhat unclear, but maybe he means try to talk with those in opposition to the anti-worker, sectarian and misogynistic government there. But given the level of repression, and given that your trip will be coordinated with that very same government, how could such opponents trust your delegation? And that is never mind the fact that it is overwhelmingly likely that your delegation will be accompanied by government minders/translators wherever you go.

Sorry, but the true meaning of the visit was demonstrated in the February 12, 2019, interview with Medea Benjamin conducted by Sonali Kolhatkar on her show, “Rising up with Sonali.” In that interview, you had scarcely a critical word for the Iranian regime. We thought you really misrepresented the situation in Iran when the only opposition to the regime that you mentioned was the MEK which, as you correctly pointed out, represents US imperialism. You thereby left the impression that the only internal opposition to that regime is that stirred up by US imperialism. This not only leaves a completely false impression among those unfamiliar with the situation in Iran; far worse, it adds to the Iranian government’s excuse to repress legitimate and independent opposition, including strikes of workers, demands for liberation by women, and struggles against chauvinism by minority groups there. Whether intended or not, you thereby took the side of the oppressor against the oppressed.
We continue to believe that the only way forward – including the only way to really prevent war – is through direct links between US and Iranian workers. We are proud that our open letter has been translated into Farsi and distributed inside Iran and we think that is a small first step towards such direct links. Your efforts actually lead in the opposite direction. We hope you reconsider.
We should add, of course, as was made clear in our original letter we are totally opposed to US imperialism’s attacks on Iran, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Nothing we write here detracts from that opposition.
John Reimann, for oaklandsocialist
PS. As you may have noticed, we are cc’ing this letter to the Alliance of Middle East Socialists, several of whose members have cosigned the original letter.
Update: This letter has been criticized for not mention the oppression against LGBTQ people. That is a fair criticism. We were focusing on those groups who have been in struggle against the Iranian regime, but we think it’s likely that LGBTQ people have not been in open struggle because to so brand themselves is likely to result in a death sentence.
Further update: Since this article was published, CodePink did have that delegation. Here is a transcript they published of their meeting with the mass murderer, Foreign Minister Zarif. Of course, he mouthed all sorts of fine sounding phrases. You will notice that the CodePink delegation asked not a single question about human rights in Iran or Iran’s murderous war in Syria. Instead, they fawned all over Zarif. A few weeks after this meeting, the courageous human rights lawyer and fighter for women’s rights in Iran, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 (!) lashes. By failing to mention human rights in Iran CodePink helped give cover to this vicious regime and bears responsibility for such crimes.

Code Pink delegation with Iran Foreign Minister Zarif. The image of Nasrin Sotoudeh hovers in the background. It should haunt this delegation for the rest of their lives.

1 reply »

  1. Solid John. Code Pink should not go to Iran. Their viewpoint and plans do nothing to help the oppressed people in Iran. I agree with you that their delegation will do the opposite.

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