When Code Pink: Women for Peace was launched on November 17, 2002, the organization described itself as a “grassroots peace and social justice movement” whose mission was “to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities.” The Capital Research Center writes that “Code Pink is the business name for a nonprofit called Environmentalism through Inspiration and Non-Violent Action.” The name “Code Pink” was selected to parody the Bush administration’s color-coded security alerts regarding terrorist threats—alerts that Code Pink said “were based on fear and were used to justify violence.” By contrast, the “Code Pink alerts“—signifying “the color of the roses … the color of the dawn of a new era when cooperation and negotiation prevail over force”—warned that the Bush administration posed “extreme danger to all the values of nurturing, caring, and compassion that women and loving men have held.” Proclaiming that “women have been the guardians of life … because the men have busied themselves making war,” Code Pink called on “women around the world to rise up and oppose the war in Iraq … to be outrageous for peace.”
Code Pink was founded principally by a small group of radical activists: Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, Diane Wilson, Gael Murphy, and a Wiccan spiritualist calling herself Starhawk. (Approximately 100 additional female activists also participated in getting the organization off the ground.) Evans was, and remains, the nominal leader of the group. According to John J. Tierney, Professor of International Relations at the Institute for World Politics, Code Pink members “subscribe in varying degrees to strands of Marxist, neo-Marxist, and progressive left-wing thought, and their ideas belong to a long and complex history of radical politics going back to the early Bolsheviks.” The group views America as a nation awash in “racism” and “sexism”—a society whose political and economic systems, by their very nature, breed war, poverty, and injustice.
Code Pink strove, from its earliest days, to portray itself as a politically nonpartisan organization composed not of seasoned activists, but of ordinary, peace-loving women with no political ax to grind. In truth, however, the group’s founders and leading members had long histories of radical left-wing and pro-socialist activism. For example, a number of Code Pink’s prominent figures were previously, in the 1980s, ardent supporters of the Communist Sandinista regime of Nicaragua. Indeed, both Medea Benjamin and Code Pink organizer Kirsten Moller worked in the Eighties with the Institute for Food and Development Policy, which aided the Sandinistas. Similarly, Code Pink spokeswoman Sand Brim—who told reporters in January 2003 that she was merely an average woman who opposed war—had likewise tried to help Central American Communists during the Eighties. As executive director of the organization Medical Aid, Brim in 1985 flew an American neurosurgeon to San Salvador to operate on the battle-injured hand of Nidia Diaz, commander of the Marxist Revolutionary Party responsible for the murders of four U.S. Marines and nine civilians.
Other early Code Pink members had helped organize anti-free-trade protests around the world during the 1990s, targeting large corporations with high-profile campaigns and multi-million-dollar lawsuits. Still others were cutting their radical teeth in the fields of environmentalism and eco-terrorism during the Nineties. Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans, for one, sat on the Rainforest Action Network‘s board of directors.
From its inception, Code Pink’s has used street theater as a major means of disseminating its message. During each of its first 100 days, the organization staged all-day antiwar vigils in front of the White House. Moreover, it initiated a campaign to present pink slips (women’s lingerie)—a pun on the paper-variety “pink slips” that are given to employees as notification that their jobs are being terminated—to President Bush and other pro-Iraq War officials. During one Washington, DC demonstration, a group of Code Pink activists, garbed entirely in pink, marched up the Capitol steps, unfurled their anti-war banners, and stripped down to their undergarments, shouting: “We’re putting our bodies on the line … you congresspeople better get some spine! We say, stand back, don’t attack—innocent children in Iraq. We don’t want your oil war, peace is what we’re calling for!”Arguing that the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. troops who had invaded that country in March 2003 was well-justified, Evans saidin an August 2003 interview with the Revolutionary Communist Party publication Revolutionary Worker: “Basically what the Americans did was destroy any form of infrastructure that could have held the country together—like the Iraqis say, to wipe anything that could hold the country together off the map…. There isn’t an Iraqi you meet who doesn’t feel that they’re being disrespected, that this is being done on purpose. It’s made them hate the American government, hate it. They just think it’s stupid and cruel and mean and thoughtless and everything you can think of…. What’s cool about the resistance is that the Iraqis don’t back down.”
In conjunction with Global Exchange and United For Peace and Justice, Code Pink in 2004 helped establish Iraq Occupation Watch (IOW) to monitor potential American abuses—including “possible violations of human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly”—during the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq. Code Pink’s and IOW’s common objective was to thin out U.S. forces in Iraq by persuading soldiers to seek discharges and be sent home as conscientious objectors.
On the domestic front, Code Pink endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Also in 2004, Code Pink was a signatory to a letter urging members of the U.S. Senate to vote against supporting Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorist security fence in the West Bank, a barrier that Code Pink has described as an illegal “apartheid wall” that violates the civil and human rights of Palestinians.
In late December 2004, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans participated in a delegation to Iraq that also included representatives of Global Exchange, International Occupation Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Families for Peace. These delegates delivered more than $600,000 in cash and medical supplies (many of which were donated by Middle East Children’s Alliance and Operation USA) to the families of the insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. Senator Barbara Boxer, Rep. Raul Grijalva, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Rep. Henry Waxman provided diplomatic courtesy letters to help facilitate the transport of this aid through Customs. The organizations sponsoring the delegation were Code Pink, Global Exchange, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Project Guerrero Azteca for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Voices in the Wilderness.
For much of 2005, Code Pink staged weekly protests outside of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where many wounded U.S. soldiers were being treated. The protesters displayed signs bearing slogans like “Maimed for Lies” (by the Bush administration) and “Enlist here and die for Halliburton.” At one of these rallies, Gold Star Families for Peace founder Cindy Sheehan, who began to work closely with Code Pink as her public persona grew, told the five-year old son of a United States Navy Corpsman who had recently been killed in Iraq: “Your daddy died for a lie.”
In July 2005, Code Pink joined a coalition of individuals and organizations demanding the closure of the Guantánamo detention center and an “immediate independent investigation into the widespread allegations of abuse taking place there.” Among the coalition’s members were Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem, Not In Our Name, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Culture Project, and United For Peace and Justice.
Also in 2005, Code Pink published a book titled Stop the Next War Now, which included essays by such notables as Medea Benjamin, Phyllis Bennis, Becky Bond, Leslie Cagan, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jodie Evans, Eve Ensler, Randall Forsberg, Kit Gage, Janeane Garofalo, Amy Goodman, Julia Butterfly Hill, Arianna Huffington, Naomi Klein, Barbara Lee, Wangari Maathai, Cynthia McKinney, Nancy Pelosi, Arundhati Roy, Cindy Sheehan, Helen Thomas, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Alice Walker, and Lynn Woolsey.
As the Iraq War continued to rage, Code Pink launched an aggressive Counter-Recruitment campaign aimed at dissuading young men and women from joining the U.S. military. According to the organization, this project represented a way of “standing up to these warmongers and liars” in the Bush administration. To this day, Code Pink continues to maintain that:
“Counter-recruitment is a national movement to resist the recruitment of young people into the US military. Counter-recruitment has several components: informing youth of the realities of military service; resisting recruitment through the schools via JROTC and testing; taking action on military sexual trauma; offering career alternatives to the military; vigiling and protesting in front of military recruiting offices; giving support to war resisters and veterans; and building awareness of militarism in our culture.”
Depicting the financial cost of the Iraq War as a drain on resources that would have been better spent on programs to combat the racism, sexism, poverty, corporate corruption, and environmental degradation that were allegedly decimating domestic life in the United States, Code Pink lamented that: “[M]any of our elders … now must choose whether to buy their prescription drugs, or food. Our children’s education is eroded. The air they breathe and the water they drink are polluted. Vast numbers of women and children live in poverty.” The threat of distant terrorists, claimed Code Pink, was insignificant when compared to the “real threats” that Americans faced every day: “the illness or ordinary accident that could plunge us into poverty, the violence on our own streets, the corporate corruption that can result in the loss of our jobs, our pensions, our security.”
In July 2006, Code Pink sponsored “Troops Home Fast,” a 28-day hunger strike against the Iraq War. This action was conducted as a “rolling fast,” where each participant abstained from eating for one day. Among the participants were such luminaries as Cindy Sheehan, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, Ed Asner, Willie Nelson, Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters, Dennis Kucinich, and Cynthia McKinney.
In August 2006, a 12-person delegation of American radicals—including Cindy Sheehan, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans, and Judith LeBlanc—traveled to Jordan to meet with several members of the Iraqi parliament. According to Benjamin, the parliamentarians, impressed by the spirit underlying the aforementioned 28-day “fast,” had personally invited the delegates.
Upon their arrival In Jordan, the American delegates met with, among others, Sheikh Ahmad al-Kubaysi, a Baghdad-based cleric who:
By the time their meetings with the Iraqi parliamentarians were over, the Code Pink delegates had accepted virtually the entire platform of the jihadists, saying:
“The common thread among this diverse group of Iraqis and Americans was a desire to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, ensure no permanent bases in Iraq, and secure a U.S. commitment to pay for rebuilding Iraq. Other issues that emerged in two days of intensive talks include the need to dismantle militias, provide amnesty for prisoners and the various armed groups, compensate victims of the violence, revise the Constitution and preserve the unity of Iraq, and reverse U.S.-imposed de-Baathification and economic policies. We left this historic meeting with a commitment to make sure that the voices of these Iraqi parliamentarians are heard here in the U.S., and we will bring a group of them to the U.S. in the Fall.” (Emphasis in original.)
In 2006, Code Pink leaders Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin traveled, along with Cindy Sheehan and a few others, to Venezuela to meet personally with that country’s Communist dictator, Hugo Chavez. After the meeting, Evans reported that Chavez had “called Cindy [Sheehan] ‘Mrs. Hope’” Further, Evans said of Chavez: “He was a doll. Generous, open, passionate, excited, stimulated by the requests and happy to be planning with us. He was realistic but willing to stretch.” In a similar spirit, Medea Benjamin praised Chavez’s policies and stated that “George Bush—and [former Democratic presidential candidate] John Kerry for that matter—could learn a thing or two from Hugo Chavez about winning the hearts and minds of the people.”
In December 2007, when Pakistani President (and American ally) Pervez Musharraf was under pressure to step down from power, Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry of Code Pink traveled to Pakistan to help ramp up that pressure. Both were arrested and deported by Pakistani authorities.
In September 2008, Code Pink co-founders Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin met personally with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York City. During their meeting, they presented Ahmadinejad with a plan for the construction of a “peace park” in Tehran, and offered to invest money in Iranian businesses “that produce green and sustainable products, such as bicycles.”
In November 2008, Jodie Evans and a Code Pink contingent visited Iran at the personal invitation of President Ahmadinejad. Davood Mohammad Niar, head of the U.S. Desk of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, escorted the group on a visit to the holy city of Qom.
In 2009 Code Pink further escalated the intensity of its international campaign to stop the blockade that Egypt and Israel had imposed on Gaza (to prevent the importation of weaponry) after Hamas‘s 2006 election as the region’s dominant political entity.
In December 2009 Code Pink led an international delegation of anti-Israel leftists to Gaza, where they delivered “tens of thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid” as a gesture of defiance against Israel’s blockade. Hamas protected the demonstrators during their two-day stay in Gaza by tightly controlling their movements and contacts, and by having them stay in a Hamas-owned, Five-Star hotel that one demonstrator characterized as “the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at.”
Next, the demonstrators prepared to go to Egypt, to participate in a Hamas-organized “Gaza Freedom March,” again to protest Israeli policy. Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin told the media that Hamas “has pledged to ensure our safety” in Egypt. Joining Code Pink on the trip were former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
Code Pink’s trip to Gaza and Egypt was timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, a December 2008 military operation in which Israel attempted to degrade the war-making capacities of Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that for years had been launching rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel.
Ultimately, however, Egyptian authorities prevented most of the 1,300+ activists from entering Gaza. As journalist Caroline Glick reported: “Many were surrounded by riot police and barbed wire as they demonstrated outside the U.S. and French embassies and the UN Development Program’s headquarters. Others were barred from leaving their hotels. Those who managed to escape their hotels and the bullpens outside the foreign embassies were barred from staging night protests in solidarity with Hamas on the Nile. In the end, … all but one hundred of them were barred from traveling to Gaza.” Evans, Ayers, and Dohrn were not among those 100 (actually perhaps closer to 80). But they bore no bitterness toward Egypt, instead placing the blame on Israel. “It’s obvious that the only reason for [Egypt’s treatment of the demonstrators] is to make Israel happy,” said Evans. “Israel is behind the refusal [to allow the demonstrators into Gaza] – what other excuse could there be?”
Hamas ‘Prime Minister’ Ismail Haniyeh addressed those 80 to 100 activists via the cellphone of an Israeli Knesset Member, Talab El-Sana, and told them: “We have managed to overcome the occupation plans and we will surely meet at the al-Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem, which will remain Arab and Islamic.” In the course of his talk, he made no mention of any delivery of humanitarian aid by the protesters.
Also during the trip, Code Pink endorsed the “Cairo Declaration to End Israeli Apartheid” authored by pro-Hamas leftists who likewise had gathered for the “Gaza Freedom March.” The declaration called for a wide-ranging boycott of Israeli business and cultural endeavors.
When the Code Pink excursion to Gaza and Egypt was over in early January 2010, the organization’s website proudly announced that the delegates had focused “worldwide attention on the [Israeli] siege”; “lifted the spirits of the isolated people of Gaza”; “put the spotlight on the negative role Egypt is playing in maintaining the siege”; “forced the Egyptian government to make a concession by letting 100 delegates into Gaza”; and “signed on to a lawsuit against the Egyptian government for building a wall to block off the tunnels that have become the commercial lifeline for the people in Gaza.”
Between 2008 and 2010, Code Pink made nine trips to Egypt in a campaign to undermine the Egyptian government, which was on friendly terms with Israel and was helping to enforce the Israeli blockade against Gaza. Then, when riots erupted in Egypt in late January 2011—ostensibly protesting the autocratic and corrupt regime of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak—Code Pink representatives were on the ground in Cairo from the very start of the uprising. In early February 2011, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin reported that her organization had already raised more than $10,000 for the anti-Mubarak protesters. In an effort to augment that sum, Code Pink issued an emergency appeal for an additional $5,000 to fund “the next big uprising” against the Egyptian government.On January 10, 2015, Code Pink activists forced their way through a security fence at the McLean, Virginia home of former Vice President Dick Cheney and stormed his front porch, displaying signs that bore slogans like “Wanted: For Torture and War Crimes.”
During a January 28, 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. national security strategy in the face of global challenges, testimony was given by three former Secretaries of State: 91-year-old Henry Kissinger, 94-year-old George P. Shultz, and 77-year-old Madeleine Albright. During the proceedings, a number of Code Pink protesters — bearing signs that read “Kissinger War Criminal” and “Cambodia” — rushed up behind the former diplomat at the witness table and tried to arrest him for “war crimes.” These Code Pink actions prompted Senator John McCain to say: “I’ve been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place.” When some protesters shouted back at McCain, he replied: “You know, you’re going to have to shut up, or I’m going to have you arrested. If we can’t get the Capital Hill Police in here immediately… Get out of here, you low-life scum.” When Kissinger began his opening statement later in the proceedings, more protesters stood up and shouted: “Vietnam! From 1969 to 1973, Kissinger, working for Richard Nixon, oversaw the slaughter in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, that led to the deaths of millions — millions of people. Many thousands more died from the effects of massive doses of agent orange and from unexploded bombs that covered the countryside! Chile! Henry Kissinger was one of the principle architects of the coup in Chile on September 11th, 1973…”
On March 1, 2015, Code Pink participated in an anti-Israel protest at the site of an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC. The demonstration featured a Hezbollah flag flying overhead; chants that “BDS is the best” (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement); chants that “The State of Israel’s Got to Go”; a banner bearing a Star of David and the slogan, “The Blood Is On Your Hands”; and a sign likening Israel to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
On August 13, 2020, Code Pink denounced the new peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that President Donald Trump had announced earlier that day. Under the terms of the deal, Israel and UAE would establish “full normalization” in exchange for Israel suspending the extension of its sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Palestinian leaders were opposed to suvh an extension, which they characterized as an “annexation,” because they claimed that the territory in question — commonly known as the West Bank — belonged to them Thus, the deal was in compliance with Palestinian wishes in that regard. But Code Pink nevertheless characterized the Israel-UAE agreement as harmful to the Palestinians. Said Code Pink in a press statement:
“Peace group CODEPINK denounces the ‘historic peace deal’ announced today that normalizes relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in exchange for Israel suspending plans to formally annex the West Bank. ‘We are not fooled by this fake diplomacy, which is nothing more than a way to maintain Israel’s status quo of land theft, home demolitions, arbitrary extrajudicial killings, apartheid laws, and other abuses of Palestinian rights,’ said CODEPINK national co-director Ariel Gold. ‘Annexation is a daily reality on the ground. By normalizing relations with Israel without any gains for Palestinians, the UAE is pledging complicity with Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.’
“The agreement between the UAE and Israel — facilitated by the Trump administration — comes on the heels of Trump moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, and creating a so-called peace plan with no Palestinian participation or input. It also takes place within the context of the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, participating in a war in Yemen so brutal that it turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. Moreover, it must be seen in the context of the ongoing hostilities by all three countries with Iran and Trump’s failed policy of ‘maximum pressure’ that was designed to force Iran back to the negotiating table.”
The statement added that UAE should have withheld peace and diplomatic relations until such time as “a just peace [with Palestinians]” could have been negotiated.
Code Pink is an organizational supporter of the Free Gaza Movement. It has also been a member organization of the Abolition 2000, After Downing Street, and United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalitions, and a member of the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
Code Pink identifies dozens of left-wing organizations as its “allies.” Among these are Adalah-NY, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, MADRE, Military Families Speak Out, The Nation, the National Priorities Project, the New Priorities Network, Peace Action, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, United For Peace and Justice, USAction, Veterans For Peace, the War Resisters League, Win Without War, Women in Black, Women’s Action for New Directions, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
As of 2006, Code Pink consisted of at least 250 chapters in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world. In November 2011, Jodie Evans reported that the organization had “about 100 local chapters,”and that some 200,000 people received its e-mails each week.
Code Pink’s current issue priorities are:
For additional information on Code Pink, click here.
 Formerly listed as “allies” were the Feminist Majority Foundation, Global Exchange, Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Rainforest Action Network.
 Formerly listed as “recommended media” were the Peace Majority Report and Pacifica.org.