According to their website’s mission statement, “CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities.”[i] Thus understanding militarism, generally, as the predominance of armed forces in the policy of a nation-state, members of CODEPINK aim to place a larger emphasis and allocation of the United States’ resources on the social sphere.
While, today, the organization represents a worldwide network of women and men working for peace and social justice, CODEPINK began with a much more narrow approach. In the organization’s infancy, its major aim was championed by a group of American women who desired to prevent the United States from invading Iraq. In conjunction with other organizations committed to peace, CODEPINK officially kicked off on November 17, 2002 where Medea Benjamin, Jodie Evans, Diane Wilson, Starhawk and other women set up for a four month all-day vigil in front of the White House. The organization’s name also sheds light on its original aim, playing on the former Bush Administration’s color-coded security alerts (yellow, orange, red) that indicated the level of terrorist threats. Whereas the former president’s alerts were rooted in fear and legitimized violence, CODEPINK is a bold appeal for people to “wage peace.”
Composed of women and men who are outraged by militarism, the organization has expanded its initiatives to encompass a wider array of peace and social justice issues in recent years. Currently CODEPINK affiliates are making their voice heard on their opposition to war with Syria, their pleas for justice to Guantanamo detainees, peace within Iran, and bringing our war money home just to name a few. The organization has not limited their view of social justice and peace to U.S. funded wars, however. Members have also been vocal on the administration’s economic policy such as bailouts given to Wall Street. Instead, CODEPINK famously demanded that bailouts be given to “Main Street,” meaning universal health care, public schools, and the rebuilding America’s infrastructure. That being said, the organization does maintain a large focus on the prevention of U.S. funded wars and adamantly protests the torture of those deemed war criminals. Specifically, members are critical of the so-called “war on terror.” They describe the Bush Administration’s popularly phrased war as having been “the pretext for the US military-industrial complex to metastasize, with steadily increasing budgets to a Warfare State whose representatives declare: “The world is a battlefield.”” Not only do CODEPINK affiliates hope to redirect the mass amount of war money to aid students, small businesses, and those devastated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they view the predominance of a warfare state as irrelevant in today’s changing international system.
In congruence with the organization’s aims and various proposed solutions, CODEPINK makes a key connection between militarism and gender. This connection is perhaps best stated by the organization itself: “CODEPINK is a women-led organization that seeks to empower women politically, creating space for women to speak out for justice and peace in their communities, the media and the halls of Congress. Women are not better or purer or more innately nurturing than men, but the men have busied themselves making war, so we are taking the lead for peace.”[ii] Essentially, members explain warfare as a means of conflict-solving as a primarily patriarchal endeavor. One does not see female leadership pushing to fund new wars, and where one does see female leadership other methods of conflict-solving such as diplomacy and coalition-building are nearly always employed instead. Though CODEPINK’s connection between gender and militarization may seem radical to some, a growing number of political scientists assert there is significant validity to such claims. Thus, CODEPINK’s objective to end militarism might be most effectively reached not only by confronting warmongers in U.S. Congress but by working to increase the number of females politicians overall.
[i] “What is CODEPINK?” CODEPINK, accessed November 10, 2013, http://www.codepink4peace.org/article.php?list=type&type=3.