Organization Trends

The Anti-American Left: The War on Terror and Code Pink

The Anti-American Left (full series)
Communophilism | IPS and the National Lawyers Guild
Democratic Socialists of America | Alliance for Global Justice
The War on Terror and Code Pink | Russian Invasion of Ukraine

The War on Terror and Code Pink

The War on Terror proved to be a major inflection point for the anti-American Left. A group called ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) was formed within days of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and later went on to organize massive antiwar demonstrations. A 2002 profile of one such protest published in LA Weekly called it a “pander fest for the hard left,” led by radicals whose only appeal would be to those who considered the United States to be “a force of unequaled imperialist evil.” The article noted that ANSWER was at that time effectively being run by members of the Workers World Party, a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist group whose leadership lodestars included Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-Il, and Slobodan Milosevic and that had editorialized that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had “done absolutely nothing wrong.”

Today, ANSWER operates as a fiscally sponsored project of the Progress Unity Fund, a small 501(c)(3) nonprofit that typically receives under $200,000 in annual revenue, but which reported almost $2 million in 2019. ANSWER’s director is Brian Becker, who is also key figure within the Party for Socialism and Liberation, yet another communist group that split from the Workers World Party in 2004. In its official program, the Party for Socialism and Liberation describes the notion of democracy in the “imperialist” United States as a “façade,” and argues that Americans are really ruled by “a dictatorship of the capitalist class.”

A more prominent group that also traces its origins to the early years of the War on Terror is Code Pink, which was co-founded in late 2002 by activists Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, and Gael Murphy in order to protest against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Twenty years later, it carries on under a mission of attacking “U.S. warfare and imperialism” writ large. Its list of “Most Wanted War Criminals” is populated almost entirely with Americans and includes former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Henry Kissinger, John Bolton, Joe Lieberman, Gina Haspel, Karl Rove, and the former CEOs of BP, Lockheed Martin, Royal Dutch Shell, and Exxon Mobil.

Code Pink’s activism largely adheres to the standard anti-American Left template, describing the United States as “a decadent, declining empire stumbling blindly into its agonizing death spiral.” The group attracted considerable negative attention during the spring of 2019 for occupying the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, in support of strongman Nicolas Maduro’s exceedingly suspect re-election as president the year before.

Code Pink is also stridently pro-Cuba, condemning “the U.S. hybrid war” against the communist regime. It uses that same language to fault the United States for its strained relations with China. The group’s China Is Not Our Enemy campaign touts some questionable and oddly specific Chinese government achievements, while blaming the United States for exploiting the plight of the Uyghur Muslims simply to further its own cynical purposes. It has also called American arms sales to Taiwan a “direct violation of China’s sovereignty.”

Truthfully, the language used by Code Pink to characterize U.S.-China relations would not appear out of place if it were published in an official Chinese Communist Party news outlet. It accuses the United States of conjuring up “warmongering lies” about China so that it may “desperately pursu[e] its outdated policy of enforcing global hegemony.” It lauds China for “taking the lead internationally,” commenting on how “countries around the world are happy for its support in growing their capacities to be independent of United States hegemony in their regions.” According to Code Pink, while the United States works to maintain an “international order . . . rooted in violence and destruction,” China “builds relationships through economic cooperation and good diplomacy.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, their proposed solution to all of this is for the United States to dramatically reduce its military spending.

To the people of Iran, Code Pink has drafted a formal apology on behalf of the United States for trying to provoke a war and for repeatedly acting “against the safety, well-being, and autonomy of the Iranian people”—an astonishing accusation in light of the abuse and repression that the Iranian government currently subjects its citizenry to. While Code Pink has condemned Iran’s violent crackdowns against widespread popular protests, it also simultaneously accused the United States of helping to cause them. This would appear to comport with the group’s suggested talking points on Iran, which include a general reminder that “we should not be talking about Iranian aggression, but about US aggression.” In 2019, a 28-person Code Pink delegation traveled to Iran and met with the country’s foreign minister.

Code Pink operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Among its most important funders is an almost $40 million private foundation called the Benjamin Fund, which provided $952,600 from 2017 to 2020. This accounted for close to a quarter of the group’s total revenue across those years. The Benjamin Fund’s president is Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, and the foundation appears to have been largely capitalized through inherited wealth. Major contributions of $10,863,060 in 2010, $15,000,000 in 2015, and $8,803,450 in 2019 were made to the Benjamin Fund from the estates of Medea Benjamin’s late parents.

Other significant funding for Code Pink has come from the donor-advised fund provider Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund ($710,000 from 2017 to 2019), the Cultures of Resistance Network ($109,800 from 2018 to 2019), and the Tides Foundation ($159,000 from 2018 to 2020). The Craigslist Charitable Fund also provided $75,000 annually for a number of years.

In the next installment, after the invasion of Ukraine the anti-American Left followed its usual pattern of blaming American imperialism.

Robert Stilson

Robert runs several of CRC’s specialized projects. Originally from Indiana, he has a B.A. from Hanover College and a J.D. from University of Richmond School of Law, where he graduated…
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