Walter Reed Protest
Code Pink, a Marxist organization posing as a group of spontaneously organized concerned citizens, has been demonstrating weekly against the war outside Walter Reed in a gesture of monumental insensitivity to the wounded. They have drawn conservative counter-protestors. Last Friday night I visited the demonstration and took these photos.
The Code Pink protestors (the name was taken from hospital code for a kidnapped baby or it's a spoof of the color-coded terror alerts, depending on who you read) set up camp on the south side of the main entrance to Walter Reed on Georgia Avenue, about five miles north of the White House. Whatever you think of them, you must admit that by taking pink as their color, they have branded themselves accurately. Portraying themselves as pink is truth in packaging if ever I saw it.
According to their website, Code Pink portrays their demonstration as an effort to "to shed light on the plight of injured soldiers. ... These are vigils, not protests ...." However, it's quite transparently an anti-war protest to the casual observer. When talking to friendly media like the liberal Independent from Great Britain, Ellen Taylor, Code Pink spokeswoman, is more candid about the Walter Reed demonstration, "I think that a lot of information about this war is being kept from the public. That is what we are protesting about." A protest, not a vigil.
Code Pink makes wild claims of a military coverup at the hospital: "Gravely and seriously injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan arrive at Walter Reed for treatment late at night, under cover of darkness, so that the public does not become aware of the number of soldiers wounded and the severity of their injuries." This parrots the same charge by the Socialist Worker Online that wounded soldiers are "brought back to the U.S. under the cover of darkness to keep them hidden from the media and the public." Yet Walter Reed regularly makes public the number of wounded soldiers it treats, as cited above.
The Air Force rebuts the paranoid accusation by citing the need for patient processing and German restrictions on the airfield, Ramstein Air Base, from which some of the aeromedical evacuation flights are launched. Walter Reed spokeswoman Lyn Kurkal adds, "Night arrivals are beneficial to the patient, as they allow for a regular night of sleep, and then for doctors in Europe to make final determination on their ability to make the long flight, move patients from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and board the plane."
However, Ramstein is not the only source of flights to Walter Reed. Wounded troops are also flown in from a military hospital in Rota, Spain during the day. Only the flights from Germany arrive at night, which blows a hole in the Code Pink conspiracy theory.
There is also criticism that the military prohibits the media from photographing incoming patients from Iraq. Apparently, the Left does not consider that such photography would be intrusive and abusive. No family would want to see a photo of their shattered son arriving on a guerney, intubated, with a bag of bloody urine hanging over the side. But the Left wants to exploit such wounded soldiers as bloody hand puppets in their protest horror show.
Accusations of war profiteering is a rather standard sample from the Marxist panoply of rhetoric. Halliburton, Code Pink's capitalist bogeyman, is singled out for taking multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts from the government to provide goods and services in Iraq. However, bidding out war contracts is no way to win.
As any business knows that has bid on a government contract, it can take a year to go through the normal bidding process. That's barely tolerable in peacetime but it's insufferable in wartime when speed is of the essence. After Pearl Harbor, military contracting officers fanned out across America to kick start the construction of a network of war plants to win WWII. Some aircraft plants were moving fuselages down the production line within two months of their no-bid contract. They started up on handshake deals and let the paperwork follow. The result was massive war production with remarkable little corruption. Just like now.
Andrea Buffa of CODEPINK claims, "Halliburton is the poster child for war profiteering. The company has made billions off the killing in Iraq, and is ripping off American taxpayers and Iraqis, but they’re never held accountable." If you listen to socialist sources such as "The Nation", then Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) "has been authorized to take profits of up to $490 million." However, here in the real world, war work has hardly been a cash cow for Halliburton, which is only making a teeny tiny 1.5% net profit on its Iraq contracts. For most businesses, 6% is a decent average net profit. I could make more for Halliburton depositing their working capital in my savings account. Another liberal myth busted.
The bottom line is that Halliburton supports our troops far more than Code Pink by driving the beans and bullets to the troops at great risk, serving them hot meals all day, and keeping the plumbing and air conditioning working in their barracks. What has Code Pink done?
This Code Pink sign conveys another bogus criticism, accusing America of shortchanging the treatment of our combat casualties. In fact, our wounded are getting the best care. For example, amputees are fitted with hundred thousand dollar prosthetics at Walter Reed. Even Mark Benjamin, of the left-leaning Salon online magazine, concedes after examining Walter Reed:
"Nothing I uncovered in my reporting ever suggested that troops with serious physical wounds -- amputees or gunshot victims -- were getting anything less than the care and attention they deserve. Indeed, the Pentagon and Walter Reed have allowed reporters and photographers to cover amputees recuperating at Walter Reed and Army doctors pulling out all the stops to save critically wounded troops on the sandy battlefields of Iraq. By all accounts, these are the things the Army does well. They represent "good news" stories for the Pentagon, showing the great lengths the military goes to care for downed soldiers."
OK, so this lefty chick was kinda cute. For a minute, I thought maybe I'd sidle over to her and start laying a line on her about what a bitchin' righteous dude that Che was and wasn't that "Motorcycle Diaries" a great movie and hey I'm a veteran too and I'm in favor of peace, just like you. Maybe more. But then I snapped out of it. Hey, I'm only flesh and blood. I have weak moments. Forgive me.
Some of the peace protestors just looked pissed off, like this one. Somehow it just seems wrong to be an angry pacifist. Of course, Code Pink people are not really pacifists who oppose war. They just oppose America in this war.
Code Pink has cleaned up its protest. They got rid of the flag-draped mock coffins that did not sit well with the wounded troops or really anyone with any sense. They ditched the really obnoxious signs like "Maimed for Lies" and "Enlist here and die for Halliburton." Lately Code Pink has been claiming that those offensive signs were brought by right-wing infiltrators to sully their protest, but it turns out one of the organizers of the Code Pink protest was carrying the "Maimed for Lies" sign. Oops. They have sanitized their demonstration quite a bit, probably due to unfavorable publicity. But you can't hold an anti-war protest without having some moonbats fly in, like this guy.
His sign reads, "The extreme right slanders grieving mothers, shoots up peaceful vigils, runs over crosses. How long 'til they start burning them again?"
It just wouldn't be a real peace rally unless the loony lefties call you a klan member or a Nazi or both. However, the folks who oppose Code Pink's wrongheaded hospital protest are not the jack-booted Nazis nor sheet-wearing klansmen of their fevered paranoid dreams.
Across the main entrance on the north side stood the counter-protestors of "Operation Red, White, Blue." One of the organizers, Lori-Ann Smith, writes in their flier that they come out specifically to oppose Code Pink: "To say that their actions are in poor taste is an understatement. We should all be defenders of free speech, but the issue here is that these people are protesting in front of a hospital where our soldiers are coming home from war- this is their time and place to begin to heal. They and their families need our compassion. It is unfair that they be tormented by angry citizens with a political agenda right outside their gates."
The counter-protestors were a moderately boisterous lot, with individual voices occassionally shouting challenges at the Code Pink crew: "Take your protest to the White House where the politicians are! This place is for heroes!" and "Pretty shameful to use the wounded in a protest!" and "Let the troops heal in peace!" and "Leave the wounded alone!" and "You're expoiting the injured!" and "It's pretty low when you take advantage of the wounded for your politics!" and "You don't speak for the veterans" and "This is a place of honor" and "You are shaming this place!" and "We'll make a deal with you - we'll meet in front of the White House in a week!" and "Where's your thank you sign?!"
The counter-protestors were notably unsympathetic to Code Pink, as seen in this sign: "Hey Pinkos, You can support our troops by getting jobs and paying taxes!"
Many of the counter-protestor crowd were girlfriends and wives of military men, like these cutie-pies. They were unabashedly for the troops.
By comparison, Code Pink sported no signs thanking the troops. Nor did any of their signs wish them to get well.
As I stood with the counter-protestors, a car paused at the curb before turning right into Walter Reed. A soldier patient sat in the passenger seat with a healed scar across the right of his face. "Thanks," he said quietly to the counter-protestors who went silent. "Thank you very much."
Across the street from the main gate was another, larger band of counter-protestors with more and bigger signs. Code Pink takes a dim view of the counterprotestors in its website. It considers the counter-protests as "right-wing attacks." In the world of Code Pink, dissenting from their view is an attack. No disagreement with their position is legitimate. Nobody has the moral right to oppose their anti-war protests. In the lefty world, only lefties have free speech. To them, counter-protesting seems terribly unfair and wrong. They are uncomfortable with having their own tactics turned against them. That's what makes it all so delicious for a conservative.
The Right has learned that we can not concede the high ground of the media to the Left. We must oppose protests and offer a countervailing message lest the leftist view prevail by default.
Code Pink held one corner of the intersection while the counter-protestors held the other three. I counted 22 Code Pink protestors with 52 counter-protestors opposing them, outnumbering them more than two to one.
To be honest, the response of passing drivers was mixed. Some honked wildly and waved at the counter-protestors. Others honked and gave the peace sign to the Code Pink protestors. DC is a completely Democratic political stronghold. Driving through the north side of the District, where Walter Reed sits, during the last election I did not see a single Bush sign anywhere. So the show of support for Code Pink was not much of a surprise, considering the location. If I had to make an estimate, perhaps I saw slightly more honks for the counter-protestors but it was really too close to call.
Many of the counter-protestors were associated with Free Republic, the conservative web site, who are often called Freepers. One of the Freepers complaints against Code Pink is their gift of $600,000 in cash, food and supplies including medicine, antiseptics, sutures and blood pressure readers to the terrorist haven of Fallujah, ostensibly for "humanitarian aid." In the words of Code Pink co-founder, Medea Benjamin, "I don't know of any other case in history in which the parents of fallen soldiers collected medicine ... for the families of the 'other side'." And therein lies the problem: aiding and comforting the enemy.
While Code Pink accuses Halliburton of being unaccountable to the American public, they have made no account of the disposition of their cash and supplies to Fallujah, whose inhabitants were actively sympathetic to the most vicious jihadis who made camp there. It was there that Zarqawi set up his Al Qaeda headquarters, where four contractors were burned and hung from a bridge, where innocent captives were taken for beheading in snuff videos. After the Marines cleaned out the jihadis, one Fallujan woman, Umm Marwan, said, "You see when the mujahedeen saw all the attacks, many, many men began becoming mujahedeen. The place is now filled with mujahedeen; there is not a neighborhood in Fallujah that doesn't have mujahedeen."
It's intuitively obvious that much of the $600,000 in aid delivered by Code Pink benefitted the most savage jihadists fighting America in Iraq. The bulk of the civilian population left Fallujah before the Marine assault. Only the jihadis remained to fight, cocksure that Allah would grant them victory. Consequently, only the wounded jihadis would have great need of medicine, antiseptic and sutures. Code Pink delivered what the jihadis needed to recover and fight again another day. One wonders how much of the cash went to buying parts for bombs to kill more of our GIs and Iraqi civilians.
And while they were there in Fallujah, why didn't Code Pink urge the foreign jihadis to go home, as they do our troops? Why don't they mount protests calling the Baathists Nazis, as they quite literally are? Instead of a bogus protest that American conservatives are burning crosses, why didn't they protest Fallujans for burning contractors? What anti-war protest did they mount in Fallujah to convince the suicide bombers to lay down their bombs? If Code Pink is against war in general, why do they protest only the American side? When you cut through their phony pacifist rhetoric and examine the recipients of their aid and the targets of their protest, they are indisputably anti-American.
One of the Code Pink people, a polite but mildly irritated middle-aged woman, singled me out for some reason to earnestly complain about this sign calling the Code Pink people Marxists. I politely disagreed, saying that it was a fair sign and gently pointed out that Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of Code Pink, was a Marxist with a long history of supporting enemies of America. She blinked hard a couple times. My impression was that she had never heard that before.
She changed the subject to WMDs, saying the CIA had said there weren't any in Iraq. I politely disagreed, pointing out that while large stocks of WMDs had not been found, dozens of chemical weapons had been found, as documented in the Duelfer report. I added that a binary chemical shell with about a gallon of Sarin nerve agent had been used to attack two of our guys, who survived because it had not been rigged properly. She blinked hard again. Hadn't heard that, either.
She returned to the other side of the street to pick up her pink banner again. Later, when I ambled over, she struck up a conversation again which her banner-mate joined in. As we talked about Iraq, I pointed out that Iraq had attacked us. That made both their heads snap back.
The first attack came when Saddam attempted to assassinate ex-President Bush. Neither one of them had heard of that. The Nice Lady's banner-mate said it never happenned.I also mentioned that Iraq had launched hundreds of SAMs at our aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq after the first Gulf War. That constituted a casus belli. I forgot to mention the bounties Saddam vowed to pay to any Iraqi who shot down an American flier. They didn't have much to say about that provocation.
Her more strident banner-mate cut in, demanding, "Can you accept that a Marxist can support America?" I allowed it could be possible in theory, though I hadn't seen it in practice. It seemed a rather revealing question. She kept ordering me where to stand while we chatted. One thing I've learned from going to "peace" rallies in DC is that the commies love to order people around in the public streets. They're control freaks.
It seemed amusing that the Nice Code Pink Lady who complained about being called a Marxist didn't know there was a Marxist holding the other end of her protest banner. My impression of the few Code Pinkers I chatted with was that they were heavily invested emotionally in their cause but they had not made much of an intellectual investment in it. They didn't know current events relating to the war published in the newspaper and broadcast on the news. My speculation is that they acquired their opinions by word of mouth from their circle of radicalized friends. They find it difficult and frustrating to talk to people who don't share their frame of reference. They were unaware of the sinister character of their leadership and its connections.
This lack of intellectual preparation of their positions contributes to their desultory style of argument. Their positions are slogan-thin. When successfully challenged on one, they are unable to defend it in any depth, and hop to another topic, another slogan. They never concede a position, they simply retreat to another one, then another and another. In that sense, a Code Pinker's mind resembles the back bumper of the typical lefty's Volvo, a collection of bumper stickers for various causes. They adopt poses, not thoughtful positions.
They seemed naive, without much experience of the world. I suppose that makes it easier to subscribe to the cartoonish conspiracy theories they hold of the military and business world. They came across as well-intentioned but wrongheaded. All of them were polite and civil, which is not the case at all "peace" rallies. But they are very wrong to stage their protest in front of Walter Reed.
About a quarter to nine, a bus full of military patients pulled into the entrance. They take the wounded guys out for dinner and shows on Friday night. Lots of places around town give them free tickets and meals. The counter-protestors broke into a loud chant: "USA! USA! USA!" Some of the wounded flipped Code Pink the bird through the bus windows.
Code Pink lost the revolutionary spirit a few minutes after 9 PM and decamped from their perch on the main gate to leave this protest battlefield to the Freepers, who had enough adrenaline pumping to go on for hours more, from what I could see. They've been out here for eighteen Fridays so far and look game to be there for the duration.
They posed for a class photo and departed for home in triumph.
*** UPDATE ***
Tantor returns to the Code Pink protest a month later on September 23, 2005.