Medea Benjamin on the WTO…

Medea Benjamin on the WTO and Iraq

Medea Benjamin, founder of Global Exchange and co-founder of Code Pink spoke Sunday at The Onion, a Unitarian Universalist Church in L.A. with a decades long commitment to progressive organizing and causes.

She talked about the recent WTO meeting in Cancun and about Iraq, having recently returned from both. At the WTO meeting the plan was to organize inside as well as outside, so Global Exchange maneuvered its way into becoming a recognized organization by the WTO, and thus gained entry so they could organize during the meeting. And organize they did, with early morning and late night meetings each day, and much talking with delegates.

She said the defining event of the WTO meeting was the suicide by Korean farmer Lee Kyung-hae in protest of WTO policies, policies which bankrupted his farm by dumping rice in South Korea. She judged the WTO to be a huge organizing success because the poorer countries held the line, walked out on the rich countries, resulting in a stalemate. The  Bushies are reduced to saying they will now negotiate bilateral agreements with individual countries now (having blown the chance to negotiate with many).

The coming FTAA Ministerial talks in Miami in November will be a test to see if what happened at the WTO holds. There will be thousands of protesters there with unions are playing a major role in the organizing. I’m betting the protests will be inside too, just like at the WTO.

Medea was in Iraq recently organizing Occupation Watch, a news feed and information source done by women living in Iraq, often at great risk to themselves. Life in Iraq now is dangerous for women. Abductions and sexual assaults are becoming common and women are afraid to leave home. It wasn’t that way before we invaded. Women had jobs, were engineers, teachers, doctors, and Baghdad University was 50% female.

After Iraq War I, Iraq under Saddam had the lights and power back on in 40 days. The U.S. has been there for months now yet somehow can’t figure out how the turn the lights back on – while insisting that all such work be done by U.S. corporations. This is insulting to Iraqis says Medea, as they are a highly literate and intelligent population and if we let them, they’d no doubt have the power restored quickly.  What’s worse many of Bush’s buddies from Texas, failed businessmen all, are in Iraq trying to run the economy while writing laws that let foreign corporations own businesses in Iraq. I’m guessing they don’t have the needs of Iraq uppermost in their minds. And oh yes, that’s our money they’re spending over there.

Top photo: Medea Benjamin and Donna Warren, L.A. activist, FACTS, Green Party.
Bottom photo: That’s why they call it the Onion!