Less than 24 hours after she interrupted President Obama's first major counterterrorism address of his second term, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin appears on Democracy Now! to explain why she repeatedly interrupted Obama's speech.
Benjamin, the author of "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control," tells Democracy Now! why she criticized Obama for failing to explain why a U.S. drone in Yemen killed the teenage U.S. citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in 2011. "I was very disappointed, he said that his policy is to capture and not kill, that's just not true. I know personally of many incidents where it would have been very easy to capture people like the 16-year-old Tariq Aziz in Pakistan who was in Islamabad in a well-known hotel, but instead was killed by a drone strike two days later," Benjamin says. "I think the president is really justifying the use of drones, which will continue to happen under his administration and be passed on to the next."
Benjamin says that she refutes being called a heckler. "I think a heckler is a very negative term, and I think it's a positive thing when people find the courage to speak up to leaders who are not leading. And I didn't do what I did to embarrass the president. I did it because I feel that he needs to be pushed more, that it has been over four years now of policies that have been killing innocent people with drones. It has been now over 11 years that innocent people are still being held in Guantánamo and now being force-fed. These are crisis situations, and it requires more from us as citizens."
She says that she doesn't believe Obama outlined a new vision for the U.S. drone program. "I don't think he laid out major changes. The drone strikes are lessening in Pakistan. We don't really know yet what's happening in Yemen. But there are drone bases being built up all over the world, including in places like Saudi Arabia, that are making us less safe here at home. So, I think the president is really justifying the use of drones, which will continue to happen under his administration and be passed on to the next."
Benjamin repeatedly interrupted Obama, ultimately stopping his speech to address her directly. Watch this Democracy Now! video of the complete exchange between them. "The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to," Obama said in response to Benjamin.
Benjamin yelled: "Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home. I love my country. I love the rule of law. Drones are making us less safe. And keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantánamo is making us less safe. Abide by the rule of law. You're a constitutional lawyer."
"Obviously, I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn't listening to me in much of what I said," Obama said. "But these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong."
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