CEO of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Drags Code Pink Woman from Room Prior to Speech by Iraqi National Security Advisor, by concerned member of CODEPINK

October 6th, 2007

On October 5, 2007, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a meeting with guest speaker Muwafaq al-Rubaie, Iraqi National Security Advisor.  This was promoted as a “think tank” meeting.  The room was filled to capacity with over 100 international journalists and was broadcast on C-Span.  At 2:15 pm, the cameras were rolling as journalists took their seats.  A security guard stood in front of the empty podium.

A woman wearing a pink sweater, later identified as Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin, walked quietly up and down both aisles handing out a single sheet of paper to those persons who extended their hands for one.  It appeared that everyone wanted what she was passing out.  Several people who had missed getting one came up to her to ask for a copy.  As she walked down the second aisle, the C-Span commentator noted for the viewing audience that someone apparently from Code Pink, a peace activist group, was passing something out.  The scene was quiet and orderly. 

Then the guard came and followed her in an intimidating manner, but she kept on distributing her flyer.  He then walked away.  A moment later John Hamre, CEO of CSIS, walked up and confronted her, then grabbed her by her arms and physically dragged her out the back door.  Cameras swiveled to the scene, but it was all over in less than 20 seconds.  Amazingly, no one seemed bothered by this as hardly a murmur went through the assembled journalists.  It is possible many did not witness it since it happened at the back of the room or that C-Span's microphone did not pick up individual reactions.

But it was too late for CEO John Hamre whose disgraceful behavior to deny free expression was witnessed by C-Span viewers around the world.   What an example for how a think tank functions in America!

A few minutes later the speakers arrived on the podium and CEO John Hamre opened the meeting.   The cameras panned to Ms. Benjamin showing that she had been allowed back into the room.

But the damage is done.   I implore Mr. Hamre, from the depth of my heart, to look deep in his heart and ask himself if defending secrets or just one political point of view is more important than defending Americans' Constitutional rights to free speech.   If our government and the neo-cons continue to spiral out of control and embargo the truth with their unchecked arrogance, then this country is headed for a police state.

How can information be so dangerous?

Why doesn't Mr. Hamre believe Americans, and journalists in particular, are not intelligent enough to receive information and draw conclusions for themselves?  
If Mr. Hamre truly intended to promote a free exchange of ideas (which clearly never happened), then why forcefully drag the Pink Code peoples' representative out of the meeting?  Of what is Mr. Hamre afraid?  What could have been so powerful, so dangerous, printed on that single page that could incite him to such extravagant action?

Mr. John Hamre's behavior demonstrates he has no moral authority to stand as a spokesperson for “democracy, human rights, transparency, rule of law, and freedom of speech,” of which Mr. al-Rubaie spoke in his opening remarks.
Let him know what you think of his tactics. His email is and his phone is 202-775-3227.

PS It turned out that the paper Ms. Benjamin was distributing was a June 26, 2006 Washington Post editorial by the same speaker, Muwafaq al-Rubaie, with sections highlighted to show how he had changed his position from last year to this year. The Washington Post piece, with the highlights in bold, is attached below.

The Way Out of Iraq: A Road Map

By Mowaffak al-Rubaie
Tuesday, June 20, 2006; A17

There has been much talk about a withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops from Iraq, but no defined timeline has yet been set. There is, however, an unofficial "road map" to foreign troop reductions that will eventually lead to total withdrawal of U.S. troops. This road map is based not just on a series of dates but, more important, on the achievement of set objectives for restoring security in Iraq.

Iraq has a total of 18 governorates, which are at differing stages in terms of security. Each will eventually take control of its own security situation, barring a major crisis. But before this happens, each governorate will have to meet stringent minimum requirements as a condition of being granted control. For example, the threat assessment of terrorist activities must be low or on a downward trend. Local police and the Iraqi army must be deemed capable of dealing with criminal gangs, armed groups and militias, and border control. There must be a clear and functioning command-and-control center overseen by the governor, with direct communication to the prime minister's situation room.

Despite the seemingly endless spiral of violence in Iraq today, such a plan is already in place. All the governors have been notified and briefed on the end objective. The current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has approved the plan, as have the coalition forces, and assessments of each province have already been done. Nobody believes this is going to be an easy task, but there is Iraqi and coalition resolve to start taking the final steps to have a fully responsible Iraqi government accountable to its people for their governance and security. Thus far four of the 18 provinces are ready for the transfer of power -- two in the north (Irbil and Sulaymaniyah) and two in the south (Maysan and Muthanna). Nine more provinces are nearly ready.

With the governors of each province meeting these strict objectives, Iraq's ambition is to have full control of the country by the end of 2008. In practice this will mean a significant foreign troop reduction. We envisage the U.S. troop presence by year's end [2006] to be under 100,000, with most of the remaining troops to return home by the end of 2007.

The eventual removal of coalition troops from Iraqi streets will help the Iraqis, who now see foreign troops as occupiers rather than the liberators they were meant to be. It will remove psychological barriers and the reason that many Iraqis joined the so-called resistance in the first place. The removal of troops will also allow the Iraqi government to engage with some of our neighbors that have to date been at the very least sympathetic to the resistance because of what they call the "coalition occupation." If the sectarian issue continues to cause conflict with Iraq's neighbors, this matter needs to be addressed urgently and openly -- not in the guise of aversion to the presence of foreign troops.

Moreover, the removal of foreign troops will legitimize Iraq's government in the eyes of its people. It has taken what some feel is an eternity to form a government of national unity. This has not been an easy or enviable task, but it represents a significant achievement, considering that many new ministers are working in partisan situations, often with people with whom they share a history of enmity and distrust. By its nature, the government of national unity, because it is working through consensus, could be perceived to be weak. But, again, the drawdown of foreign troops will strengthen our fledgling government to last the full four years it is supposed to.

While Iraq is trying to gain its independence from the United States and the coalition, in terms of taking greater responsibility for its actions, particularly in terms of security, there are still some influential foreign figures trying to spoon-feed our government and take a very proactive role in many key decisions. Though this may provide some benefits in the short term, in the long run it will only serve to make the Iraqi government a weaker one and eventually lead to a culture of dependency. Iraq has to grow out of the shadow of the United States and the coalition, take responsibility for its own decisions, learn from its own mistakes, and find Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems, with the knowledge that our friends and allies are standing by with support and help should we need it.

The writer is Iraq's national security adviser.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company