Codepink Entertains Jeh Johnson’s Neighbors

Anti-war group projects drone movie on DHS nominee’s empty Georgetown house.

Codepink projects anti-drone message on Jeh Johnson's house.
National Journal
Ben Terris
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Ben Terris
Nov. 11, 2013, 6:20 p.m.

About a dozen act­iv­ists gathered on a quiet Geor­getown street, eat­ing pop­corn, drink­ing hot cider, and pro­ject­ing a movie about drone war­fare onto the side of Jeh John­son’s brick house. The in­vit­a­tion for the event had said — without a trace of irony — that the goal was to “shed light” on the re­l­at­ively ob­scure nom­in­ee for the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment.

“We want to pub­lic­ally shame him, and ex­pose him for what he is,” said Alli Mc­Crack­en, a spokes­wo­man for the or­gan­iz­ing group Code­pink.

And who ex­actly is he? Dur­ing his ten­ure as gen­er­al coun­sel at the De­fense De­part­ment, John­son helped draft the leg­al jus­ti­fic­a­tion for weapon­ized drone use. His job as the head of DHS — the con­firm­a­tion hear­ing for which starts Wed­nes­day — won’t have any­thing to do with killer drones, and some lib­er­als even like the guy for a re­port he wrote that pre­ceded the re­peal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

But neither of those facts would dis­suade these peace act­iv­ists from turn­ing his home in­to a blurry drive-in theat­er (and while there were plenty of stick­ers that read “Make Out, Not War,” there was a lot less funny busi­ness than your typ­ic­al drive-in).

The John­son fam­ily was nowhere to be seen, the spec­u­la­tion be­ing that they had se­questered them­selves in a nearby hotel. The event didn’t draw much of a crowd, oth­er than the four cop cars, but a few curi­ous pass­ersby and dog walk­ers did pop out to see what the pseudo-ex­cite­ment was about.

“We want the neigh­bors to know who he is,” said Mc­Crack­en while her co­horts held up blue-lit let­ters spelling out “No Killer Drones” that flickered like an old motel va­cancy sign.

If the goal was to get the neigh­bor­hood worked up about the fam­ily on the corner, they wer­en’t get­ting all that much trac­tion.

“I live cross the street, and my bike got stolen out from un­der my porch,” said one neigh­bor. “Best part of hav­ing the head of DHS across the street is that prob­ably won’t hap­pen again.

“I just feel bad for the fam­ily,” said an­oth­er neigh­bor walk­ing her dog whose name (this is not a joke) was Kami­kaze. “She’s great. He’s not as friendly, but they have beau­ti­ful chil­dren.”

“I’m just a guy try­ing to en­joy a glass of wine on the corner,” said an­oth­er.

The act­iv­ists here ad­mit that keep­ing John­son from get­ting con­firmed may be a quix­ot­ic battle, but say the point for be­ing out in the cold, pro­ject­ing a movie on an empty house, is that there aren’t many op­por­tun­it­ies to make a state­ment about what they con­sider un­just fight­ing tac­tics. Plus, it was fun to boo at the screen when Obama came on (“He’s ly­ing!” “Show us your num­bers!”) and to cheer at the foot­age of Code­pink’s Medea Ben­jamin get­ting dragged out of an event.

“I’m happy just to make his life a bit un­com­fort­able as long has he is mak­ing oth­er people’s lives un­com­fort­able,” said Jeremy Bing­ham, who comes to Code­pink as an in­tern by way of hav­ing been kicked out of Ober­lin Col­lege for shoot­ing his buddy with a BB gun. (He would got­ten away with it if only he had a drone, he ad­mits). 

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