Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Cold War Ides of March



US Cold Warriors escalate toward actual war with Russia.

By Stephen F. Cohen

Heedless of the consequences, or perhaps welcoming them, America’s Cold Warriors and their media platforms have recently escalated their rhetoric against Russia, especially in March. Anyone who has lived through or studied the preceding 40-year Cold War will recognize the ominous echoes of its most dangerous periods, when actual war was on the horizon or a policy option. Here are only a few random but representative examples:

  • In a March 8 Washington Post opinion article, two American professors, neither with any apparent substantive knowledge of Russia or Cold War history, warned that the Kremlin is trying “to undermine our trust in the institutions that sustain a strong nation and a strong democracy. The media, science, academia and the electoral process are all regular targets.” Decades ago, J. Edgar Hoover, the policeman of that Cold War, said the same, indeed made it an operational doctrine.

  • Nor is the purported threat to America only. According to (retired) Gen. David Petraeus and sitting Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, also in the Post on the following day, the “world is once again polarized between two competing visions for how to organize society.” For Putin’s Kremlin, “the existence of the United States’ rule-of-law world is intrinsically threatening.” This is an “intensifying worldwide struggle.” So much for those who dismissed post–Soviet Russia as merely a “regional” power, including former President Barack Obama, and for the myopic notion that a new Cold War was not possible.

  • But the preceding Cold War was driven by an intense ideological conflict between Soviet Communism and Western capitalism. Where is the ideological threat today, considering that post–Soviet Russia is also a capitalist country? In a perhaps unprecedented nearly 10,000-word manifesto from March 14 in the front news pages of (again) the Post, Robert Kagan provided the answer: “Today, authoritarianism has emerged as the great challenge facing the liberal democratic world—a profound ideological, as well as strategic, challenge.” That is, “authoritarianism” has replaced Soviet Communism in our times, with Russia again in the forefront.

The substance of Kagan’s “authoritarianism” as “an ideological force” is thin, barely enough for a short opinion article, often inconsistent and rarely empirical. It amounts to a batch of “strongman” leaders (prominently Putin, of course), despite their very different kinds of societies, political cultures, states, and histories, and despite their different nationalisms and ruling styles. Still, credit Kagan’s ambition to be the undisputed ideologist of the new American Cold War, though less the Post for taking the voluminous result so seriously.

The 40-year Cold War often flirted with hot war, and that, too, seems to be on the agenda. Words, as Russians say, are also deeds. They have consequences, especially when uttered by people of standing in influential outlets. Again, consider a few examples that might reasonably be considered warmongering:

  • The journal Foreign Policy found space for disgraced former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili to declare: “It is not a question of whether [Putin] will attack, but where.” (Saakashvili may be the most discredited “democratic” leader of recent times, having brought the West close to war with Russia in 2008 and since having had to flee his own country and then decamp even from US-backed Ukraine.)

  • NBC News, a reliable source of Cold War frenzy, reported, based on Estonian “intelligence,” an equally persistent source of the same mania, that “Russia is most likely to attack the Baltic States first, but a conflict between Russia and NATO would involve attacks on Western Europe.”

  • Also in March, in The Economist, another retired general, Ben Hodges, onetime commander of the US army in Europe, echoes that apocalyptic perspective: “This is not just about NATO’s eastern front.” (Readers may wish to note that “eastern front” is the designation given by Nazi Germany to its 1941 invasion of Soviet Russia. Russians certainly remember.)

  • Plenty of influential American Cold War zealots seem eager to respond to the bugle charge, among them John E. Herbst, a stalwart at the Atlantic Council (NATO’s agitprop “think tank” in Washington), and the Post’s deputy editorial-page editor, Jackson Diehl. Both want amply armed US and NATO warships sent to what Russians sometimes call their bordering “lakes,” the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. To do so would likely mean the “war” NBC envisages.

Lest readers think all this is merely the “chattering” of opinion-makers, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once termed it, consider a summary of legislation being prepared by a bipartisan US Senate committee, pointedly titled and with a fearsome acronym, DASKA (the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2019). Again, Russia is ritualistically accused of “malign influence” and “aggression” around the world, the quality of the committee’s thinking succinctly expressed by one of the Republican senators: “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” There is no evidence for these allegations—Russian policy-makers are constantly citing international law, and the US “liberal global order,” if it ever existed, has done a fine job of undoing itself—but with “an outlaw regime,” there can be no diplomacy, nor do the senators propose any, only war.

A recurring theme of my recently published book War with Russia? is that the new Cold War is more dangerous, more fraught with hot war, than the one we survived. All of the above amply confirms that thesis, but there is more. Histories of the 40-year US-Soviet Cold War tell us that both sides came to understand their mutual responsibility for the conflict, a recognition that created political space for the constant peace-keeping negotiations, including nuclear arms control agreements, often known as détente. But as I also chronicle in the book, today’s American Cold Warriors blame only Russia, specifically “Putin’s Russia,” leaving no room or incentive for rethinking any US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since 1991. (See, for example, Nataliya Bugayova’s recent piece for the Institute for the Study of War.)

Still more, as I have also long pointed out, Moscow closely follows what is said and written in the United States about US-Russian relations. Here too words have consequences. On March 14, Russia’s National Security Council, headed by President Putin, officially raised its perception of American intentions toward Russia from “military dangers” (opasnosti) to direct “military threats” (ugrozy). In short, the Kremlin is preparing for war, however defensive its intention.

Finally, there continues to be no effective, organized American opposition to the new Cold War. This too is a major theme of my book and another reason why this Cold War is more dangerous than was its predecessor. In the 1970s and 1980s, advocates of détente were well-organized, well-funded, and well-represented, from grassroots politics and universities to think tanks, mainstream media, Congress, the State Department, and even the White House. Today there is no such opposition anywhere.

A major factor is, of course, “Russiagate.” As evidenced in the sources I cite above, much of the extreme American Cold War advocacy we witness today is a mindless response to President Trump’s pledge to find ways to “cooperate with Russia” and to the still-unproven allegations generated by it. Certainly, the Democratic Party is not an opposition party in regard to the new Cold War. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of its old guard, needlessly initiated an address to Congress by NATO’s secretary general, in April, which will be viewed in Moscow as a provocation. She also decried as “appalling” Trump’s diplomacy with Russian President Putin, whom she dismissed as a “thug.” Such is the state of statesmanship today in the Democratic Party.

Its shining new pennies seem little different. Beto O’Rourke, now a declared candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, promises to lead our “indispensable country,” an elite conceit that has inspired many US wars and cold wars. Another fledgling would-be Democratic leader, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, seems to have bought into Russiagate’s iconic promotion of US intelligence agencies, tweeting on January 12, “The FBI had to open inquiry on whether the most powerful person in the United States is actually working for Russia.” Evidently, neither she nor O’Rourke understand that growing Cold War is incompatible with progressive policies at home, in America or in Russia.

Among Democrats, there is one exception, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who is also a declared candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Not surprisingly, for lamenting Russiagate’s contribution to the worsening new Cold War and calling for new approaches to Russia itself, Gabbard was shrilly and misleadingly slurred by NBC News. (For a defense of Gabbard, see Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept.) Herself a veteran of the US military forces, Representative Gabbard soldiers on, the only would-be Democratic president calling for an end to this most dangerous new Cold War.

This commentary is based on Stephen F. Cohen’s most recent weekly discussion with the host of The John Batchelor Show. Now in their fifth year, previous installments are at TheNation.com.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Troops for endle$$ war$



With the possible U.S. military withdrawal from Syria in the news on a daily basis, the mainstream media has been quick to parrot the DOD’s claim that 2,000 troops, mostly special operations forces, are to be withdrawn from the country. Although the total number of U.S. special operators deployed to Syria may have approached as many as 5,000, the current headlines have not mentioned that the United States has special operations units deployed not just in Syria, but in a majority of the nations of the world.

Over the past seventeen years, the forces at the disposal of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have grown exponentially, more than doubling in size in numbers, with a budget that has also expanded four fold in that same period of time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Don't thank me for my service....



End the war on Yemen


What's happening in Yemen right now should make everyone in this world stop, notice and speak out.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

More images from Lockheed Martin protest and the streets of San Francisco


Blocking the front gate on Monday morning of Lockheed Martin aerospace production facility in Sunnyvale, California where space tech weapons of war are being developed and produced.

Lockheed Martin sits on a very busy traffic intersection so many people saw the protest

The Musicians Action Group keep us dancing and singing throughout the protest playing famous union and organizing songs


Clancy (originally from Texas and now from the northwest) being arrested for holding the banner to block the entrance of Lock-Mart

Susan Crane played her saxophone while blocking the entrance and then got arrested
After the protest was over Global Network board member Lynda Williams took us to the mission district in San Francisco where we had a great lunch at a beautifully adorned Mexican restaurant.  I told everyone afterward how lucky we are to have the contributions in the US of the creative and loving Mexican culture.  We should remember that the US stole (annexed) most of California and the southwest from Mexico by war making.  Washington tried twice to do the same and take Canada but got beat and finally gave up.



These two murals above were among an entire street of artwork with walls on both sides painted with social and political content.  I asked the woman painting the BDS mural just above if anyone ever comes and trashes the art work.  She replied, "Yes, the Zionists come all the time and deface it and we have to repaint it."

  • It was a great weekend at the west coast Catholic Worker retreat.  About 50 people were there throughout the weekend and the sun was shining.  There was no ice everywhere like there was here in Maine.  MB and I had many wonderful moments with people who dedicate their lives to serving the poor and working hard to stop endless war - with a particular emphasis on nuclear disarmament.
  • After dinner at a local San Francisco Italian restaurant with my nephew, we took the red-eye flight back east at 10:00 pm on Monday night, getting home just after noon on Tuesday.  A nap was badly needed.  On the plane I watched two movies - the first about the life of Jane Fonda, actress and activist.  Then a film I'd seen before called '13 Years a Slave' which told the story of a free black man captured and sold into slavery in the south during the 1840's.  The brutality and mental sickness of the 'slave master class' has never really been resolved and healed in this country thus the terrorizing Washington does around the world in the name of God and democracy.  These days we are enslaved to a permanent war economy. It's evil.
  • I come back with a full plate.  Bath Iron Works (BIW) here in Maine has announced that they will hold a 'christening' ceremony for the next Zumwalt 'stealth' destroyer on Saturday, April 27.  A coalition of peace groups across Maine are organizing a non-violent direct action at BIW to protest the ‘christening’ The warship will be named the Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) after the former Vietnam War president.  The ships today cost $7 billion each and will be ported in San Diego once commissioned.  (The problem is that the Navy can't afford to buy the expensive shells for the new high-tech guns onboard the Zumwalt.) Normally the public is invited to walk into the shipyard to attend such a ceremony but because the last two ‘'destroyers ‘christenings’ have drawn civil resistance actions, BIW is saying it will be a ‘closed event’ and is requiring that the public apply for tickets in advance.  Protesters will meet on Washington St. in Bath next to the post office at 8:30 am on April 27 to hold the protest.  
  • I will be in Russia during the BIW protest.  Our study tour to Moscow, Crimea and St. Petersburg will be from April 25 to May 10.  We've got 20 people going on the trip from the Global Network and Veterans For Peace.  Things are well in motion but there are still many details I must wrap up before we get there.
 Bruce

Impacts of sound on marine life



Democratic congressman Joe Cunningham (D-SC) interrupted a House committee hearing with a 120-decibel airhorn after a Trump administration official insisted air-gun testing to locate oil underwater would have no impact on whales, who rely on echolocation to hunt and communicate.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Protest at Lockheed Martin in California today



Mary Beth and I joined the Pacific Life Community protest this morning at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California (near San Francisco) after the weekend Catholic Worker west coast retreat where I spoke on Saturday morning and evening.


Lockheed Martin is one of the top space militarization/weaponization contractors in the world and their front gate sign reads 'Gateway to Space'.

We blocked the front entrance of the weapons production facility and ultimately about a dozen folks were arrested.  Even though I participated in the gate blockade with the huge banner, once the arrests began I had to withdraw in order not to miss our flight back to Maine this evening.


I'll write more about the great weekend retreat once I get home - but for now suffice to say it was a wonderful weekend with super fine folks.

Video by Veterans For Peace member Monisha Rios who I met on the VFP delegation trip to Okinawa I co-organized about two years ago.

The band you hear playing in the background is called the 'Musicians Action Group'.  Really added a wonderful touch to the protest.

Bruce 

'Change your course!': Pompeo threatens ICC over US war crimes probe



In an effort to threaten everyone into not investigating US or Israeli war crimes in the International Criminal Court, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says anyone involved in such probes will lose their visa and may be sanctioned.
The Washington war hawk said that action had to be taken because any investigation into alleged war crimes and torture committed by the United States would be a threat to US rule of law. Visas will be pulled or denied for anyone who has been involved in or even requested an ICC investigation of “any US personnel.

The arrogance of these war criminals is outrageous.  The passivity of corporate mainstream media is predictable but infuriating.