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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Song



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Navy Sonar Kills Sea Life



The latest edition of This Issue features artist Russell Wray from Hancock, Maine. Russell was twice arrested at Bath Iron Works during the most recent ‘christenings’ of destroyers at the shipyard. 

Russell leads an organization called COAST (Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats) and was largely motivated to do civil disobedience at BIW due to Navy sonar’s impact on sea life – particularly whales and dolphins. 

Bruce

Oppose Fascism & Political Repression in Odessa, Ukraine!


Three years ago, the U.S. government supported a violent right-wing coup in Ukraine carried out with the use of neo-Nazi paramilitary organizations. The pro-coup campaign was known as “Maidan,” for the city square in the capital city of Kiev where the anti-government assaults were carried out.

Less than three months later, on May 2, 2014, at least 46 mostly young people known as “Anti-Maidan” were murdered when a massive, fascist-led mob set fire to the House of Trade Unions in the Black Sea city of Odessa.

This Tuesday, May 2, 2017, Odessans will mark the third anniversary of this massacre by gathering at the site of the murders. They will lay flowers, sing songs, remember their dead and again raise their demand for an international investigation into the murders - a demand that has been continually blocked by the Ukrainian government.

And once again the fascist organizations are threatening to attack their memorial.

An urgent appeal from Odessa

“On the eve of the third anniversary of the events of May 2, 2014, the situation in Odessa is getting worse every day,” writes a supporter of the Council of Mothers of May 2, which represents the relatives of those who died at the House of Trade Unions.

 “Ukrainian nationalists do their utmost to prevent a mass demonstration dedicated to the memory of the residents of Odessa who died on that day. To this end, the media started a campaign of intimidation against the people of Odessa, informing them about possible bloody provocations with the aim of ‘destabilizing the situation in the city.’

“And while previously these threats were raised mainly by professional organizers, this year floods of lies are being produced by representatives of official state institutions: Odessa prosecutors, officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, representatives of the military department. They are all warning about preparations for allegedly armed provocations on May 2 in Odessa.

“Apartments of anti-Maidan activists are being searched. To counter the peaceful mourning rally, a mobilization of ‘patriots’ has been declared. An atmosphere of fear, hysteria and expectation of a new tragedy is created in Odessa. Everything is aimed at intimidating, misleading and confusing people and eventually making them stay at home.

“In these conditions, we urge the world to closely monitor the situation in Odessa to prevent provocations from those forces that proved to the whole world three years ago their bloodlust and their desire to choose the most cruel and bloody ways.”

These threats of violence follow the arrests by federal police of several anti-fascist Odessans now falsely charged with serious crimes. Ominous reports are surfacing about plans to arrest more relatives and supporters and “extract confessions” of plans to commit violent acts against the government.

April 10 International Day of Solidarity

To support the courageous people of Odessa, the Odessa Solidarity Campaign called for an International Day of Solidarity with the People of Odessa, which took place on April 10, the 73rd anniversary of the day Odessa was liberated from years of fascist occupation. Actions took place in 20 cities in 13 countries across Europe and North America.

That solidarity must now continue.

Since the massacre of 2014, the continuing demand of Odessans for an international investigation has been a serious problem for the Ukrainian government. If the voices of these brave people are allowed to be silenced, Ukraine will have taken another huge step toward becoming a repressive police state in collusion with murderous fascist groups.

We urge all supporters of Freedom and Justice to contact the Ukrainian embassy in your country and demand:

Free all political prisoners in Ukraine!
Stop the repression against relatives & supporters of those killed on May 2, 2014!
No to fascism in Ukraine & all over the world!

For more information on the anti-fascist struggle in Odessa and what you can do to help, contact the Odessa Solidarity Campaign - www.odessasolidaritycampaign.org

Friday, April 28, 2017

Understanding the Saudi-U.S. War on Yemen



Aiding Saudi Arabia's Slaughter in Yemen

By Dennis J Bernstein
March 30, 2017

Saudi Arabia continues to escalate its war against Yemen, relying on the strong support of the U.S. government even as the poverty-stricken Yemenis are pushed toward starvation, according to investigative reporter/historian Gareth Porter.

Porter says the U.S. corporate press has failed to report the Saudi slaughter in a way in which it could be fully understood.

I spoke with Porter, an independent investigative journalist who wrote Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare and whose articles on Yemen include “Justifying the Saudi Slaughter in Yemen.”

Dennis Bernstein: Is Saudi Arabia using starvation as a weapon of war against Yemen where there is mass hunger bordering on a famine? Gareth Porter has been writing extensively about this for Consortiumnews and other sources. I want to … begin with a bit of an overview because a lot of people don’t really understand the level of suffering, and the situation in Yemen. So, just give us a brief overview of what it’s like on the ground now. How bad is it? And then I want to talk to you about this new policy about starvation as a weapon.

Gareth Porter: Sure. Well, unfortunately the way this war in Yemen has been covered, thus far, with a few exceptions, of course, the public does have the impression that this is a war in which a few thousand Yemenis have been killed, and therefore, it’s kind of second to third tier, in terms of wars in the Middle East. Because people are aware that Syria is one in which hundreds of thousands of people have died. So, and I think that’s the frame that most people have on the conflict in Yemen.


And that’s very unfortunate, because maybe it’s true that it’s only been several thousands, or let’s say ten thousand plus people, who have been killed by the bombs, directly. But what’s really been happening for well over a year, I think it’s fair to say a year to a year and a half, is that more people are dying of starvation-related or malnutrition-related diseases and starvation, than from the bombs themselves. And this is a fact which I’m sorry to say simply has not gotten into the press coverage of the war, thus far.

And, of course, the Saudis launched the war in late March, 2015 with the full support of the Obama administration. They had that agreement ahead of time, before they started, that the United States would provide the logistical support, the bombs, help in targeting, not explicitly targeting but sort of technical assistance in making decisions about how to approach the war.

And, more important than any of those things, in some ways, was the assurance the United States government would provide the political/diplomatic cover, for this war. And I think that’s really the crucial problem here. That the Saudis have felt that they could get away with not just continuing to bomb civilian targets, and infrastructure targets, and, essentially establishing a thorough going blockade, economic blockade of the country, preventing the fuel, the food, and the medicine from coming into the country that this poor… really the poorest nation in the Middle East have to have in order to survive. But now, as you suggested in your intro, is actually trying to impose, to use starvation as a weapon.

DB: And, just to be clear, how bad is the situation on the ground? How many people are at risk? Who’s at risk? What do we know about that, before we get into this other stuff?

GP: Well, I’ve been trying to get through to somebody in the United Nations, specialized agencies, or volunteer agencies who could speak more precisely to that than has been the case up till now, publicly. And so far, at least, I have not succeeded in getting anyone to say…to go beyond the formal position of the U.N. system, of the humanitarian system of the United Nations, which is that as many as 462,000, I believe, is the most recent figure.

Yemenis face a sort of Status 4 of the situation as far as malnutrition, severe malnutrition is concerned. That is, as you indicated, the closest stage to actual famine to starvation. Meaning that people are going to die of starvation.

And it means that they are … at the tipping point. It could happen anytime. And, may already be happening. In fact, I would venture to say from what I have been able to pick up, it is probably already happening that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, are right now in the process of dying of starvation in Yemen.

And so this is a problem of… a humanitarian crisis that… by which, in comparison to which the Syrian situation pales, or what we were told about the Syrian situation, during the height of the bombing, the Russian-Syrian bombing of Aleppo last year. This is many, many times worse. Far more serious in terms of the number of deaths that are at stake, lives and deaths.

DB: I want you to talk about, it’s rather troubling to see this, and entertain this notion of using food and starvation as a weapon of war. But now we see a troubling collaboration in which the Saudis are trying to break the Yemen Central Bank which is sort of standing between this, where they are now, and absolute famine. You want to talk about that policy? I know the U.S. is deeply engaged.

GP: Sure. Absolutely. I mean the point here is that, as you say, the Central Bank of Yemen was, last year, the last refuge, if you will, the last thing standing between many hundreds of thousands of people and potential famine, because it was providing what little liquidity was available in that country, for the purchase of food stuffs. Very, very few food stuffs still getting into the country. But what there was, you had to have money in order to purchase it. And liquidity was very, very scarce. So the Central Bank was the only thing that was guaranteeing a minimum of liquidity in the Yemeni economy.

And I’m sorry to say that now it’s too late. The Yemeni government, really the Saudis behind them, of course, manipulating the Yemeni government, decided, in their wisdom, that they were going to break the Central Bank. They were going to eliminate it as a factor, in order to basically cause the population of Yemen such suffering, such starvation, that they would, somehow, turn against the government, the authorities, the Houthis and Masala forces, who have now formed their own government in Sana’a. So that was the strategy.

And they did, in fact, eliminate the Central Bank of Yemen by fiat. They supposedly, they moved it to Aden, which is controlled by the Saudis, and their puppet government, the Hadi government. But it doesn’t function, it’s simply a non-functioning Central Bank. And it promised to actually provide the pay for millions, not millions, but 1.2 million civil servants on the payroll, but who are not being paid. Who have not been paid for many months now. But it hasn’t done it.

And as a result of that, of course, you then had that many more people, as of last September, which is when all this happened, it was August and September [2016] when it happened. None of those 1.2 million people now have any source of income. And so that is clearly adding to the distress, to the hunger, and the potential starvation in Yemen.

DB: And, say a little bit more about the U.S. role, and why is the United States so deeply engaged in what really could turn out to be a troubling war crime in Yemen.

GP: You are asking precisely the right question, Dennis. And that is a question that I have been trying my best to penetrate. Of course, you’re not going to get anyone in the U.S. government, whether it was the Obama administration, or now the Trump administration, to ever say anything that will reveal the truth about this.

And the Trump administration, let’s face it, has no interest whatsoever in doing anything to help the people of Yemen. All they care about is to support the Saudis because the Saudis are anti-Iranian. But that was really the M.O. of the Obama administration as well.

And so, if you really are going to answer that question based on the available evidence, you have to say that the reason that the United States has allowed the Saudis to essentially establish, or to impose a regime of starvation on the people of Yemen, is because of the U.S. de facto alliance, the political and military relationships, between the United States and Saudi Arabia. And then, if you go to the next obvious question: well why is it that we have to do that, or that we should do that?

You basically have to admit that it is a matter of the military bases, and military relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and close ally, Qatar, who control two of the major military bases of the United States, the base in Bahrain.

President Obama and King Salman Arabia stand at attention during the U.S. national anthem as the First Lady stands in the background with other officials on Jan. 27, 2015, at the start of Obama’s State Visit to Saudi Arabia.
 
And, of course, the Saudis have allowed the United States, with the NSA and the CIA, to have a very lucrative set of deals over arm sales, which have reached as much as $200 billion over – if you add in all the possible additional fees that can be charged on these deals – more than $200 billion over two decades. That is real money for those in the Pentagon. And the NSA and the CIA have their own sweetheart deals with the Saudis to provide various intelligence services.

This, I’m quite sure, based on my own research, is the real reason why the United States is so wedded to Saudi interests here. Because there is no other reason, it has nothing to do with oil. That may have been the case in 1945, when the U.S. first established its political relationship with the Saudi government, but it hasn’t been the case for many years now, that we have such interest in oil that it would mandate anything like this kind of policy.

DB: And is there sort of a common interest here? Is Israel in support of the U.S. policy in favor of the Saudis?

GP: Yes, of course. There is a common interest between the United States and Israel, in this regard. I would not be willing to say, however, that it’s the controlling factor, but it is a controlling factor in U.S. policy. I simply don’t think it ascends to that level. I think it’s far more relevant that the very powerful world bureaucracies clearly have very powerful vested interests in continuing the status quo of U.S. chummy relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I don’t think that’s going to change until there’s a real citizens’ movement, a powerful citizens’ movement that says “No.” And that of course, is a long ways off, at this moment.

DB: Is there a way to separate, is there an inter-relationship we should be thinking about in terms of what’s going on in Syria, and the role that the U.S. government is playing there, and what appears to be an expanded role that Trump wants to play in the Middle East, in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen?

GP: Well, there is a relationship, and by the way, I think I omitted the second military base in my previous answer, which is the base in Bahrain. Bahrain, of course, is where the U.S. Navy has its Fifth Fleet. And it’s regarded as an extremely important U.S. interest there.

Qatar is a very close Gulf ally of the Saudis and, of course, part of the Saudi coalition in Yemen, carrying out the bombings. So, the two of them together really provide the two major bases in the Gulf for the United States. And those are interests which clearly have been relevant to what was going on in Syria, as well as the U.S. policy in Yemen.

Because it was the Qataris, the Saudis, and the Turks who urged the Obama administration, who pushed the Obama administration to basically carry out the policy of supporting the armed opposition to the Assad regime, starting in 2011. And we know that President Obama was extremely reluctant to do that. He regarded it as extremely dangerous when it was first proposed. But he went along with it, as presidents have done in many situations including the Obama administration, despite the risks that it entailed, starting with the covert CIA operation to provide the logistics, to get the weapons into Turkey, to be provided across the border to the Syrian armed opposition, in 2011-2012.

But that’s a long story, but the short of it is that the United States did not want to disturb its relations with its Gulf allies, or with Turkey. Turkey being a NATO ally which, again, controls a major base that the […] U.S. military holds as one of its jewels of its crown in the Middle East, Middle East and the larger Middle East region.

So, I think that this is really all about how these political military interests in the Middle East have become an end in themselves, and have taken over U.S. policy, rather than serving U.S. interests. And I’m afraid that the U.S. public has not caught on to that fundamental problem, in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

DB: Trump expressed some sort of different look, talked about a bit of a different policy, in Syria, working with the Russians. We have seen where that has gone, but Trump, really, he now seems to have fallen in line, and he’s in line on steroids, wouldn’t you say? It doesn’t look good there.

GP: Well, I think that’s a pretty good way of putting it. Yes. He seems to be almost trying to compensate for the impression that he was somehow at odds with the military and the whole National Security Complex by calling for a $50 billion [$54 billion] increase in the defense budget, by calling for more troops in Syria, and generally talking about upping the ante, militarily, in the entire region.

So, he clearly has caved in. I don’t think he has a clear enough idea, himself, to support any resistance to the kinds of pressures that all presidents have been getting over the years from these very powerful bureaucracies. And so, it was really naive to believe that Trump was going to offer any real resistance.

DB: And, in terms of drone attacks and related attacks, and killing civilians, he’s sort of up now, he’s up to scale. Right? There are more attacks now.

GP: Well, I think he has. I think he’s given more freedom to the CIA clearly. That’s been announced that he’s given the CIA freedom to decide when to use drones for attacks on… when they believe, or when they say they believe it’s Al Qaeda or ISIS. And, so, that is, indeed, that’s how the system works.

That’s what the CIA fought for in both the Bush administration and the Obama administration, to get more freedom of action. That’s the coin of the realm for them. To have greater freedom of action means that they have more power, and that means that they can justify more operations easily, get more money, and the system rolls on.

DB: And, just finally, sort of a sweeping look at the region. What are your concerns now? Do you see things getting more and more risky? Do you see a possible confrontation with the Russians? How are you looking at this now?

GP: Well, I think that, certainly, the White House does not want a confrontation with the Russians. But, they are playing a dangerous game here, in Syria, by becoming more deeply involved. And it’s very difficult to see how this situation is going to evolve. It’s very complicated with Turkey, and the Russians being on different sides in some ways. With the United States playing in-between. Nobody knows exactly how that’s going to play out. But it is, by its very nature, it’s dangerous.

And that’s the flashpoint, in Syria, but, of course, we also have this ongoing war in Iraq. The whole idea that the United States is going to continue to fight wars in both Syria and Iraq for the foreseeable future is not a prospect that one should take lightly.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon, March 16, 2017.
 
And, on top of that, again we are complicit in crimes that have to do with potentially hundreds of thousands of people starving to death in Yemen. And the issue has not hit us, yet, in a sense that it’s being fully reported, but this is something that seems to me the public really needs to be up in arms about. And, it’s in some ways, far more serious than any military involvement by the United States at present, or in the foreseeable future in the Middle East.

DB: Is there any indication of the kind of human rights investigation, international investigation that begins to hold the Saudis accountable, and those who arm the Saudis accountable? Where is that?

GP: A very important question. What happened last year in the United Nations was, or more than a year now, in the United Nations was that the Dutch proposed an independent investigation of war crimes in Yemen, because of the Saudi bombing. At that point it was not so much the imposition of starvation through an economic weapon. It was precisely the bombing, hitting of infrastructure and civilian targets.

But, of course, as many of your listeners may know, the Saudis, with U.S. support, control the U.N. Human Rights Commission. And they managed to change that into a resolution which would welcome the Hadi government, that is, the Saudi sort of puppet government, in Yemen carrying out its own investigation.

And that is as far as it’s gotten in the United Nation’s system. So, I’m sorry to say that the United States exercises so much control over all of the major organs of the United Nations, particularly anything that has to do with U.N. Security Council, that they’re not going to allow any independent investigation through that route. And the Amnesty International/Human Rights Watch, as far as I know are still not… they have called the bombing itself a serious violation of the laws of war.

But, nobody, thus far, has really come out saying that this policy of blockade, plus getting rid of the Central Bank of Yemen, and in many other ways trying to impose starvation on the Yemeni people is in itself a crime of war. And that’s what needs to happen, obviously.

~  Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

South Koreans Reject U.S. THAAD Deployment



Video from Seongju, South Korea showing US Army trucks driving through the protesting villagers (with 8,000 South Korean police deployed to keep the streets open) delivering the radars and interceptors for the THAAD 'missile defense' system to the new base.

Especially watch the last bit of the video so you can get a glimpse of the suffering the US is causing with this deployment.

One South Korean media source writes:

It happened like a sneak attack in the dead of night. All set procedures were utterly disregarded. With US Forces Korea and the Ministry of National Defense proceeding on Apr. 26 with the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, the question for many now is just who made the decision and when. Whoever it was - and whatever their intentions - is likely to face accusations of interfering in the May 9 presidential election, where the THAAD issue was certain to be a key point of contention.

It's clear that this deployment was timed to be done before the coming May 9 elections as it now appears that a progressive candidate is leading in the polls.  Unless the US interferes in the election, which is quite possible, then the newly elected president would have been likely to slow down this THAAD deployment.  Thus Washington was eager to get it done now at all cost.

The Seongju melon farming community is worried about the THAAD radar's electromagnetic waves impact on their health and their crops.  They should also be very concerned about toxic rocket fuel pollution because everywhere there is such a rocket fuel storage facility in the US there are countless stories about contamination of local water supplies.  See more on this here

The Seongju community was previously a rock-ribbed conservative area that voted overwhelmingly for the last right-wing government.  But the THAAD deployment in their community has changed all of that.  They've now not only joined the peace movement in South Korea - but in many respects they are leading the movement today.

Not giving up leaders from five different religions in South Korea today began an indefinite hunger strike in solidarity against THAAD. They declared the strike in front of the United States Embassy in Seoul.


The US claims that they are 'protecting' the people of South Korea and bringing stability to the Korean peninsula.  But that is all lies.  The truth is that the people want the US military to leave Korea and when that happens the world will see a serious reduction of tensions in the region.

It is the US military that is driving the Asia-Pacific arms race (something that the military industrial complex knows and loves) and it is the US military 'pivot' of 60% of Pentagon forces into the region that is now the real trigger for WW III.

"Is the US really a friend when it deploys THAAD like a thief in the night during a presidential election? Or is South Korea a US colony?” asked Kim Chung-hwan, the 57-year-old co-chair of the Seongju Committee.

Bruce 

NASA Crashes Cassini Plutonium Probe into Saturn



This video covers a news conference held in 1997 at the National Press Club in Washington opposing the launch of the Cassini space probe and was covered by CSPAN on cable TV. The news conference was organized by the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice where I worked for 15 years.  The Florida Coalition was one of the founding members of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

NASA has just crashed Cassini with 72.3 pounds of plutonium-238 onto the surface of Saturn.

Journalist Karl Grossman has written a story about this latest incident.  You can find it here

The Cassini campaign lasted for three years and it became a rousing international effort.  Alan Kohn (one of the speakers in the news conference and former head of NASA's emergency preparedness operation) told us after the successful launch of Cassini that a friend of his working in the White House informed him that they received more communications opposing the Cassini launch than any other issue in the history of the White House.

Groups in England, Germany, Australia and from throughout the US sent cards, letters, emails and faxes to then President Clinton calling for the halt of plans to launch the deadly mission.  One of my favorite stories at the time was about citizens from Tasmania, Australia who set up a fax machine one Saturday in front of their capital building and sent 1,000 faxes to the White House opposing the launch.

Also speaking in the news conference is world renowned physicist Dr. Michio Kaku and Karl Grossman, one of the founding members of the Global Network.

Bruce

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Korean War History Lesson



On two trips to South Korea I met a survivor of this US Army slaughter and he took our group to this bridge.

The orders came down from Washington to the US Army commanders during the Korean War to "kill everything that moves."

US war planes bombed the long line of civilians running for safety and many ran inside of the bridge tunnel at No Gun Ri.  US Army units from the 7th Cavalry used small and heavy arms fire to shoot people inside the tunnels as they crawled out trying to find water.  It was a slaughter.

Few in America know these stories about the Korean War.

Bruce

U.S. Missile Madness Hypocrisy


Today the Pentagon
will test fire
a nuclear missile
from Vandenberg AFB
in California
into the Pacific
landing at their
often radiated target
Kwajalein Atoll

Just yesterday
the Pentagon
tried to sneak
the THAAD
'missile defense'
system
in the dark
of night
into the new
base in Seongju,
South Korea
but protesters
were there
along with
a zillion police
pushing them back


Washington
is preparing
for war with
North Korea
because
they dare to test
missiles
and develop nukes

Testing missiles is
not illegal
under international law
the US
and its
double standard
nuclear allies
do it all the time
but North Korea
is not
in the club
thus they are
called rogue

Which nation
is the greater threat?
North Korea
with their pip-squeak
missile and nuclear
capability
or the mighty
USA?


The hypocrisy
is chilling
blinding
nerve wracking
heart stopping
infuriating

The 'exceptional'
Pentagon
moves
the world
step-by-step
closer
to WW III

Today in Washington
Trump
meets with
all 100 US Senators
about Korea
likely
selling war
like he
wheels and deals
one of his
tall towers,
shrines to
arrogance and
madness

Let us hear
your squeaky
voice
now
while
we still
can utter
words
of protest
and
life giving

don't wait
for the flash
and bang
and resulting
silence

Bruce