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, July 17, 2005

IRAQ TOWN HALL MEETING

Under intense pressure from the peace movement in Maine, Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) held a town hall meeting today at Portland High School on the Iraq issue. Several months ago the peace movement in the state began a coordinated campaign to get our congressional delegation to agree to hold a town meeting. We've been calling, writing, and holding occupations of their offices reading the names of U.S. and Iraqi civilian war dead. Today well over 500 people turned out for the event.

At first Rep. Allen would not hold such an event. Rep. Allen maintains that we can't leave Iraq because if we do there might be a civil war and innocent Iraqi people will suffer. It appears that is happening now. His position is the basic Democratic party position, and at one point in the event he suggested we all go and read the statement of Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) who forcefully articulates this position that we must stay in Iraq and stabilize it until the Iraqi government asks us to leave. One Veterans for Peace member reminded the congressman that the Iraqi government, like the one the U.S. installed in Vietnam during that war, is a puppet government and is not likely to ask us to leave.

Two parents of GI's now in Iraq both spoke out strongly against the war calling for the troops to be brought home ASAP. None of the people who spoke up during the event expressed the slightest support for the war.

At least half a dozen of the people who spoke up called for the conversion of the military industrial complex. This, I think, indicates that our campaign to bring that issue alive here in Maine is making progress. People are seeing the common sense of using our tax dollars to build mass transit rail systems, solar power, and wind power at the weapons production facilities in the state that now produce weapons for endless war.

When I spoke I asked the audience what the nation's number one industrial export was. WEAPONS they yelled out. And when weapons are your number one industrial export, what is your global marketing strategy, I asked? WAR they yelled back.

This was a great day for the peace movement in Maine. We showed that we can mobilize people, we got very little help from the mainstream media who basically refused to give any advance coverage to the event. We also showed the growing power of ordinary people who are moving to oppose the war. Rep. Allen continues to say that we can't leave Iraq but he is moving in our direction as he clearly is feeling the pressure to change his position. We will keep working, and building, in order to grow this anti-war movement.

Next month we will again occupy the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) where we will read the names of dead GI's and Iraqi civilians. Each time we read them it takes us longer - the last time it took six hours. But each time we read the names our numbers grow.

8 Comments:

Blogger CarlC said...

So Bruce, when you occupy Senator Collins' office, will you read the names of "over 9,000" dead GIs, as indicated in your June 20th post? A couple of readers asked for back-up following your ridiculous claim, but (quite predictably) you have offered none. I indicated in my comments to that same post why publishing such nonsense is irresponsible if not simply stupid.

I'll be happy to challenge other arguments you have made regarding our foreign policy, but first I want you to demonstrate that you have the spine to retract an obviously false posting.

It's a remarkably simple and reasonable request, which is why I expect that I'll be waiting forever for that to happen.

7/17/05, 10:27 PM  
Blogger CarlC said...

After making the above comment I was going to head back over to the great Michigan Climate Debate to check out the latest. But it's gone!

Someone help me out...where did it go? I can't find it in the archives, though as far as I can tell everything else on the Blog is intact (at least physically). Could it just have "vanished"? Is this part of the censorship Bruce was hinting at in the original post?

7/17/05, 10:43 PM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

Is this part of the censorship Bruce was hinting at in the original post?

It's not censorshp. As Bruce well knows, by definition only the State can censor. If Bruce choses to delete a post ... well he might be _wrong_ but it's his blog to do with as he will.

7/17/05, 11:31 PM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

When I spoke I asked the audience what the nation's number one industrial export was. WEAPONS they yelled out. And when weapons are your number one industrial export, what is your global marketing strategy, I asked? WAR they yelled back.

According to the World Factbook under Exports - commodities we find

agricultural products (soybeans, fruit, corn) 9.2%, industrial supplies (organic chemicals) 26.8%, capital goods (transistors, aircraft, motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment) 49.0%, consumer goods (automobiles, medicines) 15.0% (2003)
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/us.html#Econ

Just saying, is all.

7/18/05, 12:14 AM  
Blogger CarlC said...

Right you are Brian. Would "Stifling of Dissent" be more accurate? Either way -- right or wrong -- it smacks of hipocrisy, especially given Bruce's statements in the original posting.

And I wonder where Stephen stands on this. Would he care to defend Bruce's act of deleting that which displeases him?

7/18/05, 11:22 AM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

Would he care to defend Bruce's act of deleting that which displeases him?

Acting as Devil's Advocate we don't _know_ that Bruce deleted it because it displeased him. But that's me - foolishly optimistic about people.

7/18/05, 11:46 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Replying to carlc: since I have no idea why the post and its comment thread are no longer there, I can't provide any relevant comment, let alone a 'defense,' were one even called for from me.

Replying to b dunbar: your CIA factbook link is a good one, but its categories appear to be a bit different from those mentioned in the post. Would you guess that 'capital goods' corresponds to 'industrial exports'? I'm not sure.

In any event, I think the larger point that all G-8 countries, including the US, Canada and others export far too much in arms is a good one, and was supported, btw, by a recent Amnesty International (along with Oxfam and IANSA) report on the arms trade supported by the G-8 countries.

Here's one finding:

The USA continues to dominate the international arms market. It is a
world leader in both arms exports and production. It ranked first
among the world’s conventional arms suppliers between 1996 and
2003, with deliveries worth in total US$151.9 billion(123) or on average
around US$19 billion per year.


Often, as the Amnesty report indicates, these weapons often find their way to poor countries, or ones with serious records of human rights violations--the very ones we in the rich countries are supposed to be helping with aid, debt relief, etc.

I wouldn't let my own country, Canada, off the hook on this subject, either, even though we're a comparatively minor player in global terms. The same Amnesty report shows Canada has sent millions in weapons systems to places like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, while also indicating that much of Canada's arms exports potentially go untallied because of special arrangements with the US that allow us to ship weapons or their components south without worrying about their final destination.

This loophole, btw, goes back to the Vietnam era (if not before), and it was during the Vietnam war era that the Canadian government, despite the official memory that we took a different line from the US on the conflict, took steps to make sure we benefitted economically and industrially from the war. Thus, material shipped to the US or Japan, even though it was bound ultimately for use in Vietnam, didn't count as military support for US efforts in Indochina. Pretty shameful, really: Vietnamese misery was good for business.

Myself, I wonder how much of this shell-gaming still goes on today, as we try to tally up the dollar values (let alone the human costs) of military/arms exports from this country to that...

7/19/05, 1:59 AM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

Replying to b dunbar: your CIA factbook link is a good one, but its categories appear to be a bit different from those mentioned in the post. Would you guess that 'capital goods' corresponds to 'industrial exports'? I'm not sure.

Perhaps because 'industrial exports' isn't a catagory when it comes to tallying import/export and thus it's hard to quantify what Bruce meant when he said weapons are the nation's number one industrial export.

But no, capital goods are items (machinery for example but it is a broad catagory) that are used to produce commodities.

Your numbers from amnesty are good but it should be recognized that deliveries worth US 19 billion* ** is, really, pretty puny compared to the value of the export market and the GDP - the latter 2004 estimate is 11.75 trillion dollars.

Is 19 billion a lot of money? Sure. It's not close - not by miles - to being a valid figure to say that 'weapons'*** are the number one export.

*is that gross or net - I assume the former.

** also note that is an average for seven years and is - from a nit picking point of view - a fuzzy number to work with.

*** Whatever that means. The term 'weapons' takes on new meaning in a world where a desktop computer can be used to design WMD.

7/19/05, 8:55 AM  

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