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

Friday, March 04, 2005

GENERATION KILL

I've just finished a book on the Iraq war called "Generation Kill" by a Rolling Stone embedded reporter by the name of Evan Wright. He was with a Marine First Recon platoon that spearheaded the blitzkrieg on Iraq. The platoon had no deaths as they swept from Kuwait, through Nasiriyah, to Al Kut, then to Baghdad, north to Baqubah, and then south again. But they killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and many, many innocent civilians.

The book recounted blow by blow, the horror and ecstasy of war and killing by the Marines. Riding in the back seat of a humvee the author saw it all. Now and then some of the solidiers began to feel conflicted about the war. Wright recounted one GI named Espera, from Los Angeles, who was beginning to feel remorse.

He wrote that though Espera took pride in being a "violent warrior," the philosophical
implications weigh on him. "I asked a priest if it's okay to kill people in war," Espera told Wright. "He said it's okay as long as you don't enjoy it. Before we crossed into Iraq, I fucking hated Arabs. I don't know why. I never saw too many in Afghanistan. But as soon as we got here, it's just gone. I just feel sorry for them. I miss my little girl. Dog, I don't want to kill nobody's children."

Wright reports Marines call themselves "Devil Dogs" -- according to lore, German soldiers in WWI nicknamed them, "Tuffen Hunds," in grudging praise of their tenacity -- and the chaplain assigned to the outfit incorporated this into his sermons. "They nickname you Devil Dogs," he tells his flock. "But Jesus was the original Devil Dog. He faced evil, and he beat it. Jesus is the Devil Dog you will want on your side going into battle."

If Jesus was Devil Dog, who would Allah be?

Wright tells us about Alpha Company commander Bryan Patterson, Naval Academy graduate before becoming a Marine. Patterson says, "There is not a good thing that comes out of war. I'm not going to pretend I'm this great American savior in Iraq. We didn't come here to liberate. We came to look out for our interests. That we are here is good. But if to liberate them means putting a Starbucks and a McDonald's on every street corner, is that liberation? But I have to justify this to myself. It's Saddam's fault." Still, he says, "the protestors have a lot of valid points. War sucks."

Then there was Carazales from Cuero, Texas. He hates the Marines, hates officers, hates rich people. As they move from village to village, they are shooting at virtually anyone who moves. It wears on Carazales. Wright reports again, "How do you think we would feel if someone came into our country and lit us up like this?" Carazales says. "South of Al Gharraf I know I shot a building with a bunch of civilians in it. Everyone else was lighting it up. Then we found out there were civilians in there. It's fucked up." Carazales works himself into a rage. "I think it's bullshit how these fucking civilians are dying! They're worse off than the guys that are shooting at us. They don't even have a chance. Do you think people at home are going to see this -- all these women and children we're killing? Fuck no. Back home they're glorifying this motherfucker, I guarantee you. Saying our president is a fucking hero for getting us into this bitch. He ain't even a real Texan."

The book ends with the Marines sent back to the states but with orders to soon return to Iraq. Espera returns home to Los Angeles. He was invited to a party at a gated community in Malibu where residents wanted to toast a war hero. Wright recounts how guests repeatedly praised his heroism in serving his country. Then, after his fifth or sixth glass of wine, Espera rose to his feet. "I'm not a hero," he said. The guests nodded, their smiles stretching even wider at this hero's show of humility. "Guys like me are just a necessary part of things," Espera continued. "To maintain this way of life in a fine community like this, you need psychos like us to go out and drop a bomb on somebody's house."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

NEW VISION IN THE PARADES

It was a busy night. Had one meeting in Portland at 5:30pm of the Peace Action Maine planning committee that is organizing the April 1 "Fools No More" parade in that city. It will be promoting the campaign Peace Action has undertaken around economic conversion, the idea of turning our addiction to militarism toward a more peaceful and life sustaining economy. We are holding the parade to show the images and the vision of the conversion message.

The parade will also be advertising an art show opening the following week called War Flowers: From Swords to Plowshares. Artists from around Maine are creating visual images of this conversion idea and they will be shown in the art gallery at the University of Southern Maine for several months. We must begin to create debate and consciousness about conversion in our country and in Maine it is being done by first helping to paint pictures of the process.

Following that meeting I had to zip back to Brunswick for the Maine Veterans for Peace (VfP) monthly meeting. It was a full crew tonight as over 30 of us met to plan upcoming events. We had a heart rendering discussion about a big celebratory parade the city of Portland is planning on April 9 for the Maine National Guard unit that has just come homefrom Iraq. It will be a big ticker-tape variety event and members of Vets for Peace were trying to come to a resolution on what role the chapter wants to play in the event. Should we march in the parade? Carry what kind of banners with what kind of statements on them? Many of our members were in Vietnam and know what it means to come home all twisted up in utter emotional turmoil. How would our presence be perceived by the troops that we feel so close to because of similar experiences?

But on the other hand we are a group of veterans that oppose war and the purpose of our group is to stand out and say that in public. Even when it is not popular. One woman in the meeting eloquently talked about how in her community everyone is playing don't rock the boat on the war. Someone has to stand up and say something she said. In the end, after a long, difficult, but very respectful discussion it was decided that the chapter would go to the parade. We'd wear our black VfP sweatshirts. We would not join the parade but will stand on the side of the parade route and we will hold our banner that reads Veterans for Peace and one that says Welcome Home.

There was not total agreement on the welcome home part. It was not that all of us don't welcome the soldiers home. In fact our youngest member is just back from the war in Afghanistan. Two of our folks have sons, one just returning from Iraq and one soon to be sent there. It was more about that it is hard to say you support the troops when what they are doing in Iraq is wrong. The invasion/occupation is illegal and we believe all the troops should come home now. So we don't support the mission of the troops but it is not their fault. They were sent there by our government. We just don't want to appear to be giving credence to the mission. It made me proud to be a member of VfP. Folks were being real with each other and were trying to be true to the purpose of the organization. Our president Doug Rawlings did a good job of steering us through the discussion. In the end I think the discussion will make the group stronger.

It reminds me of when former Beatle George Harrison died. Right afterward I saw an old interview with him replayed on the TV. The interviewer asked him, "George didn't the Beatles fail? All the peace and love you talked about, it never happened?" George responded that if you took a good look around in most communities you'd see the alternative shops selling health food, sustainable products, veggie restaurants, no smoking, schools teaching peace studies. George said, "Yeah it's true the politicians aren't all paying attention but I think the people are coming round. It is about 50-50," he said.

It's like these two parades being planned in Portland one week apart. Two different visions of the world and I'm proud that I'll be a part of both. The old way is dieing though it is true it is falling down hard on many people. But if we keep showing the people our vision for the future we might come around alright. Peace.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

DAY OF WRITING

I spent the last 12 hours writing a 5,000 word article for a Japanese progressive magazine that is due this week. I've just finished it and sent it off to our board member Atsushi Fujioka in Kyoto, Japan so he can check it out. I am worn out but feel good about it. Usually I write short, snappy things. I like to get right to the point. So 5,000 words is alot of talking for me.

I also had a call from a reporter today from The Observor newspaper in London. They wanted to talk about Bush's plan for weapons and nuclear power in space. Last week BBC radio called to interview me about plans for the nuclear rocket. What is going on in England? I did also get two calls from reporters from the web-based space.com this past week on U.S. plans for nuclear power in space but few major U.S. papers ever call. They are basically on lock-down as the major corporations have taken them over.

The American journalists usually want to know things like "are you going to protest the plutonium launch?" "How many people do you expect?" It is like they are doing recon work for NASA or something. The international reporters ask "What is the U.S. really up to anyway?" "What are they really going to do in space?" A whole different ballgame from the international media.

I've learned over the years that we have to create our own media. That's why I have been making so many videos in recent years. I learned this from Karl Grossman who made two space videos for the Global Network years ago. We have to create our own media if we want to get the word out. We can't rely on the corporate media. If we get some coverage, great. But don't sit around waiting on it. Go make your own. Say it the way you want to say it and then go out and promote it. People are looking for alternative voices and ideas. I got a note from a friend in New York today who said he saw our Arsenal of Hypocrisy video on Free Speech TV. Randy Atkins in Florida, who did the production work on the video and did a great job at that, signed a deal with Free Speech TV for them to play it tons of times for a whole year. We are hearing from people all over the country who have seen it and then order copies to pass around. It's wonderful to see how it works. Gives me hope.

Running out of gas tonight. Need to get to bed. My sister in California says she is reading the blog now and turned a friend of hers at work onto it too. Hi Karen. Good night all. Sweet and peaceful dreams.

Monday, February 28, 2005


We remember our dear friend Satomi Oba. (Photos by Aurel Duta)

NAZI PAST OUR PRESENT


A woman called tonight that has seen our video called Arsenal of Hypocrisy: The space program and the military industrial complex. She was very moved by the part of the video that tells the story about the Nazi rocket scientists brought to the U.S. after WWII in the secret military program called Operation Paperclip. I first learned about the story when I read the book Secret Agenda by former CNN investigative reporter Linda Hunt. The book told in detail how 1,500 top Nazi scientists were smuggled into the U.S. through Boston and West Palm Beach, Florida. One hundred of them, along with 100 copies of Hitler's V-2 rocket, were brought to Huntsville, Alabama to create the U.S. space program. Wernher von Braun, the head of Hitler's team that built the V-1 and V-2 rockets was made the first director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

In Germany the Nazis had a concentration camp called Dora where 40,000 Jews, French resistance fighters, homosexuals, communists and other prisoners of war (including a black American GI) were brought to build the V-1 and V-2 inside a mountain tunnel called Mittelwerk. By the time the slaves were liberated by the allies, over 25,000 had perished at the hands of the Nazi rocketeers.

Hitler's military liason to von Braun's rocket team was Maj. Gen. Walter Dornberger. Several times Dornberger and von Braun met with Hitler requesting more money and more slaves so they could step up the rocket production effort. Hitler was anxious to use the rockets to terrorize the cities of London, Paris and Brussels toward the end of the war as the Nazi army began to lose. Dornberger and von Braun showed Hitler moving pictures of the V-2 rocket launches to prove they were making significant progress.

Dornberger came to the U.S. along with von Braun's rocket team during Operation Paperclip. According to author Jack Manno in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995, Dornberger was appointed as a vice-president at Bell Aviation Corporation and went on to serve on the first military oversight committee that ensured that NASA was controlled by the Pentagon from the first days. It was Dornberger who first came up with the idea of "missile defense" as an offensive program that would have nuclear powered satellites orbiting the planet and able to hit targets on Earth.

Kurt Debus, the chief of V-2 launch operations in Hitler's Germany, later became Chief of Operations for NASA at Cape Canaveral. When tourists converge on the Kennedy Space Center they will pass by a portrait of the former German SS member that hangs in the entrance in honor of Debus's service as the center's first director.

In a recent book called The Hunt for Zero Point, respected military journalist Nick Cook talks much about the "black" (the Pentagon's secret) budget. For 15 years Cook has been a defense and aerospace writer for Jane's Defence Weekly, which some consider the bible of the international weapons community. Cook spent the last 10 years researching secret military programs in the U.S. and believes that over $20 billion a year is spent on these programs outside the purview of Congress. Cook states, "It [black programs] has a vast and sprawling architecture funded by tens of billion of classified dollars every year. The height of its powers was probably in the Reagan era. But it has not stopped since then. In fact, under the Bush administration it is having something of a resurgence. Stealth technology is a primary example...research into anti-gravity technology...has been going on for quite some time."

Cook traces the roots of the U.S.'s secret programs back to the Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. after WW II in Operation Paperclip. He states, "We know the size and scope of Operation Paperclip, which was huge. And we know that the U.S. operates a very deeply secret defense architecture for secret weapons programs...it is highly compartmentalized...and one of the things that's intrigued me over the years is, How did they develop it? What model did they base it on? It is remarkably similar to the system that was operated by the Germans - specifically the SS - for their top-secret weapons programs."

"What I do mean," says Cook, "is that if you follow the trail of Nazi scientists and engineers who were recruited by America at the end of the second world war, the unfortunate corollary is that by taking on the science, you take on - unwittingly - some of the ideology...What do you lose along the way?"

Could this be what former President Dwight Eisenhower was talking about just a few years later when in 1961 he warned the American people to "beware" of the power of the military industrial complex? Could Eisenhower's prophetic warning been that an ideological contamination had come from America's embracing of the Nazi operatives?

The woman who called me tonight recently wrote a letter to the editor telling her community the story about the Nazi's creating the U.S. space program. The responses called her crazy. Even her own son, a local fire fighter, was outraged with her over the letter and told her that she should support George W. Bush or not talk politics to him ever again. She called me to ask for more evidence which I gladly will provide her.

I was impressed by this woman's great courage to step out and to tell a story that America wants to bury with the rest of our dark past. But the woman was right, this story informs the present -- maybe more than that -- guides and directs the present. This is a story that must rise from the dead if we are to halt U.S. plans for global empire. We must face our collective national demons. Let the telling begin.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

SUNDAY MUSINGS

I had a phone call a couple days ago from Maria Holt who lives in nearby Bath, Maine. She is a former state legislator and has been active for years around nuclear power issues. She helped shut down the local nuclear power plant and still works to deal with clean-up issues as the waste still sits on the property even though the reactor building was recently torn down. Maria has had a tough time with cancer treatments lately. She has been cutting my hair for the past year but had to take a break from it due to her treatments. When she called me the other day she said she'd just seen my latest cable TV show, This Issue, and thought I needed a haircut. Truth is I did, my hair was flying in all directions and had not had it cut since she last did it. Mary Beth and I went over today for lunch with her and her son Dell. What a delightful time we had. For the first time in a long time Maria was full of life.

Since her husband died a couple of years ago Maria had practically given up on life. She was really trying to die. But being faced with cancer she found the spark of life still in her and has fought back. Her love of nature, of people, and of the need to still fight the good fight for things she believes in has kept her alive. And we are all happy about that!

A couple of months ago I ran into a speech on C-SPAN by Thomas Barnett who was described as Secretary of War Rumsfeld's "strategy guy." I ordered a copy of the video and was amazed at the brazen language he used to create a justification for U.S. military intervention around the world on behalf of corporate globalization. I had previously read an article he had in Esquire magazine around similar themes. His most important point, I think, is that jobs are going to leave America and that our role in the world will be "security export." Basically endless war for the next generation as our troops are used to ensure that people in what he calls the "gap" are brought in line with corporate domination. He calls it "connectivity." I call it corporate feudalism.

Barnett's vision is being widely talked about within the military industrial complex and the media so I wrote an article about it. The article ran on the front cover of our last Space Alert! newsletter of the Global Network. It got picked up by some number of newsletters and web sites and Barnett ran into it. On his web site he now has what he calls a "review" of my article. He takes issue, as one would imagine he would, with some of my interpretations of what I heard him say on C-SPAN. But I've seen him on three occasions now on C-SPAN, twice as full presentations to different audiences and once in a interview/call-in session. I've studied his web site quite a bit and feel pretty confident that I've got his rap down pretty well.

When Barnett says that Hitler didn't worry about asking for permission before he invaded other countries I think I understood what he was saying. He said that U.S. military transformation was all about shifting to smaller bases, using special operations forces more, walking away from arms control talks, preemption inside the gap, and the inevitability of war. A "grand march of history" Barnett called it. The U.S. Navy "will be the Coast Guard to the world," he said. Now to me that means that the U.S. will see the territory that it takes over as "U.S." responsibility. Like in Iraq today. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that "we can't cut and run." The U.S. has to, conveniently, stay and take responsibility for the "mess" we made there. And in this corporate dominated culture, to me, that means that U.S. troops will be putting the big boot on the necks of poor people around the world so corporations can take their resources (oil, water, etc.) and labor.