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

Saturday, June 11, 2005

APPLAUSE IN MAINE HOUSE

Yesterday our Veterans for Peace (VfP) chapter went to the capitol in Augusta to be with Russ Christensen who has walked 130 miles since May 4 calling for an end to the war in Iraq. Russ is a Korean war veteran and is 73 years old. As he walked he passed out a proclamation calling on Maine's Governor Baldacci and leaders of the Maine State House and Senate to demand a recall of U.S. military forces stationed in Iraq.

A dozen VfP members met Russ at the capitol for a news conference. I brought along a handful of signs saying things like: Money for jobs not war; Fund human needs not warfare; Healthcare not warfare; War drains economy. As we were preparing to set up our vigil and news conference inside the capitol rotunda two women approached us and suggested we move up one floor and stand in the hallway between the entrances to the senate and house chambers. The two women then went around looking for media folks and tried to steer them our way. One of the women then asked us for a list of all the VfP members present and our home towns. Come to find out she was a state representative from Lewiston, called herself a pacifist, and after we had held the signs for about an hour in the hallway, she told us to go sit in the balcony of the house and she would have us recognized from the floor.

So we moved to the balcony, carrying our protest signs with us. After the house had taken a few more votes they moved to announcements and the leader of the house said there was a motion to recognize members of Maine Veterans for Peace who were sitting in the balcony. So the house leader began reading our names and home towns and we all stood up. We lifted up our signs so the house members below us could see them. One person on the floor began to boo us and about 1/3 of the house members stood up and applauded us. Many who remained sitting also applauded.

It was quite a moment. I'd never done a protest action inside a legislative assembly before and have them applaud on top of that. Russ made sure that he got a member of the house and senate to sponsor the passing out of the VfP proclamation to each member.

The two-page proclamation ended with this statement, "It is time for you, as our elected leaders, to stop quarreling among yourselves and to unite in a demand that the federal government stop squandering the wealth and the lives of the American people in service to a dream of world domination. The resources that the Bush administration is spending in the futile attempt to seize control over Iraq are needed at home to care for the American people; and you, as our elected leaders, need to say that to Washington. Such a forthright stand, beginning in Maine, might well spread throughout the country, thereby reversing the disastrous course upon which our nation is now embarked, under the disastrously short-sighted leadership of the Bush administration."

We are now talking about another walk in Maine. I've suggested that we do a walk to Brunswick before the planned September 10 Veterans for Peace demonstration at the Naval air station where the Blue Angels will be performing that weekend. This would help extend the demonstration beyond Brunswick and bring out message of opposition to the war in Iraq to a larger audience in Maine.

It was another bright moment for our VfP chapter. It came one day after a man wrote a letter to the editor of the Brunswick Times Record complaining about our VfP participation in the recent Memorial Day parade. He contended that our presence in the parade "was discouraging and sad" and had "tainted the uplifting event that a Memorial Day parade should be." "If the Veterans for Peace insist on marching again, I would encourage the parade committee to refuse its entry due to the fact that its intentions are politically motivated," the letter writer concluded.

Once more we see how some American citizens wish to ignore the insanity of war. It is a pleasure to belong to a group like VfP that is determined to stand in the face of silence.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

SPRING GARDENS AND CAPITAL MARCHERS

I took a couple days off this week as my sister who lives in Iowa came for a visit. We went out exploring some of the beautiful lobster fishing villages along the coast here in Maine and ate our share of seafood. I took her around to meet some of our new friends in the area and she loved seeing the gardens blooming all around. Mainers love to garden once spring comes after having been inside so much during the long, hard winter. Even my flower and vegetable garden is looking good.

The first layout of my book came back from my publisher today. There were a few minor things that needed to be fixed but not much. She had plugged the artwork into the book and it looks quite good. She told me she already found it hard to stop reading it as she was doing the desktop publishing so I took that as a good sign. I've already begun to work on getting publicity about the book into peace group newsletters across the country and have had a positive response from people who I asked to give it some promo. So things are moving along nicely.

On Friday I will join some Maine Veterans for Peace who will be marching to the state capital in Augusta and holding a news conference. The state is in fiscal crisis and the walkers, who will have been on the road for several days, are calling on state political leaders to make statements opposing the war in Iraq. That is where the big money is going. The federal government says they have no money for social spending and are dumping social programs onto the state's backs. The states have no money so they are cutting programs and social services. We need to get the state political leaders around the country to be more vocal in opposition to the war. What could your state do with your share of $200 billion wasted on the war?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

MARINE RECRUITERS KIDNAPP KID

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/paynter/227497_paynter08.html

When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call

By SUSAN PAYNTER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLUMNIST

For mom Marcia Cobb and her teenage son Axel, the white letters USMC
on their caller ID soon spelled, "Don't answer the phone!"

Marine recruiters began a relentless barrage of calls to Axel as soon
as the mellow, compliant Sedro-Woolley High School grad had cut his
17th birthday cake. And soon it was nearly impossible to get the
seekers of a few good men off the line.

With early and late calls ringing in their ears, Marcia tried using
call blocking. And that's when she learned her first hard lesson. You
can't block calls from the government, her server said. So, after
pleas to "Please stop calling" went unanswered, the family's "do not
answer" order ensued.

But warnings and liquid crystal lettering can fade. So, two weeks ago
when Marcia was cooking dinner Axel goofed and answered the call.
And, faster than you can say "semper fi," an odyssey kicked into
action that illustrates just how desperate some of the recruiters
we've read about really are to fill severely sagging quotas.

Let what we learned serve as a warning to other moms, dads and teens,
the Cobbs now say. Even if your kids actually may want to join the
military, if they hope to do it on their own terms, after a deep
breath and due consideration, repeat these words after them: "No,"
"Not now" and "Back off!"

"I've been trained to be pretty friendly. I guess you might even say
I'm kind of passive," Axel told me last week, just after his mother
and older sister had tracked him to a Seattle testing center and
sprung him on a ruse.

The next step of Axel's misadventure came when he heard about a cool
"chin-ups" contest in Bellingham, where the prize was a free Xbox.
The now 18-year-old Skagit Valley Community College student dragged
his tail feathers home uncharacteristically late that night. And, in
the morning, Marcia learned the Marines had hosted the event and
"then had him out all night, drilling him to join."

A single mom with a meager income, Marcia raised her kids on the farm
where, until recently, she grew salad greens for restaurants.

Axel's father, a Marine Corps vet who served in Vietnam, died when Axel was 4.

Clearly the recruiters knew all that and more.

"You don't want to be a burden to your mom," they told him. "Be a
man." "Make your father proud." Never mind that, because of his own
experience in the service, Marcia says enlistment for his son is the
last thing Axel's dad would have wanted.

The next weekend, when Marcia went to Seattle for the Folklife
Festival and Axel was home alone, two recruiters showed up at the
door.

Axel repeated the family mantra, but he was feeling frazzled and worn
down by then. The sergeant was friendly but, at the same time,
aggressively insistent. This time, when Axel said, "Not interested,"
the sarge turned surly, snapping, "You're making a big (bleeping)
mistake!"

Next thing Axel knew, the same sergeant and another recruiter showed
up at the LaConner Brewing Co., the restaurant where Axel works. And
before Axel, an older cousin and other co-workers knew or understood
what was happening, Axel was whisked away in a car.

"They said we were going somewhere but I didn't know we were going
all the way to Seattle," Axel said.

Just a few tests. And so many free opportunities, the recruiters told him.

He could pursue his love of chemistry. He could serve anywhere he
chose and leave any time he wanted on an "apathy discharge" if he
didn't like it. And he wouldn't have to go to Iraq if he didn't want
to.

At about 3:30 in the morning, Alex was awakened in the motel and fed
a little something. Twelve hours later, without further sleep or
food, he had taken a battery of tests and signed a lot of papers he
hadn't gotten a chance to read. "Just formalities," he was told.
"Sign here. And here. Nothing to worry about."

By then Marcia had "freaked out."

She went to the Burlington recruiting center where the door was open
but no one was home. So she grabbed all the cards and numbers she
could find, including the address of the Seattle-area testing center.

Then, with her grown daughter in tow, she high-tailed it south,
frantically phoning Axel whose cell phone had been confiscated "so he
wouldn't be distracted during tests."

Axel's grandfather was in the hospital dying, she told the people at
the desk. He needed to come home right away. She would have said just
about anything.

But, even after being told her son would be brought right out, her
daughter spied him being taken down a separate hall and into another
room. So she dashed down the hall and grabbed him by the arm.

"They were telling me I needed to 'be a man' and stand up to my
family," Axel said.

What he needed, it turned out, was a lawyer.

Five minutes and $250 after an attorney called the recruiters, Axel's
signed papers and his cell phone were in the mail.

My request to speak with the sergeant who recruited Axel and with the
Burlington office about recruitment procedures went unanswered.

And so should your phone, Marcia Cobb advised. Take your own sweet
time. Keep your own counsel. And, if you see USMC on caller ID,
remember what answering the call could mean.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


This is how the military recruits kids. War is fun, like a play ground. On September 10 the Navy's Blue Angels will perform an "airshow" at the Naval air station in Brunswick, Maine and Veterans for Peace will organize a demonstration. Over 100,000 people are expected to turn out for that "Gods of metal" worshipping.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Open house at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs - home of the Air Force Space Command. Tell me the military is not promoting war and violence. We need a non-violent revolution for sure.

JANE'S REVOLUTION

Jane's Revolution
By Ed Rampell, AlterNet
Posted on June 4, 2005

Jane Fonda, whose trips to north Vietnam during that war propeled her onto the world stage, has returned to public life with her autobiography, My Life So Far, and the release of Monster-in-Law, her first feature film in 15 years. At a special Hollywood double feature of two suppressed documentaries, the feisty two-time Academy Award winner also showed herself to be as antiwar as ever.

The rare screening at the Directors Guild of America's theaters last month was only the third projection of the restored print of FTA (Fuck The Army). Fonda told the overflowing crowd: "I haven't seen FTA on the big screen in thirty-some years."

The 90-minute documentary, made in 1972, chronicles the tour of antiwar entertainers to venues near U.S. bases around the Pacific Rim, where they agitated against the Vietnam War and military policies. The FTA troupe included Fonda, actor Donald Sutherland, singer Holly Near, comic Paul Mooney, Peter Boyle of TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond" and singer/songwriter Country Joe McDonald.

David O. Russell, director of Three Kings (1999) and Soldiers Pay, the other doc on the double bill, declared: "I was shocked by the intensity of FTA, and the fact that all these soldiers were going to this, and by the boldness. It's about a very spirited pinnacle of the counterculture."

Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone, director of the '80s films Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, called FTA "The highest form of free expression we've seen in America in a long, long time."

G.I. Resistance

FTA grew largely out of the G.I. resistance movement to the Vietnam war, as well as the classism, racism and sexism perpetrated by the military brass against soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen and women. The shows consisted of songs and skits, often with a comic panache, always with an anti-militaristic thrust and sometimes with a feminist consciousness. A counterpoint to Bob Hope's pro-war USO tours, the FTA pro-peace troupers performed in Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan, but were refused entry to south Vietnam. The overseas audiences for what Fonda called FTA's "political vaudeville" was composed mainly of 64,000 disaffected servicemen and women.

"There were great reviews of the film made from that tour," said Stone. "And it played exactly for a week in the United States." According to Stone, FTA's director, Francine Parker, said "calls were made from high up in Washington, possibly from the Nixon White House, and the film was just disappeared."

Following the screenings Stone moderated a panel discussion with Fonda, Parker and Russell. Commenting on FTA's removal from distribution, Fonda said, "I must say, looking at it now, it's no wonder. Think of all the propaganda that those of us who opposed the war were 'anti-troops.' When you see thousands of guys and women with their fists in the air who were active duty military personnel, it's a different slant. Now, in the context of Iraq, it's very -- what's the word? Subversive."

"By the way, it's happening today with the Iraq veterans," Fonda added. "For example at the second invasion of Iraq, at Fort Bragg, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, there was the largest [antiwar] rally since 1970, which I was at. This time, all the speeches were made by returned American veterans of the Iraq war, and families and parents. It's an example of what's happening now within the military in Iraq. They're not getting the kind of help that they need."

Fonda denounced "the cutback of hundreds of millions of dollars to the VA administration the day after the troops were sent to Iraq to invade, just after the 'Support Our Troops' resolution. Reach out to military families because they're living it, and give support to them," she encouraged the audience.

Stone asked: "Is it possible for what you call the Iraq protest movement in the military to ever get recognized publicly?" Fonda replied to applause from the audience: "Well, we have to make sure that it is. Yes, I think so. The movement is definitely growing."

In today's military, Fonda said, "Classism is the biggie right now, because there's no draft, and that's not fair. You're only getting the poor kids." Perhaps in jest, the actress urged Russell to tour the country with Soldiers Pay, and Russell said he'd do it if she'd come. Always game, Fonda responded, "I will!" and the audience applauded.

War Revisionism

Stone asked Fonda how America had changed since 1971. "We never came to terms with the war," she replied. "Revisionism set in and Americans were made to believe that we could have won the war, if it hadn't been for the antiwar movement and so-called 'liberal media.' That was during the Reagan administration and it was very handy for the first Bush administration when we went into the Gulf War.

"Remember what happened? 'Oh, if you're against this war you're going to be a traitor like those people back in the sixties and seventies.' People got scared because they didn't know what the truth was. That's continuing today. Of course, this administration is just totally brilliant at playing on our fears. With the invasion of Iraq, it was raised to an art form. You know, 'you're either with us or against us.' If you speak out against the war you're [considered] a terrorist," Fonda said.

On a more upbeat note she mused, "Today, Nixon and Reagan are looking mighty good. I think this is the scariest time I've ever lived through. It's a dying beast, and they're always the scariest and most dangerous. Just below the crust of the surface there is a volcano ready to erupt. It's our job to create critical mass and ignite it.

"It's a really confusing time; it's more complicated than Vietnam," she continued. "There was no Saddam Hussein during Vietnam. Everybody agreed Saddam had to go. Did there need to be an invasion where 100,000 innocent civilians die in the process? I don't think so. People are waiting out there for leadership. I was asked: 'What's happened to the Left?' Progressivism is alive and well, but it's women who are going to have to rise up and lead it now."

"Jane is a great revolutionary," Stone said admiringly. "We need that type. 'Storm the barricades.'"

Since the rights to FTA are owned by Fonda, Sutherland and director Parker, Stone suggesting re-releasing the film. "You've got to get it out there, Jane. You can do a lot with digital now. Would you like to see it on the Internet?"

"We'd have to think very hard about who we would try to get the film distributed to," Fonda said. "I'm not sure that our main audience isn't the military. Technology has made it possible for us to get stuff out there in such an easier, democratic and inexpensive way.

"I just spent five weeks traveling around the country, and except for one incident where a vet spit at me, what I'm seeing is that people are ready and hungry for statements like this. They really are. I'm talking in the heartland, in those red states."

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film critic and freelancer. His latest book, "Progressive Hollywood, A People's Film History of the United States," was published by DisInfo in May.