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, January 20, 2006

GLOBAL WARMING, ROCKET LAUNCHES AND A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE


The snow is gone from the ground outside. The high temperature today was 50 degrees, very sunny, didn’t need a coat on at all. Many say it is the reality of global warming. I believe it.

Yesterday the New Horizons nuclear mission to Pluto lifted off safety from Cape Canaveral. Right afterwards Fox Radio News called to ask my thoughts. Last night, at 1:00 am, CNN International TV news called and interviewed me for five minutes. They put my picture on the TV screen while we talked. I said in both interviews that NASA and the Department of Energy are doing a $300 million expansion of the laboratory in Idaho so that they can process the growing demand for space nuclear missions. The Idaho DoE lab will be busy processing deadly plutonium for NASA’s nuclear-powered bases on the Moon, nuclear rockets for Mars, and reactors for the Pentagon’s weapons in space that would be fired by nuclear power. The plan is to launch more of these radioactive payloads in the coming years. I said that NASA is playing nuclear Russian roulette with our lives. Sooner or later there will be another accident.

The Atlas rocket that carried the New Horizons probe into space punched a bigger hole in the ozone layer above the Earth. The toxic exhaust cloud from the rocket also fell onto the Cape Canaveral national seashore “wildlife preserve” where it contaminated the water and fish died as they do after each launch. Birds eat the contaminated fish and die. On through the food chain the killing goes even without a launch pad accident. No one notices and even “space coast environmental groups” don’t talk about it because the space center is the local job creation machine. We learn to look away.

Many space enthusiasts this week emailed me saying that the Global Network was holding civilization back from this historic journey to find our new home because Earth is a rotting, stinking, dieing planet. Surely, the contamination from the space program has helped make it so. But alas, I am old fashioned. I love this Mother Earth of mine and want to keep it clean and alive. That makes me an anti-technology bum my critics say. One person who wrote in called me “the enemy.”

But in two days time we had well over 8,000 hits on our web site. Not all of them thought badly of us. In fact many have just learned about the nuclearization and weaponization of space. A local weekly newspaper called The Coastal Journal asked me yesterday to come in for an interview. They want to do a feature on what makes an activist like me tick. I went in this morning.

I remarked about the spring weather we are having to the reporter. I talked about how we need now to make a dramatic transition away from polluting technologies and that we must move to sustainable technologies like wind power, solar and public mass transportation. The interview took place in Bath, just blocks away from Bath Iron Works (BIW) where the Navy’s Aegis destroyer is built. I told the story about how a shipyard in Copenhagen, Denmark has been converted to build windmills. Denmark is now the world’s leading producer of wind power. In northern Maine, at a place called Mars Hill, a large windmill farm has been approved by the state for construction. The windmills will be brought in from Denmark. At nearby BIW they announced more layoffs last week.

I asked the reporter, why can’t we make a political demand that our tax dollars be used to create jobs at BIW building windmills, solar and rail cars for a world-class rail system instead of more weapons of mass destruction?

Instead of creating more pollution with toxic rocket fuel, why can’t we citizens demand that our tax dollars be used to develop alternative technologies for space flight that don’t help kill our Mother Earth with each launch? If we don’t make these demands, then who will? If we don’t fight for our children’s future now, it won’t matter if we find a new “home” in space some day. It will have been too late.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NASA LOSING PUBLIC SUPPORT


Our Global Network web site has had well over 5,000 hits today as people learn about our opposition to the launch of the controversial New Horizons mission to Pluto that will carry 24 pounds of plutonium onboard.

The media has begun to cover the danger of the plutonium launch in the last couple of days. I've done interviews on CNN and CBS radio. Newspapers have been calling and the Associated Press story was placed on most internet search sites which brought a lot of people to us. CBS evening news last night made mention of the opposition to launching nuclear power into space and today CNN TV news ran a nice interview with Karl Grossman who gave some background and context to our concerns. Karl has also had a string of op-ed pieces printed in papers across the nation. Our local Global Network leader, Maria Telesca who lives near Cape Canaveral, has been doing media interviews for the last couple of weeks.

Some media folks focus on the fact that only 40 people protested at the space center on January 7. They ask why so few were there after we had 1,000 people at the space center in 1997 protesting the Cassini launch that carried 72 pounds of plutonium onboard?

I also organized large protests at the space center in 1989 against the nuclear Galileo mission and then again in 1990 when Ulysses lifted off with plutonium onboard. After three large protests since 1989 we learned something. Large protests don't mean that you are going to stop the launching of nuclear power into space. Big protests might mean you get more media coverage for a day or two but after that it is all gone and you are back to square one.

In 1998 I left working full time at the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice so that I could work full-time on space issues with the Global Network. Since that time I have been non-stop on the road, traveling all across the U.S. and all over the world. This effort has enabled the Global Network to dramatically expand the numbers of people who now deeply understand the nuclearization and weaponization of space. We've made two documentary videos. One in particular called Arsenal of Hypocrisy: The Space Program and the Military Industrial Complex, has been a huge seller and has played around the world in homes, churches, on movie screens, at colleges, on cable TV and on Deep Dish satellite TV.

In December, 2005 the Global Network bought three 1/4 page advertisements in the Florida Today newspaper, the paper of record for the space center community. In those ads we laid out our concerns and gave readers information that will never make it into any article that gets published during the New Horizons launch window.

We've learned something over the years. We've learned to be more strategic with our meager resources and we've learned where to put our energies and where not to. The media and NASA would like the public to believe that there is not much opposition to the New Horizons plutonium launch just because we did not organize a big rally at the space center. We know though that NASA is reading this very blog and that they have hired public relations firms to find out what our plans are to oppose the launching of nuclear power into space. NASA has routinely tried to infiltrate our organization. NASA is spending $700 million to fly New Horizons and untold millions dollars more to sell it to the public because their polling data says that the American people are less supportive now than ever of their space program. The public says, “Yes these pictures from space are nice but I’d rather have my tax dollars spent on health care, education, child care, or cleaning up our planet Earth.”

In the end we can say that people around the world are learning that the New Horizons space probe is another controversial space shot with deadly plutonium onboard. With each launch NASA loses more credibility with a skeptical public who understands that space technology can and does fail. After the Hurricane Katrina fiasco the public also has learned an important lesson - don't trust the government when they tell you that they will take care of things after a disaster. When NASA told people in Central Florida this week to just stay inside their homes and turn off the air conditioners, if there was a nuclear accident, that really told the people something very important. In their heart of hearts, most people don't believe the official spin.

In 1997, right before the launch of Cassini, we got a call from Alan Kohn. He told us he had recently retired from NASA and had been the emergency preparedness officer for the past two nuclear launches (Galileo and Ulysses). He told us NASA had no emergency evacuation and clean-up plan. He said it was all a lie. Alan told us that NASA could do nothing if there ever was a nuclear space accident and he believed that eventually there would be one. Alan told this story to the New York Times and CBS 60 Minutes just before Cassini went up. He had the courage to stand up and say what the people fear - if there is a nuclear space accident you are on your own. Home owners insurance won’t cover a space nuclear accident. The federal government has no money to clean up a radioactive Central Florida.

NASA has big plans for nuclear powered colonies on the Moon and nuclear rockets to Mars with nuclear reactors for engines. New Horizons won't be the last launch. Our opposition will not go away either.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

CIA ATTACKS WITH UAV'S & DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.


The photo above is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), a pilot less plane that can fly for hours over the battle space and is equipped with cameras and weapons. UAV's allow the military to see the ground in "real time" because they feed back pictures via satellites in split second time to people sitting at computer screens back in the U.S. at bases like Nellis AFB in Nevada.

The U.S. is using UAV's in Afghanistan and Iraq and just two days ago a similar UAV, called the Predator, was used by the CIA over Pakistan to hit a small village where an al-Qaida leader was suspected to have been. As it turns out the missile from the UAV instead killed 17 people, including six women and six children.

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis held a protest following this incident near the remote village that was hit. Of course U.S. officials defended the strike, as they always do, and promised an investigation. As usual the investigation will show that all "normal procedures" were followed and no one will be held responsible.

A Pakistani senior minister was quoted as saying that "those who were killed were all innocent permanent residents of the village."

This kind of accidental UAV bombing is becoming a regular occurrence in Afghanistan and Iraq. When you have the people far removed from the battlefield, essentially playing with lives like a video game, there are going to be many tragic accidents like this.

One thing I can't help but wonder is why does the CIA now have its own air force of UAV's that they routinely use to attack people with? The CIA, because it is a secret outfit, is even less accountable than the Pentagon is. How will Congress, that has very little information about what the top secret CIA actually does, be able to monitor their bombings or any "investigation" that they will or will not undertake?

It is becoming ever more clear that the implementation of foreign policy today in the U.S. is totally removed from the grasp of the people. The citizens are paying for all these new generations of weapons and our Congress keeps appropriating the money for anything the Pentagon wants. But the citizenry falls further and further behind in actually having any influence with what is done in our name. How can we let that stand?

Our local peace group held a frigid vigil this morning as the local Catholic and Episcopal churches let out. In the wind and snow 12 of us stood and held our signs trying to tug on the heart-strings of those leaving their weekly worship of the prince of peace. Some of them just passed us by as if we were the devil himself. Following the vigil we gathered inside the nearby Unitarian Church basement to watch a 15-minute film about the U.S. total destruction of Falleujah, Iraq. A city the size of Cincinnati, Ohio destroyed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes. Untold thousands killed, the refugees now still living in tent cities with the children suffering from severe illnesses due to lack of clean water, medical care or decent food. Think of the suffering this population will go through after their exposure to Depleted Uranium dust that they have inhaled following the destruction of their city.

In November the media in Italy released the story that the U.S. had used white phosphorous on the civilian populace there. A U.S. veteran of the Iraq war told Italian correspondent Sigfrido Ranucci this: "I received the order to use caution because we had used white phosphorus on Falleujah. In military slag it is called 'Willy Pete'. Phosphorus burns the human body on contact--it even melts it right down to the bone."

As we approach the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. what comes to mind is his famous speech "Beyond Vietnam" in April, 1967. In it Dr. King said, "They must see Americans as strange liberators.....Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.....Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers."

King continued, "Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now.....As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection.....We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.....The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.....I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

As we think of Dr. King let us remember Iraq and those we've just killed in Pakistan. What is the state of the soul of America today? What are we each to do about it?