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, February 03, 2006

Mainers Impatiently & Politely Asking Collins (MIPAC)


Mainers Impatiently & Politely Asking Collins (MIPAC)
for a meeting in our state

We know we don't have a lot of money to give her,but after all she is our senator.....

On March 5-7 the powerful Israeli lobby group AIPAC will meet at the Washington DC Convention Center. Sen. Susan Collins will join other speakers like Newt Gingrich and U.N. Ambassador John Bolton at the event.

People in Maine have been trying to get Sen. Collins to hold a public town hall meeting on the Iraq war for the last year. She says she does not like to speak in front of big crowds and will only speak to those concerned about the war one-on-one. (It would appear that the AIPAC meeting in Washington will have a big crowd.) What is it they have that we Mainers don't?

It's confusing to us here in Maine why Sen. Collins will go to speak about the situation in the Middle East with AIPAC but won't talk with her own constituents. Could it be the name? Maybe we need a fancy name like AIPAC.

So we have created a new group to be called MIPAC. It stands for Mainers Impatiently & Politely Asking Collins (MIPAC) for a meeting.

To join MIPAC all you have to do is call the office of Sen. Collins and request she comes home to Maine to meet with those she presumes to serve. While you are at it, call Sen. Olympia Snowe too. She refuses to hold a town hall meeting on Iraq as well.

Call this toll free number to reach both Collins and Snowe: 1-888-355-3588

Thursday, February 02, 2006

LYING AND SPYING FOR THE MILITARY MACHINE


Lying about spying is an impeachable offense. When Congress passes a law, like the FISA law that requires the president to get a warrant to spy on the public, and the president flouts the law then he has made an impeachable offense.

Yesterday the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of individuals and organizations in six states. Included in that legal action was a request on my behalf and on behalf of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. The legal action requested from the Pentagon all documents that would reveal monitoring of lawful activities.

“President Bush claims that expanded intelligence powers are necessary to combat terrorism, yet we have evidence the Pentagon is using counter terrorism tools to spy on peaceful groups,” said an ACLU spokesman. “Under the guise of national security and the need to protect the country from another terrorist attack, the evidence so far indicates that the federal government is engaged in a widespread surveillance program aimed at anybody who criticizes the policies of the Bush administration.”

Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and attorneys against the National Security Agency (NSA) for illegally intercepting vast quantities of the international telephone and Internet communications of Americans without court approval.

In the mid-1980’s, while working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice in Orlando, Florida, I got a phone call one day. An unidentified person on the phone told me that our organization had been infiltrated by local police agencies and that it was unconstitutional. I went to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper and a friendly reporter helped find out that the call had come from the lawyer for the Central Florida Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI). This body had been asked by Martin Marietta Corporation (now called Lockheed Martin) to infiltrate and “investigate” our organization. They inserted several operatives we were to later learn and one of them once tried to sell me illegal drugs. Clearly they were doing more than looking out for “illegal” political activity. The newspaper ended up doing a big series of stories on the infiltration and we were able to obtain a portion of the files they were keeping on us. The MBI fired their lawyer and tried unsuccessfully to have him disbarred for violating lawyer-client privilege. The lawyer told the newspaper that he tried to tell the MBI that what they were doing was illegal, and when they would not listen to him, he felt he had no choice but to tip us off to the infiltration.

In the last two years we have learned that NASA, working with the Brevard Sheriff’s Department (space coast) and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) out of MacDill AFB in Tampa, have been infiltrating and “investigating” key leaders of the Global Network. The Florida ACLU was able to again obtain a small portion of their intelligence files.

All of this just goes to show that the idea of an engaged and active citizenry, something that is vital to a real democracy, is now considered a danger to the existing government. My experience reveals that this problem of seeing the citizens as an enemy goes beyond Bush. The military industrial complex, the folks who really run our government, have for many years seen fit to label anyone who speaks out against their plan for global domination as a domestic enemy. Until we deal with the fact that we have lost our democracy to these big corporations, nothing much will change.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

DANCING WITH THE POLITICOS


A bit late on this report...been suffering from very bad sore throat last couple of days.

On Sunday we had an activists dream day. Over 180 people turned out in Belfast at a public town hall meeting of Maine's Rep. Mike Michaud. Michaud has now organized two such meetings to hear from his constituency on Iraq. He quietly sat and took notes as about 40 people walked up to the microphone and gave wonderfully moving testimony. Not one person spoke in favor of the war. The same themes flowed in and out of the testimony throughout the meeting. Stop the war, bring the troops home now, cut the war funding now, investigate Bush for impeachment crimes. I had tears in my eyes over and over again. How could anyone with a heart not be deeply touched by such passion and wisdom?

Then, with just a few minutes to go before the meeting was to conclude, the Congressman stood up and commented on a few of the easier points that had come up in the meeting....things like yes he supports full funding for the Veterans Administration so returning GI's can get treatment for PTSD....softball stuff. But, much to my total shock, the "good Democrat" Michaud never said a word about the essence of the meeting. Not a word about bring the troops home, war funding, or his position on Bush lies and impeachment investigations. I couldn't believe it, but then again I could.

After telling one of his staff aides that I thought his response to the town hall was "pitiful", twenty-five of us piled into our cars and drove 30 miles north to another meeting being held by Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME). Maine has two congressmen. Allen represents the more southern part of the state where I live and Michaud the northern part. The interesting thing is that Allen was speaking in the second district, not his own, it was Michaud's district. People have been speculating lately that Rep. Allen has senatorial ambitions and on Sunday was out trying to build a base for an eventual statewide run.

There were already 30 people there when we arrived at the Tom Allen meeting. The momentum from our crew immediately turned it into another Iraq town hall meeting. Allen danced and dodged, as he is known to do on tough issues. He was a Rhodes scholar and my perception of him is that while at Oxford he learned to honor and treasure the empire as such "scholars" are taught to do. On Iraq, Mr. Allen says he is against the war but keeps voting for every $$$ that gets requested. He says we can't come home from Iraq just yet, but he also says he is opposed to permanent bases.

I raised my hand and he would not call on me. He has heard from me a couple of times before and my friends say he remembers my trademark hat. I was sitting in the front row, right next to the woman who appeared to be the organizer of the meeting. Allen kept calling on lots of other people and I kept putting my hand in the air and taking it down. Finally, the woman next to me said, "Tom, he has had his hand up a long time." Reluctantly Allen called on me.

By this time Mr. Allen had said that if we wanted things to change we just had to ensure the Democrats would be back in control of Congress. Then everything would be alright...you know how the story goes. So once called on I told the story about Hillary Clinton's trip to Afghanistan and Iraq a year ago February with Sen. John McCain, Russ Feingold, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins. I told how they had held a news conference in Afghanistan where they said the U.S. was building six permanent bases in that country. On her return to the U.S. I recalled, Hillary and the right-wing Lindsey Graham were on the Sunday morning news talk shows. I saw Hillary say that "we are going to be in Iraq for a long-time. The American people need to be patient, we've been in Korea for 50 years," Hillary told us.

I told Mr. Allen that leaders of his own political party were telling us we are not leaving Iraq. I asked him why he won't vote against further funding for the war. He danced, he actually has very swift feet. I hear that when in high school he ran track. Actually, very good training for a politician.

Our 25 person crew left the Allen event and went for dinner together. There we processed the remarkable day and did some brainstorming about future actions. We had representation from all over the state in that meeting. We are moving together now…..we will keep the pressure on those that like to dance.

Monday, January 30, 2006

JUSTICE DENIED AGAIN IN AMERICA


My mind turns to the legal system again today as Sam Alito is likely to be confirmed by the Senate early this week. This morning we hear that top Enron Corporation executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling begin their criminal trial for stealing Enron investors blind. In recent days we've seen George W. Bush squirm and lie trying to deny association with super-crook Jack Abramoff who earlier this month plead guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges. It has been reported that Abramoff donated $100,000 to Bush campaigns for president, but George W. Bush claims they have never met.

But don't despair friends. There is justice in America. If you have any doubts just turn to the case of the St. Patrick's Four. On March 17, 2003, just two days before U.S. bombs began raining down on Baghdad, 40 year-old Teresa Grady, her older sister Clare, Daniel Burns and Vietnam veteran Peter DeMott decided to take action against the impending illegal invasion (excuse me, liberation) of Iraq.

The group of Catholic Workers from Ithaca, N.Y. entered a military recruiting center and poured their blood on the walls, recruiting posters and an American flag in an act of non-violent civil resistance to what they knew would be countless violations of international law the Bush administration would commit with the coming "shock and awe" invasion.

"We are about caring for the poor, needy and disenfranchised," Teresa later said. "We do this while confronting the political and economic structures that cause poverty." They were ultimately found guilty for their act of conscience. Danny Burns got a 6 month jail sentence, Peter DeMott got 8 months, Clare Grady got 6 months, and Teresa Grady got four months.

Now that might seem fair to the average person. But let's put this all in some context. Let's look at Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, the highest-ranker officer charged in connection with prisoner abuse in the U.S. war in Iraq. During a five-day trial prosecutors displayed gruesome pictures of the body of Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush. He was killed by Welshofer when the U.S. Army officer placed the Iraqi general head-first in a sleeping bag, covered his mouth and sat on his chest during a fatal interrogation in November 2003.

Mowhoush's death came two days after he was beaten with rubber hoses by Iraqi contractors working for the CIA. Chief Warrant Officer Welshofer was also present at that interrogation. The next day Welshofer held Mowhoush while water torture was administered.

At the trial Welshofer was found guilty of negligent homicide but found not guilty on the more serious charge of murder. Welshofer was sentenced to a reprimand and fine but escaped jail time. He will forfeit $6,000 in pay and be restricted to the barracks and his workplace for 60 days.

In May, 2005 a similar case resulted in acquittal. Army staff sergeant Shane Werst was found not guilty of premeditated murder for having killed suspected Iraqi insurgent Naser Ismail. Werst shot the Iraqi after a team of Americans had entered the home of Ismail. Werst claimed Ismail lunged for a gun. After shooting the Iraqi, Werst admitted that he fired a pistol into a couch and told another U.S. soldier to put the dead Iraqi man's fingerprints on it.

Can there be any doubt that there are two standards of justice in America today? If you protest for peace you go to jail. The St. Patrick’s Four is just one case in many where anti-war activists are going to jail in record numbers today. But if you murder people in Iraq you are likely to get a slap on the wrist and off you go – back to work.

Something is very wrong here. Who said there needs to be a revolution in America today?