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, December 22, 2006

NAVAJO MESSAGE TO THE MOON

When NASA was preparing for the Apollo Moon landing, it took the astronauts to a Navajo reservation in Arizona for training.

One day, a Navajo elder and his son came across the space crew walking among the rocks. The elder, who spoke only Navajo, asked a question. His son translated for the NASA people: "What are these guys in the big suits doing?" One of the astronauts said that they were practicing for a trip to the moon. When his son relayed this comment,the Navajo elder got all excited and asked if it would be possible to give to the astronauts a message to deliver to the moon.

Recognizing a promotional opportunity when he saw one, a NASA official accompanying the astronauts said, "Why certainly!" and told an underling to get a tape recorder. The Navajo elder's comments into the microphone were brief. The NASA official asked the son if he would translate what his father had said. The son listened to the recording and laughed uproariously… but he refused to translate.

So the NASA people took the tape to a nearby Navajo village and played it for other members of the tribe. They too laughed long and hard, but also refused to translate the elder's message to the moon.

NASA had to take the tape back to Washington and made a Navajo working at the Bureau of Indian Affairs translate it. After he finally stopped laughing, the translator relayed the message:

"WATCH OUT FOR THESE ASSHOLES. THEY HAVE COME TO STEAL YOUR LAND."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

UAV TESTING COMING TO MAINE?

Yesterday the town of Brunswick held a public hearing of the Local Redevelopment Authority that will be deciding what is to be done with the Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) when it closes on 2011.

One presentation proposed using the BNAS facility as a research, development and testing center for the Pentagon's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program.

UAV's are remotely piloted aircraft used in reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering roles and are now being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to fly over the battlespace and to send back "real time" pictures via satellite technology to ground operators who then can order the UAV's to fire rockets and machine guns mounted on board.

Many of the recent bombings and killings of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan have been done by UAV's.

In the Brunswick presentation it was suggested that the Pentagon is spending a lot of research and development dollars on UAV's and Maine should try to grab some of those funds. The proposal also made the case that creating such a facility would create spin-off commercial "defense" jobs that would service the UAV operation.

The presentation also said the UAV's would be useful to Homeland Security for "surveillance" of our region.

This is just one more glaring example how the economy of the U.S. is becoming militarized as 50% of every federal tax dollar is now going into weapons technology development.

Former Maine Speaker of the House John Richardson from Brunswick, just appointed by Gov. Baldacci to head the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, has previously advocated in the local newspaper that BNAS be used as a UAV test facility.

It would appear to me that the decision has been made to use BNAS for this purpose and now the public sales job is underway. Now would be the right time for people to speak out against this UAV test facility at BNAS.

Would it not be better that our tax dollars be used at BNAS to build mass transit rail systems, solar systems and windmills rather than more weapons for endless war? (Click the link in the headline above for a glimpse of what positive things could be done with our money.)

Hersch Sternlieb testified before this same public hearing today advocating that a world class garden be established at BNAS.

So just imagine a world class garden full of tourists and tulips with UAV's circling overhead practicing endless war and domestic surveillance.

Welcome to America.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

DEMS JOIN BUSH IN DIGGING DEEPER INTO IRAQ QUAGMIRE

George W. Bush today, as expected, called for "additional sacrifices" in Iraq. "We do not let up" he promised and said his administration would be "smarter" about how to deploy U.S. "resources" in Iraq. (Bush likes to use the word 'sacrifice' and everytime he does I think of his membership ritual at the Skull & Bones cult at Yale University where they crawl into coffins inside their dark clubhouse called the 'tomb'. You think these guys aren't wacky?)

The Washington Post reported today that administration sources were saying that up to 70,000 additional troops could be added to the military with tens of thousands of troops added to the force now in Iraq. Bush will also be requesting more than $100 billion for the occupation in 2007 - this coming after Congress has already appropriated $70 billion for 2007 war funding. The total expenditures for Iraq in 2007 will now be 50% more than originally projected.

You'd think the "opposition party" would be going bonkers about this announcement from Bush. Instead top Democrats are rushing to join side with King George. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said last weekend on TV news shows that he would support more troops in Iraq.

Even before news of Bush's latest plan, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters that the military is "bleeding" and "we have to apply the tourniquet and strengthen the forces."

"I am glad he has realized the need for increasing the size of the armed forces . . . but this is where the Democrats have been for two years," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the new House Democratic Caucus chairman.

National peace groups are asking people to call Congress this week to protest Bush's plan to escalate the Iraq occupation and the weak response from the Democratic party. Please call your Congressional delegation and call for (1) A no vote on the $100 billion supplemental expected to be approved in January (2) An immediate withdrawal from Iraq - not an escalation.

Also call the offices of Democratic party leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to express your outrage. The Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121.

Also please begin discussing in your local community participation in the February plans to occupy the local offices of Congress members in response to their slavish support for the madness in Iraq. As Bush and the Democrats link arms and escalate this war the peace movement must non-violently step up our protest activity at the local and national level.

Be sure to read the piece by Alexander Cockburn linked in the headline above.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

RETREATING FOR PEACE

Mary Beth and I just got home today from a weekend retreat with some peace movement friends. We met up in Deer Isle and one of the things we did on Saturday was take a two-hour walk along the shore and out onto a local island that was accessible because the tide had gone out. In the picture above we are sitting on a rocky cliff overlooking the Penobscot Bay. It was quite windy and the sky was sunny and clear. A very beautiful day though a bit too warm for this time of year. Everyone in Maine is talking about global warming.

During our retreat, rotated between the homes of a couple artist friends who are part of our extended peace community family, we cooked for each other and talked about how we should deal with the fact that the Democrats are rushing to join the Bush team in giving another $100 billion plus for the war effort. We talked about the need to increase our efforts in Maine to call for impeachment of Bush/Cheney - they must be held accountable for the crimes they have committed. How can we have real democracy if we allow them to wantonly violate our sacred constitution and then get a free pass?

Our group of about 13 at the retreat, coming from all over the state, also decided that we should work together to hold non-violent civil disobedience actions in congressional offices sometime in February as part of the national Campaign of Resistance to End the Iraq War. (See the link in the headline above for more details.) We will be holding meetings around the state in the coming weeks to plan these events.

The integration of artists with traditional peace movement organizing has really been a wonderful combination here in Maine. For the past couple of years a growing group of artists have brought exceptional creativity to our overall effort and out of this connection has grown a wonderful bonding and building of community. We are really lucky to have made this connection.

Once we got home today Mary Beth went to pick up our dogs who were being taken care of by friends while we were gone for the weekend. Our friend had recently become hopeful that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was going to be an emerging leader for our side. He told Mary Beth that over the weekend he had heard that Obama was calling for more troops to be sent to Iraq. Our friend was heart broken at the news.

One thing we talked about at the retreat this weekend was that we can't count on and wait for the Democrats to bail us out these days - from either the occupation in Iraq, global warming, or a host of other problems we now face.

We talked about how we need to act independently and to recognize that no politician will be our savior. The people are going to have to take back our democracy and save ourselves from the hot frying pan that we are now sliding into.

This weekend's retreat reminded me that we are not alone. One of our friends at the retreat sent this quote to us today after she got home. I think it tells the story.

"Hear me! A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong."
Shawnee