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: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'm back to work for the Global Network. Will continue to help Lisa Savage for US Senate campaign on my free time. Trying to self-isolate as much as possible. Best wishes and good luck to you all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

IN THE POURING RAIN

We had about 75 folks yesterday participate in the two-mile march from downtown Brunswick to the Naval Air Station in the rain. As time went on the rain got worse and by the time of our rally at the front gate it was pouring. No one left.

The speeches by Linda Chase and Sandy Bodamer, mothers of soldiers in Iraq, were very moving presentations. They shared their enormous suffering with us. Linda said it was her first speech ever. Betty Burkes, the former national president of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was splendid as she warmed our hearts. Veterans for Peace member Dud Hendrick started off the rally with an impassioned review of U.S. empire - 800 outposts of militarism and endless war around the globe. And Doug Rawlings, Vietnam vet, ended with griping poetry from a guy who has seen war face up.

It was disappointing that more people did not come and march with us in the rain. I don't understand how folks can allow some rain to stop them from turning out when we are in the middle of a genocidal war in Iraq and soon to attack Iran.

I was proud of those who did turn out yesterday. They are real war resisters and I could see the fierce determination in their faces as they laughed and cried during the rally at the gate. As Betty Burkes said, "Thanks for the rain. We need it. I am so glad that I drove up from Cambridge, Massachusetts to be with you today."

One friend, Sung-Hee Choi who is from South Korea, took the bus from New York City where she now lives and teaches art. She was coming to the demonstration come hell or high water. Now that is dedication.

We are witnessing the last days of a dying democracy. Fascism is now on the climb. Some are watching from the sidelines. Others are in the mix. I was proud to stand in the rain with those of courage and principle.

Here is the full speech by Dud Hendrick:

Speech at BLUE ANGELS II Demonstration

Brunswick Naval Air Station — September 15, 2007

By Dud Hendrick (Deer Isle)

There is something wonderful and affirming to be in the company of people of conscience who recognize that our country is being taken in a terrible direction, vastly different from that which we would wish America to be. I believe we are here holding ourselves accountable.

And, we are screaming for our so-called leadership to be held accountable. Since 9/11 when so many called for sanity, diplomacy, and a measured response the U.S. has resolutely followed another, most insane path.

This administration must be held accountable if we are to bring our ship of state under a moral compass. Just as we must demand more from our leaders so must we demand more of our media. It is the constant denial of reality by both that is so disabling and dispiriting.

Chalmers Johnson, the author of Blowback and other important works, has exposed the magnitude of the enormous U.S. military empire and its impact. He reports that we have probably well over 800 foreign military bases. At least one U.S. base is located in 39 countries and we have military personnel in over 140 countries. 325 installations in Germany. 103 in South Korea, and 73 in Japan.

This U.S. military presence is not a footprint so much as it is a goliath with muck-filled boots which it tracks all over the world. In my penchant for hyperbole I’ve taken to arguing that America treats the world as it’s sandbox, more aptly, its litterbox, and we don’t mind shitting in it. Our military empire begs the question, “Are we really more secure?” In answering I join Osama Bin Laden and I join Ward Churchill. The chickens will come home to roost. How can Americans believe they won’t?

Consider there are on-going protests against the U.S. military in the Philippines, Okinawa, South Korea, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Ecuador, Greenland, Australia, Diego Garcia, Scotland, Poland, and Czechoslavakia—by no means an exhaustive list. This very weekend there is an enormous gathering in Vicenza, Italy convening to protest American bases around the world and the expansion of one in particular in that city.

If we are looking for Al Qaeda sympathizers, what makes us think we’d have trouble finding them among the Greenland Inuits, who, in 1953, on 4 days notice were relocated from ancestral grounds to make way for Thule AFB, among the Chagos islanders whose pet dogs were gassed and they, themselves, deported by the U.S. and U.K. in 19961, to accommodate the massive Diego Garcia air base from which daily sorties are flown to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq and where prisoners are taken for “interrogations” beyond the prying eyes of any human rights watch group, among the South Korean farmers whose lands have been taken to make way for golf courses and other support amenities for U.S. military personnel, among the Okinawans who are protesting the construction of an American base that will intrude on the coral reef habitat of the dugong and three species of endangered sea turtles, or among the Australians who are enraged with the so-called Talisman Saber war games where in May and June Aussie and American aviators bombed the hell out of the pristine Shoalwater area close by the Great Barrier Reef.

For other America-hating Al Qaeda recruits we can consider the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the victims of our land-mines in Southeast Asia, the cancer victims of the Marshall Islands where high levels of contamination are still found in the soils and food chain a legacy of the atomic bombing of the fifties and sixties. Or the cancer victims of the bombing range in Vieques, Puerto Rico. How ‘bout the civilian victims of John McCain’s bombing of Hanoi? An act, the consequences of which, remain a mystery to the Presidential candidate.

That brings me to this celebration we witness today. As these instruments of death roar thru the heavens there’s no question in my mind who is on the side of the angels. I can’t see much about the Blue Angels to celebrate. They represent the crème de la crème of that world. Members of the same fraternity, the same culture, the same religion, as it were, that took McCain over Hanoi, that brought the incineration of over 200,000 men, women and children to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the same fraternity that brought 10-15 million bomb craters to Vietnam a reminder of which can be found in a laboratory clinic in Saigon where sit row after row of jars filled with deformed aborted and full-term fetuses. The same fraternity whose members, while playing in the skies above the Italian alps in their multi-million dollar toys managed to slice through a ski-lift cable sending 20 vacationers to their deaths—in the grand scheme of things a minor incident, yet another token symbol of the pervasive impact of U.S. military endeavors around the world.

Celebrate the Blue Angels? I’d far rather celebrate our real heroes---Ehren Watada, Camilo Mejia, Adam Kokesh, Kelly Dougherty, Perry O’Brien, and Brian Clement. Young men and women, Iraqi Veterans Against the War, who, from within the culture of the beast itself were able to find moral clarity. They are our real heroes.

Whenever, I find my commitment waning or my focus drifting I consider the personal tragedies inflicted by the indiscriminate nature of our own brand of terrorism. I think of Ali, whose iconic photo taken after he lost his arms, his parents, and 16 family members to U.S. bombing in 2003, symbolized collateral damage. And I think of an image Kathy Kelly left seared in my memory when she spoke here two years ago. You recall—the armless mother, another victim of U.S. bombs who had to have friends hold her nursing child to her breast. These mutilations are crimes, our country is committing them, and as citizens in this country, we share a responsibility to stop them. We are all complicit!

I believe America’s so-called leaders, in particular, have forsaken their humanity. They frame the discussion and the media, their co-conspirator, doesn’t broaden the conversation, lest the interests of the corporate masters be betrayed. As Scott Ritter has recently so eloquently written, we should be asking, “Why are American’s continuing to die and kill in Iraq?” Most American’s know that this is a resource war. The Iraqi Oil laws, the so-called benchmark, make that abundantly clear. The Republicans and the Democrats are two sides of the same coin. They are all part of the corrupted system that is beholden to the corporate elite interests and nothing is going to change unless the American people wake up and demand change. No one in the hearings in Congress exploring the merits of the surge asked Petraeus just what in the hell are we doing in Iraq. They do not want us there!

Which brings me to my final elaboration of accountability. The interest on the Hill and in the media in impeachment might seem tepid, but that also is a measure of the corporate control of our democracy. I am convinced that the people want impeachment investigations. You just have to look beyond the mainstream media.

We all heard the reasons trotted out by the resisting Democratic leadership. Altogether, it adds up to a singular message—the Democratic leadership believes that pursuing impeachment would not benefit the outlook for the party in the 2008 elections. We must convince them that the opposite is true. Failure to demand accountability is not acceptable. Failure to protect the Constitution is not leadership. Being an enabler by giving Bush and friends a pass is a violation of their oath to uphold the Constitution.

If you and I, and Code Pink, and Military Farmilies Who Speak Out, and IVAW, and ANSWER, and United for P&J, and the Global Network don’t speak out then it all becomes part of an acceptable environment. We, in effect, tell Tom Allen, and Mike Michaud, and Nancy Pelosi, and John Conyers, and the world that this is what America is and does. The Green Zone is what America is, the hideously offensive embassy with hundreds of non-Arab speaking employees is us, the bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan that take 100 civilian lives each day—those, too, are okay. A recent report from Oxfam states that 70% of Iraqis no longer have access to drinking water, 50% are under-nourished, 50 % are living in abject poverty. All that is okay, too. And it’s okay that there has been an out-migration of 2 million and another 2 million have been internally displaced. It also becomes okay that the Iraqis will have the revenues of 15% of the oil fields. After all, the major corporate thieves will have to squabble over the production rights of the remaining 85% of the fields if the Iraqi politicians would just get off their asses and meet those benchmarks.

As you have heard, on September 25th and 26th, a week from next Tuesday and Wednesday, citizens will press a call on Congressman Allen’s office in Portland and Congressman Michaud’s office in Bangor to make statements calling for their support of impeachment. Our goal is to have over 150 citizens packing the Congressmen’s respective offices. We need you to be among them. We must tell them that Maine citizens demand a different direction. Let Allen know his political ambitions are over unless he calls for impeachment and unless he stops funding this war. Remind Michaud that impeachment is a morality issue and demanding it is a matter of integrity and a matter of accountability.

The Constitution can be saved only if our elected officials are made to hear the people. The stakes are no less than that.

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