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 23, 2007

BACK FROM JAIL

Mary Beth and I just got home after spending two nights in the Cumberland County jail for our part in a very successful office occupation of our congressman Tom Allen.

On Wednesday 52 of us met in downtown Portland and spread out to many different street corners for an hour and passed out over 1,000 leaflets telling our reasons for occupying Tom Allen's office. Just after 1:00 pm we gathered for a small rally and then lined up in single file and made a funeral procession march through the streets. We eventually made our way to Rep. Allen's office (the picture above is as we gathered just outside his office) and we went in together.

His staff was quite surprised as about 45 from our group, all dressed in black, kept filing into his tiny office. We spread throughout the office and once jam packed inside, Dexter Kamilewicz whose son was in Iraq and who ran against Tom Allen in the last election cycle, read a prepared statement on our behalf saying that we had come to demand that Allen vote no for any more Iraq occupation funding. Others then also made statements and we sat down on the floor and soon began reading names of those killed in Iraq. Every once in awhile we'd stop reading the names and have people read other messages that they had brought with them. At one point one of our folks read the entire text from Martin Luther King's famous letter from the Birmingham jail.

At 5:30 pm, closing time, Allen's staff told us we had to leave or be arrested. We told him we'd be happy to leave as soon as we heard from the congressman that he'd vote against any more money for Iraq. At 8:30 the city police arrived and arrested the 13 of us that remained in the office. We were then taken to the county jail where nine of our folks paid a $40 bail. MB, me and two others decided to stay in jail by refusing to pay the bail. After being moved from one holding tank to another, I got to my final jail cell at about 3:30 am and the three women got to their final cell an hour or so later. So not much sleep that night.

We were to be arraigned today in the local court but just before that was to happen the four of us learned that the charges against us had been dropped. It might have been because we had been covered in the Portland newspaper two days in a row (click on the link in the headline above for today's story) and were interviewed by a local TV station while in jail. The statewide NPR radio news station also covered our action. We were told that a large crowd had come to support us inside the court for the arraignment. They were told to leave, when we did not arrive, because they became too loud while they waited for us.

The pressure on our congressman will continue as long as he decides to remain an enabler of Bush's illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq. It was a wonderful experience to be arrested with the other 12 folks - some of them had never been arrested before.

The peace community must step outside our normal boxes and each of us must find ways to do more to help end the madness that our government has created in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NEED SOME CASH?

The U.S. has spent more than a quarter of a trillion dollars in Iraq since the shock and awe invasion of 2003. More than $50 billion of it has gone to private contractors hired to guard bases, drive trucks, feed and shelter the troops and rebuild the country.

The U.S. flew $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was getting it and how it was spent. (The photo above is of an armed guard standing by pallets of $100 bills flown into Baghdad.) This was the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve.

Using C-130 planes, the cash deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2.4 billion in June of 2004.

Auditors found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one military division's safe. One official was given $6.75 million and told to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control. You can imagine that a few of the $100 bills got stuffed into some U.S. military officers pockets. When they got home they probably purchased that big SUV and fancy home with jacuzzi they had been dreaming of.

Is that what they mean when they say we should support the troops?

Now on top of all this criminal waste, fraud, and abuse the Bush administration wants to send another $100 billion to Iraq. Congress will be voting on this request in the next few weeks. You, the taxpayer, are being asked to fork the money over. Support the troops!

Sadly the Democrats, now in control of Congress, are going to give Bush the next big fat check. Who will profit from this new round of $100 billion? Will the troops get the body armor they need? Will the Veterans Administration get more funds to help returning GI's who have been seriously wounded in Iraq or now suffer from severe PTSD?

No, No, and more No.

The money will go to make the rich and corrupt even richer. It will go to the weapons corporations as fat contracts. It will go to the private contractors who have already shown their complete disregard for honesty and integrity. It will be stolen by dishonest military brass who are feathering their own nest while working class GI's take the brunt of the punishment. The Iraqi people will continue to suffer without adequate water systems, sewer systems, electricity and the like.

The Democrats and the Republican politicians supporting this new $100 billion expenditure will get their kick-backs in the form of campaign donations from the high and mighty.

Any politician that says they are against the occupation of Iraq and then votes for another $100 billion is telling a lie. Plain and simple.

What is the public going to do about it? What are you going to do?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

STRATEGIC COMMAND AND THE IMPENDING ATTACK ON IRAN

Reports of a possible U.S. air assault against Iranian nuclear facilities have been circulating in the media for more than a year and a half now. Former CIA agent Philip Giraldi (The American Conservative, 8/1/05), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh (New Yorker Magazine, 4/17/06) and most recently, investigative reporter Craig Unger in the March 2007 Vanity Fair, have all warned of the White House’s plans for an air- and sea-based strike against Iran.

But such an assault has been in the planning since before November 2003, when U.S. Strategic Command near Omaha, Nebraska completed its preparations for waging offensive and preemptive strikes against Iran and North Korea (William Arkin, Washington Post, 5/15/05). Under “CONPLAN 8022” (Contingency Plan 8022), the Omaha-based command center is now commissioned to strike anywhere in the world within minutes of detecting a target deemed a threat to the United States’ national security. And the projected attack against Iran—which could well include nuclear as well as conventional weapons—will be planned, launched and coordinated by StratCom.

For over half a century, the seemingly remote Omaha Air Force Base in the American heartland served exclusively as the command center for the U.S.’s nuclear deterrent. After 9/11, however, StratCom underwent a significant transformation of its role and mission, becoming in effect the ‘war room’ for waging the White House’s “War on Terror.” StratCom retained its historic responsibility for overseeing the largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. But it acquired the additional charges of “full-spectrum global strike” (staging offensive, preemptive attacks); combating weapons of mass destruction; space and computer warfare; ballistic missile defense; and surveillance and reconnaissance (the “warrantless wiretaps” conducted by the National Security Agency, for instance, were a StratCom project).

According to the Vanity Fair article, StratCom could be ready to launch a “massive” aerial attack against the hundreds of nuclear facilities in Iran as soon as the end of this month (February). The possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons to penetrate the reinforced bunkers protecting the Iranian nuclear research facilities is also apparently real.

Today, U.S. Strategic Command in Bellevue, Nebraska (a suburb of Omaha) is the most dangerous place on the face of the earth. To thwart this wrong-headed and potentially catastrophic assault on Iran by StratCom will require nothing less than a mobilization by the world community. The Bush/Cheney Administration must be publicly challenged in the court of world opinion, and international media coverage of StratCom’s leading role is integral to rallying opposition.

Can you imagine the public reaction—particularly in the Muslim world—if the war plans taking shape at StratCom were common knowledge?

Here we have the command center for the world’s largest nuclear arsenal orchestrating an unprovoked attack (possibly even with nuclear weapons) on a non-nuclear Muslim nation, in order to prevent that country from even developing nuclear power for civilian purposes, for fear it might someday make a bomb.

StratCom’s policy promotes a morally repugnant double standard. And it is begging to be turned into a ‘bully pulpit,’ from which opponents can expose its hypocritical behavior.

Under international law, were the United States again to launch an unprovoked attack against a Muslim nation— as it did with Iraq—it would be acting illegally. But if the U.S. were also to use tactical nuclear weapons on Iran, it would be only the second time in over 61 years that a nuclear weapon has been used militarily. And on each of those occasions, it will have been the United States that used them.

The role and mission of StratCom has changed so dramatically in the past five years that most of the world has little idea of what is currently going on there. At this critical moment in history, the international media could provide no greater service to the world community than to publicize the acts being plotted at StratCom.

We urge you to give this ‘news tip’ your full consideration. We may not have much time before something irrevocable in human affairs occurs.

I would personally be willing to assist you any way I can in getting this story out to an international audience. I can be reached directly at 402-475-7616 and at my personal email address of WalteRinne@neb.rr.com.

Thank you for your prompt attention.

Tim Rinne
State Coordinator, Nebraskans for Peace

Nebraskans for Peace is the oldest statewide Peace & Justice organization in the United States, and has been working for more than 35 years to alert the public about U.S. Strategic Command. Check out our website at: www.nebraskansforpeace.org