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, March 30, 2007

THE PRINCE TURNS

We interrupt this broadcast
to bring you a special message
from the president of the U.S.

My fellow Americans.
It is with great humility
that I come to you tonight
with a message that weighs
heavily on my heart.

As you know, I come from a long line
of men who have served this great country.
My grandfather served in the U.S. Senate
and my father, as you remember,
served the nation as president.
It is in our blood to do everything
possible to further our cause around the world.

I know not everyone is happy with the job
I have done on behalf of the American people.
It is true that the gap between rich and poor
is widening.

It is also true that our nation is now engaged
in endless war.
I have long warned that you needed to be prepared
for a long, long war.
That warning has now come true.

Some say I have no heart, feelings,
or conscience.
Some say that I am ruthless and a pirate.
Some maintain that I have made decisions
solely to benefit the wealthy and powerful.

Some even have said that I am a captive
of the religious right.
They have said I am trying to create
Armageddon so that Christ will return.

To all these charges I have only one thing to say.
They are all true.

You must know that since a child
I have been programmed to take over this nation
on behalf of those who profit from hunger,
poverty, drug addiction, violence, and endless war.

My own family is an agent of these powerful forces.
You might recall that President Eisenhower
warned us about the unbridled power
of the military industrial complex
when he left office in 1961.

He knew better than to speak those words earlier,
as he would have been killed.
Shot down like others have been who dared
cross those who run this country.

I know I am now a marked man for saying
these things to you.
Expect that I will die an early death
in the days to come.
But I have decided that I cannot live with
myself any longer if I maintain silence.
I must speak up.

I used to believe the constitution
was just a piece of paper.
But then I went on my recent tour
of Latin America,
where there were major protests
at every stop.

While at a Mayan ruin,
you might have heard,
a spiritual leader
purified the site after I left.
Little do they know that as a result
of that purification
I have had an epiphany.

I have come to ask forgiveness
of you, the American people.
I have come to offer my resignation
as president of the U.S.
I shall leave office immediately
and turn myself in to the local authorities,
to stand trial for my crimes against humanity.

I do not ask for your sympathy.
I know full well what I have done.
I only ask you for your prayers.

And let me ask of you,
one more thing.

I ask that you take back your country,
from my family,
and from those other deceivers
who have corrupted this democracy
and led this once great nation to ruin.

Please don’t hesitate another day
to seriously question anyone
who tells you that U.S. foreign policy
is about protecting “our interests.”
Please learn to define the word “our”
as meaning the interests of the pirate class.

Please make this nation what it should be.
Please take back control of the helm of state now,
before it is too late.


“Bruce, wake up. You fell asleep at your desk!”


Thursday, March 29, 2007

WHAT IS IRAQ STRATEGY FOR PEACE MOVEMENT NOW?

So the question on people's minds is "what do we do now to stop the occupation of Iraq?"

After the House Democrats passed their very weak bill last Friday, and the Senate just passed an even weaker one, should the peace movement continue to press the Democrats? What is the alternative strategy? Give up and move onto some other issue?

Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies has just done an analysis of the House bill. Here are some key points she makes:

  • Congress is not the peace movement. So the peace movement must stay unified on our principles and our demands, in the face of congressional waffling and "realistic" pragmatism, unfortunately promoted by one influential part of our movement [MoveOn]. Whatever they do, we must stay consistent on demanding an end to the U.S. occupation: de-funding (not re-funding) the war, and bringing home (not redeploying) all (not just some) of the troops (including the mercenaries). The longstanding AFSC slogan has it right: "Not one more death, not one more dollar." That means STOP funding the war. STOP allowing Bush to send more U.S. troops to kill more Iraqis and be killed in the process. Just stop.

  • The Democratic leadership in the House claims the $125 billion supplemental is the way to end the war. Something passed in the Senate may include some of the same claims. Aside from setting a date for bringing home troops, the House version included a number of items many in the peace movement would ordinarily support -- veterans' health benefits, Katrina survivors' assistance, children's health insurance ...So if there's a time line, what's the problem with the supplemental? Why shouldn't peace activists support it? Because it gives President Bush another $100 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it doesn't end the occupation or prevent expansion of the war to Iran.

  • WHAT IT DOES: It calls for pulling out some troops from Iraq by August 2008.

BUT: It exempts whole categories of troops from the withdrawal ...Troops "training the Iraqi military" can stay -- currently 6,000, perhaps as many as 20,000 (no limit in the supplemental). Troops engaged in "special operations" can stay -- the Marines say they want 20,000 for Anbar Province alone, perhaps as many as 40,000 for the whole country (no limit in the supplemental). Troops "protecting diplomatic enclaves" like the huge Green Zone and the US Embassy, the largest in the world, and maybe including the numerous US bases established in Iraq, can stay -- 20,000 is a conservative number (no limit in the supplemental). That means Bush could keep unlimited numbers, perhaps 60,000-80,000 troops, permanently in Iraq -- and still be in compliance with the bill. And the bill does not require that the troops withdrawn from Iraq be sent home; they can be immediately deployed to Afghanistan, or to bases in surrounding Arab countries, or to ships in the Persian Gulf -- or be used to attack Iran.

  • WHAT IT DOES: It imposes restrictions on Pentagon deployments, prohibiting the deployment of troops not fully trained, not adequately equipped, and not adequately rested between deployments.

BUT: It includes a waiver for President Bush to simply state his intention to override those restrictions, allowing him to send in as many untrained, badly equipped and exhausted troops as he wishes.

  • WHAT IT DOES: Prohibit construction of new permanent bases in Iraq.

BUT: It does nothing to close the existing permanent bases the U.S. has built across Iraq and includes billions for "military construction" presumably for those existing bases.

  • WHAT IT DOES: Require Iraq's government to pass a new oil law.

BUT: The law being debated in the parliament abandons Iraq's long history of maintaining control of its oil resources in favor of allowing international (especially U.S.) oil companies to take control of large sectors of the vital oil industry.

  • WHAT IT DOES: Cut 10% of the funding for private military contractors.

BUT: It allows 90% of the 100,000 or so mercenaries who fight alongside the U.S. military to remain in Iraq.

  • WHAT IT DOESN'T DO: The supplemental does not prohibit an unprovoked attack on Iran. The supplemental does not end the occupation of Iraq.

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So I can only come to the conclusion that the job of the peace movement in Maine and beyond remains the following:

  • Continue to escalate non-violent public protests calling on Bush and the Congress to bring the troops home now and to cut all funding for the occupation.
  • Continue to organize Congressional office occupations of Republicans and Democrats who keep voting to fund the war.
  • Keep writing letters to the newspapers and name those politicians (from both parties) that keep funding the occupation.
  • Understand that creating positive non-violent conflict in our communities over this issue is just what we need to do. When "liberals" start publicly complaining that the peace movement needs to stop "picking on" our local Democratic congressman, who says he is against the war but keeps voting for the funding, that means we are driving the necessary debate in our community. That is a good thing and should be continued.

I am preparing to reenter my congressman's office in coming weeks to once again do a sit-in. His vote last week to fund another $100 billion for the Iraq occupation is unacceptable. And now we learn that the Democrats in Congress are preparing legislation to fund the occupation by $150 billion for 2008 and another $50 billion in 2009. So I have no doubt that the Democrats are planning to continue the occupation even after George W. Bush is out of office!

I maintain that it is wrong for peace activists to be loyal first to a political party - and thus do the bidding of the Democrats. Real peace activists are loyal to the grassroots struggle to end the war, cut the funding, and utilize the $8.5 billion a month that is now wasted in Iraq for social spending and job creation back here at home.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ARE YOU A SUPPORTER OF LAWFARE?

The banner in the photo above was brought to Darmstadt, Germany by our friends from the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition who organize to oppose a U.S. space radar spy base called Pine Gap in the outback of their country.

On the right side of the photo, in the distance just above the banner, you see five round gray big golf ball looking radars. During our conference last weekend in Darmstadt we held a vigil on the outskirts of town at a US spy station, which is part of the global Echelon surveillance system. (While we were protesting at this facility a reporter from the U.S. military newspaper Stars & Stripes took photos and interviewed several of our folks. Click on the link in the headline above for the article.)

These U.S. space radar facilities are now scattered all over the planet and are being upgraded for participation in the Star Wars program. The radar facilities will communicate directly with military war fighting satellites and direct U.S. attack around the world. Much of the growth in membership of our Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space is coming from communities around the world where these installations are built.

During our conference we learned more about how these military space networks, now called Operationally Responsive Space (ORS), are being set up to expand U.S. ability to launch preemptive attack around the world.

We also talked extensively how the U.S. program of expanding Star Wars facilities into Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, and Hungary is part of a strategy to surround Russia. One of our members told us about a Rand Corporation plan now in circulation to break Russia into three separate countries so the oil corporations can better control their resources. (This is the same strategy taken to bust up the former Yugoslavia and which is today underway in Iraq.)

One of our major aims coming out of the conference is to expand our contacts with emerging peace movements in Eastern Europe that are opposing construction of U.S. and NATO Star Wars facilities in their countries - under the guise of "missile defense."

One last thing of interest from our conference. Tim Rinne, Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace, reported on how the Strategic Command (StratCom) HQ in Omaha is now making efforts to get the University of Nebraska to become a major center for the creation of new space law. Tim recently attended a conference at the university, sponsored by StratCom, and reported how Pentagon officials told the assembled that those who try to use international law to prevent an arms race in space were practicing a new form of warfare. The Pentagon spokesman termed it "lawfare."

So there you have it. Anyone who wants to use the "rule of law" to create global stability is akin to a terrorist. Remember that one - lawfare.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

EUROPE IS JOINING THE SPACE ARMS RACE

Got home from Germany on Sunday evening and was waiting for a photo to arrive before I posted something here on the blog.

Our annual Global Network space organizing conference, and two protests, were a wonderful success. The photo above is from an early morning vigil at the gates of the European Space Agency Operations Center in Darmstadt. We handed out quite a few leaflets to people as they arrived to work. It was cold and raining while we were there but it was an effective protest that got covered the next day in the local newspaper.

In the photo you might notice a few people with white canes and black patches on one of their eyes. (Click on the photo and you will get a larger version of it.) The leaflet we handed out was called The Military Use of Space: Take off the blinders! The European Union is now developing a civilian reconnaissance satellite system called Galileo that is going to also have military applications. The European Space Agency (ESA), just like NASA, was created as a civilian space agency and was not to be dragged into military space. But also like NASA, the ESA is now going "dual use", meaning space technologies are being developed for both civilian and military purposes.

What this ultimately means is that the aerospace industries are pushing their governments all over Europe to increase funding for space militarization. At our space organizing conference we heard that in Sweden, for example, their government is rapidly funding growing efforts to pull the country into military space technologies. Same story all across Europe. And in each case they are cutting social spending to pay for the development of space warfare technology.

During the time in Darmstadt I was on a panel that was live on a local German community radio station talking about ESA and the militarization of space. A representative from the ESA was on the panel and maintained that ESA was against the militarization of space but he said several times that "Europe must defend itself." This ultimately translates to 'We can't let the U.S. control and dominate space. We must respond and if that means ESA develops military space technologies then so be it.'

I'll write more in coming days about the conference and post some more photos from the events. But despite the bad news from Europe, something we've known about for years, the fact is that opposition is growing in Europe as our contacts expand and more peace activists begin to understand the issue and do more work on it. One activist from Sweden asked me to do a speaking tour of Norway, Denmark and Sweden next year so this is evidence that folks are paying attention and taking action.

We met in Germany in hopes that we could give energy to European grassroots activists around the space issue. I think that happened.

At our conference we also decided that next year our meeting will be held in Omaha, Nebraska in order to shine an international light on the Pentagon's Strategic Command (StratCom) that is now in charge of Star Wars, satellite surveillance and reconnaissance, nuclear weapons, and planning for global preemptive war.

We hope you will join us at a future Global Network event and become a part of this effort to keep space for peace.