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, May 11, 2007

ONE DOWN, TWO MORE TO GO

The world won't miss Tony Blair.

I heard a story on BBC radio the other day by an old college friend of Blair's. She said one day, years after they had finished school, Blair told her "I'm joining the Labor Party."

She said she was surprised because he had not been a political person, and certainly not a Socialist. At the time Labor meant Socialism in Britain.

Blair, like Bush, is an opportunist who has done the bidding of the corporate interests.

Maybe someday the citizens of the world will stop being fooled by these kids of wealth and privilege who pretend to care about the public.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

SWIRLING AND SHIFTING SANDS OF OCCUPATION

George W. met yesterday with a dozen moderate Republican leaders who are growing increasingly worried about losing their congressional seats over the occupation of Iraq. They said they'd give him three months to turn things around in Iraq.

All the talk these days is about benchmarks. Chief among those benchmarks for the Iraqi government to cross is the "hydro-carbon law". Translation into real language - the Iraqi's must quickly pass the law giving U.S. and British oil companies control of their oil resources.

In a new article Rolling Stone reports, "The law, endorsed here by the Democrats, is an unusually vicious piece of legislation, an open blueprint for colonial robbery of the Iraqi nation......It allows foreign companies to take advantage of Iraqi oil fields by allowing regions to pair up with foreigners using what are known as 'production-sharing agreements' or PSAs, which guarantee investing companies large shares of the profits for decades into the future. The law also makes it impossible for the Iraqi state to regulate levels of oil production (seriously undermining OPEC), allows oil companies to repatriate profits, and would also allow companies to hire foreign workers to man facilities. Add all the measures up and the Hydrocarbon law not only takes control of the oil industry away from the Iraqi state, but virtually guarantees that the state will profit very little from future oil exploitation."

Yesterday I read another very interesting article [click on link in above headline] giving the low-down on the growing conflict within the Iraqi parliament.

The article reports, "The continuing occupation of Iraq and the allocation of Iraq's resources -- especially its massive oil and natural gas deposits -- are the defining issues that now separate an increasingly restless bloc of nationalists in the Iraqi parliament from the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is dominated by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish separatists."

"By 'separatists,' we mean groups who oppose a unified Iraq with a strong central government.....favor partitioning Iraq into three autonomous regions with strong local governments and a weak central administration in Baghdad. (The partition plan is also favored by several congressional Democrats, notably Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.)"

"Iraq's separatists also oppose setting a timetable for ending the U.S. occupation, preferring the addition of more American troops to secure their regime. They favor privatizing Iraq's oil and gas and decentralizing petroleum operations and revenue distribution."

"But public opinion is squarely with Iraq's nationalists. According to a poll by the University of Maryland's Project on International Public Policy Attitudes, majorities of all three of Iraq's major ethno-sectarian groups support a unified Iraq with a strong central government. For at least two years, poll after poll has shown that large majorities of Iraqis of all ethnicity's and sects want the United States to set a timeline for withdrawal, even though (in the case of Baghdad residents), they expect the security situation to deteriorate in the short term as a result."

One Iraqi nationalist member of Parliament said, "We're afraid the U.S. will make us pass this new oil law through intimidation and threatening. We don't want it to pass, and we know it'll make things worse, but we're afraid to rise up and block it, because we don't want to be bombed and arrested the next day."

So the picture is made clearer for us now. Much of the violence in Iraq is not over religion, though that is how our corporate dominated media portray it, but in fact is between the separatists (supported by the U.S. military) and those nationalists who dare to say that Iraqi oil should remain in the hands of the people of Iraq.

So when the Democrats say that Bush has not done enough to get the Iraqi parliament to pass "benchmarks" what they are really saying is that Bush must speed up the process of destroying the nationalist Iraqi leaders so that the separatist Iraqis can push through the "hydro-carbon law" which the oil corporations are eagerly lobbying for.

Right now the nationalist group has a slight control of the Iraqi parliament but the fact they fear for their lives indicates they know that the U.S. military, working hand-in-hand with the Iraqi separatists, makes their lives very insecure.

These are the kinds of details the peace movement must help the public begin to understand if we have any hope to bringing true peace and justice to Iraq.

The peace movement must also begin to see how the Democrats are playing the "benchmarks" game as a way to line up behind the oil corporation interests in Iraq while at the same time appearing to be "against" the war.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A FEW QUESTIONS ON MY MIND

I've got a few questions on my mind today. Maybe someone can help me out with them.

Why are local police departments all over the U.S. arming themselves like they are preparing for an invasion of the body snatchers? Where are they getting the funds to pay for this expensive offensive military war fighting hardware? Homeland security?

Who are they expecting to use this equipment on? Are they expecting some kind of mass citizens revolt sometime soon?

Would police departments use this equipment on the local citizenry in their communities if the folks turned out in mass in a revolt against the government?

Have the local police moved from traffic, chasing petty criminals, and removing cats from trees into the role of local militia? With the National Guard in most states now tied up in Iraq is the government converting the local cops into the new National Guard?

Just wondering....................

Sunday, May 06, 2007

REMAKING AND TAKING OVER THE PEACE MOVEMENT'S MESSAGE

The photo above is of South Korean peace activists holding a protest during the recent U.S.-South Korean military exercises in their country. The U.S. is now expanding military bases, taking over farm lands in South Korea, and dramatically increasing its military presence throughout the Asian-Pacific region. The island of Guam is now undergoing major military expansion of U.S. operations there. All of this is intended to surround, and ultimately provoke, the Chinese government to enter into an escalating arms race. U.S. military industrial complex is counting on major profits from the process. The Democrats are silent about this military strategy.

Italian activists are also outraged and organizing opposition to U.S. plans to expand its military base in Vicenza. In February 200,000 Italians protested in Vicenza against the base expansion. The Democrats in Congress, with the exception of a few like Rep. Dennis Kucinich, are silent about this.

In our local Portland, Maine newspaper today the editorial page editor explained why the paper had last week announced they decided to come out against the war in Iraq after long supporting Bush's shameful and illegal occupation. The editor said, "We've not renounced our belief in American exceptionalism. Speaking for myself, I've withdrawn my support for the war for pragmatic reasons, not because my underlying world view has changed. I believe we should use our strength as the world's only military superpower with great caution, but I do believe we should use it.....Our nation has a unique role in the world, and with it come unique responsibilities and unique privilege."

In other words he supports U.S. empire and all that comes with it. The bases, the killing, the domination of cultures is all acceptable. In this case he is "withdrawing" his support for Bush's Iraq operation primarily because "this war has been mismanaged by the president to the point where turning things around is impossible."

This is largely the Democratic Party position as well. The war is not necessarily bad, the U.S. has the right and responsibility to take out anyone that we decide should be eliminated, but it must be handled well so that world opinion and the American people do not turn against the policy. In this case Bush and his crew "mismanaged" the operation. It reminds me of the 2004 debates between Bush and John Kerry when Kerry said he'd do a better job of "killing terrorists" than Bush would and that he'd spend "$100 billion more on the military" than Bush would. Kerry would do the war/occupation better than the Republicans.

The New York Times ran a story yesterday called With New Clout, Antiwar Groups Push Democrats. In the first sentence of the story the Times reports that, "Every morning, representatives from a cluster of antiwar groups gather for a conference call with Democratic leadership staff members in the House and the Senate."

The "anti-war" groups the article refers to are not your standard, every-day peace group, that have long been working to end the war. They are talking about more recently formed groups, funded with more than $7.1 million since January, to go out and take control of the anti-war message and to capture the bulk of mainstream media coverage about the anti-war movement. Thus groups like Win Without War, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, National Security Network, MoveOn, and others are being heavily funded by foundations close to the Democratic Party and are being largely directed by Democratic Party strategists.

The Times reports, Rodell Mollineau, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office, "said the coalition amplifies what Democrats are trying to do in Washington to end the war." “It helps us reverberate a unified message outside the Beltway.” “These groups give voice to a message we’re trying to get outside.”

The unified message that the Democrat leaders are talking about is that the mess in Iraq is all the fault of George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress. This theme is now dominating the work coming out of these Democratic Party front groups and their job is to make sure that no one points any fingers of responsibility at the Democrats in Congress who continue to fund the occupation. We are not supposed to talk about that unsettling fact.

To their credit the Times did mention that there is currently some controversy surrounding this Democratic led effort. “There’s a dividing line between those groups who feel the most important thing is to be clear on bringing the troops home as soon as possible, and the groups that feel that unity within the Democratic Party is most important and the most important thing is for the Democrats to win the White House,” said Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of Code Pink, an antiwar group that is not part of the alliance. “So the groups who feel the most important thing is to win the White House would naturally be more inclined to listening to Speaker Nancy Pelosi when she says the only way we can get a vote through is if we water it down.”

When Tom Andrews, a former Democratic congressman from Maine and the national director of Win Without War, recently came to our state to organize protests in Bangor and Portland he made no attempt to contact one existing peace group in Maine. Now isn't that a bit strange? You go into a state to organize protests against the war and you don't contact the major groups - Peace Action Maine nor Maine Veterans for Peace. Neither were invited to be part of the organizing, to offer a speaker, to help with planning, nothing. Same story with a whole host of local peace groups as well.

Instead Andrews contacted the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) which does not do anti-war work and had them serve as his base to organize the events. MPA works on social justice issues at the state level. They are strongly linked to the Democratic Party. Andrews also had the Maine Democratic Party send out emails on his behalf and then did expensive robo-calls to people in the Portland area - likely with lists provided by the Democrats and their allied organizations.

Why this particular strategy by Andrews and Win Without War? Could it be because the two rallies he organized were done in order to attack Sen. Susan Collins, our Republican senator? Andrews blistered Collins for supporting Bush's war and for voting against the Democratic Party bill calling for an "optimal" withdrawal from Iraq.

Andrews did not contact existing peace groups in Maine because he knew that our work in the state has been bi-partisan in recent years. We have been critical of our two Republican senators for their positions on the occupation. We've occupied their offices. We've been arrested in their offices. But we've also been critical of our Democratic Congressman Tom Allen who has voted eight times to fund Bush's occupation of Iraq. But Andrews does not want to talk about that fact because Rep. Tom Allen is now planning to run against Sen. Susan Collins in the next election. Thus the only politician that can be criticized publicly, according to the strategy coming out of the Democrats in Washington, is the Republican.

This is a contemptuous rewriting of reality for purely political purposes. It is arrogant and must be publicly challenged - something I have been doing in recent weeks. Sadly some loyal Democrats have accused me, as you can imagine they would, of "attacking" other peace activists. But the truth is that I have not attacked any person or any organization. In fact, all I have done is to talk publicly about the blatant manipulation that is now going on of the peace movement and the public for purely political purposes. When you come into a state and sweep aside existing groups and the work of dedicated activists you can't be shocked when they take offense and speak up.

Frankly, I see little difference between U.S. imperialism around the world and the arrogant political imperialism of Democratic Party operatives who are well-funded and well-connected and who believe that the world is their oyster. They believe that because they have been anointed by the powerful elites within the Democratic Party they can push people aside with impunity. Like the citizens of Iraq, Guam, South Korea, or Italy one is not supposed to speak out when they are being taken over by the privileged American elites.

But the days of American exceptionalism are over. People are reacting around the world to arrogant imperialism. They are reacting in Maine and across America as the Democrats try to take over the peace movement for their 2008 electoral purposes.

In the end the Democrats will fail in their conquering mission. The peace movement belongs to no political party. It belongs to the hard-working local activists who stand on street corners day in and day out and who have built the political outrage against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.