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

Saturday, May 19, 2007

PROTEST AT BATH IRON WORKS

Something is happening in Bath that I don't understand. Ever since Mary Beth and I moved to Maine we've attended every "christening" of an Aegis destroyer at Bath Iron Works (BIW). The first time I was ever there the chief of police approached me and introduced himself and sort of welcomed me - in a warm and polite manner. I always like to stand in the same spot, on the side of the street closest to the Iron Works gate that people attending the event use to enter. I never had any trouble being there.

But a new police chief has taken over. The last two times I came to a BIW protest and went to my usual spot I was immediately approached by an officer of the law who got in my face like a boot camp drill instructor telling me I have to move across the street to the "designated" protest area. Each time I've tried to explain that this is public right-a-way and that I know I have the legal right to be here. I tell them I am not looking to get arrested but that if they want to take me to trial then we can let the courts decide my fate. Last time, and again today, after about 15-20 minutes of this game the police backed off.

My friend Mary Donnelly and her husband Mike, who live on Peaks Island, immediately came and joined me as the policeman got into my face. A woman cop then proceeded to launch into Mary as you can see in the photo above. We considered it bullying and I told the woman cop that very thing after she decided to stand right in front of my sign after the Lt. in charge of their police detail eventually called the charade off. After a minute or so the Lt. told the woman cop to move away from my sign as well.

The rest of the day was fairly "uneventful" as we held our signs, sang songs, and heard speeches from many of the folks assembled using the portable sound system supplied by Maine Veterans for Peace that was the lead organizing group for the day.

I don't know if the new police chief has anything to do with the fact that the last two vigils have been the time when the police department came right at us. Maybe there is no relationship there. Maybe it is just a coincidence. But I want to find out.

On Monday I intend to call and seek an appointment with the Bath Police Department Chief of Police. I've asked Jack Bussell, from Veterans for Peace, to come along. And former State Representative Maria Holt, who was in the state house for many years representing the people of Bath, asked me if she could come along. Maria attends all of these "christening" demonstrations and was there again today. It will be good to have her with us to meet the Chief of Police.

During my speech at the demo I spoke about the military role of the Aegis destroyer. I shared a message from activists protesting at the Port of Nagoya, Japan today as a U.S. Aegis destroyer was "visiting" there.

I also shared a message from national media activist David Barsamian that said, "It was an Aegis destroyer USS Vincennes which shot down the Iranian civilian jetliner on July 31, 1988 killing all 290 passengers. The Captain of the Vincennes was later given a medal. The plane was flying in international airspace and posed no danger whatsoever to the U.S. ship which was on 'routine' maneuvers in the Persian Gulf."

The sign I was holding today said - Our Tax $$ for Peaceful Production.

We need to convert the military industrial complex. Build rail not destroyers.

Friday, May 18, 2007

ANOTHER AEGIS "CHRISTENING"

You'd think that Jesus Christ himself was going to be in Bath, Maine on Saturday morning. The Navy, and Bath Iron Works, will be holding another "christening" of an Aegis destroyer. Funny how I have a hard time reconciling the words Christ and destroyer but I know that I am just "old school".

In our local paper yesterday they ran a story announcing the event and I was taken aback with the opening line in the article, "One needn't look farther than the main stage at Saturday morning's christening ceremony at Bath Iron Works to see that Navy ships do more than wage war."

Now what could this spin be I found myself wondering? So I read on.

It seems that some 24 years ago "more than 100 Vietnamese refugees adrift in the South China Sea in a small open boat with a failed motor" were plucked from the ocean by a U.S. Navy destroyer. Thus the image created in the article is that while these ships might be called "destroyers" they are in fact out doing some level of "humanitarian" work around the world.

Sadly this is not true at all.

In fact these Navy Aegis destroyers are the ships that launched the first cruise missile volley in the U.S. "shock and awe" attack on Iraq in 2003. I know this because Mary Beth and I have made friends with a former Naval officer who was the officer on the deck of the very Aegis ship that fired the first cruise missile in that attack. This officer now suffers from PTSD.

We know that these same Aegis destroyers are now being deployed in the Persian Gulf in anticipation of a U.S. attack on Iran. We know that U.S. naval officers, in charge of cruise missile targeting, met with Israel military officials last summer to select targets for a U.S.-Israel attack on Iran.

These Naval destroyers are also now being outfitted with "theatre missile defense" (TMD) systems and are being deployed just off the coast of China. The military mission of these ships is to hit Chinese nuclear missiles after they have been fired in response to a U.S. first strike attack on China.

Oh, you say, the U.S. would never launch a pre-emptive first strike attack on another nation! That would be in violation of international law.

But in fact the U.S. Space Command has been war gaming such a first strike attack on China for the past several years. Set in the year 2016 the Pentagon initiates the attack on China using the military space plane, now under development. The role of the Aegis destroyer, outfitted with the TMD interceptors, is to knock out any remaining Chinese nukes that could still get off the ground after the initial U.S. attack. (Remember that today the Chinese military only has 20 nuclear missiles capable of hitting the continental U.S.) So the Aegis ships would not have to "destroy" very many of China's missiles to make it a successful operation.

These Aegis naval ships are now being sold to, or deployed, in Japan, South Korea, Australia and eventually Taiwan as the U.S. attempts to "contain" China. This aggressive, and provocative, military operation will create a new arms race in the region. Japanese and South Korean peace groups are very concerned about these plans and frequently protest the presence of these ships in their ports.

Maine Veterans for Peace and the Global Network will be organizing a protest vigil at the "Christening" in Bath on Saturday morning. We will be there to call for the conversion of Bath Iron Works. Why can't public transit rail cars be built by BIW workers instead of more war ships?

I wonder what Jesus would say?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

GLOBAL WARMING OR CONVERSION OF MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX?

Global warming is on the minds of people all over the planet. They are talking about how strange their weather is these days. Severe fluctuations are causing new weather patterns alien to communities worldwide. Obviously, the growth in greenhouse gases is a primary reason for global warming.

Our lifestyle, especially in the U.S. with less than 5% of the world’s population, is a major contributor as we produce 25% of global carbon emissions.

But few ever ask what role the U.S. military plays in contributing to global warming. And as people like Al Gore and other environmentalists look for solutions, rarely is the Pentagon mentioned as a polluter and a place that we can look to for change if life is to survive on our mother Earth.

The Pentagon has been studying, and testing, the idea of using weather modification as a battlefield weapon for many years. Can we begin to talk about what impact weather modification experimentation could be having on our planet already?

In a recent article called What’s Possible in the Military Sector? Greater Than 100% Reduction in Greenhouse Gases, Green Party activist Don Fitz says “The military is the only sector of the economy where emissions of greenhouse gases can be reduced by greater than 100%…..Regular economic activity of the military is not exactly small. According to the February 2007 Energy Bulletin, the Pentagon is the single largest consumer of oil in the world. Only 35 countries consume more oil.”

Fitz continues, “This domination of industrial activity by the military is often referred to as the ‘permanent war economy.’ There is an even more insidious meaning to the phrase. That is the need of the military to have ever-shorter periods of time between wars. The only way to have a true test of a weapon is to use it against people…..Military spending is like a cancer which has metastasized throughout the body politic, with every congressional district demanding its place at the trough.”

Many environmental groups are working on solutions to global warming. One for example is the Apollo Alliance, which is calling for the creation of a new economy – a new industrial policy that moves toward building alternative sustainable technologies. Uniting labor and environmental groups, who usually are on opposite sides of the fence, the Apollo Alliance is showing that a new environmental policy can also create good jobs which is something the labor movement and low-income communities can get excited about.

But there is just one huge concern. Where will be funds come from to invest in this new industrial policy?

When the military industrial complex is soaking up over 50% of every American tax dollar, where will the funds come from to create the investment for this new industrial infrastructure? Space technology development will only exacerbate this trend as the Pentagon brags that Star Wars will be the largest industrial project in the history of the planet Earth.

Major private corporate industrial investment is leaving the country like rats off a sinking ship. Corporate disinvestment in U.S. industry is the reality today.

Most politicians understand this new reality very well. They know that weapons production is currently the number one industrial export product of the U.S. They know that major industrial job creation is largely coming from the Pentagon. Thus most politicians, from both parties, want to continue to support the military industrial complex gravy train for their communities.

Across the nation colleges and universities are turning to the Pentagon for greater research funding as Congress and successive administrations have cut back on scientific research and development investment. As this trend worsens we find growing evidence that engineering, computer science, astronomy, mathematics, and other departments are becoming “militarized” in order to maintain funding levels. Student protests against campus weapons research have been growing in recent years at places like the University of Hawaii, University of New Mexico, University of Oregon, and UC Berkeley.

It is abundantly clear that no real alternative sustainable technology investment will be possible on the scale needed to avert catastrophic global warming without conversion of the military industrial complex. It is imperative that the peace movement, environmental movement, social justice movement, and labor movements create a unifying vision and political demand calling on Congress to use our hard-earned tax dollars for conversion of the military industrial complex.

We must do as the old saying goes – follow the money. And increasingly the money in the U.S. today is in weapons production. By converting the military we can make large strides to dealing with greenhouse gases, create new sustainable industries and stop our free fall into endless war.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

U.S. SPACE FIRST STRIKE PROGRAM WELL UNDERWAY

In the House of Representatives last week Democratic Party Congress members lead the way to approve money for Star Wars research and development programs in the fiscal year 2008 budget.

Rejecting the recommendations from a sub-committee, Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Rick Larsen (D-WA) restored $150 million to Pentagon boost phase missile defense programs, $48 million for future missile defense systems, including space sensors, $12 million more for sea-based sensors and language to allow $160 million for a highly controversial European missile defense site.

Joyfully cheering these moves to ensure continuation of space weapons research and development programs, a pro-space warfare organization called Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) reported in an email that, "This shift of priorities from last week's initial Strategic Subcommittee's markup shows a bipartisan movement accepted by a Democratic Majority to put forward systems to address future threats and to continue to invest into our countries most advanced boost phase missile defense system, the Air Borne Laser. "

The MDAA is a very active proponent of space weapons technology development and is led by Riki Ellison, a former professional football player with the San Francisco 49ers. Ellison is particularly excited about the development of sea-based Aegis destroyers mounted with theatre missile defense systems that will be deployed in the Asian-Pacific region to surround China.

The Pentagon recently announced they would soon begin to build a missile defense base on Guam, a U.S. military colony now undergoing major expansion with new runways for advanced bombers, new deployments of cruise missiles, and 8,000 new troops relocated from Japan. Activists in Guam have been undertaking major organizing efforts to get the U.S. out of their nation - the U.S. military now controls more than 1/3 of the island.

Activists in Poland and the Czech Republic have also been very busy of late protesting the U.S. plan to put 10 missile defense interceptors in Poland and a new Star Wars radar facility in the Czech Republic. The Pentagon is saying these facilities would be used to protect Europe and the U.S. from a nuclear attack by Iran - which has no nuclear weapons today. But the truth is these bases, along with others planned in Georgia and Azerbaijan, will be used to tighten the military noose around Russia's neck as NATO and the U.S. military surround her.

Following an International Conference against the Militarization of Europe last week in Prague, a statement was released by the participants. It said, in part, that "We voice our protest against the plans of the Bush administration to install a 'national missile defense system' for the U.S. on the territory of the Czech Republic and Poland . Most people in the Czech Republic and Poland, as well as in the rest of Europe, reject plans to host this system. We reject the official reasons given for the NMD project as mere pretexts."

"The realisation of the U.S. plan will not lead to enhanced security. On the contrary - it will lead to new dangers and insecurities."

"Although it is described as 'defensive', in reality it will allow the United States to attack other countries without fear of retaliation. It will also put 'host' countries on the front line in future U.S. wars."

Disguised as "missile defense" the Pentagon's Star Wars program is all about offense and global control and domination. The planned deployments in Europe are just one more piece in the military space architecture that would give the U.S. "full spectrum dominance." Last October the Bush administration released its new National Space Policy that essentially gave the Pentagon a green light to move ahead with deployments of space war-fighting technologies.

The Air Force Space Command's Strategic Master Plan: FY06 and Beyond says, "Air Force Space Command will deploy a new generation of responsive space access, prompt global strike, and space superiority capabilities.....Our vision calls for prompt global strike space systems with the capability to directly apply force from or through space against terrestrial targets."

Russia and China understand that they are now viewed as the "enemy". A recent poll showed that 74% of the people in Russia have a "negative view of the U.S. missile defense system." On May 9 Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement at a Victory Day parade on Red Square that left little doubt he was criticizing the United States for ''disrespect for human life, claims to global exclusiveness and dictate, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich.''

Following Putin's speech Sergei Markov, of the Moscow-based Institute for Political Research, expanded on the theme when he said, ''After the Cold War ended, the United States has initiated a new arms race,'' fueling nuclear ambitions of many nations worldwide.

''If a nation doesn't have nuclear weapons, it risks being bombed like Yugoslavia or Iraq,'' he said. ''And if it does have nuclear weapons like North Korea, it faces no such threat.''

Russia knows that U.S. deployments of missile defense systems are not intended to knock out Iranian nukes. Instead they are part of a U.S. first strike system now under development that is being supported by both Republican and Democrat party members of Congress.

In a recent article Conn Hallinan, an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, writes "Anti-ballistic missile systems (ABM) have a dark secret: They are not supposed to stop all-out missile attacks, just mop up the few retaliatory enemy missiles that manage to survive a first strike. First strikes - called 'counterpoint' attacks in bloodless vocabulary of nuclear war - are a central component in U.S. nuclear doctrine."

"If you are sitting in Moscow or Beijing and adding up the ABMs, the new warheads, and the growing ring of bases on your borders, you have little choice but to react. Imagine the U.S. response if the Russians and the Chinese were to deploy similar systems in Canada, Mexico and Cuba."

A new arms race is well underway with the U.S., once again, leading the pack. The aggressive first strike space domination program stands to benefit the weapons industry and global corporations who are now moving to extract diminishing supplies of oil and other precious resources around the world. The cost will be further expansion of a militarized society in the U.S., cutbacks in social spending worldwide, and more instability for the people of the world.

One key way to prevent this new arms race is to call upon the U.S. Congress to convert the growing military industrial complex to peaceful and environmentally sustainable production.

Republicans and Democrats now support the expansion of the U.S. military empire. Both parties must be challenged to give up dreams of American exceptionalism and global dominance. In order to make this happen the peace movement worldwide must challenge the growing corporate domination of our governments.