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, September 21, 2007


The dollar is collapsing. The Euro and the Canadian dollar have now pulled even in value with the U.S. dollar. The American economy is now on its slide into oblivion.

You can't spend $10 billion a month on the occupation of Iraq and not have a dramatic impact on the U.S. economy. You can't ignore education funding, health care, infrastructure repair and not have a significant impact on the economy. You can't ignore the need for a real energy policy, that would dramatically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, and not see an impact in the economy. You can't allow virtually your entire manufacturing base to leave the country without seeing a huge impact on the economy.

This economic slide is quite evident when you spend several hours on the street as I have done this week. You see the growing evidence of two Americas. On the street you see the reality of a whole generation of young people with no jobs, no future, no purpose in life, no hope, and feeling no need to finish school. Why bother with high school? There are no real jobs when you graduate so you might as well go have some fun now.

What happens to a nation when legions of young people feel they have no future?

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I was back on the street again today in Portland handing out leaflets about the upcoming Sept 25 rally and sit-in calling on our Congressman to support the impeachment resolution in the House of Representatives.

Today was better than two days ago. I had many more meaningful discussions with people during the time I was there. Over and over again I heard very sympathetic people tell me "the system is broken. There is nothing we can do. Neither party will listen to us."

I did have the usual business suit types fly by me in a huff telling me to get screwed or that they loved Bush. These kinds of folks are invested in the system. At some level they are making money these days as profits from the war and oil corporations are shared with them.

Several young people stopped to talk with me today. One young man who was turned down from joining the Coast Guard, because of a felony conviction, said the Army has waived his conviction and will take him. He only wants money for college. He said he is against the Iraq occupation and wished us success. I told him to be careful that the Army does not steal his soul. He took my hand, and my leaflet, as he left.

Another young guy, who is 18 years old, said he didn't care about all this stuff. "I'm having enough trouble just taking care of myself," he told me. I reminded him that we all need to take care of each other. He still blew me off. It was only when I told him that a British polling agency has determined that more than one million Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the Iraq war that he paused. I asked him how many more people should we let Bush kill?

I found that when I added the phrase "Bush wants to attack Iran next" people would take notice. Even those who did not want the leaflet would momentarily pause. In their hearts they can feel it coming and they know that the madness will only get worse.

After mentioning Iran I would ask them a simple question: "What does it say about us American people that we've killed one million Iraqi people and now we want to attack Iran?" Several people, at first cynical and negative, would linger and talk more with me and I could see life again in their eyes.

I am utterly convinced that many people are shutting down their hearts in order to not have to deal with all of this. Asking them about Iran today seemed to bring some of them back near to reality.

But then the question remains: The system is broken...what can we really do?

Capitalism lives and thrives on endless war and control and domination of resources and markets around the world. We can replace one politician with another but then how do we really change the system?

Impeachment is important, an important first step if we are to honor the Constitution. If we are to pretend we have a democracy then we must hold Bush-Cheney and their pirate crew accountable. But beyond that we have to change the system. That means acknowledging that capitalism is a death system - chewing up the planet, driving the Mother Earth to death.

How do we talk with the public about this? How do we talk about a sustainable culture that protects the future generations on this planet? How can we get folks to open their hearts again?

(Click on the photo above to read the T-shirts).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I was in Portland today handing out leaflets advertising our upcoming rally and office sit-in of our Congressman's office. On September 25 we are going to hand out leaflets from noon to 1:00 pm and then have a rally before moving into the office of Rep. Tom Allen. The Maine Campaign to Impeach will ask people to sign a letter outlining the impeachable offenses that Bush-Cheney have committed and then go up to his office to deliver the letter to Allen's staff. Some of us will then stay in his office until Allen agrees to support the impeachment of these two crooks.

Rep. Allen has been visited by numerous people from all over the state who have outlined for him the entire impeachment case. Allen has over and over again acknowledged that Bush-Cheney have committed impeachable offenses. But, like the rest of the sad sack Democratic Party, Allen refuses to support impeachment because it would be a "distraction" from the serious business of America. Yeah, like planning an attack on Iran which Allen has been silent about as well.

Today one woman on the street flashed me a sympathetic look but said, "I can't take your leaflet because I work for the federal government." What?

I told her that reminded me of the Soviet Union where one had to suspend their right of citizenship. She wasn't the only job scared Mainer I met today while leafleting. There are legions of them.

We are in big trouble if people feel that they can't have an opinion on controversial political issues because of their job. That, my friends, is a form of slavery!

I just watched a video of a student at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, who was cuffed and tasered for asking a question at a forum today where Sen. John Kerry was speaking.

Hello....anyone paying attention here? Is this not Nazi Germany where the police stand behind the microphone and haul off people who linger too long with their question or ask a question that the thought police deem unworthy?

Our constitution is being shredded right before our eyes. The Dems, as today in the case of John Kerry, just keep droning on as people are hauled away for asking if it is true that he belongs to the Yale University secret club called Skull and Bones. (Both Kerry and the Bush klan are members of Skull and Bones.)

This whole society is getting very unreal......

Monday, September 17, 2007


The people in the Czech Republic (photo above from a recent protest in Prague) are overwhelmingly opposed to the coming U.S. deployment of a Star Wars radar in their country. Similarly the people of Poland oppose the U.S. plan to put ten "missile defense" interceptors in their country. Both countries now have right-wing governments who have crawled into the U.S. "orbit" and are ignoring their own people's demands.

On September 13 Central European Social Democrat parties (Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia) met and rejected the U.S. deployment plan saying it threatened to bring about a new arms race.

But of course there was a fly in the ointment. A visiting senior U.S. Democrat said her party was behind the project.

"We wanted to come today to make very clear that we are very supportive... of missile defense," Ellen Tauscher, chairwoman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said after meeting Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra in Prague.

She added that she hoped negotiations [that would seal the deployment deal] with the Czechs and the Poles would be concluded soon.

Rep. Tauscher (from Walnut Creek, California) is a tool of the military industrial complex. Just a few months ago she led an effort to reject the recommendations of a House of Representatives sub-committee that had suggested serious cuts in the "Missile Defense Agency" research and development budget for fiscal year 2008.

She, and Rep. 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 the highly controversial European missile defense plan.

Her job in attending the meeting of Central European Social Democrats last week was a preemptive strike. The Democrats, who are likely to take the White House back in 2008, are letting the world know that they are committed partners to the Bush program of expanded U.S. global military empire and development of U.S. preemptive first-strike technology. The Democratic Party, under the control of the military industrial complex, are out trying to damper down any opposition to "missile defense". They have essentially become the agents, or sales people, for the weapons industry.

Russia knows that the U.S. is out to militarily surround them with these deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic in addition to the present campaign of NATO expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.

Vladimir Putin's recent comments should be heard by everyone paying attention to this new powder keg issue: "Once the missile defense system is put in place it will work automatically with the entire nuclear capability of the U.S. It will be an integral part of the U.S. nuclear capability....An arms race is unfolding. Was it we who withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty? We already told [Bush] two years ago, don't do this; you don't need to do this. What are you doing? You are destroying the system of international security....Of course we have to respond to it."

I can tell you what the U.S. is doing. It is creating a new arms race that will benefit the aerospace industry. The goal is to bring on-line new high-tech space weapons technology that will ultimately give the Pentagon the ability to "control and dominate" space and the Earth below. And the Democrats? Their job is to help keep the program funded and alive. They continue to show who their real masters are. They do not work for you and me.

The Democrats are working for the interests of corporate globalization. The New World Order has fully taken control of both political parties in the U.S.

If we want to stop a new and deadly arms race the peace movement in the U.S. must abandon any illusion that the Democrats will save us in 2008.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


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.