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, January 19, 2008

FREE SPEECH WHILE WE STILL CAN

The woman who published my book, Nancy Randolph, held an event today in Brunswick called Authors Talk Peace. She had six people, whose books she has published with her small company called Just Write Books, come to the public library and each spend an hour reading and answering questions from the public.

I've been in bed for the past three days with a severe cold and flu but dragged myself to the event at 4:00 pm figuring I could do my scheduled hour. There was a small group that came and I read some bits from my book which Nancy just finished republishing for me.

My book was first published in 2005 and I was nearing the end of my second printing stock. I figured that if I was going to re-order more books I might as well update it through the end of 2007 with some of my newer writings. So I added six new articles and several new pieces of art by W. B. Park whose work appears throughout the book.

Nancy has been a great person to work with. These days she lays out all the Global Network's leaflets and brochures and she also did our last newsletter - Space Alert! She has a real artist's eye and always comes up with excellent designs.

So I am back in bed wiping my running nose and hoping I will recover soon as my pounding headache is more than I can stand.

I just finished re-reading Philip Agee's book, On The Run, and once again was deeply moved by his courage and unwavering determination to break the CIA's corrupt and violent interventions around the world. The personal sacrifices Phil made in order to bring the truth about the CIA's global war on people's liberation movements and nations that dared to stand against Washington's domination, was just staggering. Few of us would have shown such strength.

In recent days some of us in Maine have been having a series of email exchanges about the perilous times we face in this country as we see the dark hand of fascism at work. One important short video sent around by one friend is about the recent passage in the House of Representatives (and now in committee in the Senate) of the "Homegrown Terrorism Act." Basically the bill criminalizes thought, speech, written arguments, and persuassion. Very dangerous stuff.

So it could soon be criminal for books like Phil's On the Run, or even my humble little book, to be available because they are critical of our government and call the public to action. Simply calling for the people to organize could soon be seen as an outright act of terrorism under this proposed law.

Our civil liberties are in grave danger.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

WARS FOR AFRICAN OIL

The lead story on the Pentagon's new AFRICOM web site is entitled "U.S. Sailor Helps Save Drowning Woman in Gabon."

Here come the good white guys to the rescue.

In another place on the web site, Frequently Asked Questions, one finds this:

"What is U.S. Africa Command designed to do? U.S. Africa Command will better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place."

In February of 2007, the site continues, George W. Bush created U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). "The decision was the culmination of a 10-year thought process within the Department of Defense acknowledging the emerging strategic importance of Africa, and recognizing that peace and stability on the continent impacts not only Africans, but the interests of the U.S. and international community as well."

But critics maintain the command’s creation was motivated by China and oil. With Soviet influence gone and France’s traditional presence much diminished, China has poured money into the continent in recent years as its growing economy needs greater access to natural resources. And the United States is projected to import at least 25 percent of its oil from Africa by 2015.

According to Black Agenda Report editor Bruce Dixon, "From oil rich northern Angola up to Nigeria, from the Gulf of Guinea to Morocco and Algeria, from the Horn of Africa down to Kenya and Uganda, and over the pipeline routes from Chad to Cameroon in the west, and from Sudan to the Red Sea in the east, U.S. admirals and generals have been landing and taking off, meeting with local officials. They've conducted feasibility studies, concluded secret agreements, and spent billions from their secret budgets."

"Their new bases are not bases at all, according to U.S. military officials. They are instead 'forward staging depots', and 'seaborne truck stops' for the equipment which American land forces need to operate on the African continent. They are protected anchorages' and offshore 'lily pads' from which they intend to fight the next round of oil and resource wars, and lock down Africa's oil and mineral wealth for decades to come."

A couple years ago I saw two different items on C-SPAN that put all this in perspective for me. One was a presentation by a high-level National Guard military officer before the right-wing Heritage Foundation. He had a large map of the entire African continent on an easel and was pointing out how every state National Guard unit in the U.S. would be assigned a different African country. Each unit would create a relationship with a particular African nation and then establish a small U.S. military outpost, or as Dixon says above, lily pad base. These would be used as jumping off points in order for the Pentagon to have the ability to rapidly deploy forces in order to squash any effort to stand against U.S. corporate control.

A second C-SPAN experience was when I watched a three-hour presentation by then Naval War College futurist Thomas Barnett who said, "We will be fighting in Africa in 20 years for their oil." He went on to say in his talk that the U.S. would no longer do international treaties because they would limit our ability to attack other nations - preemptively. Barnett said, on that occasion, "Adolph Hitler never had to ask permission to invade another country and neither will we."

So as I watch events in Africa today on American corporate TV, I filter it all through these previous moments of clarity.

About a year or so ago I attended a panel discussion in Brunswick where we heard from African activists who live nearby. Maine, because it is so white, has been a major federal relocation state for Africans who have been allowed into this country after escaping the chaos in Somalia, Congo, or Sudan. I will never forget one of the men asking the white audience where we thought the Africans were getting their weapons to kill one another. He said, "We don't make weapons in Africa." They largely come from the U.S. and other European countries.

The U.S. sells military equipment to African nations via the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Top recipients of these arms sales are Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

Just like in the Middle East, the sale of weapons and U.S. support for dictators in these countries, helps create more instability and chaos. So much so that now the American people are told that we need AFRICOM to go into the region to bring "stability."

AFRICOM will serve as coordinator of U.S. covert operations in Africa. Civilian assistance funds will be funneled through AFRICOM. The funding mechanisms for AFRICOM will also permit private military contractors like Blackwater USA, Dyncorp, and Triple Canopy to extend their operations on the continent.

It is all about the "privatization" of foreign and military policy these days. The more you privatize the more deadly the game becomes because no one is responsible anymore. It's all about what the corporations want and in the case of Africa the corporate globalists want their resources - and it doesn't matter how many people have to be killed to get them.

It's a deadly shell game and one that we've seen play out time and again. Sadly the African people will be made to suffer.

Nothing will change here until the American people figure out that our democracy is dead. Our current presidential election horse race is nothing but a distraction and political entertainment to keep our eyes off the ball.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

KODIAK ISLAND BECOMES KEY STAR WARS TEST SITE

Kodiak Island in Alaska is famous for huge Kodiak bears, world-class salmon fishing, and the magnificent green that the island turns during the summer--which is why Kodiak is affectionately called Alaska's Emerald Isle.

But in recent years Kodiak Island has become known for something else. Star Wars. Hard to believe?

In 1992 the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation’s (AADC) was created and built the Kodiak Launch Complex. The people on the island organized to fight this development saying that putting a rocket launch facility on this pristine place would severely impact the fishing and tourist industry.

The public was promised that the launch complex wouldn't have any significant impact on the environment though Republican Sen. Ted Stevens made sure that no Environmental Impact Statement was required. The promoters of the launch complex also assured island residents that all launches would be for civilian uses, there would be no military role for the facility.

Local activists though knew better than to trust the assurances of these politicians. They smelled something fishy going on. They learned that each launch could release approximately 23,500 pounds of hydrochloric acid into the atmosphere and other dangerous substances into the ocean. They knew that this contamination could over time have tremendous negative impact on the local environment. (At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, after each space launch, there are significant fish kills due to the accumulation of toxic exhaust pollutants in the water.)

People also worried what would happen to wayward missiles that failed to properly launch.

As it turns out the only launches from the Kodiak spaceport so far have been military tests.

According to Alaska activist, and Global Network board member Stacey Fritz, "Until 2001, the Air Force with its Atmospheric Interceptor Tests had been the Kodiak Launch Complex's only customer. More of those tests are planned, but in 2001 the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command arranged for the AADC to host twenty of the U.S. Army Strategic Target System missile tests, commonly known as the STARS program. These are the missiles that simulate incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles fired from Asia so that the military in the South Pacific can attempt to intercept them in mid-air with the latest missile defense technology. "

Things now seem to be picking up even more for the Kodiak site as the AADC announced last December that the "Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) requires a dedicated rocket motor storage facility and an additional launch pad. KLC’s existing two launch pads are right next to each and can not be used simultaneously, thereby limiting customers and launches. The additional facilities will allow multiple launch customers to be on site simultaneously, double KLC’s launch capabilities, and result in KLC being a full service spaceport. AADC is currently developing a long-term relationship with the U.S. Air Force. The USAF plans on initiating the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program with the goal of having launch on demand capability – placing national defense assets in orbit with very little lead time. KLC is an attractive launch site for the ORS program because the KLC offers flexible launch scheduling not available at other U.S. launch sites; and launches from KLC avoid populated areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and congested air routes."

The AADC is requesting $35 million for these launch site upgrades.

Once more we see how the military industrial complex lies their way into a community with false promises. Then once established, they dramatically expand their operations. Any chance to protect the community from this rampant militarism is lost as the local economy becomes reliant on the few jobs created and the local political class and media become subservient to the big money thrown around.

This story is being repeated daily across the nation and around the world as the military empire gobbles up community after community for bases, training facilities, and weapons testing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

KINGDOM COME - HIGH AND DRY


The U.S. was founded as an anti-monarchist nation. The idea was that a kingdom was antithetical to the notion of freedom and democracy. Today the U.S. is so deeply "embedded" with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that one might say they have become joined at the hip, or the purse.

George W. Bush told the American people that he was going to the Middle East last week to bring peace to the region. He lied. His real purpose was to go to the region as a salesman. And he made quite a deal.

Bush delivered promises to the region of weapons sales in the amount of $20 billion. That is quite a haul for the military industrial complex. As a way to make this deal palatable to the American people he made lots of bold and threatening comments about Iran's desire to take over the region. Thus Bush portrayed himself as a protector of the holy crown.

The arms sales deal includes $123 million worth of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia so they can continue to hold off opposition to their authoritarian kingdom.

The United Arab Emirates coughed up $9.763 billion for a Patriot missile defense system and upgrades to early warning aircraft.

Kuwait will get $1.691 billion worth of missiles and upgrades to its Patriot missile system.

Much more will be disclosed at a later date when no one is paying any attention.

Congress has 30 days to block the weapons sales. They won't need the deadline because they will not do anything to stop it. The Democrats, by and large, want the weapons contracts in their congressional districts because endless war is the industrial policy of America today.

Now you would think that Israel is upset about Bush handing out weapons to Arab countries. But they are not. Why? Because Washington, the Associated Press reports, has promised to counterbalance the sales to Arabs with new military "assistance" (which probably means grants) to the Jewish state -- a more than 25% increase over the next 10 years.

Thus high and dry in the desert. Arm all sides, keep the war footing high, drain the national treasury right before our eyes all the while convincing the American people they are protecting us from terrorism.

High and dry for sure.

Monday, January 14, 2008

WORKING HARD ON SPACE CONFERENCE

I am working hard today with Mary Beth to tie up as many details as possible about our April 11-13 annual space organizing conference set for Omaha, Nebraska.

There are so many things yet to do. We've got most of the speakers now in place though we are still waiting confirmation from a couple of them. The brochure was just printed and goes to the mailing house in the morning.

One of the huge jobs, being coordinated locally by Nebraskans for Peace, is the task of organizing enough home hospitality and food for the people we think will come. Already folks are registering for the conference and we expect it will likely be the largest Global Network conference we've had yet.

This will be our 16th annual conference so that is saying something. In the past we've met in Germany, England, Canada, Australia, Florida, Washington DC, New Mexico, Alabama, Colorado, Maine, New York, and California. Some of those locations we've visited several times.

We've got a great group of co-sponsors for the conference at StratCom this year. They include:

After Downing Street; Bite the Bullet Campaign; Codepink; Committee for the Rescue & Development of Vieques; Fellowship of Reconciliation; Grandmothers for Peace; International Network Against Foreign Military Bases; Nebraskans for Peace; No Nukes North-Alaska; No To Bases Initiative-Czech Republic; Nukewatch; Omaha Catholic Worker; Peace Action; PeaceMajority Report; People's Action for Clean Energy; United for Peace & Justice;
Veterans for Peace; Women for Peace Iowa; Des Moines Catholic Worker; and Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom.

A recent article by Stan Cox, called REAL-LIFE STAR WARS: StratCom & the Militarization of Space, does an excellent job of laying out the present day role of StratCom as they truly have become the central planner and initiator of U.S. global war fighting. It is must reading for anyone wanting to understand the current planning for war in and from space and U.S. plans for endless war.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

MIXING UP THE BAG

Cartoonist Anne Gibbons created this great piece of art above. She was one of the women who organized my speaking tour to the New York City area last August around Hiroshima and Nagasaki days. She tells me she is a regular reader of this blog so it will be a nice surprise for her to click here and see her own work.

We are expecting to get "slammed" by a snowstorm on Monday Fox News reported tonight. They do love the sensational. I missed the last two big snow storms while in Florida so I am actually looking forward to being here this time. I need to bring in some more wood for the stove tonight and get ready to shovel tomorrow.

Everyone in my house has been passing around the flu bug the last 10 days or so and up to this point I have escaped it.....I hope I can continue to dodge it.

Been watching the coverage of presidential "sweepstakes" on TV today while cooking a big pot of chicken soup for the infirmed at the house. I was fascinated to see that Fox News acknowledged that listeners to of the South Carolina Republican debate the other night, on their network, had picked Rep. Ron Paul as the winner by a wide margin. His anti-war message is really stirring people even in the Republican Party. The media keeps trashing him but he keeps giving his party hell for wasting our national treasury and lives on that fiasco.

MSNBC is not allowing Rep. Dennis Kucinich to be in their up-coming presidential debate. It's really amazing how the networks think it is their job to decide who is a legitimate candidate and who is not. I sent them a letter complaining about their decision to exclude Kucinich but don't think they care much what the public thinks. If they did care they wouldn't make such a decision to start with. If you'd like to lodge a complaint send an email to: letters@msnbc.com

The Green Party of California is having a debate tonight in San Francisco with all declared candidates for their party's nomination. I will be excited to see how it goes and to see how my favorite in that race, Cynthia McKinney, is received.

My basketball team, the Washington Wizards, beat the Boston Celtics last night. The Celtics, the best team in the league right now, had only lost four games before last night. I know you all are excited to hear this big news.