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, July 18, 2008

O-BUMMER

I had a phone call from a friend in Maine yesterday. He was very upset about the recent passage of the FISA surveillance bill in the Senate and wanted to know what should be done about it. He cares very much about civil liberties issues. He mentioned that he was disappointed that Obama had voted in favor of the bill.

I listened to him for some time. When I finally spoke I told him that I was losing patience with my progressive friends who keep complaining about how badly the Democrats performed (on Iraq occupation, possible Iran attack, no impeachment hearings, civil liberties, etc) and then turn right around and vote them back into office without a mumbling word.

He acknowledged that he, like many, has donated to Obama and volunteered for his campaign. He said he fears that John McCain would be a dangerous president - after all just look what McCain had said when he spoke at the recent AIPAC convention........

I told my friend that in the end the right to vote is a sacred thing. We each must be free to do what we have to do and friends must remain friends. But with that said I told him I needed to tell him a story.

I voted for Jimmy Carter when he ran for president (1977-1981) largely because of his statement during his campaign that the "arms race was a disgrace to the human race." Then he went and built the huge Trident nuclear submarine base in St. Marys, Georgia right on the Florida-Georgia border. I spent many days and nights protesting at this base in the years thereafter.

I told my friend that after the Vietnam War the American people were suffering from the "Vietnam syndrome" which meant the people were not eager for any more "foreign entangling alliances". David Rockefeller at the Trilateral Commission sent the executive director of that high-brow organization, Zbignew Brzezinski, out to find a fresh face, someone who could offer "change" to the public. He recruited Jimmy Carter, the unknown Georgia governor and peanut farmer, to run for president. With the support of this hidden elite Carter became president. I fell for the trap. Brzezinski became Carter's national security adviser and is the one who helped us arm the Taliban in Afghanistan so they could give the former Soviet Union their own version of a Vietnam quagmire. The U.S. has now built six permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Zbignew Brzezinski went on to write a book called The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives that was published in the late 1980's or early 1990's. In this book Brzezinski talks about the importance of the Middle East and Central Asia because of their vast supplies of oil and natural gas. He says, "... But in the meantime, it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America. The formulation of a comprehensive and integrated Eurasian geostrategy is therefore the purpose of this book.”

He continues, "In that context, how America 'manages' Eurasia is critical. Eurasia is the globe's largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world's three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa's subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world's central continent. About 75% of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the world's physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60% of the world's GNP and about three-fourths of the world's known energy resources."

How though, Brzezinski asks, will we be able to convince the American people to expend the enormous amount of money it would take to secure Eurasia on behalf of the American corporate empire? How can we talk the American people into giving up their favorite social programs (Medicare and Social Security) so that permanent bases can be established in this region in order to control the extraction of resources?

He answers the question by saying, "Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."

Translation - terrorism. The war on terror. Endless war to protect us from the dark, hard to find, cave dwelling forces of evil.

Today the American people are beginning to suffer from the Iraq and Afghanistan syndrome. Since 2001 we have been in a perpetual state of war which has been supported by both the Republicans and Democrats. How can we ever convince the American people to press on, to keep our feet in "Eurasia" when they have begun to show such a proclivity to tire of these foreign entanglements?

A new fresh face is needed.

I recently read an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski that was published in a British progressive journal. In the interview Brzezinski, who is now one of Obama's chief foreign policy advisers, brags that he had early on "vetted" the potential presidential candidate and was quite certain that he was the right man for the job at hand.

The official definition of the word vetted: to evaluate for possible approval or acceptance.

I told my friend that the fresh face of change was a facade. A false, superficial, or artificial appearance. A trick. A lie. A humiliation.

I told my friend that I cannot spend my life doing the work I do and then turn around and betray my own being by voting for someone that I know in my heart is pulling a fast one on us - pulling the wool over our eyes.

The great black abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass said it back in the 1880's. "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

FULL REPORT ON CHICAGO TRIP

This report covers the period of July 9-13 as I traveled to Chicago, Illinois to attend the Green Party national convention. I had two purposes for attending this event - the first was to present the work of the Global Network in two different workshops I was invited to speak at. The second reason was more personal, I intended to be a participant in the convention proceedings. This report is intended to cover the Global Network related portion of the trip.

The Greens have long shown an interest in our work to prevent the nuclearization and weaponization of space. During campaigns in 1989, 1990 and 1997 to stop NASA launches of deadly plutonium-238 into space, various local and state Greens have been very involved in helping us with those efforts.

The proposed Green Party platform for 2008 carried a section called "De-Militarization of Outer Space" and stated among other things that "We oppose militarization of space in any form. We reject the U.S. argument that it needs to militarize space to protect its satellites." Another line in the platform reads, "We oppose testing and deploying anti-satellite weapons (ASATS) from the land or the air."

The first workshop I presented in was called "The Role of the Peace Movement in an Election Year" and was sponsored by the Peace Action Committee (GPAX) of the Greens. In the program's workshop description it stated that speakers would address the current "state of the peace movement" and what the role of GPAX should be in the national movement. I began my talk by saying that I felt the peace movement was now overworked, over stressed, focused by necessity on Iraq (and coming Iran), and needed to provide a positive alternative vision of the future. I told the story about Col. Suminsby from Kirtland AFB in New Mexico who publicly stated last April that "If left unchecked, the growth of spending on Social Security and Medicare will eventually crush the defense budget." This got quite a laugh from those in the packed room. But I told them we should take these comments seriously as the Air Force was now campaigning nationally to convince the American people to support serious cutbacks in "entitlement programs". We must directly connect militarism to the growing attacks on social progress.

I shared that it was crucial that people in the peace movement, now working to put out fires in Iraq, Afghanistan, and/or Iran, must begin to learn about and share how space technology plays a key role "enabling the war fighter," as space satellites now coordinate all warfare on Earth. These very expensive space technology programs, all tremendously over budget, are the very reason that the Air Force is taking a leading role in convincing the public that we have to cut social programs in order to pay for the high-tech weapons programs of the future.

This contradiction between guns and butter must become a greater part of our articulation as we do our peace work.

The second workshop was one that I lead called "Endless War and the Military-Industrial-Governmental Complex" and Mike DeRosa from Connecticut was a co-presenter. I asked friend and songwriter Tom Neilson to share a song to start this workshop.

I began my remarks with a story about Thomas Barnett, the former Naval War College instructor, who wrote the book entitled "The Pentagon's New Map." I've seen Barnett several times over recent years speaking on C-SPAN about how we in the U.S. won't have jobs to make cars, shoes, steel, TV's and the like anymore. Our role under corporate globalization Barnett says will be "security export" - endless war. This truth, when related to the quote above from Col. Suminsby, to me stands as ample evidence that the corporate powers that control our nation have decided that our job in the next century will be to supply the weapons and troops that enable the multi-national corporations to grab the oil, the water, and control the labor of the world to their benefit. Thus Barnett's vision is endless spending for endless war.

On the last day of the convention in Chicago I was asked to stand before the National Committee (NC) to give a brief report on my recent trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil where I spoke at the Global Greens Congress. I reminded the NC that the Sao Paulo event was about climate change and that I was specifically invited to make the connections between climate change and militarism - in fact I was virtually the only person at the event who addressed the issue of the military and the global war machine. I told the NC that I had called for the conversion of the military industrial complex in my speech if we ever hoped to have the funds in any country to effectively deal with the coming enormous impacts of global warming. I told them I had also called for the Greens in the Czech Republic and Europe to organize to reject the proposed U.S. "missile defense" deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic which are now leading to a new arms race and cold war in Europe. I explained to the NC that the Czech Greens hold four seats in the evenly divided parliament in their country and that they will essentially be the deciding votes when their assembly takes their formal vote on the recent agreement signed by Condi Rice and the Czech foreign minister. I told the NC that it now appears that the Greens in the Czech Republic government were split on the issue - despite the fact that their grassroots membership is adamantly against the deployment. I said that this is an important example to all of us that just taking power is not the whole story. Political parties must, I told the NC, just as I had earlier said in Sao Paulo, stand for what is right and not give way to the fleeting appeal of power and horse trading. All of us must hold our leaders, no matter which party we might belong to, accountable. Just because the "good guys" get into power does not mean they will not sell their constituencies down the river if given half the chance.

It would be nice to be invited by the Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians to do a workshop on issues of concern to the Global Network at their national conventions. Sadly though this is not likely to happen anytime soon. In fact the Republicans and Democrats are working hard to have local police deny peace protest permits in their respective convention cities in coming months. Police are trying to set up "free speech zones" for the containment of protests - like cages for animals in a zoo. Court challenges are being filed in hopes that adherence to democratic principles will in the end prevail.

We live at a time where democracy is being drowned by the domination of the corporate agenda.

We must not surrender our spirit to this destruction of freedom. We must press on with more determination than ever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

HOME AGAIN

Finally I've just arrived home. The long trek to Chicago and back is over. I pulled into Boston on the train at 10:00 pm last night and Mary Beth (MB) was there to meet me. My Maine traveling mates continued on back to Portland but MB and I stayed at her brother's home in Boston last night so that we could attend the funeral for her dear Aunt Ruth who passed away just days ago.

MB has a huge Irish Catholic family in the Boston area and Ruth was always more than welcoming to me when I attended weddings, funerals, and the holiday parties that drew the loud and joyous family together. The service in the church today was especially meaningful for me as my own mother, also named Ruth, died just months ago in Las Vegas and due to the fact that my family is largely broken and dysfunctional, my mom preferred not to have any formal services and instead was cremated in what was a sad and lonely end to her life.

We took a bus today from Boston all the way home to Bath. It feels good to find ways to travel these days by bus and train - token gestures to help deal with rapidly escalating climate change whose impacts are being seen worldwide by those with open eyes and open hearts. Those of us with children of our own, who believe in preserving life on our Mother Earth so our kids can actually have a future, must do these things to change the way we travel and live. We are trying our best to step outside that constricting box that keeps us locked in the status quo.

Once home the first thing I wanted to do, after petting our dogs Red and Seamus, was to go out and see the progress of our garden. The tomato plants are getting so tall and wild and baby tomatoes are popping to life - late in most places but this is Maine where gardening doesn't get going until the end of April. The peas are now in full production, the pole beans and lettuce are yielding abundantly, the basil ready to swim in my next pasta sauce, and the beet greens and kale more than ready for eating. The squash plants are taking over their allotted areas in the garden and I can't wait to be out there in the morning pulling weeds and thinning where needed.

What I need most now is a week at a beach, walking over some hills and through the woods, reading while lounging on a comfortable porch chair and falling asleep as the book falls into my lap. But this will not yet be possible as the Space Alert! newsletter beckons me and a week's worth of mail waits to be opened and dealt with. I still must write a trip report as well.

I don't want to sound like I am complaining. I know I am very lucky that I get to travel and attend events and speak to groups. But I also am a home body - I love to be home to cook and help clean the house and to do the mundane things that make life what it is. After many years of hectic travel it always feels good to say - I am home again.