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, August 02, 2008

BACK HOME - BACK TO WORK

Above is a view of the place called 5-islands in Georgetown, Maine near where MB and I just spent some days away from it all. We had a relaxing visit there in a cottage and we had a chance to kayak, swim, walk on the beach, read, and actually take naps - something I rarely do. We had lunch at 5-islands which is an active lobster fishing wharf where they have a small kitchen that serves fresh fish lunches. It's a popular off-the-beaten-track summer tourist spot. The view is spectacular and the food is almost as good.

Yesterday afternoon we came home and jumped right back into things by picking up the GN's Space Alert! newsletter at the printer. Then in the early evening we had our 2008 Keep Space for Peace Week poster and flyer delivered to us from another printer. So I spent the better part of the night stuffing these things into envelopes to send to the GN's international mailing list.

Today we will be participating in the annual midcoast Peace Fair put on the our local peace group called PeaceWorks. MB was up early to get to the Brunswick green to help get things set up. I will find myself sitting at a table passing out literature and inviting people to play a No Bases card game that MB made up to teach folks about all the military bases the U.S. has around the planet. I'll also be leading a discussion group about how to stay motivated and focused in the midst of all the bad news - should be interesting to see what is on people's minds.

It looks like heavy rain today though so the Peace Fair will be impacted. Luckily they have big tents so we will have some shelter from the storm. Best take my swim fins, mask and snorkel.

Monday, July 28, 2008

THE SURGE MEANS CHARGE

The surge means CHARGE.

You remember the old cowboy and Indian movies? The Indians, savages they were called, were just trying to protect their lands and people from being overrun by the U.S. cavalry. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills, South Dakota. Forget that treaties had already mandated that the Black Hills would belong to the Lakota people as long as the grass grew green.

When the cavalry would attack the horns would blow the dat-adat-dat-da-da and the troops would yell CHARGE. And charge they did. Cannons would fire, soldiers on horses, swinging their sharp swords and firing their guns, would massacre a whole village in no time at all.

That is what the U.S. did in Vietnam, the Philippines, and a whole lot of other places.

That’s what we are doing in Iraq, and in Afghanistan. Except now it is done in a more high-tech way but the outcome remains essentially the same.

Last night I finished Michael Uhl’s book called “Vietnam Awakening.” Michael is a Vietnam vet (was an officer in an intelligence unit) and belongs to our Maine Veterans for Peace chapter. He was a leader in the early days of the anti-war movement when he returned from Vietnam.

He tells the story about Truong Khanh, Vietnam, where on April 18, 1969 the “notorious Calley Brigade” (11th Brigade of the Americal Division) gunned down sixty “unarmed and unresisting villagers, mostly women and children, in cold blood”. A different My Lai.

The organization Michael worked with, called the Citizens Commission of Inquiry which was led by Tod Ensign and Jeremy Rifkin, organized several public hearings in the late 60’s in Washington DC trying to force Congress to do war crimes investigations of those at the top who were making the war policy rather than those troops on the ground who were forced to implement the policy.

Michael quotes New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan at the time as writing, “the army….will not enforce military law and judge itself” and “there does not seem to be the stomach for such an inquiry in Congress now”.

The question of Congressional stomach remains today as we saw another example this past week in the House of Representatives with the pretend inquiry on impeachment.

Rep. John Conyers appears to have been given the go-ahead from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a teaser hearing outlining Bush transgressions but he had to be sure to announce that this was not a real impeachment hearing. (Pelosi had just been informed that anti-war mother Cindy Sheehan had attained ballot status in San Francisco in her quest to run against Pelosi in the November election. Pelosi is a bit worried and wanted to cover her tracks so she figured she could appease the critics of her “impeachment is off the table” pronouncement by offering the pseudo-investigation to the rabble.) But the Democrats don’t have the stomach, or heart, for real hearings.

Then Tuesday morning I read that Pelosi had been on TV’s The View show where she said she would support impeachment if someone could please tell her one little teeny illegal criminal act Bush had committed. Once again the bile spews from the mouth of a leading Democrat.

On Monday afternoon, in Portland, Maine, the state Supreme Court announced its grand finding that Independent U.S. Senate candidate Herb Hoffman’s signatures would be thrown out because of “irregularities” in the collection process. My well-trained activist nose smelled that one coming the second the Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice sashayed into the courtroom and took us on a intellectual ride down a dark alley where we witnessed a high-level legal mugging of Hoffman’s attorney during the hearing.

We heard no horn sound that day but the smell of blood was evident as we left the hallowed courtroom.

OK, so you know that I turn to baseball when these massacres pile up on me and I need a place to hide from the storms. But I have not previously shared that I am even haunted while watching the great game. Because just when the game is getting exciting, just when my team gets a runner on base and a leading hitter comes to bat, in that very moment of hope, the organist blares over the public address system that familiar horn call dat-adat-dat-da-da and the crowd yells CHARGE!

In that split of a second my mind flashes back to Wounded Knee, South Dakota or Vietnam, or Iraq.

In that moment I know that militarism has become us and we have become militarism. Killing is our culture. The surge is 7th inning stretch entertainment.