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 16, 2008

UNDERSTANDING AEGIS: FIRST-STRIKE WARFARE

For those of us living in Maine, the Navy's Aegis destroyer program is something we often think about. These ships are built at Bath Iron Works (BIW) and once or twice a year a new Aegis is "Christened". Each time Maine Veterans for Peace organizes a protest at the ceremony that usually draws several thousand workers, Navy personnel, and politicians from both the Republican and Democratic party who come to give their blessings to the new ship. BIW is the largest employer in Maine, outside of the state government, and the politicians pride themselves in securing as many of these ship construction contracts as possible - considering they cost over $1 billion each.

The most important thing to know about Aegis though is its military mission. These ships are outfitted with nuclear-capable cruise missiles and were the first weapons fired in the 2003 U.S. "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq. Any U.S. full-scale attack on Iran will likely begin from an Aegis destroyer.

Aegis ships are also a key component in the Pentagon's new Star Wars program. They are now outfitted with "missile defense" systems and we are told their job is to hit "rogue state" nuclear missiles being sent toward the U.S. in the "midcourse" of their flight.

The Navy is doubling its deployments in the Asian-Pacific region and using the Aegis destroyers to help surround China who admittedly has 20 nuclear missiles capable of hitting the west coast of the U.S. The mission of Aegis would be to help "take out" any Chinese nuclear missiles that were fired after a U.S. first-strike attack. In fact the Pentagon's Space Command has been war gaming such an attack on China, set in the year 2016, for the past couple of years.

Missile defense, whether deployed under ground in Poland or on Aegis ships at sea, is all about "full spectrum dominance." The Pentagon has been given the job by the Congress to develop space technologies that will allow the U.S. to "prevail" in conflict at all levels - on the earth, at sea, in the air, and in space.

George W. Bush used a falling National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite, with toxic hydrazine on-board, to justify a February 2008 U.S. anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test. It was the Aegis "missile defense" system that was used to knock-out the wayward satellite and signal to Russia and China that the military had mastered the ability to destroy orbiting satellites from the earth. This was an important benchmark in the plan to move the arms race into space. You can watch the Missile Defense Agency's own promotional video of this test at Wired News.

The Aegis destroyer is not about protecting the U.S. from anyone. October 18 will be the next "Christening" of another Aegis in Bath, Maine and once again Veterans for Peace will organize a
protest march on that day.

Recent studies at UMASS-Amherst show that when you spend $1 billion on military production about 8,555 jobs are created. But when that same amount of taxpayer dollars are invested in home weatherization we get 12,804 jobs, or building mass transit systems 19,795 jobs are the result. Thus, on October 18, Maine Veterans for Peace will be calling for the conversion of BIW to sustainable technology development.

This October 18 event, coming on the heels of the Global Network's Keep Space for Peace Week, will feature a current BIW worker as a speaker. This worker will say what is on the mind of many workers at the Aegis production facility - we'd rather be building something that is good for the environment and good for the country rather than things whose only purpose is to destroy and create an arms race in space.

Friday, August 15, 2008

GEORGIA & POLAND - THE WINNING TICKET?

I hear that John McCain is talking to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili daily. I'm sure he is advising him to heat up the rhetoric with Russia as much as possible. It's now been confirmed that one of McCain's top advisers was a recent (as of last March) lobbyist for Georgia. So the ties are there which indicates to me that this whole Georgian attack on Russian peace keeping troops, who were legally in the autonomous areas of Abkhaza and South Ossetia, could have been set up as a U.S. election spectacle to try to give McCain a leg up.

I watched Saakashvili on CNN News tonight talking all kinds of trash about Russia accusing them of genocide, of having made the first move (which we know is just the opposite of what really happened), of having used Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in their attack on Georgia which is of course nonsense, and a whole lot more.

The American corporate media is repeating these lies and distortions without question. Mary Beth's sister-in-law, who lives in Arizona, called tonight wanting to get her views on this whole situation. She told Mary Beth that the news has completely confused her. No surprise there. The fact that she called, a woman who has no interest in virtually any political issue, does at least show that some number of people out there in TV land are not swallowing the whole bit.

They also reported on CNN that McCain is sending right-wingers Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to Georgia in the coming days to "access the situation" and to give Saakashvili assurances that a McCain administration would protect them from, as the Georgian president called Russia tonight, the "evil" people.

Added to all that of course is the Poland-U.S. agreement yesterday to allow 10 "missile defense" interceptors into their country. We are told they have nothing to do with Russia, that they would be used to intercept non-existent Iranian missiles. But the Russians are not stupid, they know that current U.S. policy is to militarily surround them.

And so the new Cold War is on. All that is needed now is to get the American people back into the Cold War mentality. It's called a 1-2 punch. Make the people afraid of terrorism and now the Russians again. It's a winning ticket for the military industrial complex.

Hope you like the taste of bombs.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

ART IN OUR LIVES

Click on art for best view

Last night my friend Will Park in Florida sent me his latest art work. He had a strong reaction to the article I sent around the other day about U.S. military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilots feeling stress as they sit at their computers flying the Predator drones that attack people in Afghanistan and Iraq. These pilots seem to have something about weddings because they often have bombed them via space link - likely they see it as a good chance to "take out" alot of people all at once.

I'm going to put this piece of art, along with another one Will recently did called "Torture," in my book which features many of his illustrations from over a 20-year period. I've just today sent my publisher three more chapters to add to my book since I've run out of them again and need to reorder more anyway. Might as well keep it updated and fresh with each new order.

Will has done some remarkable work for the Global Network, and before that the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, over the years. Anytime I needed a cartoon for the newsletter or a good graphic for a leaflet or poster he would come up with a winner. It's been a wonderful collaboration. Will has long been an accomplished artist and he does the artwork for the American Bar Association's Litigation journal.

We are cleaning up the house today and preparing for our new housemate Maureen Block who will move in this weekend. She will be joining our Addams-Melman House community that now numbers four people - soon to be five. She is an artist, a gardener, a great activist and organizer, and a true wonderful spirit. We are thrilled to have her joining us. Even our nine-year old neighbor girl, who often hangs out here, is helping make space for Maureen and is excited about the new addition to our intentional family.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TORONTO TRIP REPORT

NASA's new Constellation launch vehicle. The program has funding and safety issues

This trip report covers the period of August 8-10 as I traveled to Toronto, Canada to speak at the 33rd annual Hiroshima/Nagasaki Day Peace Commemoration and Lantern Ceremony. The event was organized by the Hiroshima Day Coalition which is made up of many key groups in Toronto and throughout Canada.

My host for the weekend was Dr. Barbara Birkett, a member of the Hiroshima Day Coalition, and a leader in the group called Physicians for Global Survival. After picking me up at the Toronto airport she took me to her home in nearby Oakville for a dinner party with local leaders of the Oakville peace community. Her husband Richard, the cook in the family I was told, made a wonderful meal.

On Saturday, August 9 Barbara took me to the Toronto city hall at noon so we could be present when the local media came to film the Hiroshima/Nagasaki photo exhibit in the rotunda of the building. The photo exhibit had been there all week and many people, who had come to city hall for other business, were able to see the vivid story of the U.S. atomic bombing and the aftermath in the two cities.

Later in the afternoon a film showing was held inside city hall where several award winning anti-nuclear documentaries were made available to the public. The formal program began at 6:30 pm in the middle of an exciting thunder and lightening storm. Originally the ceremony was to be held in the Peace Garden that adjoins the city hall grounds but due to the storm the program was moved under the huge overhang of the city hall building.

Earlier in the day a man was passing out an Opinion piece just published in the Halifax Chronicle Herald by Tamara Lorincz entitled "Canada should not abet erosion of international nuclear restraints." Tamara is a member of the Halifax Peace Coalition and a board member of the Global Network. In the op-ed Tamara writes that under "the controversial US-India Nuclear Co-operation deal" Canada's "uranium could be used to expand and modernize India's nuclear weapons." India will not now sign nor ratify the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Tamara rightly asks in the piece, "How can Canada give support for India's civilian nuclear program but condemn that of Iran, a party to the NPT?....Canada's reversal has also compromised our commitment to nuclear weapons non-proliferation."

Pakistan sits and watches the U.S. and Canada help India build more nuclear weapons so they will turn to China to get help with their nuclear program. Thus an already volatile region of the world edges even closer to nuclear war. The U.S. of course uses these mounting tensions to prove that "missile defense" is needed in the region which only helps escalate the already dangerous situation.

I made sure to mention Tamara's op-ed key points in my speech as I wondered out loud if the Canadian government was now becoming a junior member of the U.S. program of "security export." Even though we were told that Canada's previous Liberal government had rejected participation in "missile defense," I told the assembled, we now know that Industry Canada was in fact funding research and development for Canadian aerospace corporations to participate in the U.S. Star Wars program as is happening in so many other allied countries around the world. The U.S. government, I said, is telling Canadian aerospace to get their government "on-side" because "you don't want to get left behind this new technological curve do you?"

As I do in all my talks I ended with a call for participation in the conversion of the global war machine. The fact is that the Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is steadily increasing Canada's military budget and cutbacks in their social programs are now the result.

While in Toronto I learned about the developing Georgia-Russia conflict. It was interesting to see the difference in Canadian and U.S. newspaper coverage of the issue as I made my way home on August 10. Canadian newspapers gave more context to the crisis. The Toronto paper I read on the plane home shared Russian concerns about NATO expansion to their borders and also mentioned that oil and natural gas pipelines in the region were a key reason for the growing U.S.-Russian conflict. When I picked up U.S. newspapers in the Newark, New Jersey airport they mentioned neither of those two important background points. U.S. papers largely made the story into the aggressive Russian bear once again on the loose conquering innocent people - the U.S. must do something to stop these nasty Russians. Of course very few U.S. newspapers mentioned the fact that Georgia had initiated the attack on Russian peacekeepers in the independent territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia along the Georgian-Russia border. Information is everything.

One other trip home observation. On the plane I was reading the Continental airlines magazine and found an article called "Out of This World" about a NASA astronaut talking about the space agency's new "Constellation Program" that is "devoted to developing the vehicles that the agency hopes will one day enable astronauts to visit Mars and the asteroid belt, and possibly travel even farther." The Constellation Program funding is now a serious question as the U.S. budget deficit grows. In the article astronaut John Grunsfeld says, "Everybody believes NASA should bring people to Mars, build colonies on the moon. I think that's the vision everybody has for space."

Everybody? Does Mr. Grunsfeld and NASA exaggerate just a bit? Are they trying to create the public perception that there are no critics of the space program - everyone agrees? It just goes to show how the aerospace industry uses every media outlet they can to shape public opinion. Say it and it becomes true NASA knows.

The Associated Press reported on August 12 that "NASA is not properly emphasizing safety in its design of a new spaceship and its return-to-the-moon program faces money, morale and leadership problems." The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel cites "surprising anxiety among NASA employees" about the Constellation program and says the project "lacks clear direction."

In spite of that news I'm sure "everybody" agrees that we should give NASA all the money they want! The Florida Today newspaper reports that on a recent trip to the space coast, Barack Obama told NASA employees that he has changed his mind and now supports full funding for the Constellation program.

My next trip takes me to St. Paul, Minnesota on August 30-Sept 2 to speak at the Peace Island Conference at Concordia University that will serve as a positive alternative to the Republican National Convention also being held in the city at the same time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

MORE BACKGROUND ON GEORGIA

I spent a good deal of yesterday continuing to read various articles and reports out of Georgia. Some old sage once said we learn world geography by tracking American wars - or in this case American proxy wars. I am as certain as I can be that this is a proxy war. The U.S. and Israel have been arming Georgia heavily in recent years. The U.S. and Israel have been sending military advisers to Georgia. There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. has been, at the very least, "encouraging" Georgia to make a grab for the independent territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia knowing that by doing so they would very well provoke Russia to respond. I am convinced the U.S. wants to confront Russia militarily and if they can get someone else to do it then why not. It's the cold war strategy come back to life.

The corporate media in the U.S. is having a field day promoting Russian aggression against Goergia. One very interesting CNN-TV story detailed Russian destruction of the Georgian city of Gori but then the camera man who took the footage said the film he took was actually of Georgian destruction of Russian peacekeeper forces in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. You can see why the American people are so often confused and misinformed. We are being led with rings in our noses into a new protracted war.

Watch it for yourself at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVNblG9PJMk

A distant cousin of mine who lives in Massachusetts wrote me saying that when she went to work yesterday the folks there were convinced that Russia had bombed the American state of Georgia. "Why do we bother?" she asked.

Below is a really fine summary I read late last night that I wanted to share. I think it really lays out the key points in this whole situation.


By Patrick Schoenfelder

Marching through Georgia

Maybe everyone is already up to speed on this, but if you are depending on the usual drumbeat of warlike bluster from the mainstream media (in the words of Paul Krugman, "real mean don't think things through") you are missing most of the news.

Therefore, a brief memo:

South Ossetia and Abkhazia are small areas on the border between Georgia and Russia where the majority of residents belong to ethnic groups other than Georgian. During the Soviet era, both of them were semi-autonomous areas under Soviet control.

In 1990, after Georgia became independent, Georgia claimed both areas as part of Georgia.

Russia opposed this claim as did residents of the areas, and Russia forced Georgia at gunpoint to allow autonomy to both regions in 1992, and both regions have been acting as de facto independent countries since then.

Peacekeepers from Russia commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been stationed in both countries since then.

After the so-called Rose Revolution and the overthrow of Edward Shevardnadze in 2003 it became a policy of the Georgian government to repudiate the independence of both regions and to work for re-establishment of Georgian control.

In 2006, a referendum was held under OSCE supervision with 34 observers from Poland, Germany, Austria, and Sweden. The referendum drew a 95% turnout and voted 99% in favor of full independence.

Georgia rejected the results, claiming that ethnic Georgians were intimidated out of voting, and arguing that the Russian peacekeepers actually were supporting the Ossetians.

Meanwhile, Georgia developed a close relationship with the Bush administration and cultivated a relationship with the EU, beginning application for membership in both the EU and in NATO. Georgia has the third largest number of troops in Iraq, after the US and Britain. The US has supplied the Georgian army with a large amount of war material.

In mid-July of this year, the US military held a joint war games training exercise in Georgia with the Georgian military.

The US left a number of "military advisers" in Georgia after the exercise.

On August 7, the Georgian army invaded South Ossetia in force, advancing rapidly across the area and killing both Ossetian soldiers and Russian peacekeepers.

On August 8, the Russians moved a large force into South Ossetia, including use of airpower for bombing and support. The Georgian army was rapidly crushed and began to retreat into Georgia. The Russians continued to pursue them into Georgia and used artillery and planes to bombard both military and civilian targets in Georgia as they advanced. They also declared that Georgian troops stationed in Abkhazia must leave or surrender, and sent troops into Abkhazia as well.

The Russians at this point seem to be determined to remove the Georgian leadership and establish independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The extent to which they will occupy or establish control in Georgia proper, and for how long, is not clear.

The Georgians, after starting the war, probably partly at the urging of the US, are now screaming for peace.

The US and the Europeans, while expressing dismay ("I am shocked, shocked I say!") have exactly zero ability to do anything about the situation, since the area is well within Russian sphere of influence and away from any means of support (think of a US military action in Mexico.) They are hanging the Georgians out to dry (think of the Kurds under Reagan and Bush the elder.)

The Russians have been pointing out the similarity with Kosovo and US activity there. They have also pointed out that the US is in no position to complain about superpower military intervention or occupation of any place, given their record over the last eight years.

The possibility of any meaningful economic or other sanctions against the Russians is slight, since Russia is the number one supplier of oil and natural gas to Europe and an important trading partner, and the Russian bloc has the second largest oil reserve in the world (perhaps even the first, depending on the results of exploration in the Caspian region) and is a huge supplier of mineral resources from metals to diamonds.

IMPORTANT BLOOD FOR OIL FOOTNOTE: The largest pipeline between the Black Sea and Caspian oil fields and Europe and the only one not completely under Russian control is the 1 million barrel a day capacity BP line that passes through Georgia and parts of Abkhazia. Both the Russians and the Georgians would benefit hugely from ability to control this pipeline. Some observers suggest that war efforts on both sides are related partly to the issue of this pipeline.

For a Russian take on the news watch this broadcast:
http://www.youtube.com/user/RussiaToday

Monday, August 11, 2008

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT GEORGIA-RUSSIA CONFLICT?

I must admit that I am not an expert on the Georgia-Russia conflict that is now underway. But I have been following issues there for some time and have learned to see some linkages between what is going on in places like Poland, Czech Republic, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, and the Georgia-Russia crisis.

So here are some random, and not so random, observations and quotes that I think might give us all something to ponder.

* It's all about oil and natural gas. Russia has the world's largest supply of natural gas and Iran has the world's second largest supply. There is much oil and natural gas up in the Caspian Sea region. Which ever country controls this part of the world will have a jump start in controlling the keys to the world's economic engine for the foreseeable future.

* The expanding economy of China has tremendous need for energy. China now imports much of its oil via sea (thru the Taiwan Straits) and the U.S. has in recent years doubled its naval presence in this region pursuing the ability to "choke off" China's ability to import oil. China is looking for alternative, land routes, to transmit oil thus pipelines through Central Asia become crucial. U.S. permanent bases in Afghanistan and attempts to put military bases in other Central Asian countries is in large part an attempt to create the ability to control these pipeline routes. F. William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, maintains that, "Washington is out to deny China east land access to either Russia, the Middle East or to the oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea."

Engdahl goes on to say, "A close look at the map of Eurasia begins to suggest what is so vital for China and therefore for Washington's future domination of Eurasia. The goal is not only strategic encirclement of Russia through a series of NATO bases ranging from Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo to Poland, to Georgia, possibly Ukraine and White Russia, which would enable NATO to control energy ties between Russia and the European Union."

"Washington policy now encompasses a series of 'democratic' or soft coup projects which would strategically cut China off from access to the vital oil and gas reserves of the Caspian including Kazakhstan. The earlier Asian Great Silk Road trade routes went through Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Almaty in Kazakhstan for geographically obvious reasons, in a region surrounded by major mountain ranges. Geopolitical control of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan would enable control of any potential pipeline routes between China and Central Asia just as the encirclement of Russia controls pipeline and other ties between it and western Europe, China, India and the Mideast."

* Some years ago I read the book called The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski which I recently wrote about in relation to his being a chief foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama. Brzezinski has been critical of the Bush administration for invading Iraq essentially saying that it was the wrong war. Brzezinski has long maintained that Russia and China were the targets that had to be militarily contained if the U.S. hoped to continue its role as chief superpower of the world. He says, "Eurasia is the world's axial super continent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia.....Eurasia accounts for 75% of the world's population, 60% of its GNP, and 75% of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia's potential power overshadows even America's."

* In 2005 the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline opened. It cost $3.6 billion and was funded by British Petroleum (BP) in a consortium including Unocal of the U.S. and Turkish Petroleum, and others. With the fall of the Soviet Union a scramble ensued for political and economic control of this part of the world. Georgia is on the pipeline route. Russia was opposed to this pipeline route. Brzezinski was a consultant to BP during the Bill Clinton era and urged Washington to back the project whose route would circumvent Russia.

Brzezinski also serves on the board of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce that includes people like Tim Cejka (President of ExxonMobil Exploration); Henry Kissinger; James Baker III (who in 2003 went to Georgia to tell them President Shevardnadze that Washington wanted him to step down so U.S.-trained Mikhail Shaakashvili could replace him as president); Brent Scowcroft (former Bush I national security adviser); and Dick Cheney (who served on the board before becoming Bush II's V-P).

The U.S. has long been involved in supporting "freedom movements" throughout this region that have been attempting to replace Russian influence with U.S. corporate control. The CIA, National Endowment for Democracy (board members include former neo-conservative congressman Vin Weber and General Wesley Clark), and Freedom House (includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, former CIA director James Woolsey, and Obama foreign policy adviser Anthony Lake) have been key funders and supporters of placing politicians in power throughout Central Asia that would play ball with "our side".

* Now all of this hardball politics is to be expected. The U.S., Russia, and China all want control of this part of the world. OK, nothing new there. But the current Georgia-Russia conflict indicates that things are moving to a new dangerous stage of development. Very recently the U.S. and Georgia held military maneuvers in the now disputed territories. Russia countered with military maneuvers of its own. Russia is feeling threatened by expanding U.S. bases in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic. Added to that are NATO attempts to put bases in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and possibly even Georgia - all along or very near Russia's border.

* None of this is about the good guys versus the bad guys. It is power bloc politics and when the shooting starts it is civilians who die and their communities get destroyed. Big money is at stake and big money does not mind killing innocent people who stand in the way of "progress". For the peace movement we must first understand some of the history, and also understand the "chess" game now underway. We must not have illusions that this is about "democracy" and must denounce the military and corporate agenda of the players involved. For us in the U.S. we must also remove our blinders and see that both parties (Republican and Democrat) share a bi-partisan history and agenda of advancing corporate interests in this part of the world. Obama's advisers, just like McCain's (one of his top advisers was recently a lobbyist for the current government in Georgia) are thick in this stew.

* In the end the peace movement must recognize that this current fighting could trigger protracted war and the only question becomes which weapons get used? Does the U.S. decide it must "come to the aid of it's ally Georgia"? Is an attack on Iran somehow connected to this widening war for oil? Are nuclear weapons on the table? None of us has all the answers but it is imperative that we begin asking these hard questions and learn as quickly as possible as much as we can about the region.

* Lastly, need I remind anyone, that any protracted warfare in this region will be directed by space satellite technology. Space control and domination gives the U.S. the leg-up in any superpower struggle for control of oil and natural gas.