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, August 22, 2008

PLANNING FOR COLD WAR AND BEYOND

The photo above is a make shift hospital in a school basement in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia after Georgia's military attack that killed around 2,000 people on August 7.

The media in the U.S. are now using the Russian response to Georgia's attack to justify the deployment of "missile defense" systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Like many corporate media outlets across the country the Portland Press Herald today editorializes, "Where once displeasing Moscow would seem a strong argument against deployment, now there's reason to create a negative consequence for Russia's behavior.....for now, missile defense has a purpose -- if not strategically, then at least diplomatically."

So as we search for the reasons why Washington and Georgia would launch such an attack, knowing just how Russia would have to respond, we find another piece of the puzzle.

Money.

The Reuters news agency reported on August 20 that the cost of these deployments should be over "$4 billion though cost overruns typical in nearly every U.S. defense program could easily drive the price higher."

Indeed virtually every space technology program under development today is 100-200-300% over budget. The aerospace industry stands to turn some great profit as a result of this U.S.-Georgia provocation and Russian response.

Reuters also reported that "Chicago-based Boeing Corporation, prime contractor for the U.S. ground-based missile defense system, will supply the rockets to be placed in Poland, but the Army Corps of Engineers will manage construction of the site.

"Boeing had no immediate comment on the potential value of the deal, but said in a statement that it would work closely with the U.S. military and its industry partners to extend missile defense capability to Europe.

"Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Corporation built the powerful X-band radar now based in the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, which will be moved to the Czech Republic.

"Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin said its system to integrate separate missile defense elements and provide a common view of the 'battlespace', known as Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC), would play a key role in the European missile defense site."

So the truth is that all the big boys will get into the game. It's a win-win for the corporations. The oil boys protect their pipeline through Georgia. The weapons boys get a new and expanding Eastern and Central European market. The politicians get a new Cold War to foment about. The media gets a new whipping boy (Russia) to punish that will help keep the American public's eye off the real prize - the complete dissolution of the economy and our constitutional democracy.

Not a bad return for a couple days work you must admit. The ruling class really knows how to spin the yarn.

A friend wrote me this morning that "I'm thinking of organizing a conference on planning life in Maine in a post-peak-oil, post-constitutional U.S. society."

So that's what it's coming down to? Would you call that resignation or just good planning?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

WINDMILLS OR WEAPONS


This morning I got a news release in my email from Herb Hoffman who is the Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Maine. I've previously reported on the Maine Democratic party efforts to keep him off the ballot. Just today we learned that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal so it is not yet known what options he might pursue next such as running as a write-in candidate. Hoffman clearly shows in the release below that he understands the importance of conversion of the military industrial complex as a positive alternative program for job creation and as a way to deal with climate change. It's good to see someone running for office make these important connections.
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Press Release

Despite their attempts to highlight their differences, it appears two of the three candidates running for U.S. Senate in Maine -- Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Tom Allen -- are in agreement on a very significant issue.

And, as with many other significant issues facing the country today, independent U.S. Senate candidate Herbert Hoffman is on the other side.

Hoffman noted that both Collins and Allen favor building more military destroyers, at a cost of billions of dollars each, ships which are basically designed to be weapons of mass destruction. They differ only on which type of destroyer they prefer to be built at Bath Iron Works (BIW), the General Dynamics facility in Bath, Maine.

A major plank of the Hoffman for Senate campaign is the conversion of a war based economy to a peace time economy.

Senator Collins is pleased the Navy has reversed its recent decision and plans to restart the Zumwalt class (DDG-1000) destroyer program. The Navy's original decision, "could have created a devastating gap" in BIW's work production schedule, according to Collins.

Congressman Allen has similar concerns about jobs, though he seems to favor another class of destroyer, the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), more commonly known as the Aegis. Allen seemed to be pleased that the workload at BIW will remain stable no matter which destroyer is built.

What is clear, Hoffman said, is that while both Collins and Allen are concerned about preserving jobs at the General Dynamics shipyard in Bath, they apparently have little or no concern that the products produced, at great taxpayer expense, are designed specifically to destroy lives.

"I have neither heard nor read any expression by either Collins or Allen during this controversy about their desire to see the conversion of BIW from a war industry to a peace industry," said Hoffman.

It was widely reported, according to Hoffman, that when Senators Collins and Olympia Snowe met with the BIW President in the latter part of July, their concern was determining what the shipyard needed for destroyer orders to keep its employees working. Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense noted, "Some of the confusion over what ships are needed suggests that something is totally out of control."

It would appear, Hoffman said, that keeping jobs by propping up a weapons industry despite the actual defense requests is more important to Maine's federal lawmakers than spending taxpayers' money on the actual needs of the country.

While he likewise wants to keep the experienced and skilled work force at BIW active and employed, Hoffman pointed out that "a job welding a fitting on a generator or fabricating a blade for a windmill designed to produce wind power is still a job and one which is more rewarding for the future of this country."

Hoffman, a long-time advocate of military conversion, added: "The continued production of machines of war has a limited future in terms of enhancing the quality of life for the average American citizen - or the average citizen of Maine. Empires built on military strength, nations which rely on the military/industrial complex for producing their GDP, have a long history of failure."

"The United States is clearly going in this direction and it is essential to reverse course for this nation's survival," Hoffman said.

"Plans for wind farms in Aroostook County and on the offshore islands are very much in the news this week," said Hoffman, "and the machinery to produce this energy in Maine - hundreds of windmills planned for Maine alone - will be imported from Europe."

Noting that both of his opponents are currently members of Congress, Hoffman said, "Our current Maine federal officeholders should be advocating for peace-time conversion at BIW. BIW has the skilled work force and the tools for a smooth conversion to producing windmills, not machines of war; to producing vehicles for mass transportation, not weapons for mass destruction."

Hoffman also urged General Dynamics to get ahead of the curve, and to consider diversifying its product line, even without federal pressure on its bottom line.

"With the recent skyrocketing price of oil, and the resulting push for us as a nation to become energy self-sufficient, General Dynamics should be able to see the handwriting on the wall," Hoffman said. "It has an opportunity here to be on the cutting edge of military conversion to home-grown energy production, an opportunity I urge them to act upon."

Herbert Hoffman

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RECRUITING WITH THE GODS OF METAL

STATEWIDE PROTEST OF BLUE ANGELS AIR SHOW

Saturday, September 6
Brunswick Mall Gazebo to Naval Air Station Main Gate
March begins at 9:30 am, Rally at Noon



Because our sons [and daughters] adore their plastic missile launchers, electronic space bazookas, neutron death-ray guns, a decade down the pike it won't prove difficult to trick them out in combat boots & camouflage fatigues, rouse them with a frenzy of parades, the heady rhetoric of country, camaraderie & God, the drum & bugle & the sudden thunder of the cannon as they march into Hell singing. Which is the order of things. Obedient to a fault, the people will do as they are told. However dispirited by grief at the graves of their fallen, the mother returns at last to her loom, the father to his lathe, & the inconsolable widow home to raise sons ardent for the next imperial bloodbath; Ilium. Thermopylae. Verdun. Pork Chop Hill.

"Memorial Day" by Steve Kowit from The First Noble Truth. © University of Tampa Press, 2007



Maine Veterans for Peace-Chapter 001 www.vfpmaine.org 865-0655 or 443-9502

Co-Sponsors: Americans Who Tell The Truth * Augusta Women in Black * Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats * Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space * Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks * Maine Indymedia * Maine Peace Works * Maine WILPF * Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council * Midcoast Peace & Justice Group * Peace Action Maine * Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine * Radio Free Maine * Solidarity of Maine * Sound Ecology Radio Show * Veterans for Peace-Chapter 003 * Veterans for Peace-Smedley Butler Brigade * Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

THE FORCE BE WITH US BUT NOT WITH YOU

When you have "freedom" on your side you can do whatever you wish. The U.S. can use force in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Panama, Iran, Yugoslavia, etc. because we "value life" while terrorists and Russians don't. Freedom means free to impose capitalist "free market" solutions in order to bring "stability" to the world. Anyone who stands in the way of "freedom" must be destroyed.

Here are a few interesting and contradictory quotes that reveal the U.S. (and its allied lap dogs) hypocrisy and double-standards at work:

  • US vice-president Dick Cheney, faithfully echoed by Gordon Brown and David Miliband [in Britain], declared that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered". George Bush denounced Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighbouring state" and threatening "a democratic government". Such an action, he insisted, "is unacceptable in the 21st century".

  • George W Bush, speaking in Washington accused Russian President Dmitry Medvedev of "bullying" his neighbours and said the tactics were working against Russia's interests on the international stage.

  • NATO allies on August 19 accused Russia of using "disproportionate" force in its military conflict with Georgia. "We are gravely concerned by the humanitarian situation," a statement issued by the 26 NATO countries said. "We stress the urgency of swift, complete and good faith implementations of the [withdrawal] agreement," the NATO statement said. " . . . Military action must cease definitively and military forces must return to their positions held prior to the outbreak of hostilities."

  • "Well, I just know that the Russian president said several days ago Russian military operations would stop. They didn't," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This time I hope he means it. You know the word of the Russian president needs to be upheld by his forces."

  • At an emergency meeting at the NATO headquarters, the allies planned to send a message of support to Georgia. "The first priority is to provide practical and political support to Georgia," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on arrival at the NATO foreign ministers meeting. He said the allies must "ensure Russia does not learn the wrong lessons from the events of the last two weeks. Force cannot be the basis for the demarcation of new lines around Russia."

  • The Bush White House Press spokesperson, Dana Perino stated, officially, "We believe that missile defense is a substantial contribution to NATO's collective security."

  • At the White House, the press secretary, Dana M. Perino, confirmed that senior officials had initialed the [Poland 'missile defense'] agreement. "In no way is the president's plan for missile defense aimed at Russia," she said. "In fact, it's just not even logically possible for it to be aimed at Russia, given how Russia could overwhelm it. The purpose of missile defense is to protect our European allies from any rogue threats, such as a missile from Iran."

  • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had insisted the United States provide more military cooperation in return for consent to host 10 interceptor rockets at a base in northern Poland. Washington says the interceptors and a radar in the Czech Republic will form part of a global shield protecting the United States and its allies from long-range missiles that could in the future be fired by Iran or groups such as al-Qaeda. "We have crossed the Rubicon," Tusk said just before the deal was signed. "We have finally got understanding of our point of view that Poland, being a crucial partner in NATO and an important friend and ally of the United States, must also be safe."

  • However, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told the BBC's World Tonight programme that the timing of the deal had nothing to do with the hostilities [between Georgia-Russia]. "We agreed this negotiating phase a week ago, which was... before the events in Georgia, and because of the U.S. calendar there was some urgency," he said. "But, what is crucial, and what decided the success of the talks over the last couple of days, was that the U.S. offered us new proposals."

Welcome to the New World Odor.

Monday, August 18, 2008

IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE?


I've been closely following Nancy Pelosi's book tour protests at the After Downing Street web site during the last two weeks. You know the story, Pelosi says that she was not aware of any Bush-Cheney impeachable offenses. So activists have been showing up at her events trying to present her with Rep. Dennis Kucinich's list of 35 offenses but Pelosi has had security not allow people to bring any paperwork or signs or banners near any of her book promos. (Homeland Security of course, protecting the Speaker of the House from random acts of terrorism - stuff like that.)

But people have gotten creative. They bought her books and put messages on the inside of the book covers and open them just as they approach her for an autograph. Needless to say Queen Nancy is not pleased about this. She got a real hard time recently at an event in California and plaintively cried out to the audience, "I used to be an activist." Operative words here - used to be.

I can use those words too. I "used to be" a Democrat but then I wised up. I "used to" think we had a democracy but now I know we have an oligarchy. I "used to be" naive but then I opened by eyes and say things the way they really are - I used my nose and smelled the rotten cheese.

Helping to further throw me over the top was this video that landed in my inbox this morning about children in Falleujah, Iraq that have been born with deformities in the last couple of years. These deformities are likely the result of exposure to depleted uranium and other toxic residues from military ordinance. If these are not criminal, if they are not absolute examples of "impeachable offenses," then we should just rip up and burn the U.S. Constitution right now on the spot.

But I know why Pelosi does not want to recognize these war crimes. She can't because the Demo-rats are complicit in these crimes. Let me say it again - the Demo-rats are complicit in these crimes for funding this madness, for enabling Bush, for encouraging him, for excusing him, and in recent months for giving him even more money than he requested to pay for the Iraq occupation through 2009. And they are now complicit for refusing to investigate his (their) war crimes.

People tell me that the Demo-rats (Obama) would be better than Bush. How can they be better when they have already abundantly proven that they are made of the same corrupt criminal cloth? And these excusers of the Demo-rat crimes want me to put this cloth around my shoulders and wear it - to own it. Never! Not as long as I still have a soul.

My respect and admiration goes out to the Pelosi impeachment chasers who relentlessly pursue her with the unbridled truth. And my congratulations to Cindy Sheehan who is now on the ballot in San Francisco to run for Congress against Pelosi.

Pelosi might "used to" have been an activist. But today she is a war criminal and there is no doubt about it. Pelosi and Bush - I want to hear them try to defend themselves against the evidence of these children's deformities and the broken hearts of their parents. Let them both stand trial before a jury of Iraqi mothers.