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 10, 2009

WAR CRIMES

The local Portland Press Herald ran an article this morning about possible war crimes in Gaza by Israel. Then I just ran across a similar story on CNN that reported, "Israeli forces shelled a house where they had ordered about 100 Palestinian civilians to take shelter, killing about 30 people and wounding many more, witnesses told the U.N.

"The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a blunt press release saying ambulances obtained access to several houses in Zeitoun 'affected by Israel shelling,' days after they asked to go into the neighborhood.

"The release slammed Israel -- an uncharacteristic move for the agency, which is known for its neutrality and quiet, behind-the-scenes activities. According to the release, the ICRC had wanted 'safe passage for ambulances' to the neighborhood since Saturday, but didn't receive Israeli Defense Forces permission until Wednesday."

Israel's recent devastation of Lebanon vividly remains in the memories of most people. And now we are witnessing this carnage in Gaza.

The U.S. Senate has proven itself to be an enabler of Israel as our illustrious upper body on Thursday passed a resolution expressing "America's unequivocal and steadfast support for Israel's right to self-defense."

AIPAC praised the Senate for passage of the resolution which expressed support for Israel in its "fight against terrorism."

The Senate used a voice vote rather than a recorded one so it is impossible to determine how any particular senator voted. It is unknown if there were any abstentions.

"When we pass this resolution, the United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state of Israel, by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said before the vote.

Peace process? I'm sorry Sen. Reid, I think you got it wrong. It's not a peace process - its a process of destruction and cultural genocide.

So now the U.S. Senate is on record of supporting Israel's war crimes in Gaza. The House voted 390-5 in favor, see the full list here.

Please stand by if you are waiting for change in the new Democratic Party controlled Congress. We will alert you at the first sighting of any but don't hold your breath.

In the meantime Naomi Klein is calling for a boycott of Israel. Read her article here.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

CONGRESS GETS THE BALL NOW

Congress reopened this week with their new, and supposedly fresh, crew of faces in the House and Senate. They are all ready to bring us hope and change, along with our new president-elect.

Just in case they might have forgotten what many people in the nation meant when they asked for change, a long procession of folks dressed in black carrying the names of people killed in Iraq and Gaza (the March of the Dead) silently moved through the streets of Washington yesterday. Seventeen in the group were arrested when they took the procession inside the Hart Senate Office building.

I saw a headline yesterday that Obama's new Secretary of War (same as the old boss) Robert Gates is asking for another $70 billion this year for America's two wars ("the good one and the bad one"). If approved it would bring total supplemental war spending for 2009 to $136 billion. The new Congress will get to decide on this very soon.

We had a bit of a snow and sleet storm here yesterday and it came at a bad time as I had scheduled a meeting in Portland last night to continue planning our spring Town Hall Meeting on Economy & War. All day I fielded calls and emails wondering if, like most sane groups do, our meeting would be postponed to another night. But I persisted figuring that if we got a half dozen people there it would be worth it. My schedule gets busy in the next week, including a short trip to Delray Beach, Florida for a talk to a group there. Much to my surprise 19 key activists turned out last night from up and down the coast of southern Maine and we had a great meeting. Included in the group was the crew from a Biddeford public access TV show called Out in Left Field that filmed the meeting and will air it tonight in their weekly one-hour slot.

We are going to invite our Maine Congressional delegation to the town hall meeting as we understand that the "bouncing ball of change" now sits in the court of the Congress. They will be the ones to decide if we keep spending our collapsing national treasury on endless war or will we summon the good sense and courage to convert the military industrial complex to peaceful and sustainable technology production while we still can. It's an open question and the peace, environmental, labor, and social justice movements need to get on the stick now and begin organizing to make it happen.

Already in Maine we see human services groups going to the state capital in Augusta and asking that cutbacks not happen in their constituency service areas. But the state is broke, flat out busted. Unless we connect the dots and cut military spending and transfer that money to the states for human needs and job creation then we are going down hard. Very hard indeed.

Sadly far too many organizations still refuse, for a multiplicity of reasons, to make these important connections. I hope they learn quickly to change course.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

680-10


That's right, as of this morning 680 Palestinians have been killed while 10 Israelis have died (at least 4 of them by the Israeli military itself in a friendly fire incident). The wounded numbers are off the charts - several thousand Palestinians and likely about 100 or so Israelis.

It's what you'd call a turkey shoot or shooting fish in a barrel.

Yesterday Israel killed at least 40 people at a United Nations run school they bombed. Israel quickly claimed that Hamas fighters were using the school as a hideout. But this morning a U.N. spokesman said they were 99.9% certain that there were no Hamas at the school and that they had in fact informed Israel about the exact coordinates of the school to ensure it not be hit.

Kind of reminds me of the U.S. hitting the Chinese embassy during the Yugoslavia war - bad maps the U.S. claimed - this in the days of focused satellite images.

Now Israel is saying they will stop the fighting for three hours each day to allow humanitarian aid to be trucked into Gaza. My cynical reaction: as the people attempt to get to the distribution sites they will be killed. This is now happening to ambulance drivers who go out to pick up people who have been wounded. They get targeted.

Obama broke his silence and told reporters yesterday, "We are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East........the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern to me, and after January 20th I am going to have plenty to say about the issue."

The fact that Obama was forced to make even that weak statement means that the pressure from the peace movement and international outrage is having a bit of impact. We've got to multiply the pressure.

I sent a letter to the editor of my local paper yesterday. For two hours I just sat staring at the computer, completely immobilized by despair after viewing photos and reading articles about the Gaza carnage. The fog that descended on me was part rage and part depression. Finally I crawled out of it and wrote the letter and this morning the editor called and said it would appear in the paper by the end of the week. There have been few letters in the paper about Gaza, adding to my utter frustration, and most of the ones printed so far were of the GO ISRAEL variety.

In these moments I keep pushing myself harder to do something else. I tell myself, "Find some way Bruce to do at least one thing a day."

We can't leave the people in Gaza to suffer this genocide alone.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

YOU MUST DO THIS NOW


First of all you must watch this CBS TV interview with Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor in Gaza, as he describes the number of civilians and children injured and killed there. His heart breaking interview proves that Israel is deliberately attacking the civilian population.

The Washington Post reports, "About 550 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,500 have been reported wounded in the 10-day offensive; Palestinian health officials estimate that many of them -- between 24 and 30 percent -- are women and children. Most are at Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital. Doctors there are working day and night on floors soaked with blood to help the rapidly mounting numbers of wounded. In the halls and corridors, screams and uncontrolled sobbing, along with the sounds of bombs and mortars, punctuate conversations.
'The numbers of killed and wounded are rising. Every minute we have a bombardment,' said Hassan Khalaf, the director of Shifa Hospital. 'The number of cases is overwhelming us. No hospital in the world can handle this.' It's become too dangerous for his staff to retrieve victims. Eleven members of his medical staff have been killed since the offensive began. 'They were in ambulances,' Khalaf said."

Then you must take five minutes and call your Congressional delegation and DEMAND that the US must force Israel into a ceasefire.

Do not just click away. Please make the calls.

The Congressional phone number is (202) 224-3121. When they answer just ask for your Senator and/or Congressman's office.

If you don't know who they are just click here:
http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/index.html

Monday, January 05, 2009

OUT BEFORE THE SHOW STARTS

Obama's Secretary of Commerce appointee, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, withdrew his name from consideration this past weekend when it became public that a grand jury is investigating him for a "pay to play" deal, similar to the controversy that is now sweeping the state of Illinois. A federal investigation is looking into how a big-money political contributor of the governor landed lucrative state contracts. Richardson denies all wrong doing.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, "The big picture is fairly simple. CDR Financial Products LLC of Beverly Hills was paid $1.4 million from work it did on behalf of the New Mexico Finance Authority, which issued GRIP transportation bonds. David Rubin, the company's principal owner, made at least $100,000 in contributions to Richardson-backed political committees about the time the firm got the work with the finance authority. Two substantial contributions were three months apart and generally coincided with the separate awards to CDR — one of them a no-bid, sole-source deal."

I've followed the career of Richardson closely. He was a former member of the House of Representatives in Washington. He served as Bill Clinton's Secretary of Energy (DoE) and we all know that New Mexico long ago was chosen as one of the nation's "nuclear sacrifice zones" where nuclear testing was first done and where today several nuclear labs and many military bases test all kinds of futuristic weapons systems.

Albuquerque has many nuclear weapons stored at Kirtland AFB right inside the city. Kirtland is also the space laser directorate for the Pentagon. Many "missile defense" systems are flight tested in southern New Mexico at White Sands. Bill Richardson has always been about bringing home the "Pentagon bacon" and has never shown an inclination to interrupt anything involving the military industrial complex.

When Obama chose Richardson for his cabinet, the message to me was, here goes more of the same.

I sent a message to my good friend, and Global Network board member, Bob Anderson in Albuquerque who co-directs the group Stop the War Machine. I asked Bob to give me his thoughts on the Richardson scandal. Here are some of them:

"It raises a lot more questions about the Obama team. It was obvious to anyone here not connected to the ideologues of the Democratic Party that this man [Richardson] was a carpetbagger who moved here just to run for higher office, and along the way was a global type corporate criminal. Richardson was a director of Kissinger Associates (as in Henry the butcher) which is a private sector firm that brings in politicians to keep them on a payroll when they are out of elective office.

" Richardson campaigned in 2000 on an economic plank of more militarization as a way to solve the state economic problems. Along with Republican Senator Pete Dominici, who just resigned to avoid an ethics investigation for election tampering saying he has an incurable brain disease and now has miracle recovery, they turned the state over to every war and weapons program imaginable -- from nuclear war planning, to war in space planning and development. Along the way they had help from another carpetbagger, Heather Wilson, Republican member of the House, and against whom I ran in 1998 as a Green.

"People like Richardson and Wilson move to states like NM as carpetbaggers to position themselves for political office to better serve the private sector interests and the military. This is the political arm of the military industrial complex in action.

"Richardson specialized in taking public assets, taxes, and turning them over to private sector interests. The state pension and rainy day fund was raided for millions with investments in Wall Street schemes like the Madoff fiasco, when other investors were abandoning hedge funds and pyramid schemes last fall. $200 million was tapped for a private spaceport for the global elite and Lockheed Martin to launch space research weapons and fun flights for celebrities. All these were part of his plan to get money for his run for president, which was a failure.

"Richardson talked [nuclear] nonproliferation but stood by while the Reliable Replacement Warhead was discussed. While he was Secretary of the DoE he oversaw an expansion of the WMDs in Albuquerque and never responded to our campaign to rid the city of 2,000 WMDs stored at Kirtland AFB. In fact he helped the Air Force locate the new WMD center at the base, along with the space battlefield program. SO much .... When the BRAC [base closing commission] planned to close Canon AFB at Clovis, NM he rushed out there and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Republican Senators Domenici and Wilson to promise to find a new mission for the base. We've now got a new covert operations training base there. The whole state has seen an expansion of war research and planning under his term while poverty has grown here. White Sands Missile Range is now to be home to a battalion of regular Army in addition to other programs, to train for wars in Eurasia."

So basically, according to Bob, Gov. Richardson was just another garden variety center-right Democrat disguised as a progressive.

It's good to see him out of contention for the Obama cabinet post but there are plenty more like him out there. I'm certain Obama will find another person like Richardson for the Commerce Department post.