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 24, 2009

OBAMA FIRES FIRST DEADLY SHOTS

Four days into the job and Obama has launched his first military strike into Pakistan using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's). Media reports indicate that at least 21 people were killed, including some number of civilians. During the presidential campaign Obama threatened to step-up attacks inside Pakistan.

The strikes come just a day after Mr. Obama appointed hard-liner Richard Holbrooke, a former UN ambassador, as a special envoy for the region.

Professor of Politics Stephen Zunes, chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco, has written that "Richard Holbrooke, when he was Jimmy Carter's Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, denied in congressional testimony that Indonesia was responsible for the massacres of tens of thousands of East Timorese."

Holbrooke was also heavily involved in setting up the US war on Yugoslavia. In a 2008 interview well known writer and activist Tariq Ali recalled that "The decision of NATO to bomb Yugoslavia was something that was necessitated by what the United States at that time were up to. I mean, we now have the information that every time the Serbian leaders agreed to what they were demanding, they would add an additional demand. They didn't want an agreement at Rambouillet. And the Americans involved in that business - [Secretary of State] Albright and Richard Holbrooke and these other Democratic party rogues - don't make a secret of it."

Pakistan has repeatedly told Washington that air strikes inside their country violate its territorial sovereignty and will only serve to deepen resentment among the 160 million people of the nuclear-armed Islamic nation.

One must wonder if the US intends to widen the conflict with Pakistan as an excuse to have US and NATO forces occupy that country as they now do in Afghanistan? Obama has already indicated that he will send about 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan - which he calls the "right war".

Chinese military analyst Lin Zhiyuan summed up the US military strategy a couple years ago saying, "The US will successfully move eastward the gravity and frontline of its Europe defense, go on beefing up its military presence in the Baltic states and the central Asia region, and also raise its capability to contain Russia by stepping into the backyard of the former Soviet Union."

This early "shot across the bow," I would venture to guess, is a message from Obama that he is falling right into line with existing US (read Bush) military strategies.

Keep your eyes on the bouncing ball.

Friday, January 23, 2009

BLACK PERSPECTIVE ON OBAMA

Peace activists in Liberia asking for an end to militarism on the continent

by Black Agenda Report Managing Editor Bruce Dixon

It's completely appropriate to celebrate the election of the first black president, just like we celebrated the first black mayors in Newark, Gary and Cleveland in the sixties, of Los Angeles and Atlanta in the seventies, and New York and Chicago in the eighties. When the doors were forced open, when the demographics were right, enough money was raised and sufficient numbers of black voters mobilized, thousands of African Americans were elected to school boards and city councils, to state legislatures and congress, to county boards and statewide offices. And now, an African American has taken the oath of president of the United States.

As one of many who worked day and night for three years in the early 1980s to elect Chicago's first black mayor, I can understand the undefineable tears shed by many last November, and the shiver some felt when Barack Obama laid his hand on Abe Lincoln's bible. We danced and wept and prayed and rejoiced in Chicago a generation ago, and in other places too. But eventually the party was over, and this one will soon be too, for most of us. For many of us, it's already time to take stock. Were the hopes and dreams and prayers and effort put behind the Obama campaign a wise investment? And what does the election of Barack Obama mean for the position of African Americans as global citizens?

Until now, black Americans have always enjoyed, on the world stage, a presumption that we as a people and as individuals were not responsible for the lawless and criminal acts of the US government around the world. In the Vietnam era, many black GIs came home with stories that their lives had been directly spared by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese fighters at close quarters who could have killed them, but seemed to single out white American soldiers instead. When Iranian students captured the US embassy in Teheran, they offered to let the black Americans go.

Polling data has consistently shown African American communities to be less sympathetic to US military adventures around the world, and to harbor more healthy skepticism of war aims and claims than any other sector of the electorate. Immediately before the Iraq invasion, a Gallup poll showed black America opposing the war almost two to one, the opposite of white America. No wonder our international image is dominated by figures of courageous moral opposition to empire like Muhammed Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King. But with the election of Barack Hussein Obama, and the explicit targeting of Africa as a battleground for American control of the world's resources and markets, that is definitely about to change.

The moment Barack Obama took the oath of office, he became commander in chief of America's far-flung global empire, more than 800 military bases strung across the planet, and at least a million and a half uniformed personnel, secret prisons, torturers, and looters of whole economies. The US spends more on arms than all the rest of the planet combined, and in spite of our economic woes, Obama is not committed to reducing this. He may ask us to cut "entitlements" and tighten our belts, but reducing the military budget, the production of arms and the training of bloodthirsty proxy armies in poor countries all around the world is not to be questioned under an Obama administration.

In Africa, perhaps the best example, civil societies need the freedom to organize health care and education. They need control over their own national resources, and they need an international monetary system that does not facilitate the wholesale looting of their economies. They need clean water, low-priced anti-HIV drugs.

Barack Obama instead is identified with fundamentalist preacher Rick Warren, responsible for funding and training African pastors who hold condom-burning rallies and lead marches and rallies to threaten gays and so-called 'witches" with arrest and death.
Rather than seek allies in the vibrant civil sector of African societies, Obama's advisors are enthusiastic supporters of the Bush-created AFRICOM, which works to strengthen the least productive sector of African societies --- Africa's rapacious military machines.

The informative blog Crossed Crocodiles tells of a January 18 multinational miltary seminar held in Dakar, Senegal to hand out American gadgets and treats to African armies in support of US goals for the continent, "... cement(ing) the US Africa Command in place as an imperial colonial power organizing and directing proxy armies, controlling the tools, techniques, perhaps the language of their communication...."

From Congressional testimony by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, in July 2008:
The ‘train and equip’ idea is not new. In fact, it has a very bad history in Africa – a history that harkens back to the proxy wars of the Cold War and U.S. support for illegitimate or corrupt regimes.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe in Liberia. According to a report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, “every armed group that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. There is thus a fear that when the United States withdraws support for its security sector reform program and funding for the AFL, Liberia will be sitting on a time bomb; a well-trained and armed force of elite soldiers who are used to good pay and conditions of service, which may be impossible for the government of Liberia to sustain on its own.”

AFRICOM’s value as a structure for legitimizing African armies should therefore be called into serious question. The long-term ramifications of irresponsible training and equipping should be taken into consideration before the U.S. military is awarded more power in Africa. PMC’s should be debated and scrutinized by the African people and parliamentary bodies in every country should be encouraged to enact legislation against their operations. Propping up and arming corrupt leaders is no path to stability in Africa. The U.S. must act as a credible force for peace, not an overzealous superpower that employs private contractors to conduct military operations in Africa.

Many question the idea of training and coordinating African militaries at all. Many African military forces are primarily used against their own people in order to keep the current regime in power.”

Many Africans question this policy, as do those Americans who are aware of it. Barack Obama and his advisors are certainly aware of it. Many of them helped design it, and Obama has hired them for what they know and what they do. The question now is what will we do, and what will we help our fellow citizens, especially African Americans know about our longstanding and deadly intervention on the African continent.

Through the Pentagon and the CIA, according to Asad Ismi and Kristen Schwartz in the Ravaging of Africa, the US has fueled no less than fourteen separate African wars in recent decades. We have sent weapons, military training and military aid to more than 50 of Africa's 54 nations, aided both sides in several wars, and more than two sides in Rwanda, the Congo, and Somalia. We are the authors of a war in Somalia in which a million people have perished, a capital city has been deserted, and several million more are homeless, destitute and on the verge of starvation. US forces regularly fly missions in support of the Ethiopian invasion force in Somalia, which sits atop a lake of untapped oil.

Our economic looting and militarization of African societies prevents them from setting up education and health care systems that would retard the HIV-AIDS epidemic. Our predatory trade agreements prohibit African countries from rational public sector wealth building, and even seek to prevent African farmers from saving theirr own seeds to plant as they have done for millenia. Our banking system makes it possible for multinational corporations and corrupt Africans to take vast amounts of wealth offshore for injection into Western economies.

Some black Americans have been quoted in the media saying that they finally felt they could unpack their bags here in the U.S, that they could finally fly the American flag with pride. Good for them. We should let them know what that flag is standing for around the world, with or without a black man in the White House. We used to be regarded as a people of struggle, innocent of the crimes of our government. That era is over. It's time to wake up after the party and wonder what will become of the international image of African Americans in the wake of an Obama presidency?

Bruce Dixon is managing editor of Black Agenda Report and is based in Atlanta.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SAME-SAME?


A must watch from Jon Stewart's Daily Show. He nails it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

WHAT NEXT AS THE MASSES CHEER?

The New York Times ran a headline immediately after the inauguration today that read "President Obama Vows Era of Responsibility." They quoted Obama as saying that with our current economic crisis we must deal with “our collective failure to make hard choices.”

Those are code words that really mean the "entitlement programs" need to be scaled back. Particularly Social Security and Medicare. There was no language in the speech about cutting the military budget or closing down bases of the empire. In fact in one flourish, where he talked about the "sacrifices" made to destroy Nazism and Communism, Obama sent out a call to the "terrorists" I presume, declaring “you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”

Nothing was uttered about making the rich and the bankers pay back the $700 billion bailout they weaseled out of the tax payers by scaring the nation into thinking they would stabilize the economy if we just handed the national treasury over to them.

Nothing about holding accountable those who violated the Constitution by falsely leading us into war. Nothing about those who broke the law by spying on us and arresting and incarcerating innocent people without legal representation or trials.

Instead we are told to look ahead, get beyond the divisive past, forget that we've been used and abused, that we essentially must forgive and forget.

Many in the huge crowd cheered the words from our new president. They are happy that Bush is gone and hope that the coming change will allow them to return to more normal days.

Obama has set up a new organization to help him lobby for the policies that his administration will propose. People will get regular emails instructing them to lobby Congress on this bill or that one. One of the bills will be to help further enrich the insurance companies as the Obama team ignores strong public support for a single-payer health care system. Instead, it will be "health insurance for all" which will likely turn out to be a mandate requiring everyone to buy a health insurance policy just like we are now required to purchase auto insurance. For those who can't afford it there might be some government subsidy available. In the end the government will facilitate the "market" and health care will remain a commodity and not a human right.

For those deeply concerned about climate change and our Mother Earth's declining health we will have nuclear energy, "clean coal" and biofuels. We'll see more government support for corporate control of food - genetically modified crops - promoted by Monsanto's new Secretary of Agriculture.

In Obama's opening words he talked about the early vision of our "founding fathers". He intends to remain loyal to the rich white men who dreamed of their own empire - one that would challenge England's global power. An empire that would push the Native Americans from their land, ravage the Earth for its natural resources, and move overseas to terrorize and colonize people in Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, Latin America, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and ultimately the moon in the sky.

Days ago I read a story in the mainstream press about wealthy Americans who had repeatedly given Obama big money for his campaigns and inauguration, at every legal opportunity. The Rockefeller family was one such clan mentioned who had given hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The rich in America are proud to boast once again about the "peaceful transition of power." Yes indeed, they have ensured that they have again successfully moved from one president to another - even one party to another - while they remain in control. That is worth a few hundred thousand dollars. It's almost an embarrassingly cheap investment.

Alas, only in America can the rich buy a self-proclaimed progressive politician, turn him rightward, and have the adoring masses stand and cheer as the packaged new leader calls for the people to prepare to accept cuts in social spending and ready their children for another war.

Last night Mary Beth and I had an hour-long phone conversation with an activist friend from Canada who had just been physically removed from an expensive luncheon honoring a Canadian general just back from Afghanistan. The conquering general was reporting on their participation in the "right war". Our friend attended the coronation and silently stood before the general with a sign criticizing Canada for doubling its military budget, cutting social spending, and not focusing instead on dealing with the real enemy of the people - the looming threats of climate change.

Few of our Canadian friend's "progressive" political allies want her to be so bold. She might create the wrong image, alienate some friendly politician, turn off potential donors or supporters, instead they'd like for her to be more reserved and refined. But she has babies and she has been schooled in the reality of the future under a planet in crisis. She hears the alarms ringing in her ears and pounding in her heart. She finds it hard to turn her eyes away from the great wrecking ball. Her conscience pulls her back toward the truth and forces her out of her isolation.

It is hard to look the other way. I've tried and too find it awfully hard to live with myself when I do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

JACKSONVILLE RADIO SPOTS

I had an email the other day from my friend Andy Johnson in Jacksonville, Florida. He has three FM stations in the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area and last year gave the Global Network $5,000 worth of free one-minute radio spots. They caused quite a stir and as a result he had me on for an hour interview on his talk show to explain the ads.

In 2009 he is giving us even more free radio time telling me that on January 5 he started running our new ads four times a day on each of the three stations. A friend in St. Augustine heard one of the spots the other day and called to tell me.

Andy's family has been active in Jacksonville politics for many years and he was elected to the state legislature for a term or two. It's pretty conservative in Jacksonville, they have a couple huge Navy bases there, but a large black population that helps balance the community out a bit.

Andy struggles to keep the stations alive and he hopes he can afford to keep bringing progressive talk radio to Jacksonville. He needs all the help he can get. We are very grateful to him for his remarkable support.

Here is the copy I wrote for the latest ads running on Andy's stations:

The Bush administration wants to deploy “missile defense” bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. has recently built new bases in Romania and Bulgaria and NATO is now putting bases in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Why is the U.S. surrounding Russia?

Could it be because Russia has the world’s largest supply of natural gas? Are we going to attack every country that has oil or natural gas?

Maybe we should begin to develop a real energy policy here at home. Why can’t we build windmills and put a solar system on every building in America? Why can’t we create the world’s best rail system getting us out of our cars as gas prices rise? Imagine the jobs created in America if we did that instead of spending $12 billion a month on the occupation of Iraq.

The time has come to stop wasting our hard earned tax dollars on endless war. Let’s create good jobs in America by converting the military industrial complex.

Check out the web site of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space at
www.space4peace.org

Sunday, January 18, 2009

PETE SEEGER FILM



See this short trailer about Pete Seeger film