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, April 04, 2009


Jan Tamas, one of the hunger strikers in the Czech Republic last summer, has a message for Obama who arrived in Prague today.

The folks in the Czech Republic are not allowing themselves to be swept up in the Obama euphoria. Instead they are staying steady and maintaining their public protest against the US Star Wars radar base in their country.


Lisa Savage, a teacher from Solon, Maine and member of Code Pink, talks about military recruiters in schools during the Town Hall Meeting

We had 200
people at our Town Hall Meeting last night in Portland. Despite a bad rain storm that surely kept some away the event was a smashing success as 51 people from 35 Maine towns got up to the microphones to speak for three-minutes to the assembled group of elected officials who were there. We had our two Congresspersons and our two Senators represented. We had the Governor represented and the leadership of the State legislature there as well as a representative for the Maine Municipal Association which serves the interests of the towns and cities across the state.

At the end of the three hour event the elected officials were given five minutes each to make comments after listening to the people all evening. One of them, Senator Phil Bartlett who is the State Senate Majority Leader, impressed me very much when he basically said, "What I heard is that our foreign policy is about wars for energy and oil. We need to change the way Maine uses energy and the state needs to take a lead on this." He said even more but I wasn't taking notes. I really felt like he was deeply listening to us.

When it came my time to speak I started out with a story about the great Sioux Indian Sitting Bull who once took a trip to New York City and while sitting on a door stoop was shocked at the number of little street urchins who came begging to him. He then realized that the white man's world had a spiritual "disconnect" as he could not imagine anyone would let their children go hungry and be homeless.

I then went on to make the following statement:

Major demonstrations will be held this weekend in Strausbourg, France with activists from all over the world protesting NATO’s 60th anniversary celebrations. NATO is becoming an offensive global military alliance, controlled by the US, and is being used not only in Afghanistan but also to surround Russia as NATO tries to expand bases into Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – all right on Russia’s border. Why? Because Russia has the world’s largest supply of natural gas and significant supplies of oil.

The US government is still controlled by corporate interests that are preparing for resource wars in the coming years. Right now the US military empire has more than 800 bases worldwide and our 2010 military budget will be over $663 billion. We are spending more than $12 billion a month in Iraq & Afghanistan. The Pentagon has created a new command called AfriCom. Some time ago I was watching C-SPAN and heard a Pentagon representative say we will be fighting in Africa 20 years from now for their oil.

We need a single-payer health care system but we are told no. We need massive infrastructure repairs, new sustainable technologies developed, in order to deal with climate change but we are nickel and diming it. Until we deal with the military budget there will be no real change in America.

Local, state, and federal politicians all avoid talking about the military budget. President Obama has recommended a 4% increase in Pentagon spending in 2010 after George W. Bush doubled the military budget during his 8 years. When does it all end?
It ends when the progressive community puts military spending on the table… ends when we support Congressman Barney Frank’s call for a 25% cut in military spending. It ends when we say we can’t afford guns and butter anymore……

The people want jobs and the evidence is abundant that building rail systems, building and installing solar, building wind turbines, weatherizing homes, and hiring teachers and nurses all create more jobs per billion dollars than military production does.

But our elected officials from both parties in this state, and around the country, support virtually every high-priced weapon system the military industrial complex comes up with.

The number one industrial export product of America today is what? And when weapons are your number one industrial export product, what is your global marketing strategy for that product line?

What does it say about the soul of our nation that we have to have endless war for oil to create jobs for our workers here at home?

Thank you.

Friday, April 03, 2009


By Kathy Kelly and Brian Terrall

It’s one thing to study online articles describing the MQ-9 Reapers and MQ-1 Predators. It’s quite another to identify these drones as they take off from runways at Nevada’s Creech Air Force base, where our “Ground the Drones…Lest We Reap the Whirlwind” campaign is holding a ten-day vigil.

This morning, during a one hour walk from Cactus Springs, Nevada, where we are housed, to the gates of Creech Air Force base, we saw the Predator and Reaper drones glide into the skies, once every two minutes. We could easily distinguish the Predator from the Reaper, - if the tailfins are up, it’s a Predator, tail fins down, a Reaper.

The MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones both function to collect information through surveillance; both can carry weapons. The MQ9 Reaper drone, which the USAF refers to as a “hunter-killer” vehicle, can carry two 500 pound bombs as well as several Hellfire missiles.
Creech Air Force Base is headquarters for coordinating the latest high tech weapons that use unmanned aerial systems (UASs) for surveillance and increasingly lethal attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, (UAVs), take off from runways in the country of origin, controlled by a pilot, nearby, “on the ground.” But once many of the UAVs are airborne, teams inside trailers at Creech Air Force base and other U. S. sites begin to control them.

We’ve become more skilled in spotting and hearing the vehicles.

But, we want to acknowledge that Creech Air Force base pilots guiding surveillance missions over areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they are ordered to hunt down Taliban fighters, are absorbing and processing information which we wish they could disclose to us. Trainers at the base have arranged for a contractor to hire “extras” to pose as insurgents, walking about the range inside the base, so that pilots training for combat can practice shooting them. This is all done by simulation. Sometimes flares are set up to simulate plumes of smoke representing pretended battle scenes. But when the pilots fly drones over actual land in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they can see faces; they can gain a sense for the terrain and study the infrastructure. A drone’s camera can show them pictures of everyday life in a region most of us never think much about.

We should be thinking about the cares and concerns of people who have been enduring steady attacks, displacement, economic stress, and, amongst the most impoverished, insufficient supplies of food, water and medicine.

The Pentagon stated, today, that the situation in Pakistan is dire. We agree. Pakistanis have faced dire shortages of goods needed to sustain basic human rights. Security issues such as food security, provision of health care, and development of education can’t be addressed by sending more and more troops into a region, or by firing missiles and dropping bombs.

In the past few days, the Taliban have responded to U.S. drone attacks with attacks of their own and with threats of further retaliation which have provoked renewed drone attacks by the United States. Are we to believe that the predictable spiral of violence is the only way forward?

Antagonisms against the US in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq will be reduced when we actively respond to the reality revealed to us by the drones’ own surveillance cameras: severe poverty and a crumbling or nonexistent infrastructure. Human interaction, negotiation, diplomacy and dialogue, not surveillance and bombing by robots, will ensure a more peaceful future at home and abroad.

We can’t see what the drones’ “pilots” can see through the camera-eye of the surveillance vehicle. But, we can see a pattern in the way that the U.S. government sells or markets yet another war strategy in an area of the world where the U.S. wants to dominate other people’s precious resources and control or develop transportation routes. We’ve heard before that the U.S. must go to war to protect human rights of people in the war zone and to enhance security of U.S. people. Certainly, the U.S. is nervous because Pakistan possesses a “nuclear asset,” that is to say, nuclear bombs. But so do other states that have been reckless and dangerous in the conduct of their foreign policy, particularly the United States and Israel.

At the gates of Creech Air Force Base, our signs read: “Ground the Drones…Lest You Reap the Whirlwind,” and “Ending War: Our Collective Responsibility.” Our statement says: “Proponents of the use of UASs insist that there is a great advantage to fighting wars in ‘real-time’ by ‘pilots’ sitting at consoles in offices on air bases far from the dangerous front line of military activity. With less risk to the lives of U.S. soldiers and hence to the popularity and careers of politicians, the deaths of ‘enemy’ noncombatants by the thousands are counted acceptable. The illusion that war can be waged with no domestic cost dehumanizes both us and our enemies. It fosters a callous disregard for human life that can lead to even more recklessness on the part of politicians.”

We hope that U.S. people will take a closer look at our belief that peace will come through generous love and through human interaction, negotiation, dialogue and diplomacy, and not through robots armed with missiles.

Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the author of Other Lands Have Dreams (published by CounterPunch/AK Press). Her email is

Brian Terrell ( lives and works at the Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, IA.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


This 3-minute video by Global Network board member Loring Wirbel shows a bit of the razzle-dazzle at the annual corporate Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Each year thousands of folks (7,500 this year) from the aerospace industry, military, academia, politicians, and media gather for this huge celebration of high-tech glory gee-wiz US space "control and domination."

This video gives you an idea of how proud they are of their space wizardry. But they know it is getting more and more expensive, and our economy is in crisis, so one of the key goals of this "Symposium" is to use the event to build the public relations case that they are protecting us from the bad guys. The classic sales job - 21st century empire style.

You are paying for it.


A window in Strasbourg, France

1932 unemployed march in Washington

I heard a story a couple of weeks ago about 700 people applying for one school janitor job. The predictions about a worsening economy won't go away. There will be protests on Wall Street in New York City this weekend with the message "Bail Out the People, Not the Banks!"

With the G20 protests in London in the last few days, the coming protests in Strasbourg, France at the 60th anniversary NATO "celebration" and local actions across the US on April 6-9 in opposition to the Afghanistan war, it is encouraging to see so much action being created. We need the momentum heading our way.

Here in Maine we are just putting the finishing touches on our own event that ties into all of the above. On Friday, April 3 we will be holding a statewide Town Hall Meeting on the Economy, Health Care, War & the Environment at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. We've invited all the major politicians in the state to attend, a few of them will be coming. We will open the audience microphones for three hours that evening and give the public the chance to connect the dots between all these key issues. We are asking the elected officials to listen to what the people have to share. If we are going to have a real democracy then we must over and over again provide the public the chance to share their vision for the future. We know that people will inform and inspire each other.

We've had pretty good advance media coverage of the Town Hall Meeting and our planning committee raised enough money that we put $500 into buying radio ads on two popular stations to help promote the event. I've been getting phone calls pretty steadily for the past week which is always a good sign.

In the middle of all that I am now fighting off a bad cold which is a real bummer as my energy gets sapped at an important time. I had to push myself hard to get out of bed this morning. But on I go.....

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Japanese peace activists protest "missile defense" systems onboard Aegis destroyers

The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space will hold its 17th annual space organizing conference in Seoul, South Korea on April 16-18, 2009. The group is made up of 150 peace groups around the world who are working to oppose the introduction of weapons and nuclear power into space. The theme for the annual conference will be Asian-Pacific Missile Defense and an End to the Arms Race in the region.

Ten Korean peace organizations, led by the Peace Network and the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, will host the 2009 Global Network space conference. Activists will come to South Korea from as far away as India, Australia, England, Italy, Philippines, Sweden, and Japan. The U.S. delegation will consist of activists from Maine, New York, Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Florida. Of particular interest this year will be discussions about U.S. military expansion in the Asian-Pacific region including its controversial “missile defense” deployments in Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

According to Korea Peace Network activist Wooksik Cheong, "Tension has been recently increasing in the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia around the issue of North Korea’s planned rocket launch and of the U.S. and Japan’s mobilizations for the possible interception of it, using the missile defense system. It illustrates why the Korean peninsula is the core area regarding the issue of the space weapons including the missile defense system in the world. The conference in Seoul happens in the right place and time to make missile defense and arms race issue one of the focal points of the peace movements in the world.”

Global Network Coordinator Bruce Gagnon stated, “U.S. deployments of ‘missile defense’ systems in the Asian-Pacific, in addition to its massive military build-up in the region, is now driving an arms race there. Since 2000 the U.S. Navy has virtually doubled its presence in the Asian-Pacific, largely used to surround China. This destabilization of the region only benefits the military industrial complex that makes massive profits from a dangerous new arms race. Japan, a historic imperial power, is joining the U.S. in this deadly escalation of militarism which severely complicates the dynamics in the region.”

The Global Network contends that the Obama administration must immediately begin dismantling U.S. nuclear weapons and closing down the more than 800 military bases in the American military empire. In addition the U.S. must join Russia and China’s call to negotiate a global ban on weapons in space before a full-blown arms race in the heavens begins. Today the U.S. spends more on its military than all other countries in the world combined.

Each year the Global Network holds their space organizing conference in a different part of the world. Full conference details are available at the Global Network’s website

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Jim Hightower "debates" John McCain on Afghanistan. He could also be debating Obama as well. Bush neocon and McCain supporter Max Boot wrote recently in Commentary, that Obama’s Afghanistan/Pakistan approach “was pretty much all that supporters of the war effort could have asked for, and probably pretty similar to what a President McCain would have decided on.”

To top it off, Boot said Obama is “essentially continuing and expanding [Bush’s foreign] policy.”

Monday, March 30, 2009


Here are some of my predictions about the near term future:

1) Due to economic decline in the US more and more poor and working class kids will join the foreign legion to fight resource wars for the corporate barons. Young kids are now being prepared for a life of "be all you can be" endless warriors.

2) The US will not be leaving Iraq even at the end of 2010 as now promised by Obama. New instability there will "necessitate" new agreements with the puppet government in Iraq to allow the US to remain on permanent bases for years to come.

3) The war in Afghanistan, Obama's "right war", will continue to widen into Pakistan and the government there will collapse and the US will "have to occupy" Pakistan in order to "bring stability" to that nuclear armed nation. Check out the map and see how control of Afghanistan and Pakistan are necessary for the oil corporations to build pipelines from the Caspian Sea south to the Arabian Sea. (This will also please India who the US wishes to recruit for the long-term goal of containing their neighbor China.)

4) Israel will continue to smash the Palestinian people and push them bit by bit out of Gaza. The US will look the other way and keep talking about the need for peace in the Middle East. Israel will attack Iran at some point with the US offering military support via satellite technology and military funding assistance.

5) The Obama administration will continue to talk about getting rid of nuclear weapons and their desire to have good relations with Russia while at the same time pressing hard for NATO to expand eastward right up to Russia's borders. This will make Russia less inclined to get rid of their nuclear force which the US will use as evidence to show that the "raging Russian bear" is on the loose again and can't be to a new Cold War and it is "all their fault"!

6) The US will continue to use fear of North Korean rocket capability to cover its massive offensive military expansion in the Asian-Pacific that is being used to surround China. China, as a result, will continue to steadily expand its military and the Obama administration will use that expansion as evidence that we must be tough with an "aggressive and expansionist" Communist China.

7) The US will use AfriCom to initiate a massive military expansion onto the African continent in a play for the vast natural resources that exist there. Using rhetoric about saving Africans from "genocide" the first US black president will lead the US into hot wars in Africa.

8) The peace movement in the US will remain divided between those who "support the president" and those who don't feel that an effective peace movement can be an agent of any political party. The Democrats will use this divide-and-conquer strategy to keep the peace movement at bay for much of Obama's first-term in office and will get much of the progressive community clamoring for more Democratic seats in Congress in the 2010 elections "so we can really take care of business now." The strategy of some so-called peace groups to declare the Iraq occupation over, take no position on Afghanistan, and to virtually ignore the issue of military spending will make any real foreign policy changes extremely difficult to bring about. Despite this divide within the peace movement those who have an honest and consistent analysis of US empire will continue to work and to chip away at the bedrock of American corporate imperialism.

9) There will be no real health care in the US as the insurance industry ensures they maintain control of the nation's "health insurance" system.

10) OK, there will be some green jobs created by Obama. He does promise to spend $15 billion a year creating green jobs and I think he will do it....but compare that with our present spending of over $12 billion per month on Iraq and Afghanistan and ask yourself this question: where is the real priority? Climate change will continue to worsen as we fiddle in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa with resource wars.

11) I don't try to depress people but I refuse to drink the Kool-aid and ignore obvious reality. In my view of the world nothing changes as long as we refuse to see the writing on the wall. Wake up and then we can react - that is my mantra for real change - and dare I say - real hope.

Keep track of my predictions and you can grade me a year from now.

Peace out.