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 18, 2009

US BASE EXPANSION IN SOUTH KOREA

Vigil at the gate of US's Osan AFB in Pyeongtaek
This photo, from our visit to the DMZ, was published on the top of the front page in a national newspaper the other day. That's North Korea behind us.

The conference went extremely well all day on Friday, we had just about 100 people from more than 20 countries represented. The presentations were all tremendous and our hosts have organized by far the most professional event we've ever had in all of our 17 years of Global Network conferences.

Yesterday we had our annual business meeting where we had a vigorous strategy discussion and then decided to accept the invitation from our friends in India who have offered to host our 18th annual conference next year in their country. More work will need to be done to settle on the right date. Following that event we loaded up the bus to travel to the city of Pyeongtaek where the US has the Osan Air Force Base. The base is now doubling in size by swallowing up small farm villages around it. The citizens have held huge protests during recent years and have been beaten and arrested but they continue to resist in spite of all odds. The base is a clear indication that US military expansion in the Asian-Pacific is intended to further surround China and Russia.

I saw an article yesterday about recent comments by Mikhail Gorbachev where he said that Obama's talk about nuclear disarmament would be "just rhetorical" if other nations were asked to give up their nukes while the US maintains an overwhelming conventional military force. "Military superiority would be an insurmountable obstacle to ridding the world of nuclear weapons," the ex-Soviet president said. "Unless we discuss demilitarization of international politics, the reduction of military budgets, preventing militarization of outer space, talking about a nuclear-free world will be just rhetorical."

The US base expansion in Pyeongtaek is a perfect illustration of Gorbachev's point. More than 60% of the people of South Korea want the US bases to close. When will the American people begin to listen to the cries of the people of the world who want the US military empire to end?

Friday, April 17, 2009

IT MUST BE SAID, IT MUST BE DONE

Keith Oberman on Obama's torture waffle-ation.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SLEEPLESS IN SEOUL

It was about a 28 hour trip to South Korea for us - with virtually no sleep. Then once we got here the 12 hour difference has thrown our sleep patterns to the four-winds. Needless to say, many of us at this conference are dragging.

Yesterday we took a bus full of folks for an incredible trip to the DMZ. What a waste of money, human energy and good land this line between north and south Korea is. The US created this line and keeps it going today as an excuse to continue its massive military build-up in the Asian-Pacific region - largely pointed at Russia and China. The North Korea threat is a joke.

We had about 20 countries represented yesterday on our field trip to the DMZ......I'll write more about that later.

Right now my head hurts from a night laying in bed where I sleep for half an hour and then toss and turn for one hour.....Mary Beth is miserable, having caught a cold. We both have to deliver our talks today. Should be a sight to see.

The food is quite good, we are developing a taste for kimchee.

Monday, April 13, 2009

WHO HIDES BEHIND PIRATE CONTROVERSY?


By Jeremy Scahill

I have still yet to see a Somali person interviewed by any major US media outlet regarding the “pirate” situation. The story is being told entirely through the lens of US military analysts and pundits. While there are certainly many Somalis who could explain the context for this activity by their countrymen, the networks can’t seem to locate any—even though there is a sizable Somali community in the US and Canada. One source I would recommend is the Somali-Canadian Hip Hop artist K’naan. Here is part of a recent essay, “Why We Don’t Condemn Our Pirates,” K’naan wrote not long before the current incident that is grabbing the headlines:

Can anyone ever really be for piracy? Outside of sea bandits, and young girls fantasizing of Johnny Depp, would anyone with an honest regard for good human conduct really say that they are in support of Sea Robbery?

Well, in Somalia, the answer is: it’s complicated.

K’naan details some of the toxic dumping by Western nations following the collapse of the Somali government:

A Swiss firm called Achair Parterns, and an Italian waste company called Achair Parterns, made a deal with Ali Mahdi, that they were to dump containers of waste material in Somali waters. These European companies were said to be paying Warlords about $3 a ton, whereas to properly dispose of waste in Europe costs about $1000 a ton.

In 2004, after a tsunami washed ashore several leaking containers, thousand of locals in the Puntland region of Somalia started to complain of severe and previously unreported ailments, such as abdominal bleeding, skin melting off and a lot of immediate cancer-like symptoms. Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environmental Program, says that the containers had many different kinds of waste, including “Uranium, radioactive waste, lead, Cadmium, Mercury and chemical waste.” But this wasn’t just a passing evil from one or two groups taking advantage of our unprotected waters. The UN envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, says that the practice still continues to this day. It was months after those initial reports that local fishermen mobilized themselves, along with street militias, to go into the waters and deter the Westerners from having a free pass at completely destroying Somalia’s aquatic life. Now years later, the deterring has become less noble, and the ex-fishermen with their militias have begun to develop a taste for ransom at sea. This form of piracy is now a major contributor to the Somali economy, especially in the very region that private toxic waste companies first began to burry our nation’s death trap.

Now Somalia has upped the world’s pirate attacks by over 21 percent in one year, and while NATO and the EU are both sending forces to the Somali coast to try and slow down the attacks, Blackwater and all kinds of private security firms are intent on cashing in. But while Europeans are well in their right to protect their trade interest in the region, our pirates were the only deterrent we had from an externally imposed environmental disaster.

No one can say for sure that some of the ships they are now holding for ransom were not involved in illegal activity in our waters. The truth is, if you ask any Somali, if getting rid of the pirates only means the continuous rape of our coast by unmonitored Western Vessels, and the producing of a new cancerous generation, we would all fly our pirate flags high.

It is time that the world gave the Somali people some assurance that these Western illegal activities will end, if our pirates are to seize their operations. We do not want the EU and NATO serving as a shield for these nuclear waste-dumping hoodlums. It seems to me that this new modern crisis is truly a question of justice, but also a question of whose justice.

As is apparent these days, one man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

KUCINICH CHALLENGES CRAZY WAR FUNDING

Reaction by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) on the Obama administrations request to Congress for $83.4 billion for our two crazy wars. Also questions NATO's role.......

Recent Obama Advisor and former Council on Foreign Relations Vice-President Lawrence Korb said last month that 100,000 troops and 10 more years of occupation will be necessary in Afghanistan.

Is this the change we were looking for?