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 25, 2009

NATO LOOKING FOR TROUBLE


You'd think that with NATO already tied up in Afghanistan-Pakistan they would not be eager for more war. But surprise, surprise they are now going to stoke the fires of war with Russia.

Approximately 2,000 soldiers from more than 10 NATO member and partner countries will partake in war games in Georgia from May 6 - June 1. The exercise is supposedly to improve "interoperability" between NATO and its partner countries. Count on them to leave a boat load of weapons after their "exercises" in Georgia that will then be used to prepare for another war with Russia.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev cited the war games as an "erroneous and dangerous" plan.

"Decisions of this kind are aimed at muscle-flexing. Such decisions are disappointing and do not facilitate resumption of full-scale contact between Russia and NATO. We shall be following everything in the most attentive way and, if need be, will take this or that decision.”

I've said many times on this blog, and it bears frequent repeating, that the US is out to take control of Russia's natural gas (the worlds largest supply) and their oil. A Rand Corp. study some time ago called for balkanizing Russia into four separate countries so we could grab their resources. Who should be surprised that Russia is getting a bit paranoid?

In a related development the US is sounding the alarm about Pakistan in a way that makes me very suspicious. I can just see the case being made very soon that Pakistan is a totally failed state and because they have nuclear weapons the US must take them over to ensure security in the region.

In today's Washington Post Gen. David H. Petraeus calls on Congress and President Obama to provide $400 million to his Central Command for a "Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, a new, more-flexible spending stream that would permit more rapid and targeted U.S. training and provide more equipment to Pakistani forces that combat insurgents inside the country's lawless tribal regions."

Tell me we are not fully at war in Pakistan now as well.

The next steps very well might be for the US to take over the Pakistan government, using the Central Command and ultimately NATO to run the country.

It's the NATO New World Odor at work. Can you smell it?

AFGHANI-NAM

Friday, April 24, 2009

VIDEOS FROM KOREA

Global Network board member Loring Wirbel (Citizens for Peace in Space in Colorado Springs) has posted a whole series of photos and short videos from our conference and field trips in South Korea. You can see them at his blog here.

He captured a bit of my talk above.

Just below is an excellent talk by Korean activist Francis Daehoon Lee that I referred to in my report. It is worth listening to.



And then a short song from our friend Tim Rinne who coordinates Nebraskans for Peace. His group hosted our GN annual space conference last year in Omaha. This performance took place in a local restaurant rented for the night by our Korean hosts. We had a sort of an international talent show that was quite fun.


And finally a song from dear Agneta Norberg in Sweden. She's quite a good singer....this one about missiles.

You can see we had a good time in Seoul.......

Thursday, April 23, 2009

FULL KOREA TRIP REPORT


This trip report covers the period of April 13-20 as I traveled to Seoul, South Korea to attend the Global Network’s (GN) 17th annual space organizing conference. Traveling with me was Mary Beth Sullivan and Tom Sturtevant, a leader from Maine Veterans for Peace.

A Korean Organizing Committee, comprised of 10 groups, organized the GN conference and they collectively did a wonderful job of hosting the large international delegation that came from about 25 countries. In addition to our GN international delegation the conference was also supported and attended by many international activists from the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC).

Our first day was a field trip by bus to visit the DMZ along the border between North and South Korea. Our timing for the conference could not have been better as we arrived on the heels of the intense controversy surrounding North Korea’s launch of a rocket into space. The U.S. and Japan used the launch to justify their own deployments of “missile defense” systems in the region, which are ultimately aimed both at China and North Korea. The militarist rhetoric was flying as evidenced by one right-wing commentator from the U.S. who said, “The lesson of North Korea’s rogue launch is that America needs more missile defense not less. Militarily and technologically, our adversaries can catch up with us only if we chose to stand still.”

Our trip to the DMZ was led by well-known photographer Si-Woo Lee who spent two months in a South Korean jail accused of “taking pictures” of the DMZ. He fasted for two months in protest of his arrest. His case generated a great deal of national and international support, and he was ultimately acquitted. At the DMZ, we had a group photo taken with North Korea just behind us, and at one point I watched a bird fly back and forth between the two countries. It reminded me that humans build walls between each other while nature knows nothing about boundaries and lines of separation. The next day the group color photo was published at the top of page one in a leading national newspaper.

One of out of four families in South Korea has relatives in the North. Thus the drive for peaceful reunification of the country is deep in the hearts of the people. Unfortunately, the U.S. is expanding its military presence in South Korea and trying to drive the two nations further apart, while 60% of South Koreans want American bases closed and the troops to leave the country.

Our April 17 space organizing conference, attended by about 100 people, was without a doubt the most professionally organized event we’ve had during the GN’s 17 years of operation. The meeting facilities at the Seoul Women’s Plaza were first rate, we had simultaneous translation from Korean into English, and the food and sleeping accommodations at this same location were excellent.

Wooksik Cheong from the Korean Peace Network, a key conference organizer, in his speech called U.S. missile defense deployments [Aegis destroyers, PAC-3, and THAAD] in South Korea and Japan the “iron curtain of the 21st century.”

Global Network board member Atsushi Fujioka from Japan, a professor of Economics in Kyoto, told the assembled “Not to trust missile defense. It is like trusting a key of the henhouse to a wolf.” Atsushi, who helped bring 20 fellow Japanese to the conference reported that, “In Japan the U.S. Navy and Marine bases are shifting to Okinawa, the closest point to China. I think the major target of missile defense will not be North Korea, but China and Russia.”

Similarly, Koji Sugihara, representing the Japanese peace group called No to Nukes & Missile Defense Campaign, recently wrote “Under Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces, Japan is not supposed to have a war industry….Japan’s cooperation with the U.S. in missile defense development is unusually intense. In fact, Japan’s islands have been turned into a huge missile defense-testing site. North Korea’s missile tests in July 2006, and its nuclear test in October 2006, served as a pretext for the acceleration of the U.S.-Japan missile defense plan.”

Physical evidence of this Asian-Pacific acceleration of U.S. missile defense deployments were witnessed by conference participants when we took a second field trip on April 18 to Pyeongtaek where the U.S. military is dramatically expanding an existing base. There we saw multiple launch vehicles for the PAC-3 – the latest version of the Patriot missile system that is now being deployed in South Korea and throughout Japan.

We were given a tour of the surrounding area, much of it farm land, that is being gobbled up by the U.S. base that will grow from 8,999 to more than 23,000 American soldiers. The U.S. is moving troops away from the DMZ onto this giant Air Force and Army “hub” base where they will be out-of-range of North Korean weapons fire. Farmers and local activists from the Pyeongtaek Peace Center have been vigorously protesting against this expansion for several years but the U.S. will not be denied.

Earlier in the day on April 18 we held the annual membership business meeting of the Global Network where we had a stimulating strategy discussion and approved new board members from South Korea, Japan, Poland, U.S., and the Czech Republic. It was also agreed to pursue the proposal by board member J. Narayana Rao to hold our 2010 GN space conference in Nagpur, India. The U.S. is now dragging India into the space weapons race in an already unstable part of the world.

Our annual Peace in Space Award, for extraordinary work on the issue, was presented during the conference to Sung-Hee Choi (South Korea), Atsushi Fujioka (Japan), and J. Narayana Rao (India). Sung-Hee had been the primary force behind our decision to meet in South Korea this year and showed her dedication to the organization by being a tireless organizer before and all during the event.

Our third and final field trip was on April 19 as we headed north to Mugeon-ri where the U.S. is expanding another military area – this time for tank and Bradley fighting vehicle training. Since 1980 local rice farmers have been organizing to resist the taking of their beautiful lands for warfare preparation. Mugeon-ri is just a short distance from the North Korean border. The U.S. has already taken a huge area and now wants 30 square kilometers of additional land that will displace hundreds more farmers.

In 2002 two 15-year-old local schoolgirls, walking to a friend’s birthday party, were run over and killed on a narrow street in the town by U.S. tanks. To this day no one has been held responsible for their killing.

Because Mugeon-ri is near to the North Korean border, and has similar terrain, the military training that goes on there is viewed by the Korean peace movement as a preparation for an attack by the U.S. So not only do the farmers face losing their lands but they also face the sad reality that their lands are being used to train to kill their relatives in nearby North Korea.

The roads around Mugeon-ri are lined with yellow banners proclaiming their message - "We want to live in our hometown." The people have lived on this land for more than 400 years.

That evening, after feeding us a fine traditional Korean meal, we joined the struggling farmers for a candlelight vigil under a make-shift shelter where they have been holding nightly vigil for the past year. During that time we shared heartfelt words and sang to each other. The people pleaded with us to share their story when we returned home to our various countries. They urged that people go to Republic of Korea and U.S. embassies and consulates around the world in protest of the taking of their farm lands.

The reality of deadly U.S. militarism has a human face. It is seen today in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in places like Pyeongtaek and Mugeon-ri in South Korea.

It is clear that we must all become more focused on preventing war in the Asian-Pacific as the U.S. now doubles its military presence in that part of the world. At a time when we should be dealing with the coming harsh reality of climate change we have a new president and Congress, controlled by the Democrats, who are planning to increase military spending in 2010.

Closing the conference on April 17 Francis Daehoon Lee, from the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy in Seoul, said, “We are not just dealing with bad policies. Security politics is not about the safety of the people but is about the monopolizing of information, decision making, finance, and capitalist economy. Security politics is a closed circuit. In order to stop it we have to cut something inside.”

These are important words. One must ask the question: what would we cut? How do we get out from under the corporate dominated security system that feeds on fear and endless war? I would suggest the first thing we must cut is our allegiance to and faith and trust in the global war machine. Then we must stop giving them our precious tax monies. We must stop being slaves to the global war economy.

We thank our wonderful hosts in South Korea for their kind and warm hospitality. We thank them for their generous and courageous spirits and we vow to them that the Global Network will do all it can to work with groups in the region to roll back U.S. militarism before another deadly war begins.

MY HOPE IS RESTORED



Watch this incredible interview with a young soldier who refuses to go to Iraq and renounces his participation in the Afghanistan war. The news man interviewing him could not hide his utter disdain for the brave young man - a real hero in my book.

His point that most soldiers share his opinion but don't have the ability to act as he has done is a telling comment. This kid is a real leader, very smart, and fast on his feet. The talking heads on the news tried to trap him but he kept his focus and did us all right proud!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GN BOARD MEMBER JAILED IN UK

I learned this morning that Global Network board member Lindis Percy was arrested yesterday in England and has been jailed for 45 days. Lindis has just returned to the UK from Seoul, South Korea where she spoke at the 17th annual space organizing conference.

Lindis is a leader of the group called Campaign for Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) in England that works hard to educate the public about and resist the presence of two US Star Wars bases at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales in Yorkshire.

According to the BBC, "A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said the 67-year-old had been arrested for a breach of bail conditions. "

According to supporters in England, "Lindis Percy was remanded in custody for 45 days by the Harrogate Magistrates Court yesterday. This was for some minor fines Lindis refuse to pay for so-called aggravated trespass at Menwith Hill and Fylingdales. Lindis has constantly refused to pay these fines and yesterday there was a Warrant out for her arrest just after she returned from Seoul."

Lindis is being held in the Low Newton Women's Prison.

To send a message to Lindis contact Elizabeth Barclay at elizabeth.barclay@nexusdsl.co.uk

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

HOME BUT REMEMBERING KOREA

At the end of the formal conference

One of our meals

Speaking with Sung-Hee Choi at the DMZ

On one of our three field trips

We got home last night at midnight from a more than 24-hour return trip. It's a long slog back. We slept for 12 hours and I am still in bed with my laptop. Its cold and raining outside, I might not get up at all today.

I'm fasting today in solidarity with the climate change movement's call for Congressional action. Some folks, like friend Ted Glick, are going to fast for a couple of weeks.

I've already had two emails from Japan this morning. The largest delegation at our conference in Seoul was the twenty people from Japan. Our long-time board member Atsushi Fujioka, from Kyoto, organized them to come. We added three new Japanese folks to our Global Network advisory committee. There is some interest in having me come to Japan in August for the annual conferences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then a tour around the country. Will have to see if it all works out or not.

We must thank our dear friend Sung-Hee Choi from Inchon, South Korea for having put out this whole idea of the Global Network conference in her country. She pressed for this last year when we met in Nebraska and was instrumental in pushing it through. She had major help from Haeng-Woo Lee who lives in New Jersey and was the founder of the National Association of Korean-Americans. Haeng-Woo wanted so badly for more people around the world to deeply understand the current dangers on the Korean peninsula and to help advocate for a peaceful reunification of Korea. His support was vital to the success of the conference.

I don't think I will do much today. I need a day off to just be lazy. It's good to be home again but part of my heart remains in Korea. As it turns out my birthday, July 27, was the day the ceasefire was signed to end the shooting in the Korean war. But the war still remains on as the US digs militarily deeper into the divided country. We should all remember this important fact and help press for true peace which can only come when US bases there close down. Once more we have to say - bring the troops home now.

You can listen to an interview with me in Seoul by Yumi Kukuchi from Japan here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FIGHTING TO SAVE THEIR FARMS


Citizens of Mugeonri fight to save their farm land

Yesterday 20 of the remaining GN's international delegation took a two-hour bus ride to Mugeonri which is just 36 kilometers from the North Korean border. At this place the US Army has been displacing this rice growing community from their lands since 1980. But they want still more land. High-tech weapons systems demand larger areas to practice.

The remaining two hundred people in this beautiful place, surrounded by hills, are fighting hard to hang on to the last of their lands. But the Army will not be denied as they want to expand their existing military training area (mostly for tank and Bradley fighting vehicle training) by some 30 square kilometers more. So they are saying the people most go.

The roads for miles are lined with yellow banners proclaiming their message - "We want to live in our hometown." The people have lived on this land for more than 400 years.

We were taken to a place near their village which is a nesting area for white cranes, the symbol of their resistance. Over 1,000 cranes used to nest there but now their numbers have dropped to about 100 as the Army destroys the land.

We also visited the site where two 15-year old girls, walking to a friends birthday party, were run over and killed by US tanks on the narrow country road in 2002. No one was ever held responsible for their deaths which further outraged the nation.

The US Army is practicing for an invasion of North Korea. The villagers, because they are so close to the border, have many relatives in the nearby north. One of their leaders told us that the US is "Threatening not only our livelihood but also peace on the Korean peninsula and in the Asian-Pacific region."

The Pentagon's OPLAN-5027 spells out the strategy of military action against and control of North Korea.

So the people have a doubly hard task at hand. They have to save their farms and their homes but also try to stop the US from invading the north and killing their relatives. The thought that the US is training to kill their relatives on their own farm lands is just too heartbreaking for them to believe.

I am writing from the Seoul airport as we prepare to head home. We fly first to Tokyo, then to Chicago, and finally to Portland, Maine. We got out of bed at 4:30 am this morning to make the two-hour trip to the airport. Mary Beth has been sick in bed for the past three days and missed two of our three field trips. Luckily she was still able to deliver her speech at the conference. Tom Sturtevant is doing well and having a grand time.

It was an incredible experience, and the three field trips we took were bonding experiences for all of us. We produced an excellent statement coming out of the conference and you can see it here.

The memory of the people of Mugeonri is now branded on our hearts.