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, June 20, 2009

WEEKEND ROUNDUP



* This video helps us get a bit wider view of the US role in Iran today. Last year, you might recall, Seymour Hersch at The New Yorker, reported on US funding of terrorists inside Iran and the placement of Army special forces troops in that country for destabilization missions. (Some would dare call it an invasion of sorts.)

* I just got the link to a speech I made in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida last March. You can see it here The speech was an overview of Obama's foreign policy.

* Speaking of Mr. Obama.....here are two updates in the Obama Watch department.

The Washington Post reports that, "A federal judge has sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration that former Vice President Richard B. Cheney's statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret."

Secondly, you of course remember Mr. Obama's promise to bring transparency to Washington as part of his big sweep for change. Well it now appears that he has decided not to disclose the White House visitor logs. He doesn't want us to know which corporate hacks are meeting with him inside the "people's house". According to the group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, "Taking the exact same position as the Bush administration, the Obama administration claimed the records are presidential, not agency records, and otherwise exempt in their entirety because of the possibility in some instances they could reveal information protected by the presidential communications privilege." They are suing Obama and expect to win the case.

* Lately I've been distributing a large number of Keep Space for Peace Week posters around the US and internationally. Space week is the time of year that we ask local groups and supporters to hold an event that will help build the public consciousness about the need to keep space free from weapons and war making. This year space week will be October 3-10. Our theme this year is that military space technology now coordinates all war on the Earth, like the satellites that direct drone attacks over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and should be considered space weapons. Be sure to let us know if you plan any kind of an event in your community during space week.

* Texas is a huge state and has many key space technology factories and installations but for some unknown reason the Global Network has had a hard time developing good organizing contacts there. But that appears to be changing. Just yesterday I made contact with one of the staff in a group called Texans for Peace and we are already at work.

One of the key places in Texas is the city of San Antonio. Global Network board member Loring Wirbel from Colorado Springs describes what is going on there this way:

"Bill Sulzman and I met with a friend of his from San Antonio about ten years ago, and we walked the National Security Agency (NSA) area called "Medina Annex," which has been there since the Reagan era. At the time, it was recognized to be one of the biggest NSA collection areas for processing (computers underground, no radomes), focused on Central America. Medina is still there. One year ago, San Antonio won the contract for what the NSA was originally calling "Storage Station Freedom", and is now called Texas Cryptological Center. It is midway between the main Lackland AFB and Medina, and it serves as a storage area for the NSA's massive needs to store voice and email before processing. The site is in an old Sony chip plant, and the site was found by the real estate agency that is known as "agency to the intelligence agencies," Corporate Office Properties Trust (really, COPT is a spook agency of sorts). Last month, the Air Force chose San Antonio as the headquarters for its Cyber Command and 24th Air Force, in charge of computer attack and defense. As you've probably seen in the flurry of recent NY Times articles, even though AF and Strategic Command will be nominally in charge of Cyber Command, the real boss will be the NSA - no surprise. Safe to say that San Antonio has eclipsed Buckley AFB in Colorado to be the largest overall NSA site in the US outside Baltimore."

Loring is our resident expert on space technology issues and we regularly lean on him to help us understand what is really going on inside the bowls of the space-tech world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

GI'S GO HOME



Italian peace activists in Vicenza invite American soldiers to go home. These are their words:

By now each fraction of our days is touched by the growing military presence in town.
We got even used to several situations, almost without realizing it.

Since childhood, many of us have seen Camp Ederle as a common part of Vicenza, like Monte Berico, the Station, Corso Palladio …

We got so used to it that, year after year, the base enlarged eating up land right in front of us, without even noticing it.

In the area, almost doubled, occupied by Camp Ederle, the buildings are becoming taller now. There is a new season of growing volumes.

Exactly the same is happening at “Villaggio della Pace”, trying to forget the heavy irony of this name.

For many of us, American cars with “AFI” plates were normal, just like now, when seeing a car with “ZA ...” plate we know that most likely it could have an American driver.

For a certain period of time we tolerated (with some protests) the noisy sound of the helicopters’ rotors, a noise that soon could come back with frequency, if we don’t stop it.

At a certain point, after months and months of drunkenness on “Dal Molin”, not forgetting Pluto – Fontega - San Rocco – COESPUAFRICOM … it feels like we may have reached the limit of tolerance.

When you start to feel that the U.S. military presence is bothering even the fresh early morning walk, you start to say: “Hold on a minute, what’s going on ? We must say STOP IT”

This is probably why the spontaneous early morning presence of citizens around Monte Berico, as already experienced a few months ago, has come back.

The need to give them a clear message comes from deep inside: “U.S. soldiers, this is for you: GO HOME”.

They, the U.S. citizens, did something similar with the British 233 years ago. Don’t we have similar rights too?

FROM DRONES TO SLUGS

* I'm taking it a bit slow today after working my tail off for the past week and a half on my two August speeches for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I spent one whole week doing research and then several days making notes and putting them in order. Then I did my first draft of the speech in a 12-hour blaze of mind dump and am quite pleased with what I came up with. Now I've got a couple local folks looking it over before I send it to a few others for their comments.

* Our Global Network friends in Albuquerque, New Mexico are holding a protest today about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. They plan to "visit the three offices of our Congressional delegation to tell them to GROUND THE DRONES and to stop the development of the horrible laser and death ray weapons taking place now at Kirtland AFB."

* If you haven't yet seen the upgraded Global Network web site you should take a look at it here. The chairperson of our organization, Dave Webb from Leeds, England, is also our web master and has just done a total remake of the site. It's getting nice reviews.

* It's raining here today, I think the great flood is on the way. Forecasters predict rain everyday for the next week. The slugs are dancing in our garden.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

ON FREE ELECTIONS


Read the latest by Chris Hedges: Iran Had a Democracy Before We Took It Away

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

THIS IS WHAT THE DEMOCRATS WROUGHT



I am sick to my stomach. I watched in total horror yesterday the sad performance by the Democratic Party as they begged, borrowed, and stole the votes to pass the $106 billion war supplemental in the House of Misrepresentatives.

One particularly disgusting moment was watching House Majority Leader Steney Hoyer (D-MD) stand up and invoke the name of Ronald Reagan to sell the war package.

Progressive blogger Jane Hamsher, meanwhile, reported on Monday that it appeared Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was "cutting deals with Republicans to go easy on them in the 2010 elections in exchange for votes." In the end, the White House got five Republicans to vote for the funding, including New York Republican John McHugh, the man President Obama nominated two weeks ago to be Army secretary.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill wrote about the vote that "What repelled the Republicans from a vote to fund the war was hardly a sudden conversion to pacifism (in fact, their position was hypocritical). It was largely when the White House and Congressional Democratic leadership added a provision to the bill that will extend up to $100 billion in credits to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This sent many Republicans to the microphones to denounce the funding as a 'global bailout' and will undoubtedly be used as a campaign issue in 2010 to attack the Democrats who voted for the spending bill."

John Nichols at The Nation explains the IMF bailout this way: "It's also the Democrats bailout of some of the biggest banks in Europe. Those banks are in financial trouble because they made risky -- and ultimately unsustainable -- loans in Eastern Europe. But, with an assist from the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress, the foreign banks will get a bailout, with U.S. tax dollars funneled through the IMF... With money from U.S. taxpayers, the IMF will protect the European banks, thus allowing the governments of France and Germany to spend precious resources on job-creation and social programs -- rather than bank bailouts."

Our two House members from Maine courageously voted against the war supplemental and IMF bank bailout. But there is not much pride in this hollow victory for us in Maine as we see the contemptible Democratic party only yield 32 votes out of 256 members in the House of Representatives. The first time this was voted on, before it went to the House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences, 51 Dems voted against it in the House. Thus 19 switched back in support of the supplemental this time, when it really counted, and proved that "party loyalty" comes before allegiance to their constituents or to the anti-war pledges they made to voters when they ran for office.

This vote yesterday ought to be the final straw for people who call themselves peace activists and still remain loyal to the Democrats. You'd think they would have felt this slap up-beside-their-heads but sadly many will go back for more. Those hard-headed folks now hold the key to ending these genocidal wars in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan. Until these Democratic Party worshipping "peaceniks" turn cold on the donkey party I'm afraid nothing much changes in America.

LOL........

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE LOOSE THREADS THAT BIND US

One of my favorite writers, Chris Hedges, in a new piece called The American Empire is Bankrupt, says:

There are meetings being held Monday and Tuesday in Yekaterinburg, Russia, (formerly Sverdlovsk) among Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six- nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The United States, which asked to attend, was denied admittance. Watch what happens there carefully. The gathering is, in the words of economist Michael Hudson, “the most important meeting of the 21st century so far.”

It is the first formal step by our major trading partners to replace the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. If they succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value, the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket, interest rates will climb and jobs will hemorrhage at a rate that will make the last few months look like boom times. State and federal services will be reduced or shut down for lack of funds. The United States will begin to resemble the Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe. Obama, endowed by many with the qualities of a savior, will suddenly look pitiful, inept and weak... The Asian countries have been financing their own military encirclement. They have been forced to accept dollars that have no chance of being repaid. They are paying for America’s military aggression against them. They want to get rid of this.


My son Julian has a favorite thinker/writer as well by the name of Slavoj Zizek who is a philosopher and psychoanalyst from Slovenia. Zizek, recently commenting on the victory of Obama, had this to say about the future:

The financial meltdown has made it impossible to ignore the blatant irrationality of global capitalism...Saving endangered species, saving the planet from global warming, finding a cure for Aids, saving the starving children...All that can wait a bit, but 'Save the banks!' is an unconditional imperative which demands and gets immediate action...Consequently, to put it in old-fashioned Marxist terms, the main task of the ruling ideology in the present crisis is to impose a narrative that will not put the blame for the meltdown on the global capitalist system as such, but on its deviations - lax regulation, the corruption of big financial institutions, etc...The danger is thus that the predominant narrative of the meltdown won't be the one that awakes us from a dream, but the one that will enable us to continue to dream. And it is here that we should start to worry: not only about the economic consequences of the meltdown, but about the obvious temptation to reinvigorate the 'war on terror' and US interventionism in order to keep the economy running.

So now for the real purpose of the blog post...what do we do now? Just again yesterday someone asked me this question as people regularly do. My first reaction is dive in, take the Nestea plunge, and find your path. We each have a path. In my book I quote the Hopi Elders in Arizona who said:

It is time to speak your truth, each of you. Do not look outside yourself for the leader. There is a river flowing very fast. Trust the river has its destination. You must let go of the shore, push off into that river. Keep your eyes open and your heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves. We are the ones we have been waiting for...

While reading in bed last night I saw a great quote from Leo Tolstoy:

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.

And might I add, serve the Mother Earth, protect her and we protect the future generations. So what we can do then could include some of the following:

Work to stop home evictions; help organize global trade unions, help organize global peace demonstrations; work to halt funding wars and call for conversion of the military industrial complex; create community-based banking institutions; live in an intentional community where you share living expenses with others; grow as much of your own food as possible; help educate those who can't read; work with the children who the society is abandoning; read more; sell a car in your household; make your own list of things you can do and have friends over for dinner to compare notes.

The bottom line is that social isolation must end. Every "man" for himself must end. And probably most importantly, the old business model of organizing that says "My issue is the most important" must end. All activists and organizers must connect the dots to show how all these issues are interrelated and that when one pulls on the loose threads the whole garment comes apart.

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 12, 1982



This date, June 12, 1982, lives in my memory. It is the day I began working on space issues.

Almost one million people demonstrated in New York City on that day against nuclear weapons. The nuclear freeze campaign took off like a bat out of hell right after that. It was a historic event.

I didn't go to the protest but instead watched the rally and speakers on C-SPAN from my little wooden bungalow in downtown Orlando, Florida. My son Julian was just one and a half years old at the time.

After the disarmament rally was over C-SPAN switched to a right-wing conference where Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham was speaking. At the time he was Ronald Reagan's head of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or Star Wars as we called it.

Following Graham's formal speech he was taking questions from the audience and a guy asked him, "Hey, General they say there are almost a million people in NYC today protesting for disarmament. Aren't you worried about that?"

Without missing a beat Graham responded, "No, I think it's great. They are out there protesting against ICBM's and we're moving into space. They don't have a clue. Let them keep doing what they are doing."

In that very moment I became a peace in space activist. I hardly knew anything about space but I lived in Central Florida, just next door to the "space coast" at Cape Canaveral, so I began looking into the issue. The next year I went to work for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice and in that job took people to the space center over and over again to help expand the public consciousness about what the Pentagon planned for space. (More of their plans here too.)

So 27 years later we are still at it, trying to head the space warriors off at the pass as they used to say on the old TV cowboy movies.

It's a date that will live with me forever.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SUPPORT THE TROOPS- CALL CONGRESS



If you haven't called yet you should: 202-224-3121

No more $$$ for war....say it and mean it.

THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION

Cindy Sheehan and Alex Jones talking about the essential question of our day - is the peace movement for real or is it nothing more than an agent of the Democratic Party?

The corporate power structure divides the people from one another - you are a conservative, you are a liberal.....while they fleece us.

See the rest of the interview here

It's a real lesson that when we stop demonizing each other we find areas where we can agree and find space to work together. Sure we don't always have to agree with each other on every issue, but the idea is to expand our movement strategically by finding alliances with people who share similar broad goals. In the case of Alex Jones, he is one of the leading voices for conservatives and libertarians (the Ron Paul people if you will) who is talking about oligarchy, endless war, empire, and loss of democracy. That is something to build on.

DO THE BEST WE CAN

We had an excellent planning meeting on Afghanistan in Augusta, Maine yesterday led by CodePink activist Lisa Savage (on the right). Twenty-four activists came from across the state and we made plans to build a campaign in Maine to expand the public consciousness about the madness of the current US war policy in Central Asia.

It now appears that Maine's two representatives in the House of Representatives, Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree (on the left in the photo), are leaning against the war supplemental that is expected to be voted on early next week. If you haven't called your member of Congress yet please do so right away.

If Michaud and Pingree do stand up against the tremendous pressure coming from the Democratic party leadership and the White House on this vote then we have something to be proud of here in Maine. But next we must move our two Republican "moderate" senators which will be no easy task. They both now support "everything" to do with war.

During a break in the meeting yesterday one new friend, a dear man with a great loving heart, asked me if we could talk someday about how one avoids burnout due to an overwhelming sense of the sadness that comes from US endless war. I told him I'd love to and that I wanted to share a short story in the meantime that might be helpful.

I told him how years ago, while coordinating the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, I was feeling very down one day while trying to carry the problems of this beautiful and sad world upon my shoulders. A wonderful Quaker friend, Al Geiger from Jacksonville, told me that I need not feel that it was my job to change everything, that in fact it was an impossibility. Instead, he told me, I had to let go of outcomes and just do my very best and release the rest. This very simple wisdom was liberating for me. It wasn't that I need not feel, or care, anymore. It was just that I didn't have to carry the whole load. He gave me permission to feel proud of my hard work and then to give way to the truth that I was only one person with limited ability to make everything change.

Polls now show of course that 70% of the American people want the US out of Iraq. But at the same time only 50% want our troops out of Afghanistan because many people are still sold on the fact that the long war there is the "good war." Some of that is because President Obama says so and many activists, having voted to put him in power, now feel they must support him.

Our meeting yesterday acknowledged that we have major challenges ahead of us to bring the other 50% of American citizens around on Afghanistan-Pakistan. That will no easy task. But we have to do the best we can and learn to live with (not accept) the rest.