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, August 08, 2009

SUPPORT FOR AFGHANISTAN FALLS BUT PERMANENT BASES BEING BUILT

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll has found that 54% of Americans say they oppose the US war in Afghanistan, up six points from May. Only 41% now stand in support of the war.

"Afghanistan is almost certainly the Obama policy that Republicans like the most," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Nearly two-thirds of Republicans support the war in Afghanistan. Three-quarters of Democrats oppose the war."

This is of course very good news. But the flip side of the coin is that, just like in Iraq, the US has no intention of leaving Afghanistan. New permanent bases are being built in Afghanistan - for example a $17 million troop barracks (above) at Bagram Air Base.

Columnist David Wood writes, "Eight years after American forces scattered the Taliban and effectively conquered Afghanistan, the United States is embarked on a frenzied $220 million building campaign at this sprawling and still expanding military air base. Just to meet the base's demand for fresh concrete, it has two of its own cement factories working full time."

"Today, Bagram sports a Burger King and Pizza Hut, five mess halls, and living quarters for 20,000 people (so far), office spaces for the command, Joint Task Force-82, and for dozens of other headquarters and agencies. A well-stocked PX sells everything from potato chips to vacuum cleaners."

"Bagram's air facilities, its supersized runway, parking aprons, cargo handling machines and maintenance bays are sized for the stream of intercontinental and local cargo aircraft, aero-medical evacuation planes, bombers, strike fighters, unmanned drone aircraft and cargo and attack helicopters that roar in and out of here day and night."

It appears that what the American people want, an end to the war in Afghanistan, will just have to wait. The corporate dominated US government has other plans in mind. I know what you are thinking, how can we afford to keep permanent US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan while our economy collapses back here at home? Who will pay for all of this?

The answer it seems is you, your children, and your grandchildren. The US government will continue to run up massive debt and we all will be paying for it. We will also see more cutbacks in social spending as the politicians attempt to balance the budget - on our backs.

The Washington Post reports, "As the Obama administration expands U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, military experts are warning that the United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war."

Please remember, the Pentagon has determined that America's role in the world under corporate globalization will be "security export" and that is just what we are doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan today. We are exporting war and violence and we are rather good at it.

Don't be fooled that a new president will turn things around for us. He won't. He is doing the bidding of the military industrial complex. The citizenry has to provide the leadership now. We have to demand a halt to endless war and conversion of the war machine. If we don't then we will just get more of the same.

Your kids and grand kids might end up sleeping in these new barracks at Bagram...it might be the only job available under our "security export" economy.

MAYORS ARE GETTING IT

I arrived in Nagasaki yesterday. It is even hotter here than Hiroshima was.

This afternoon I was the keynote speaker at the Mayors for Peace 7th General Conference. The speaker before me was Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann who currently serves President of the United Nations General Assembly. There were about 300-400 people in attendance inside the huge beautiful hall. In my speech I weaved in many of the words of our Global Network leaders and friends from around the world.

Much to my surprise there was only one US mayor present. He is from Akron, Ohio. The US Conference of Mayors sent two representatives. There were many mayors from Japan of course. Other representatives from cities around the world included Bangladesh, Belgium, Cameroon, Croatia, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, New Zealand, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Uganda, United Kingdom, Israel, Bahrain, Republic of Benin, Costa Rica, Eritrea, Denmark, Kenya, Kuwait, Malawi, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, and Syria.

Mayors for Peace has been growing at a phenomenal rate in the last few years. It is a great thing that local governments around the world are beginning to see that they can in fact have something to say about "foreign policy" issues as they do affect directly the cities ability to provide human services to their constituencies. The growth of such political movements is one great way to work around the corporate arterial blockage of most national governments these days. It was indeed a real honor for me to have been invited to speak today.

Immediately after I spoke a young man from Senegal came up to the front row of the hall where I was seated and said my speech had touched him. He asked could he have a copy of my speech so he could translate it and distribute it in his country. I handed him my copy.

After the plenary session broke up the mayors adjourned to a smaller meeting room where they began reviewing their organizing plan for the coming campaign to build international pressure on the nuclear powers to get rid of all nuclear weapons. They also began a process of hearing short speeches from 16 mayors. The first eight spoke before they ran out of time. The rest will speak tomorrow.

Here are a few highlights from some of the mayors:

* The children of Croatia are being educated on disarmament by learning to fold paper cranes in the schools.

* The mayor from a small French city said, "Sustainable development and nuclear weapons are not compatible." This has to become an issue in our local governments, he said.

* A Japanese mayor remarked, "If we have solidarity across national borders then we can create nuclear disarmament."

* The mayor of Florence, Italy said no nuclear plants are allowed in their community and the kids are being taught about the "peace culture" in their schools.

* A local official from the UK reported on 30 years of work by the Nuclear Free local authorities.

It is surely a struggle between the war culture and the peace culture. There is something happening around the world. People are tired of endless war and wasting our resources on militarism. The mayors want to build public transit systems and educate the kids. They want to provide green jobs. The next step is to get them to talk about the conversion of the global war machine. You can be sure I mentioned that in my speech today.

Friday, August 07, 2009

FAKE RAGE OVER HEALTH CARE



See an article here describing this health insurance industry campaign to organize fake citizens groups opposing health care reform. This is how fascism begins. These greedy corporations are turning citizen against citizen in order to deflect change. The only alternative to this nonsense is for Congress to pass single-payer health care legislation.

And this related article is a must read: Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?

A RECIPE FOR DISASTER



The American people's minds have been colonized by the military industrial complex. Sixty-one percent still think the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary. They believed for years that Vietnam was about bringing democracy to that nation. They were led to believe that Iraq had nukes and that North Korea and Iran are a threat today. They will be told that we are going to bring democracy and stability to Africa as we steal their resources.

The most outrageous lies can all be implanted, like a micro-chip, inside the American mind. All you have to do is to repeat the falsehood over and over again on TV and limit the amount of factual, countering information, that is available to the citizens.

The recipe goes something like this: Lift the lid to the American brain, pore in a steady amount of fear and misrepresentations, stir with a flag, shake it a bit for good measure, close lid, and presto a certified patriotic American is ready to turn over their tax dollars to the corporate dominated war machine without question.

And if something goes wrong and the citizen begins to question "reality" then just call them:

(A) Communist

(B) Terrorist

(C) America-hater

(D) Ignoramus

(E) All of the above

It works every time.

PS - Please watch the video about Vietnam linked in the headline above. It is long but it will change your life.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

WORDS FROM HIROSHIMA

Yesterday I scurried from one event to another in Hiroshima. I first attended another international conference, this one put on by the Social Democrats. There I was given ten minutes to make a presentation to 75 people on the issues of concern to the Global Network. While there I listened to the voices of activists from Japan, South Korea, China, and the US.

Following that four-hour event I made my way across town to a larger event of about 250 people who were from all over Japan. They seemed to be from many different local peace groups in the country, each giving their local reports on their work. After they were finished I heard an impressive presentation on the US history of using, and threatening to use, nuclear weapons from 1945 to the present by Professor Peter Kaznic from American University in Washington DC. He has brought a group of his students to Japan for these days of remembrance. Following his talk I was introduced and asked to say a few words about the Global Network.

Today I gave a five-minute speech at a large indoor rally of about 3,000 during the middle of the day and then in the evening I did a full speech before a about 80 people at the meeting of the Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition (HANWA).

I got to spend a few minutes attending the lantern ceremony in Hiroshima this evening. They say the lanterns are to ease the spirits of those who jumped into the river after the US bombing in order to relieve their burning bodies. It occurred to me that the beautiful ceremony also soothes the souls of us living today in the midst of the nuclear arms race and endless wars.

Early in the morning I take the train for Nagasaki where I will be speaking at the Mayors for Peace Convention.

While I was at the meeting last night a man handed me a leaflet he had written headlined "The 2009 Citizens Peace Declaration." Come to find out he is the same man that translated my talk this evening at the HANWA event. I was so impressed with it that I want to share just a couple of paragraphs from it with you.


By Yuki Tanaka, PhD
Hiroshima City University

Early this year, when President Obama was inaugurated into the White House, there was great anticipation among the American people that positive change may finally be possible. On April 5, in his speech in Prague [Czech Republic], Obama said: "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the US has a moral responsibility to act." Many people in the world, in particular in Hiroshima, felt these words gave reason to hope for the abolition of nuclear weapons. We must remember however, that in the same speech Obama also said, "As long as these weapons exist, the US will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary." In other words, he intends to reduce the number of nuclear weapons worldwide in order to prevent terrorists from obtaining them, but also wishes to maintain the US's nuclear deterrent against Russia and China.

Regrettably, the Japanese government clearly exposes its self-contradiction on nuclear issues. While it claims that as the only nation that has experienced nuclear attacks, it supports the idea of the "ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons," it contradictorily justifies and supports the US's "expanded deterrence," but strongly condemns China's nuclear policy at the same time. Recently, it was revealed that the Japanese government violated its own Three Non-nuclear Principles by secretly agreeing to allow the US government to bring nuclear weapons into Japanese territory. Yet unashamedly, the Japanese cabinet members as well as high-officials are still denying the existence of such an agreement, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

DOMINATING PALAU

I made my first trip to Japan in 1984 to attend the World Conference against A & H Bombs. While at the event one evening I attended a film showing about the island of Palau in the Pacific. I don't think at that time I'd ever heard of Palau. The documentary told the sad story of their efforts to resist US pressure to give up their Nuclear-Free constitution. One scene I will always remember was a family sitting in their thatched hut watching TV and seeing President Ronald Reagan come on the screen urging Palauans to vote down their constitution in order to help the US fight the Communism. Below is a part of one moving statement from the conference here in Hiroshima.

By Balhaim Sakuma
Executive Director, Belau Cares
Palau

After more than 200 years under foreign domination Palau was "allowed" by the US to become an independent nation. We were told by the US that we could choose the kind of government we want and write our own constitution. Thirty-one years ago, in 1978, the people of Palau wrote the first Nuclear-Free Constitution in the world and adopted it by an overwhelming majority vote of 92%. This took the US by surprise. Immediately a team from Washington DC arrived in Palau with a message that Palau could not choose a Nuclear-Free Constitution government.

The succeeding 10 years were years of turmoil and conflict between the US and Palau because we stood up and told the US that we would not allow any kind of nuclear to enter within the 200-mile territory of Palau. Palauans suffered so much and went through so much hardship during the 10 years of fighting with USA for our right to be Nuclear-Free. The President Haruo Remeliik, who supported the nuclear-free constitution, was assassinated. At that time I was fighting with him as an advisor to him. Some of us lost their lives. When women activists held a meeting at a house, a bomb was thrown to them. When I was attending the World Conference in early eighties, my house was burnt out. I myself was also attempted to be killed several times. The US forced us to hold a national referendum about six times to get the people's support for the revision of the constitution. But it did not meet the requirement of the constitution, 75% of the people's support. The US finally came up with some kind of legal maneuvering to lower the 75% requirement to 50% and forced Palau to accept the Compact of Free Association. But Palauan people fought against such violence, intimidation and bribery and no one can dispute the fact the majority of Palauans are against nuclear weapons.

People of the Pacific have been suffering not only from war but from damage of nuclear weapons. The US conducted 57 nuclear tests at Bikini and Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands after WW II. France tested their bombs in Tahiti. UK tested at Christmas Island and Australia. Thus, the Pacific has been used as a nuclear playground. The people are still nomads with no place they can call home because their islands are highly contaminated.

After the nuclear-free constitution was neglected by the US, Palau was forced to conclude the Compact of Free Association, which substantially made Palau a colony of the US. The US can use our lands for its military if and when the US chooses to.

Our lands, our life, the future of our children are still determined by big powers. Even if we are a small island nation, we have national pride. It is us who should determine how to use our lands and what nation we should establish relationship with.

Monday, August 03, 2009

BITS AND PIECES

Nice photo isn't it? It's from a spot in the Hiroshima Bay. I've not seen it myself but much to nice of a photo to pass up.

Thought I'd post a few odds and ends here today. It's a relatively slow day for me. I do a workshop after lunch but not much else going on.

Yesterday the Int'l Meeting of the World Conference against A & H Bombs began with about 16 speeches to the assembled group of 230 people. I was one of the speakers.

There will be several different conferences going on in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the coming days. Sort of like competing peace conferences if you will.....my hosts, Global Network board members living in Japan, are independent activists and try to work with everyone and thus had the connections to get me invited to many different events.

The Egypt's Ambassador to Japan, Walid Mahmoud Abdelnasser, was one of the speakers at the international meeting. I want to share a few of his words:

Today, Egypt notes with great concern that while all states of the Middle East have become parties of the NPT, Israel regrettably persists in ignoring repeated calls for its adherence to the treaty and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards; therefore, perpetuating a dangerous imbalance; a trigger for a nuclear arms race and a threat to peace and security in the region that needs to be adequately addressed.

This is very interesting to me because it reflects the tremendous hypocrisy of US policy in that region. Today Israel, and the US, refuse to publicly acknowledge that Israel has about 200 nuclear weapons. The US and Israel berate Iran for "possibly developing" nuclear weapons, and in fact even threaten to attack Iran. But Israel is allowed to thumb its nose at the international community without a mumbling word from the US or virtually any one else.

I saw an interesting quote from our V-P Joseph Biden from the end of July that jumped out at me. First please remember that Obama has said he intends to "reset" relations with Russia. So Biden, fresh on the heels of his NATO-expansion visit to Ukraine and Georgia, further poked a stick into the belly of Russia with this one:

The reality is, the Russians are where they are. They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.

Russia was not happy with this statement, sensing that the Obama team is clearly pursuing a path of good cop-bad cop. (Obama the good cop and Biden the bad cop). The Kremlin response questioned whether the president or the vice-president was shaping US foreign policy. The Obama team is slowly but steadily heating up the US-Russia relationship. Not a good sign.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

AMERICA LOVES WAR



The great George Carlin on war.

WATCHING PIZZA-LA

After checking out of my hotel today I crossed under the busy street and walked around the Hiroshima castle for an hour. I climbed the steps to the top of it, each floor served as a museum illustrating how the castle had once served as a fortress for local warlords. The castle was destroyed by the US atomic bombing in 1945 and was finally rebuilt in 1958.

I tried to check into my new hotel at noon but was told I could not get in until 4:00 pm. So what to do with four hours on about the hottest day I seen since I got to Japan? And not a cloud in the sky. I walked around for about an hour and stepped into a local grocery store and took my time in the frozen food section as a way to cool off. Eventually I found a tiny Chinese restaurant and went inside for a lunch of fried rice and the most appreciated iced tea I've ever had. I tried to eat very slowly which for me is a real chore.

I spent another hour sitting on a shaded park bench near a busy intersection watching the city life pass me by. I saw the Pizza-La delivery motor scooters shoot by, and their competitors from Pizza-California as well. Young women with super-spiked high heels riding bicycles, small cars and big vans zoomed by, and post WW II cable cars rattled down the main street. I studied the city map and found the new Mazda Zoom-Zoom municipal baseball stadium which Mayor Akiba mentioned to me just last night as one of his latest achievements. He said the Mazda family is very proud of their team, even though the Hiroshima Carps are doing quite poorly in the standings. I told him my Baltimore Orioles are suffering the same fate.

I thought of going to the peace museum park but I'd just been there the other day for an extensive tour and it was much too far to walk on this hot day.

Eventually, after two and one-half hours of wandering around I returned to the hotel and asked if there was some place I could go and sit with my computer. They don't seem to have a lobby in this hotel, unlike the last one I stayed in which had a huge lobby, so the front desk sent me up to room 203 which appears to be in the middle of being cleaned so I connected my laptop to their Ethernet line and here I am. A refugee from Hiroshima heat.

Mary Beth sent me an email from home telling me that Veterans for Peace had about 30 people at the Bath Iron Works shipyard today to protest the "Christening" of another Aegis destroyer. The Aegis is enshrined and Mainers have little idea what its true military role is, and most could care less. All they want to know is how many jobs are created at the shipyard.

Here are Mary Beth's words from her speech at the protest:

“Christening” the DDG-109 Jason Dunham
BIW
August 1, 2009

Two Days Ago, aegis destroyers were used in a “Missile Defense” test off the shores of Hawaii.

Here is how a group called the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance describes it:

“…on a breezy warm afternoon, the USS Hopper (DDG 70) destroyer…successfully tracked, discriminated and intercepted a… ballistic missile target in its ascent phase. Time of interception was… 3 minutes after the target missile was launched… “

The press release continues: “The ascent phase intercept is a concept of striking a missile after its initial boost phase as it continues to climb to its apogee, and that is what the current [Obama] administration… [is] emphasizing as one of the [Missile Defense Agency’s] future growth areas.”

The press release then goes on to tell us that we need to be afraid of Iran and North Korea. It does not tell us how expensive this test cost. The last figure I heard for similar tests was about $100 million. Nor does it identify the companies that will reap the financial profits from this test.

Let me translate this important event.

Imagine, if you will, a sword and a shield. Imagine that the United States decides it wants the resources of a given country somewhere in the world –– a country that might be rich in natural gas, or oil for example…. Let’s say that the U.S. once again implements its First Strike Policy and begins a “shock and awe” campaign upon that other country. The U.S., with its Aegis Destroyers, is building the capacity to not only use the sword of the first strike, but also to put up the shield of missile defense – shooting out of the sky any retaliatory strike a nation might be foolish enough to attempt.

This gives us the capacity for Total Control and Domination. There is no nation state, anywhere in the world, which can compete with that level of military power.

To build this military empire, America has given over our tax dollars, and our industrial base. Every state in the nation and most Congressional Districts in the nation have citizens employed building something to contribute to this military empire. In fact, the US industrial base has become devoted to build the weapons and all the accoutrements of a military empire. Tell me, what other industrial products do we make in this country anymore?

And our military empire has spread its wings to impose a military presence in – oh – something like 1,000 military bases in foreign countries around the world.

So let’s look at this nation – our home – that has built and spread its military power throughout the world. What is the moral compass we use to judge the worthiness of such a nation to control and dominate the world’s resources?

Yes, this is the nation that pulverized and then invaded Iraq. That war was sold to the American people based on a lie. The US military, then and now, insists it does not count civilian casualties who die by the machines that are the fruits of the labor of American citizens. So we are left with estimates of Iraqi deaths that range from 600,000 to 1.3 million. The 5 million Iraqi refugees and displaced persons are not ever mentioned.

And still, America goes shopping.

We invade Afghanistan; we escalate the war; we build machines that require humans in American desserts to control the joy-sticks that control the weapons discharged by what we call “unmanned aerial vehicles.” Americans are relieved that US pilots are not at risk of being shot down. We take no notice of the young people who spend an 8 hour day wreaking havoc and destruction of another people, another country. We expect them to go home to their children at night unaffected by the consequences of the damage they have done.

Some years ago now, Dexter and Gretchen Kamilewicz organized the viewing of a video in the basement of the Brunswick UU Church one Sunday morning. We watched in horror as the images of the total destruction of the town of Fallujah in Iraq were revealed to us. So you can imagine my shock to hear a friendly reporter on National Public Radio this week tell the story of the new video game that is about to be released. Yes, it’s true – The Battle of Fallujah will soon be played by the young people in our country – the sounds, the fury, the killing, the civilian deaths, the total destruction of a once rich and vibrant town can be enjoyed in every American living room, over and over again, just for the thrill of it. KACHING! Mayhem continues making profit while recruiting our young to sociopathic killing.

This is the nation that should have total control and domination of the world and it’s resources??

My friends, we are here holding signs because we know we are better than all this. We have a vision of the way life must become that is full of light and love and healing. We feel the pain of a mother earth that is crying out for our focused attention. We know we must address climate change. We are still in the first decade of this new Century, and we know that the work going on out there in communities around the world to change the direction of our planet is absolutely thrilling.

When we turn our attention to 2050, we are not imagining how wars will be fought – not at all! Rather, we see with clarity that if we don’t figure out how to cooperate on this planet, humans may not survive to see the end of this century!

We must commit our life energy to building the new – building the alternative – right here in the shadow of the fading empire.

We must communicate quite boldly to our entire Congressional Delegation that we DO NOT WANT any more DOD money in this state. We DO NOT want our neighbors building the machinery of the military empire. We INSIST that we replace those jobs with the building of the renewable energy infrastructure that is ESSENTIAL if we are to maintain life on this planet for the next 100 years.

Let me say this again: we need to articulate clearly to our congressional delegation that we want an END to DOD contracts in Maine. No more resources to support the building of naval destroyers; rifles; bullets; tanks. We don’t want to test DRONES in our neighborhoods.

And we don’t want to manufacture even those benign sounding fancy military TENTS that Rep. Michaud is proud of building in the second district. The military tents built in Maine today will be used in Afghanistan tomorrow, and Africa in twenty years for the next Military Empire Enterprise. The young people these tents purport to “protect” will suffer for life from doing battle in a foreign country. There has to be another way.

Let’s be clear: Any penny spent on researching, building, maintaining the mechanics of the military empire is a penny taken from the visionaries we need to create a sustainable future.

Convert the military industrial complex. Use the talent and skill of American workers in every local community in this country to build the infrastructure we need in every neighborhood to curtail the catastrophe of global climate change.

Thank you for listening.