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

Friday, February 12, 2010

HAITI CRISIS WORSENS


And when the rains come where will the people get shelter? Why is the U.S. military eating up so much of the aid funds?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

WAR OFFENSIVE UNDERWAY WILL KILL MORE CIVILIANS

LOOSE ENDS

It's one of those days where I am trying to tie up many loose ends on several different projects. This Saturday we have Maine artists and poets coming together for a Draw-a-thon to create images and words about how our war $$ could be spent here at home. The evening pot luck supper is shaping up to be big. See the promo flyer here

Sunday our Addams-Melman House is holding an open house for Green Party members in Bath so they can come and meet Lynne Williams who is the Green candidate for governor in Maine. She must collect a couple thousands petition signatures from Greens to get on the ballot so we've invited folks in town to come to our house to sign her petition.

I am close to having all the local coordinators set for the Walk for a New Spring (for a nuclear free future and conversion of the military industrial complex) that will pass thru Maine from March 24-April 1. The walk is one of four nationally that will converge in New York City in time for the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May. This walk is creating alot of excitement around Maine and beyond. I organized four walks while in Florida and love to work on them.

The NPT International Peace Conference and rally (April 30 - May 2) in New York is still being organized and today I sent a check from the Global Network for $200 to help defray conference expenses.

I'm starting to get registrations in for the Global Network's annual membership meeting on May 9 in New York City. It will be great to see our folks again and to hear from them about what is going on in their part of the world around space and "missile defense" issues. See more info here

At the same time work is beginning to pick up for our October 9-12 International Space Organizing Conference that will be held in Nagpur, India this year. Our board member J. Narayana Rao reports that he has been traveling all over India in recent months promoting the conference and is already developing great interest amongst students, peace activists, university professors, and others. This conference is going to really be ground breaking for us. See details here

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

THE BANKERS TAX


What would you say?

The great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass said power concedes nothing without a demand.

What are our demands?

THE HIPPIES WERE RIGHT

* I had an email this morning from a Catholic nun in the Midwest who shared her frustration with the media and Obama. "I am so frustrated with all the news media, even public radio which I usually like, in the way they present our country's actions as great and other countries as wrong. It's the same words about Iran's nuclear ambitions without mentioning or admitting our own that are worse -- about our working for 'peace' and everyone else wanting war when we are guilty of most of it ourselves."

My first phone call this morning was from a woman in Central Maine who is helping us with the New Spring Peace Walk (I volunteered to coordinate the Maine portion of the walk) that will pass through the state from March 24 - April 1 on its way to New York City in time for the international conference and protest prior to the start of the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The woman also expressed her utter frustration with Obama and we both concluded that those who put party before movement issues are doing us all a great disservice.

* It appears to me that the NPT Review Conference is in big trouble as we see Obama's 2011 military budget calls for increases in funding for the nuclear labs across the country and his expansion of "missile defense" in Eastern Europe. In spite of this the U.S. continues to arrogantly lecture Iran and North Korea about building nuclear weapons. While in the U.S. Senate Obama voted in favor of the U.S.-India Nuclear deal that will help that country build more nukes in a very unstable region of the world. Talk about hypocrisy!

Russia’s military Chief of Staff, General Nikolai Makarov, yesterday said that the new START treaty with the United States on nuclear arms limitation was being hindered by US plans to deploy missile defenses along the Russian frontier. General Makarov’s comments echoed those of Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov over the weekend, who insisted that “it is impossible to talk serious about the reduction of nuclear capabilities when a nuclear power [the U.S.] is working to deploy protective systems against vehicles to deliver nuclear warheads possessed by other countries.”

I have never believed that Obama and the U.S. was serious about these negotiations. I have always been convinced that Obama's now famous "Prague speech" calling for elimination of nukes was just international posturing. If negotiations do break down the U.S. will blame it on Russia just like today we see Obama saying, "I tried to talk to Iran but they wouldn't listen. Now we are going to have to squeeze the hell out of them."

* We had our weekly peace vigil here in Bath last night and as I was walking home with Karen Wainberg a pickup truck drove by and the driver yelled out, "Why don't you move to Canada?" I told Karen that in all my years as an activist I'd often been heckled while holding a sign on the street but had never been heckled while walking home. I take it as a compliment that our vigil, which began on December 15, is starting to have an effect.

The sad thing is that the pickup truck driver is likely one of those who complains about the collapsing economy and the nation's growing debt. He is probably an anti-tax guy who often grouses about "big government spending" yet like many "fiscal conservatives" never goes near the issue of military spending. He should get himself one of those T-shirts that my next door neighbor wore last summer that said, "The hippies were right".

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

HE'S BACK.....


Davis Fleetwood returns with another segment of reality....

ASTOUNDING SAND ART REMEMBERS WAR


Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine's version of "America's Got Talent." She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and "sand painting" skills to interpret Germany's invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII.

AND STILL ANOTHER ISLAND NAVAL BASE

Yemen and The Militarization of Strategic Waterways

Securing US Control over Socotra Island and the Gulf of Aden

By Michel Chossudovsky

"Whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene."
- US Navy Geostrategist Rear Admiral Alfred Thayus Mahan (1840-1914)


The Yemeni archipelago of Socotra in the Indian Ocean is located some 80 kilometres off the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometres South of the Yemeni coastline. The islands of Socotra are a wildlife reserve recognized by (UNESCO), as a World Natural Heritage Site.

Socotra is at the crossroads of the strategic naval waterways of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It is of crucial importance to the US military.

Among Washington's strategic objectives is the militarization of major sea ways. This strategic waterway links the Mediterranean to South Asia and the Far East, through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

It is a major transit route for oil tankers. A large share of China's industrial exports to Western Europe transits through this strategic waterway. Maritime trade from East and Southern Africa to Western Europe also transits within proximity of Socotra (Suqutra), through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. A military base in Socotra could be used to oversee the movement of vessels including war ships in an out of the Gulf of Aden.

"The [Indian] Ocean is a major sea lane connecting the Middle East, East Asia and Africa with Europe and the Americas. It has four crucial access waterways facilitating international maritime trade, that is the Suez Canal in Egypt, Bab-el-Mandeb (bordering Djibouti and Yemen), Straits of Hormuz (bordering Iran and Oman), and Straits of Malacca (bordering Indonesia and Malaysia). These ‘chokepoints’ are critical to world oil trade as huge amounts of oil pass through them." (Amjed Jaaved, A new hot-spot of rivalry, Pakistan Observer, July 1, 2009)

Sea Power

From a military standpoint, the Socotra archipelago is at a strategic maritime crossroads. Morever, the archipelago extends over a relatively large maritime area at the Eastern exit of the Gulf of Aden, from the island of Abd al Kuri, to the main island of Socotra. This maritime area of international transit lies in Yemeni territorial waters. The objective of the US is to police the entire Gulf of Aden seaway from the Yemeni to Somalian coastline.

Socotra is some 3000 km from the US naval base of Diego Garcia, which is among America's largest overseas military facilities.

The Socotra Military Base

On January 2nd, 2010, President Saleh and General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command met for high level discussions behind closed doors.

The Saleh-Petraeus meeting was casually presented by the media as a timely response to the foiled Detroit Christmas bomb attack on Northwest flight 253. It had apparently been scheduled on an ad hoc basis as a means to coordinating counter-terrorism initiatives directed against "Al Qaeda in Yemen", including "the use [of] American drones and missiles on Yemen lands."

Several reports, however, confirmed that the Saleh-Petraeus meetings were intent upon redefining US military involvement in Yemen including the establishment of a full-fledged military base on the island of Socotra. Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh was reported to have "surrendered Socotra for Americans who would set up a military base, pointing out that U.S. officials and the Yemeni government agreed to set up a military base in Socotra to counter pirates and al-Qaeda." (Fars News. January 19, 2010)

On January 1st, one day before the Saleh-Petraeus meetings in Sanaa, General Petraeus confirmed in a Baghdad press conference that "security assistance" to Yemen would more than double from 70 million to more than 150 million dollars, which represents a 14 fold increase since 2006. (Scramble for the Island of Bliss: Socotra!, War in Iraq, January 12, 2010. See also CNN January 9, 2010, The Guardian, December 28, 2009).

This doubling of military aid to Yemen was presented to World public opinion as a response to the Detroit bomb incident, which allegedly had been ordered by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

The establishment of an air force base on the island of Socotra was described by the US media as part of the "Global war on Terrorism":

"Among the new programs, Saleh and Petraeus agreed to allow the use of American aircraft, perhaps drones, as well as "seaborne missiles"--as long as the operations have prior approval from the Yemenis, according to a senior Yemeni official who requested anonymity when speaking about sensitive subjects. U.S. officials say the island of Socotra, 200 miles off the Yemeni coast, will be beefed up from a small airstrip [under the jurisdiction of the Yemeni military] to a full base in order to support the larger aid program as well as battle Somali pirates. Petraeus is also trying to provide the Yemeni forces with basic equipment such as up-armored Humvees and possibly more helicopters." (Newsweek, Newsweek, January 18, 2010, emphasis added)

US Naval Facility?

The proposed US Socotra military facility, however, is not limited to an air force base. A US naval base has also been contemplated.

The development of Socotra's naval infrastructure was already in the pipeline. Barely a few days prior (December 29, 2009) to the Petraeus-Saleh discussions (January 2, 2010), the Yemeni cabinet approved a US$14 million loan by Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) in support of the development of Socotra's seaport project.

The Great Game

The Socotra archipelago is part of the Great Game opposing Russia and America.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a military presence in Socotra, which at the time was part of South Yemen.

Barely a year ago, the Russians entered into renewed discussions with the Yemeni government regarding the establishment of a Naval base on Socotra island. A year later, in January 2010, in the week following the Petraeus-Saleh meeting, a Russian Navy communiqué "confirmed that Russia did not give up its plans to have bases for its ships... on Socotra island." (DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia), January 25, 2010)

The Petraeus-Saleh January 2, 2010 discussions were crucial in weakening Russian diplomatic overtures to the Yemeni government.

The US military has had its eye on the island of Socotra since the end of the Cold War.

In 1999, Socotra was chosen "as a site upon which the United States planned to build a signal intelligence system...." Yemeni opposition news media reported that "Yemen's administration had agreed to allow the U.S. military access to both a port and an airport on Socotra." According to the opposition daily Al-Haq, "a new civilian airport built on Socotra to promote tourism had conveniently been constructed in accordance with U.S. military specifications." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania), October 18, 2000)

The Militarization of the Indian Ocean

The establishment of a US military base in Socotra is part of the broader process of militarization of the Indian Ocean. The latter consists in integrating and linking Socotra into an existing structure as well as reinforcing the key role played by the Diego Garcia military base in the Chagos archipelago.

The US Navy's geostrategist Rear Admiral Alfred T. Mahan had intimated, prior to First World War, that "whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean [will] be a prominent player on the international scene.".(Indian Ocean and our Security).

What was at stake in Rear Admiral Mahan's writings was the strategic control by the US of major Ocean sea ways and of the Indian Ocean in particular: "This ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century; the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters."


Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, which hosts the award winning website: www.globalresearch.ca . He is the author of the international best-seller "The Globalisation of Poverty and The New World Order". He is contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, member of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission and recipient of the Human Rights Prize of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM), Berlin, Germany. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages.

Monday, February 08, 2010

NEED EXPANDED RAIL INVESTMENT IN THE U.S

I attended a public meeting about Maine's state rail plan a couple months ago in Portland. The government study process reported to the impressive crowd of people in attendance that major traffic congestion is forecasted in Maine during the next 15 years as well as worsening road deterioration, pollution, and delays in shipping.

They told us that the Obama stimulus included $8 billion for rail nationwide (not much when you consider we are spending $12 billion a month in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan.)

Most rail lines in Maine are owned by corporations. The 1920's were the height of rail use in Maine and today our state is 40th in the country in the number of rail lines per mile that exist.

Most (60%) of the rail lines in Maine are used to haul pulp paper products. Presently there are not enough rail cars to handle the freight demand which likely keeps shipping prices rather high.

A town councilman from Standish, Maine was at the meeting and told us that due to fiscal problems in their town they had cut $1 million in their road paving/repair budget. The state, trying to dump road responsibilities on the towns, have just put 11 miles more of road maintenance on their town's back. Their roads, he told us, are beat to death by truckers along the highway that runs through their community. They want to see freight rail expanded in the state so they can get some relief.

Maine politicians held a big media event last week in the nearby town of Brunswick to announce that Amtrak will extend their service from Portland, heading north to Brunswick, in 2012. The problem is that this service will do little to help commuters who really need a light-rail system that offers frequent trips to to the big city of Portland where many folks work.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has just come out with a new national transit study. Here are a few of the key points in the study:

* China is currently in the midst of building a $293 billion, 10,000-mile high speed rail system.

* On average, an Amtrak passenger uses 23 percent less energy per mile than an airplane passenger, 40 percent less than a car passenger, and 57 percent less than a passenger in an SUV or pickup truck.

* The task of building out the nation’s high-speed passenger rail network is estimated to create up to 1.6 million construction jobs, and can provide a needed shot in the arm for America’s struggling manufacturing sector.

* It is estimate that a national high-speed rail network would reduce global warming pollution by 6 billion pounds, the equivalent of taking almost 500,000 cars off the road.

* Over the last decade, Amtrak ridership has increased by 26 percent, with an additional 5.6 million passengers per year riding intercity rail.

It is more than clear that the public in the U.S. wants expanded public transit funding but the current snail's pace of expanding rail is not coming close to meeting the need or the potential demand.

As we look for ways to create jobs and deal with climate change it is obvious that building mass transit rail systems is one good way to go. But the problem is funding.

Here is but one more illustration why we should be calling for cuts in war spending so we can invest in rail here at home.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

PRIVATIZING SPACE COLONIZATION


Obama recently announced that he would be cancelling NASA's Constellation moon mission program and would instead turn those responsibilities over to private industry. So in the future NASA will see itself as a prime research developer of space technology and once these new applications become advanced they will privatize the operations.

This is something that has been in the works for years. NASA has long maintained that when the day came that it would cost effective to begin mining operations on the Moon and other planetary bodies that they would privatize the program and let corporations make the profits.

The federal government will still use taxpayers dollars to subsidize space colonization but they will largely put the money into the hands of the corporations.

In an important way, by privatizing space colonization operations, the taxpayers will have even less influence over the space program in the years ahead.

THE DESTRUCTION OF ANOTHER ISLAND


I visited Vieques, Puerto Rico in 1999 during the time of the protest movement to stop the U.S. bombing of the island. Protest camps were set up all over the island and activists came from around the world to join the peaceful occupation.

At the time I wrote this in my trip report:

As we walked here and there we saw the enormous evidence of years of destruction on the island. Bombs -- exploded and unexploded - were everywhere. Wetlands were drained and bombed. Trucks, tanks, and planes were scattered everywhere as targets. One tank is now being used to hold up a tarp for shelter at one hill-top camp. As we looked out over the beautiful ocean beyond Vieques we saw a U.S. navy submarine in the near distance probably sending a warning to the occupiers.

When it was time to leave the island to return home our fishing boat anchor got caught on a bomb on the ocean floor. Our captain very carefully worked the anchor free and you could see the fear on the faces of the passengers. We saw bombs sticking up out of the water near the shore and we saw tiny islands just off Vieques that had been blasted to bits. In fact, endangered coral reefs are being destroyed all around Vieques from the years of bombing by the Navy.

There was a complete lack of respect for the human and environmental consequences of what they did to the island.

You will see in this video there is now a severe toxic legacy in Vieques that the U.S. does not want to take responsibility for.

As we look ahead to the construction of a Navy base on Jeju Island, South Korea we know that the pristine waters will be polluted and the coral reefs will be negatively impacted by the presence of military ships - both the South Korean and U.S. navies will utilize the base. The military is the biggest polluter in the world today.